Newcastle Builds NBL Momentum

Image: Courtney Strait

The Newcastle Men’s Basketball Club built some much needed momentum over the weekend, defeating the Derby Trailblazers and narrowly missing the top team in the NBL Division 1, Loughborough. Despite the loss, the game proved that the Knights are able to rise to the occasion and compete with anyone in the league.

On Saturday, the game belonged to Newcastle from start to finish but was not without adversity. The team debuted a very unfamiliar starting lineup, with four of the five starters for Newcastle being unable to play due to injury or other time commitments. The combination of starters including Romonn Nelson, Jack Beresford, Mark Elderkin, Kingsley Pinda and Patrick Wrencher was just what the Knights needed to start off on the right foot. In the first few minutes of the game, the Knights came out to a blazing start, taking a 11-0 lead before the Trailblazers could put points on the board. Once both teams got settled into the game, it was a back and forth affair — Team Newcastle would gain a comfortable double-digit lead, and then Derby would inch its way back within a few possessions — there’s a reason they call basketball “a game of runs!” This trend was true through the entire game until Newcastle was able to defend Derby’s late game efforts and capture the win in NBL league play.

Standout efforts came from Romonn Nelson and Patrick Wrencher on Saturday, who both tallied double-digit points in the match. Nelson knifed his way through Derby defenders on multiple occasions for lay-ins, and was able to find his stroke from deep to notch a team-leading 19 points while shooting 50% from the field for the day. Nelson also dished out a team high seven assists for the Knights. Wrencher was a force down low for the Knights, which was much-needed as the team’s starting center, Fran Urli, was unable to attend the game. Wrencher scored all of his 15 points in the first half and was instrumental in the team gaining confidence (and the lead) in the first two quarters. In addition to scoring, Wrencher hauled in 13 boards and three assists. Team Captain Mark Elderkin was strong defensively for the Knights as he nabbed five steals.

During crunch time for Team Newcastle, one player stepped up in particular: Ben Seipt. With the score close and pressure on every possession, Seipt was the game-changer for the Knights. He scored eight of his 14 points in the fourth quarter and was calm, cool and collected when the Knights needed it most. He hit shot after shot to keep the Trailblazers at bay and help lead his team to victory. Seipt was also steady defensively, coming up with big rebounds in the fourth quarter and causing a handful of turnovers. Seipt finished with six rebounds, three assists and a steal in addition to his 14 points.

With the score close and pressure on every possession, Seipt was the game-changer for the Knights.

The next day, the Knights were not so lucky as they traveled south to Leicester to battle the Loughborough University Student Riders. The script was flipped from the previous day, with the Riders taking the early lead and Team Newcastle having to claw its way back into the game. The Knights put up a strong performance against the league’s best team, but offensive struggles put a damper on the day as the visitors fell 70-59. Newcastle shot a 23% from three-point range and 50% from the free throw line — two stats that need to improve if you’re going to beat the NBL’s top team. In addition the Knights turned the ball over 19 times, which led to 14 points for the Riders.

Another huge factor that decided the game was layups and points in the paint, in which the Riders scored 46 of their 70 points. Morgan Carter, Loughborough’s 6’7” center, was extremely efficient for the home team. He scored 14 points for the hosts and collected six rebounds.

There were many positives to take from the game, especially the fact that Team Newcastle was without a handful of players and still managed to go neck and neck with Loughborough. Being down by as much as 16 in the game, Newcastle never gave up and managed to cut the lead to five on multiple occasions. Unfortunately, they just couldn’t get over that final hump and settled for a respectable loss at a tough venue. Kingsley Pinda and Ben Seipt were bright spots for Team Newcastle. Pinda filled up the stat sheet on Sunday by posting 17 points, five rebounds, four assists and a steal, and Seipt finished with a strong 14 points and eight assists. Patrick Wrencher added his second double-double of the weekend with 10 points and 10 rebounds.

If the Knights can continue to improve as a team and stop the drive on defense, they have a promising second half of the season to come. The Knights’ next BUCS game is this Wednesday against arch rival Northumbria at the Royal Grammar School in Jesmond at 7:30PM. If you want to catch the Knights in NBL action, their next fixture is Saturday, December 16 against Solent Kestrel at Northumbria Sport Central at 6:00PM. Newcastle fell to Solent by a slim margin earlier this season, so this is a matchup you don’t want to miss (not to mention, admission is free).

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