WORCESTER Wolves head coach Paul James hailed his side’s triumph at champions Leicester Riders as they look to build momentum for the British Basketball League (BBL) play- offs.
The Wolves rounded off their BBL regular season fixtures in fine style with an impressive 80-77 victory, just 48 hours after their 12-game unbeaten run was ended by the Sheffield Sharks on Friday.
James praised his side for overcoming the disappointment of falling 83-70 to the Sharks by ‘turning over’ the BBL champions.
“We wanted to go into the play-offs with momentum.” he said.
“We had a difficult first half but turned things round after that by becoming more aggressive on defence, and moving the ball around much better on offense.”
Wolves clawed back a 36-47 half-time deficit to lead their hosts 80-74 with 35 seconds remaining, before seeing Riders’ Taylor King float in a three-pointer.
At just two seconds left, King stepped to the free-throw line for three foul shots and a chance to send the contest into overtime.
In the face of howls of derision from a large band of travelling supporters, the usually-reliable forward managed to miss all three attempts and therefore fail to prevent only Leicester’s second home defeat of the season.
A hail of three-pointers stunned the Wolves at the start of the game as Riders’ captain Tyler Bernadini sank a couple, as did Great Britain centre Andy Thomson.
Maurice Walker was brought off the Worcester bench for his first action after five matches out with injury and slotted home a useful seven first-quarter points.
But three further triples from Leicester’s sharpshooters put them 26-21 ahead entering the second period. It was a wholly different story after the break, however, as a mesmerising crossover dribble from Ashton Khan got the ball rolling.
Four more points from Khan, and three other Worcester men getting on the scoreboard, led to a pulsating 16-0 start to the second half and the visitors’ first advantage of the afternoon.
A triple from Alex Navajas at the shot-clock buzzer, and an outrageous basket from Khan as he tumbled backwards, helped push matters out to 75-67, before Leicester’s late revival nearly stole the spoils.
Victory meant Wolves finished with a 20-13 win-loss record and a fifth-place finish which booked a quarter-final clash with the Sheffield Sharks.
The first leg takes place in South Yorkshire on Friday with the Wolves hosting the return at the University of Worcester on Sunday at 4pm.
James hopes his side will forget the demoralising 78-96 defeat in the first leg of their BBL Trophy semi-final at Plymouth Raiders which left themselves little chance of overturning such a large deficit.
“We blew the first game at Plymouth and gave ourselves a mountain to climb at home,” he said.
“We need to make sure we are still in the tie after next Friday and then we can come back to the support of another hopefully sell-out crowd on Sunday.”