WORCESTER Wolves make their bid for cup glory at Arena Birmingham this afternoon on the back of a plucky 91-87 reverse to Leicester Riders in the British Basketball League.
Despite the defeat, Wolves will go into today’s BBL Cup final with Bristol Flyers on the up after a brave display saw them nearly grab an upset victory at the full-strength Riders on Friday.
With Amir Williams and Kofi Josephs unavailable, Wolves only had six senior players to call upon. When Leicester rolled out to an early 39-18 lead the pressure on their visitors’ scarce resources became even greater.
But Worcester showed depth of character to drag the deficit down to just a couple of points by the final minute of the match, before Riders clung on for a 91-87 win.
A long-range barrage established control for the hosts. Their latest signing Corey Johnson debuted with a rare three-pointer and bonus foul shot play to move Riders 28-15 ahead. Moments later he sank his side’s fifth triple of the opening quarter.
Mark Hughes was the man who stopped the rot for Wolves with an outburst of three successes from distance in just a minute and a half spell. An unstoppable fifteen first half points from the American held Leicester’s interval advantage to 53-41.
Forward Julius Van Sauers was forced to the bench in advance of half-time when he picked up his fourth foul, leading to heavy minutes for his team-mates over the remainder of the evening.
Guard combo Cortez Edwards and Maarten Bouwknecht were only too ready to pick up the slack. Both rattled in shots from outside the arc and both repeatedly drove to the hoop, weakening Riders’ grip to 70-62 entering the final quarter.
The duo’s energetic output continued while Leicester’s offense stalled. When Bouwknecht floated home his sixth triple of the match to finalise a season-high 29 personal points, the gap had fallen to 88-85 with a minute and half to go.
A Hughes lay-up brought the teams even closer before just the second miss from Bouwknecht’s 11 shot attempts allowed Riders to scrape the win.
Hughes totalled 24 points, with Edwards posting 15. Raheem May-Thompson supplied 10 points while Jordan Williams rounded out Worcester’s fab five performers with a 7 point and 10 rebound tally.
Sunday’s cup final tips off at 3.30pm.