WORCESTER Wolves narrowly failed to finish off the unlikeliest of comebacks in a 75-72 defeat to title-chasing Leicester Riders on Friday.
The home loss has seen the wolfpack slip to fourth in the British Basketball League and, with only four games remaining in the regular season, an unbeaten run might now be needed in order to prevent Sheffield Sharks or Glasgow Rocks from snatching the higher seeded positions for the play-offs.
Only three minutes had elapsed and guards Jordan Aaron and Jay Couisnard had both turned the ball over to leave Wolves trailing 2-9.
By the close of the first quarter the deficit had accelerated to 15-27, with motionless defenders inviting Leicester’s Anthony Rowe to grab a last-second bucket.
The hesitancy continued into the second period as Leicester continued to roll forward with Tyler Bernadini rattling in a double of three-pointers and Trevor Gruis easily converting gifted chances.
However, Spanish forward Javier Mugica was the catalyst for an entirely different second half and after a steal and a long-range success by Aaron, Wolves had clawed their way back to 36-46.
The once fifteen-point gap had been slashed to 40-48 after Aaron floated the ball upwards for a spectacular Couisnard alley-oop and by midway through the third quarter, triples for Aaron and Mugica had levelled the match at 50-50.
With just six minutes remaining Wolves finally pulled in front at 58-57 when Mugica found the basket, but the hosts could only hold onto the lead until the last 19 seconds.
Great Britain captain Andrew Sullivan calmly edged the visitors to a 72-73 lead with two converted foul shots and the outcome was sealed when Wolves agonisingly fumbled possession from the sideline.
Couisnard and Mugica led the home scorers with 19 and 14 points respectively, while Bernadini top-scored for Leicester with 18.
Head coach Paul James said: “It was a shocking start to the game. We had far too many turnovers and there was no one out there who could take control for us.
“I have to give the players credit for a fabulous comeback after the break, but too much damage had already been done by then. Our terrible start cost us.”
“We missed foul shots throughout the match and although we came all the way back into the game, we unfortunately continued to miss far too many free throws.”
Wolves travel to the capital this Friday to take on London Lions at 7.30pm, before making the trip to Bristol Flyers on Saturday.