WORCESTER Wolves’ faltering form continued as they ended 2016 with an 87-84 loss to Plymouth Raiders at the University of Worcester Arena on Friday.
The hosts sped to an early double-digit lead but struggled to pull away following an array of missed chances throughout the evening, which led to Raiders staying in contention and snatching victory late on.
A large Worcester crowd watched on as an impressive Jermel Kennedy scoop shot got the scoreboard ticking, before Danny Huffor and Maurice Walker both connected twice.
Kennedy then danced past defenders and found the basket to build an early 23-10 lead, which left Plymouth needing to call an urgent time-out.
The torment continued though as Kennedy tumbled the ball out of the hands of Plymouth’s Cory Dixon and jammed it home, before Andrew Bachman scored a triple to stretch the advantage to 28-11 with two minutes left in the first quarter.
But Raiders refused to fold and, as several Worcester shots went astray, the visitors kept hitting the target to gradually erode Wolves’ lead.
A three-pointer from Plymouth captain Daryl Corletto finally edged them ahead at 41-40 going into the interval.
Walker and Kennedy set up shop next to the Plymouth basket after the break as Walker pushed his way to ten third-period points, while Kennedy contributed eight.
The hosts managed to build a 73-60 lead going into the final quarter, but by three minutes remaining in the match just six points had been added to that total, while their opponents had tallied 15 points.
With a minute-and-a-half left, another Corletto triple moved Plymouth in front and, when Wolves failed to take a shot in the maximum 24 seconds, the deficit widened to 85-81.
In a wild finale, Trevor Setty fired home a desperate long-range success, before Walker was forced to heave the ball towards the basket in the final second as he looked to take the game to overtime, but his effort fell well wide.
Walker delivered another double-double output with 25 points and 11 rebounds, but Kennedy was the only other significant home scorer with 21 points.
Wolves head coach Paul James said: “Unfortunately it just wasn’t a smart play at the end. We needed a three-pointer to take us into overtime, but had guys playing inside the three-point line.
“Maurice seemed to be the only person moving on the perimeter at that moment and we just couldn’t get a good shot off.
“Having said that, it wasn’t all about the ending. We had chances to close the game out earlier.
“We worked hard to put ourselves in a winning position, but then allowed them to come back at us.
“We’re going to have to pick ourselves up and work on finishing teams off. We played some good defence at times against Plymouth and got good leads, but you have to keep doing the things that got you in front or it just becomes a lottery by the end.”
Wolves welcome Sheffield Sharks to the University of Worcester Arena this Friday (7.30pm) in the first round of the BBL Trophy.