Hope Mills, NC – The Wolves suffered a disappointing and season-ending loss to the NC Capitals in the second round of the 2023 ECBL Playoffs, coming in as the #1 seed and the regular season champions of the Northern Conference.
The Wolves, who have relied this season on strong outside shooting and creating turnovers and fast break opportunities with defensive perimeter play, were inconsistent in the first quarter from deep and struggled to gain traction as the Capitals moved the ball inside and were able to get quality looks from both the interior and midrange. At the end of the first quarter, the Wolves trailed 26-24.
The second quarter saw more of the same, as the Wolves kept the game close but still couldn’t find their outside shooting touch as consistently as they normally had throughout the season. Big shots from Mike Hughes and Calique Jones helped cut the lead to a manageable distance, but the Wolves still trailed at the half, 54-48.
The third quarter saw a resurgence of the perimeter defense and high octane offense that has been the Wolves calling card this year – the Wolves finally managed to take the lead after multiple defensive stops and then capitalizing with points. However, sloppy turnovers by the team allowed the Capitals to recover, and the game was tied at the end of the 3rd quarter 78-78.
The fourth quarter was a back-and-forth battle for the lead, but in the final minute, the Wolves season seemed to near the end as the Capitals built a 3 score lead. The Wolves created defensive turnovers and scores in under a minute to cut the lead to one, then fouled to put the Capitals on the free throw line, where they sank both shots. With 3.4 seconds on the clock, Wolves guard Mike Hughes drove to the top of the key, faked, then drained a three to send the game into overtime, and extended the Wolves season into another period.
The overtime period, wasn’t kind to the Wolves as their shooting – both from deep and from the free throw line – went cold. The team went several minutes without scoring and the Capitals were able to consistently get enough buckets to extend a lead the Wolves couldn’t overcome, and as the buzzer sounded, the Capitals took the win 120-111 and moved on the Northern Conference championship game.
The Wolves finished 9-4 on the season, winning the Northern Conference regular season and having made their third playoff appearance in four seasons.
Next up for the Wolves are summer tournaments and workouts, and the roster generally shifts based on the events, player availability and coaching decisions.