LITTLE will separate Worcester Wolves and Plymouth Raiders when they go into Thursday’s BBL Playoff quarter-final second leg after a hard-fought first leg on Tuesday.
Wolves swept 30-14 ahead in the opening quarter before being pegged back and finally overhauled by Plymouth in the closing moments of the match for an eventual 84-82 score-line.
Jordan Williams jumped highest to grab the tip-off and soon set up the first two Worcester baskets for Maarten Bouwknecht and Elijah Burns.
Lamarr Kimble swung the ball over for successive dunks from Josh McSwiggan and from Burns and a 15-4 lead, prompting a Plymouth time-out just five minutes into the evening.
The break in play did little to slow Wolves’ momentum as Bouwknecht intercepted a Raiders pass and found McSwiggan for the first of a double of three-pointers.
Brandon Anderson announced his return from injury by faking past his defender to finalise his side’s opening quarter command.
The second period began with a triple from former Worcester playmaker Elvisi Dusha. Over the next couple of minutes he and two of his teammates similarly connected from outside the arc to slash Wolves’ advantage to 35-28.
By three minutes before half-time the sides were tied at 40-40 before Burns shoulder-shimmied in his celebration of a powerful drive and slam.
Daniel Johnson-Thompson debuted on the scoresheet to aid a 48-46 interval edge.
The last part of the third quarter featured a further trio of Johnson-Thompson scores as his team’s advantage extended back into double-figures at 65-54.
Worcester still held a late 78-71 lead after Williams got past Plymouth’s dangerous Great Britain forward Ashley Hamilton. The same players’ next tussle saw technical fouls for both, with Hamilton dismissed from the action for his second offence.
However, disregarding the departure of one of their stalwarts and driven on by quicksilver guard Ricky McGill, Raiders gobbled up the match’s next eleven points.
Late layups from Williams and Burns ensured the tie stayed in the balance.
Burns led Wolves scorers with 18 points, supported by 13 from McSwiggan and 12 apiece for Bouwknecht and Williams. McGill dominated Raiders scoring with 28 points.
Thursday’s second-leg decider takes place at the University of Worcester Arena and can be viewed on Sky Sports YouTube channel, tipping off at 7.30pm.