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Triumph in play-off delights Wolfpack
WORCESTER Wolves sparked incredible scenes at Wembley Arena as they outclassed Newcastle Eagles to win the British Basketball League play-off final.
Led by 30 points from Most Valuable Player Zaire Taylor, Wolves led a heart-thumping encounter from almost start to finish to record an historic 90-78 victory.
They were roared to the triumph, which came just weeks after capturing the BBL Trophy, by hundreds of their jubilant fans at a packed Wembley.
It capped a remarkable season for the University Arena club who have now won two of the four competitions and come within a whisker of winning the league.
Wolves stormed into a 14-point lead at the end of a pulsating first quarter but Eagles, inspired by 16 first-half points from Darius Defoe, dominated the second to cut the lead to 48-42 at half-time.
But 13 points from the hand of talisman Taylor during a dominant third quarter for the Wolves took Paul James’ side 20 clear heading into the final period.
Despite a delay to tip-off due to technical trouble with the scoring clock, it was an explosive start to the contest. Both sides traded baskets, punctuated by several handling errors, but it Wolves who stamped their authority on the game and took control.
They rattled Eagles as the first quarter progressed, forcing several turnovers, rebounding with aplomb and taking their chances.
By the end of the first stanza, Wolves had opened up a commanding 14-point lead. Taylor scored seven points but three pointers from captain Alex Owumi, Kail Williams and Kalil Irving gave Worcester clear breathing space. Cheered on by a vociferous support that outnumbered the Newcastle following, Worcester continued their charge in the early stages of the second quarter.
But the Eagles showed why they won the Championship by hitting back and cut the deficit to eight points after scoring 12 points in three minutes. That became six at one stage as Wolves began to come up dry, adding just eight points to their tally in five and a half minutes.
Newcastle, aided by some strong defence, got to within one point two minutes before half-time but a superb three from Taylor right on the half-time buzzer ensured Wolves took a six-point lead at 48-42 back to the changing rooms.
There was no let up in the intensity at the start of the third quarter with Wolves establishing an 11-point cushion at 57-46 midway through.
Tempers briefly flared when Defoe squared up to Jamal Williams, with both penalised for technical fouls.
But then it became the Taylor show as the point guard sunk three breakaway baskets and a three-pointer to take his side 20 points clear, winning the quarter 24-10.
Threes from Taylor and Jamal Williams helped Wolves to a 82-67 advantage with five minutes to go.
Charles Smith gave the Eagles hope with two threes in quick succession but their frustration showed and Malik Cooke foul out with three minutes left.
As the clock ticked down, it became apparent that Wolves, with their supporters chanting for all they were worth, would triumph and so it proved.