Eagles Take a One Point Win over Rebels
After another two week break from WBBL action, the Essex Rebels returned to the court for their Trophy quarterfinal clash with the Newcastle Eagles. The Rebels entered the game having previously beaten the Eagles in league play, but were without starting forward Claire Paxton to start the game. This loss of size ultimately proved fatal for the Rebels, as they lost the game 68-67 and were knocked out of the Trophy.
The first quarter got off to a blistering start, with the tip ball ending up in the hands of Megan Haines for a wide open lay-up 2 seconds into the game. Haines continued that start the next time down the floor with an impressive move and finish at the rim. However, the Rebels seemed to have no answer for Newcastle’s inside presence as they scored 3 straight lay-ups on ensuing possessions. Daniella Turner helped the Rebels retake the lead with a 3-pointer, followed by a banked in 3-pointer from Alexa Naessens. However, the Eagles continued to get whatever they wanted in the paint making the score level with 4 minutes remaining. Returning for the first time from injury was Tia Freeman who made an immediate impact for the Rebels, scoring the team’s third 3-pointer in a row. The quarter ended favouring Newcastle 18-13, with all points coming in the paint and the visitors out rebounding the Rebels by 9. The Rebels shaky start continued into the second quarter, with 3 turnovers that allowed the Eagles to score 7 points in the first 3 minutes. After a few minutes of no action on either end, the Eagles stepped up first knocking down two 3-pointers and causing the Rebels to commit multiple turnovers resulting in a 20-point lead with 3 minutes remaining in the half. Two 3-pointers and two foul shots from Megan Haines helped close the gap a little, and the Rebels entered the second half down by 12.
Claire Paxton returned to the floor for the Rebels in the second half, providing some much needed height, while Andrea Kohlhaas helped kick start the half with a 3-pointer. A shot by Newcastle after the shot clock buzzer sounded was counted by the refs, before a Megan Haines lay-up and Paxton and Kohlhaas 3s helped start an offensive spurt to get the Rebels within 7 points with 5 minutes remaining in the third quarter. However, it was Eagles player Marina Fernandez who refused to let the Rebels comeback come easily, scoring 7 points of her own. Daniella Turner and Paxton both hit 3s to keep the Rebels within reach, before a Turner bank shot closed the quarter with the Eagles lead down to 6 points. The fourth quarter started with a Newcastle lay-up followed by a Kohlhaas 3, but some poor turnovers from the Rebels stalled their offensive chances for a few minutes before another Megan Haines drive to the basket occurred.
The Eagles had to resort to calling a timeout, but it seemed to benefit the Rebels most, as Haines scored once again followed by a full court drive by Claire Paxton, off a steal, brought the game to within 1 point. With just under 4 minutes to go the Rebels regained the lead behind another Kohlhaas 3-pointer, but the referees became foul happy in the next minute, calling 4 fouls on the Rebels and sending the Eagles into the bonus. Luckily for the Rebels, Kohlhaas’ hot hand continued as she knocked down her fifth 3-pointer, and two monster blocks by Tia Freeman on the defensive end left the Rebels up by 4 points with 90 seconds remaining. A questionable and-one call resulted in a 3-point play for the Eagles, but Kohlhaas refused to go dry knocking down her sixth 3-pointer in response with one minute to play. With possession of the ball the Rebels committed a bad turnover that allowed the Eagles to get to the foul line and go 1 of 2, leading to the Eagles putting on a full court press and fouling immediately to stop the clock and try to regain possession of the ball. This tactic proved valuable for the Eagles as they forced a turnover and scored a lay-up with 42 seconds to play. After a harsh no call on a Tia Freeman drive the Eagles came down and scored a short corner jump shot to regain the lead, leaving the Rebels down by 1 with 5 seconds on the clock. A play was designed out of a timeout, but resulted in a poor shot for the Rebels and a win for the Eagles, final score of 68-67.
Head Coach Tom Sadler had this to say after the game, “We knew that their inside game was a key that we needed to stop and we couldn’t have done any worse defending them and boxing out in the paint in the first half. We just didn’t execute simple things within our control. Thankfully, getting Claire back in the second half helped us bring the game back, but we had some tough calls go against us and we just couldn’t close it out. If the group doesn’t start to focus on executing the game plan, and knowing the scout, they are in for a long rest of the season – which would be a shame, because when they do those things we have great results. I hope that we can bounce back quickly this week and regroup since we will play Newcastle again next weekend.”
Top Performers –
*Andrea Kohlhaas – 20 points, 4 rebounds
*Megan Haines – 16 points, 4 assists
*K. Nolan – 22 points, 16 rebounds, 3 assists
*M. Fernandez – 16 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals
*A. Lewis – 14 points, 12 rebounds