WORCESTER Wolves’ quest to hold on to the British Basketball League Play-off title won at Wembley last season came to an abrupt end on Sunday as they crashed to a 106-67 defeat at in-form London Lions.
Already needing to retrieve a five-point deficit outstanding from the quarter-final first leg on Friday in which they lost 80-75, Wolves’ task was made even harder when former Worcester favourite Zaire Taylor stepped to the fore with a stunning 41-point burst.
In the first leg neither side was able to pull decisively clear of the other, Wolves threatened to break away after establishing a seven point cushion in the second quarter, but Lions roared back to create an eight point lead of their own in the third quarter.
The lead had see-sawed back to 58-60 entering the last ten minutes but a spell of ill-discipline would cost Wolves dear when Robert Thurman was called for his fourth foul of the evening as he battled to contain his counterpart Olumide Oyedeji, before picking up a technical foul for disputing the referee’s decision.
A triple from Paul Guede kept the contest poised at 74-76 with just two minutes remaining, however Worcester squandered late opportunities to regain the lead when Thurman was twice unable to keep his grasp on the ball resulting in a Lions victory.
The only cheers around the University Arena after the game was when Jamal Williams received the Wolves’ Player of the Season Award.
In the second leg at the capital, the Lions quickly found themselves with one foot in the semi-finals after they finished the first quarter with a 24-16 lead and never looked back.
Lions Rod Brown took the first score of the second period, with Zaire Taylor content to wait until four minutes before the interval to re-emerge with another quick-fire ten points as they cruised to 49-38 by halftime.
The third quarter saw Worcester’s last hopes of an upset extinguished, as they suffered a 30-10 drubbing from their hosts.
If it was not Taylor connecting from outside the arc, it would be Great Britain captain Andrew Sullivan proving a handful inside and entering the final ten minutes of play with an unassailable 79-48 lead, London were already able to make plans for their semi-final encounter with Cheshire Phoenix.
Reflecting on the defeat and Wolves season, head coach Paul James said: “Lions played very well and Zaire certainly had a big game so all credit to them, but I feel sad for our players and fans at how our season has ended.
“While we have obviously not achieved the success we had last year, that was always going to be a very tough act to follow, with new players having some big shoes to fill.”
Wolves’ managing director, Mick Donovan said: “We’ve had some really exciting and entertaining matches this season with big crowds coming along to the University of Worcester Arena.
“We intend to recruit well in the off-season to drive this club in becoming the leading side of the BBL.”