HOLDERS Worcester Wolves slipped out of the BBL Cup in tortuous fashion after losing out 73-66 to the Bristol Flyers at the University of Worcester Arena.
Needing to avoid defeat by more than five points in order to progress out of their qualifying group, Wolves dragged back an eighteen-point deficit to stand 69-65 behind with just 32 seconds left in the contest.
Bristol’s Marcus Delpeche dispossessed Maarten Bouwknecht to restore his team’s edge. Bouwknecht split a pair of free throws to put the scoreboard at 71-66, but Flyers connected again to leave Worcester only two seconds to reply.
Having connected with the three-pointer shortly before that gave Wolves the chance to succeed, Micah Elan was unable to repeat the feat and prevent his team’s elimination.
“It’s a tough loss to take,” stated coach Matt Newby. “There was a massive disparity in terms of possessions in the first half, yet we only finished ten points behind.
“We showed some fight to get right back into the tie but we needed to be smarter down the stretch.”
It was a sluggish start to the evening for the hosts with just a solitary point in their favour in the same time as Flyers rattled in ten.
Matthew Bryan-Amaning scored twice, Henry Wilkins made a trio of free throws and Josh McSwiggan sank a triple to give life to Worcester, but Bristol stayed clear at 25-15 by the close of the first quarter.
Bryan-Amaning was awarded a technical foul for disputing a referee’s call and had to sit on the bench when being whistled for his third foul as the second period began.
Tola Okiki injected energy with five quick points but the visitors’ advantage remained steady at 38-28 going into the half-time break.
Bryan-Amaning made a powerful return after the interval by swatting away a Flyers shot attempt and forcing a turnover on their next attack.
Jordan Williams defied the discomfort of a thumb-injury to notch a series of baskets and Elan similarly found his groove to reduce the arrears to 43-40 midway through the third period.
However, a blistering 15-0 run saw Flyers re-establish their superiority at 58-40 as the last quarter began.
Bouwknecht took charge of the plays to set up both Williams and Bryan-Amaning inside or to weave to the hoop himself to inspire the fightback and bring about the closing dramatic minute.
Williams led the scoring with 16 points. Bouwknecht recorded a 14 point/10 assist double-double performance while Bryan-Amaning and Elan both tallied 11 points.
Wolves now turn their attention to the British Basketball League regular-season, opening their campaign tomorrow (Friday) when they welcome Plymouth Raiders to the University of Worcester Arena.
“Plymouth obviously topped our Cup group and now they get the bonus of having Ashley Hamilton back from Great Britain duty,” added Newby. “Friday will be very challenging.”