The Newcastle Knights fell to Team Northumbria 87-63 in a spirited match on Sunday. Despite the somewhat lopsided score, Newcastle competed with Team Northumbria and challenged the home team from the starting whistle until the final buzzer.
The Knights had the opportunity to compete against one of the top teams in the BUCS North Premiership, in front of an energetic group of fans during the kickoff of Stan Calvert.
Team Newcastle and Team Northumbria were neck and neck throughout the first half. An impressive offensive show by first year player Courtney Strait and veteran Noelia Quintas helped the Knights to kept the score close.
Newcastle headed into the halftime break down by only a single point, 39-38. Quintas finished the first half with nearly 20 points because she was able to use her length to her advantage against the shorter Northumbria guards.
In the first half, Quintas scored from all over the court, in the paint, short jumpers, and even a three point shot from deep. She was unstoppable and kept the Knights afloat against a talented opposition. Strait used a three ball and a few nifty drives to the basket to chip in ten points before the break.
Throughout the first three quarters of the game, the Knights were able to run a smooth offence against a tough-nosed Northumbria squad. Newcastle was able to make adjustments after playing Northumbria just four days prior in a BUCS regular season match.
Upon the completion of the game on Wednesday, Newcastle head coach Mark Elderkin knew he had to switch up the game plan the second time around in order to compete against the cross-town rivals.
“Quintas was unstoppable, and kept the Knights afloat against a talented opposition”
The first challenge the Knights had to face was Team Northumbria’s stingy defence. Newcastle were able to score handily against Northumbria’s 2-3 zone on Wednesday and, consequently, they did not see this defence during the game.
In order to attack Northumbria’s physical play, the Knights used lots of movement, including cuts to the basket, to catch their opponents off guard and finish easy baskets around the rim.
Knights newcomer, first year Beth Wilson, was extremely effective at cutting to the basket and getting open looks. Wilson was a solid contributor all game.
The Knights also handled offensive ball screens differently the second time around. The Newcastle post players, including first year players Eleanor Goodwin and Leana Tajkov, used their agility to get open for quick layups against a slower Northumbria defender. The post players for Newcastle were able to bolt past Northumbria’s ‘bigs’ many times throughout the match.
The top scorers for Newcastle, Noelia Quintas and Courtney Strait, were both heavily face-guarded during all 40 minutes of the game. Despite facing extreme pressure, both showed poise under pressure and had 20-point performances.
Defensively, the Knights tried to emulate the same style they used during their previous match against Northumbria. Newcastle kept Team Northumbria on their toes by switching between a 2-3 matchup zone and a man-to-man defence.
“Beth Wilson was extremely effective at cutting to the basket and getting open looks”
Despite their best efforts, the balanced, structured attack proved to be too much for the Knights to handle. Against the man-to-man defence, Northumbria attacked the basket and got many wide-open layups.
The agile point guard led the way for Northumbria with her speed off the dribble and court vision following the pick and roll. When Newcastle switched to their matchup zone, Northumbria’s jump-shooters took advantage of gaps in the defence and hit a number of outside shots.
The Knights struggled to find a balance between the two defences during the fourth quarter and gave up too many easy chances in the final minutes.
When the game rolled into the fourth quarter, the Knights were only trailing the WBBL contenders by ten points. Despite the losing outcome, the Knights did not lose their composure during the game and kept their heads held high.
The only difference between the two sides was some of the Newcastle players running out of steam; if Newcastle had kept up with the speed and intensity of Northumbria in the fourth quarter, they undoubtedly would have had a chance at an upset.
Coach Elderkin said that the team’s performance on Sunday was some of the best basketball he has seen since he took the helm at Newcastle. Highlighting many positives to take away from the game, going to show that Newcastle can compete with anybody when they stick to the game plan, compete together, and prepare diligently in training.
Elderkin said this game has boosted the players’ confidence and will help them carry momentum into their BUCS fixture against Edinburgh.
If the Knights can take what they learned in the Stan Calvert game, push the tempo for all four quarters, and execute Coach Elderkin’s game plan, they will have a great chance at turning some heads and causing a few upsets in the playoffs.