WORCESTER Wolves head coach Paul James praised his side’s strength of character as they edged out Surrey Scorchers 86-82 at the Surrey Sports Park on Sunday to progress to the BBL Trophy semi-finals.
Worcester will now take on Plymouth Raiders in a two-legged tie for a place in the final, with the first leg taking place tonight (Wednesday) at the Plymouth Pavilions (tip-off 7.30pm.)
“Earlier in the season we may well have folded under the pressure, but there is now a strength of character in the side that comes out in tough situations,” said James.
“We built a good lead and played with a lot of confidence, but Surrey play well on their own court and they never gave up. Sure, we bent a little, but we didn’t break. I’m delighted we came through an awkward spell and got the win.
“I’m pleased with what we’ve already achieved in this competition, but Wednesday will be just the first half of a tie that will decide who makes it to the final. We all want to stay in the hunt for silverware.”
Wolves began with a flurry of scores from Jermel Kennedy, Alex Navajas and Maurice Walker to stay in contention with a strong Scorchers side, with the first period closing at 17-16 in Wolves’ favour.
A further five quickfire points from Navajas then pushed the advantage to 25-22 as the second quarter began, before Andrew Bachman and Ashton Khan joined the fray to punish the Scorchers and open an emphatic 40-25 lead.
But by the end of the third period, Scorchers had whittled their arrears down to just seven points as former Worcester forward Kalil Irving sank a triple to stay in contention at 65-58.
Irving’s afternoon was then cut short for arguing a referee’s call, before Navajas, who was Wolves’ leading scorer with 19 points, joined him on the sidelines following his fifth foul.
Losing their top scorer denting Wolves’ structure as a burst of Surrey three-pointers drew the sides closer.
Entering the latter stages of the match the visitors were still unable to pull away but, with a place in the competition’s final four in sight, Trevor, Danny Huffor and Maurice Walker stepped up to score and seal victory.
The win comes on the back of a 79-77 defeat to Sheffield Sharks at the English Institute of Sport on Friday night in the British Basketball League.
Following the trip to Plymouth, Wolves return to league action on Friday (7.30pm) at the University of Worcester Arena against Manchester Giants.