WORCESTER Wolves made it through to the quarter-finals of the BBL Trophy after emerging victorious from a rip-roaring encounter with Manchester Giants at the University of Worcester Arena.
The teams were welded together at 20-20 after the first quarter and 50-50 by half-time and could still not be split at 92-92 in the last two minutes of the evening.
Wolves’ playmaker Maarten Bouwknecht began to edge his side away but former Worcester guard Jordan Whelan drew them closer again at 98-96 by the final half-minute. The hosts managed to hold their nerve to seal a 102-96 win from the free-throw line.
There was no sign of what was to follow as Wolves rattled in the first seven points of the match to force an early Manchester time out.
Jordan Williams fooled defenders with a head fake before passing out to Kj Lawson for a three-pointer. Josh McSwiggan also connected from distance before Whelan inspired a Giants fightback with nearly half of his team’s first period points.
Sam Cassell Jr nudged Manchester in front for the first time to set off a nip and tuck second quarter. Williams got into his groove for ten inside points while his team-mates knocked down five triples ahead of the interval.
But Cassell displayed the flash of his NBA Championship-winning father with a three at the buzzer to keep matters locked.
Brandon Anderson took the spotlight with a series of dashes to the hoop after the break. Coupled with Giants picking up a couple of technical fouls for dissension, daylight was established at 78-70 heading into the final quarter.
Another Anderson long-ranger maximised his team’s advantage before a 10-0 Manchester blitz dragged the home side back to a mere 81-80 lead with six minutes remaining.
By four minutes to go the visitors had wrenched the upper hand at 88-83 before Worcester once more hit back to be the last men left standing.
Anderson led the scoring with 24 points as well as supplying a handy eight assists, closely followed by Bouwknecht’s 23 points and six assists output.
Williams punched in 17 points with Micah Elan and Lawson rounding out the double-digit scorers with 11 and 10 points respectively.
“I’m really pleased we got the win,” said Wolves’ coach Matt Newby.
“Manchester are a dangerous side and have played like they did today against nearly everyone. Jordan Whelan did well for them and Cassell made some huge shots despite hands in his face.
“I thought tonight was one of our best offensive displays of the season and reflects the selflessness of our players. We blended our attacks with outside shooting, good pick and rolls and post-up plays.”
Wolves’ opponent in the last eight of the BBL Trophy will be Plymouth Raiders, the same team that will visit the University of Worcester Arena tomorrow (Friday) in league-action. The match tips off at 7pm and will be streamed live and for free on Worcester Wolves YouTube channel.
Wolves travel to Surrey Scorchers on Saturday (February 13) with tip off at 6pm.
“I’m expecting Plymouth to be well-organised and physical. We’ll need to come out on Friday with bite,” added Newby.
“And, if we can, we’ll also have to consider if we can manage players’ minutes in readiness for Saturday at Surrey.”