Wednesday, 21 October was full of excitement as the women’s second team, the women’s first team and men’s first team battled against Team Northumbria for Stan Calvert glory. At the end of the evening it was Northumbria who took two of the three games, but all three Newcastle squads represented the school with pride, fought until the final buzzer and had plenty to be proud of.
The first match of the evening featured the women’s seconds team, who was unfortunately shorthanded due to a few player absences that evening. The ladies from Team Newcastle put up a spirited effort against a talented Northumbria team who had twice as many players as Team Newcastle did.
In the half-court game, the sides matched up quite fairly. Team Newcastle handled Northumbria’s stingy on-ball defence the best they could, as they faced a relentless amount of pressure for all forty minutes of play. The Knights did a fantastic job moving the ball and finding the open player, but luck just was not on Newcastle’s side and they could not get their open shots to fall.
Team Newcastle handled Northumbria’s stingy on-ball defence the best they could
The difference in the game came in the fast break. Any time a Northumbria player pulled down a defensive rebound a speedy guard ran the floor and caught long, down court passes for easy layups. Because Team Northumbria had so many players they could rotate into the game, they had one or more players continually sprinting down the court for easy layups all game and it proved to be too much for the Knights, who had to push through fatigue in the second half.
Despite a lopsided score at the end of the game the seconds team has plenty of positives to take from the game. The fact that they handled pressure and was able to get open shots is a testament to their poise and will prove beneficial for them in their final games of the 2017-2018 season.
The women’s first team played a contested match, as the crowd filtered in and showed great support for Team Newcastle. In the first half Team Newcastle had a bit of a slow start, showing some nerves on offense. As they settled in they took control of the game and the rest of the half belonged to the Knights. The team used patient, smart ball movement to find many open shots, as guards Cassidy Sanders-Curry and Courtney Strait lit it up from long range. The one-two punch of Strait and Sanders-Curry combined for 46 points in the game.
Newcastle took a small lead into halftime, and the rest of the game was a back and forth affair. At halftime Team Northumbria brought in two WBBL players, including one who has not played a BUCS game yet this season. Despite the roster change Team Newcastle played the game professionally and competed for forty minutes with only six players on their roster.
Due to some questionable officiating and a few unfortunate missed shots at the end Team Newcastle fell by four to Northumbria. But these ladies are not discouraged, as they have an opportunity to play Northumbria again in the BUCS championship semi-finals on 14 March. In the Stan Calvert match, the Knights proved they can compete against the top team in the league – no matter what new players Team Northumbria adds to its roster.
The evening finale was a spectacle, as the Newcastle men defeated Team Northumbria for the first time in programme history. A massive well done is due to Head Coach Ian Hewitt, who rotated his players brilliantly and had his team ready to battle right from the tipoff.
Team Newcastle got its regular production from Americans Joey Bennett, Patrick Wrencher and Zach Leal, who all contributed to the team’s success on both sides of the court. Bennett hit big shots to stifle Northumbria’s momentum in the final quarter, and “Big Pat” Wrencher was instrumental in defending Northumbria’s physical post players.
He also had a huge offensive rebound that led to an and-one, which got the crowd and Newcastle bench on its feet late in the game. Leal was consistent and poised throughout the game. Though he did not score as much as he usually does, Leal played great defence and helped control the tempo for the Knights. Thanasis Ioakeimidis also dazzled the crowd with relentless on ball defence, as he picked his player’s pocket twice for easy layups. The game also showcased some new faces, as first year players Liam Oboubie and Zephi Sharman contributed solid minutes for the Knights. The duo shows young promise for the future of Team Newcastle.
The evening finale was a spectacle, as the Newcastle men defeated Team Northumbria for the first time in programme history.
The offensive star of the evening was Romonn Nelson, who produced one of his most impressive outings of the season. Nelson was an absolute force for Team Newcastle. His ability to streak past defenders for layups was too much for the Northumbria defence to handle, and his outside shooting was on point as well and kept his opponents on their toes.
If his defence, guarded him close to stop him from shooting, he used his slick ball handling and incredible speed to get to the rim. If his defender stepped back to stop the drive, Nelson used a quick release for a barrage of three pointers.
The victory was a well-deserved one for the Knights, who have put up fantastic efforts against Northumbria in the past only to end up in defeat. This is a wonderful step for the men’s programme, who are looking to make a deep run into the BUCS and NBL playoffs.