When you need your MVP – Zaire Taylor delivered as Worcester Wolves most successful season in their history ends with two BBL trophies.
A third quarter explosion from league MVP Zaire Taylor where he scored three successive lay-ups in transition and a three-pointer to highlight a 19-0 run, handed Worcester Wolves a 90-78 win over Newcastle Eagles in the British Basketball League Playoff Final at Wembley Arena on Sunday afternoon.
“I’m delighted,” said Worcester coach Paul James. “We had a good week at practice, we looked at the video and we knew that if we were going to win this ball game we had to take over the rebounding and win that battle and we had to limit our turnovers and we certainly did that today.”
It was a richly deserved win for the Wolves, led not only by the league’s most valuable player in Taylor, who won the Playoff honours as well with 30 points, but Basketball Journalist Association’s Player of the Year Will Creekmore who added 14 points.
Taylor admitted afterwards that watching old basketball footage from the NBA inspired him to this win.
“It feels good just to win,” Taylor said afterwards. “I’m even walking around the house saying [to Alex Owumi] that I want to win. We’re sending each other videos of old NBA Finals series and this just means so much to all of us.
“Coming into the game, we had a great game plan defensively,” said Alex Owumi, who also hit 14 for the Wolves. offensively we knew that our starting five we would bring into the game are capable of scoring 20 points and shoot a high percentage and Zaire came up big for us.”
A closely fought first quarter saw Worcester take advantage in the latter stages with an inspired league MVP Taylor scoring six points to lead the Wolves to a 27-14 lead as Newcastle’s offence dried up at the end of the first.
Eagles though, true to their nametag of champions stormed back, as they upped their defensive intensity and a rare dunk in transition from Charles Smith reduced the gap to 40-35. Worcester struggled to hit anything in the last three minutes of the half, but managed to keep the lead at 48-42 heading to the locker rooms, thanks to a three on the half-time buzzer from Taylor.
Newcastle scored the first four points of the third quarter, before Worcester exploded into life with a 19-0 burst, ten of those coming from Taylor, giving Worcester a 67-46 lead before Fabulous Flournoy ended the run with a bucket inside.
Taylor’s burst was the definite game-changer, but he admits that he was fortunate. Newcastle had no answer for his transition play.
“I was in a fortunate position, i got two steals and after that the hard work was Kai [Williams] big rebound and Will [Creekmore] big rebound,” Taylor said. “I was just the guy that gets the credit when I go for the points.”
Worcester let their guard down in the fourth quarter, as Newcastle were allowed a free run at the Wolves basket with Paul Gause scoring back-to-back buckets, but Taylor had the last word, ending a decent spell from the Eagles to score inside and seal a double-winning season for the Wolves.
Darius Defoe led the Eagles with 22 points, as they can take comfort in a league crown after this loss. Head coach Fabulous Flournoy though was obviously distraught afterwards.
“Early on both teams were just feeling each other out, both teams were just getting a feel for the night and not even three quarters of the way through the first, they got their confidence going, and we didn’t get out of the starting blocks,” he explained. “We had to recover from there and by then we were chasing the game. once we started chasing the basketball game i think over the last two or three weeks both team came into their default system.
“Wolves over the last couple of weeks, they been up in playoff games, and they are used to teams coming back from behind and they can handle the pressure.”