WORCESTER Wolves director of basketball Ty Shaw praised his patched-up side for their fighting qualities after Wolves came within a quarter of an upset victory over the title-challenging Leicester Riders.
Defying the injury-enforced absence of key players Deshawn Freeman and Filip Kramer, Wolves held a 78-74 lead before a barren final quarter saw Leicester claw back to a 94-86 success.
“I’m really proud of the guys,” said Shaw. “To come in here and battle it out despite missing two big pieces of our squad was really fantastic.
“Obviously we would have loved to have got the win. A couple of plays here and there, cleaning up our execution at the end and making sure we move the ball and get good shots off – if that can be our focus moving forward then this is a step in the right direction.”
Recent big man signing Lester Prosper and forward Robert Crawford dominated the Worcester scoring, with both players setting out their stall from the outset.
Prosper belied his 6ft 10ins frame to scoop up a loose ball and get the scoreboard ticking. As well as thrusting to a trio of further scores, he provided a clever assist for Miki Servera to convert for an early 13-12 edge.
Crawford displayed similar fire with nine first-quarter points and a 24-22 advantage entering the second period.
Even with Leicester’s bulky Pierre Hampton draped around his shoulders Prosper was able to muscle to the basket.
He then held off defenders to set a screen for Crawford to sink a three-pointer.
Crawford scored three more quickfire long-distance shots to give Worcester their largest lead of the night at 52-43 with a minute left in the first half but Riders put forward a strong showing either side of the interval to reduce the deficit.
Darell Combs debuted on the scoresheet to keep his side in front at 68-66 and then combined with Prosper for a powerful left-handed dunk, allowing the centre to pose in front of braying home supporters in a bicep-flexing stance.
But that would be the last opportunity for Worcester to celebrate. Leicester demonstrated why they have been perennial contenders for honours in the British Basketball League to chip away and overtake their visitors’ lead.
It would take more than eight minutes of the final quarter for Wolves to score again from the field as their shot attempts went awry and Riders pounced on their hesitancy to round out a comeback win.
“In the last five minutes we had some guys with dead legs,” added Shaw. “We didn’t get the ball through hands the way we did for the first 35 minutes. We needed to maintain our ball movement but unfortunately we stood around too much.”
Crawford topped the scoring with 32 points while Prosper thumped in 30 points and grabbed an impressive 16 rebounds. Combs with ten points was the only other Worcester man to puncture double-digits.
“Rob stepped up big today. Lester was huge in every sense of the word – he did a good job defensively, his rebounding was fantastic and he posted up really well. He was a mountain,” Shaw added.
Wolves face a trip to second-placed Sheffield Sharks on Friday (tip off 7.30pm) before a clash at the University of Worcester Arena with top-of-the-table London Lions a week later (January 18).