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Lions Ruin Play Off Hopes for Wolves

London Lions 106-67 Worcester Wolves

Last Updated: Apr 26, 2015 08:03pm
St. Clement, Worcester
By Colin Taylor
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Worcester Wolves’ quest to hold on to the BBL Play-Off title they won at Wembley last season came to an abrupt end on Sunday as they crashed to a 67-106 defeat at in-form London Lions.  

Already needing to retrieve a five-point deficit outstanding from the quarter final first leg, Wolves’ task was made even harder when former Worcester favourite Zaire Taylor stepped to the fore with a stunning 41-point outburst.

Wolves’ guard Chavis Holmes began the scoring, before Taylor immediately replied with a triple. Holmes was again on the mark to level the match at 7-7 with five minutes played, but this would be the last juncture at which Worcester stayed close to their opponents. Taylor would rack up a further 13 points before the first quarter had ended, with his side already holding a healthy 24-16 advantage.

His backcourt partner Rod Brown took the first score of the second period, with Taylor content to wait until four minutes before the interval to re-emerge with another quick-fire ten points. There was a brief revival for the visitors when Holmes provided a double of assists for Alex Owumi to convert into three-pointers, but Lions still held sway at 49-38 by the break.

The third quarter was when Worcester’s last hopes of an upset were extinguished, as they suffered a 30-10 blast 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. In addition, Wolves often found their usual rhythm disrupted by a scarcity of referees’ calls at the offensive end, but a profusion called around their own basket. 

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. The other teams competing in the final four will be Newcastle Eagles and Sheffield Sharks. Eagles routinely disposed of Bristol Flyers, while seventh-placed Sharks upset much-fancied Leicester Riders to stay in the hunt for a place at the O2 Arena on Sunday 10 May.

Speaking shortly after the end of the match, Wolves’ coach Paul James tried hard to contain his disappointment, saying: “London 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. 

“I thought we had a great chance coming into the match to pull back the deficit, but feel we just didn’t get the rub of the green in how it turned out. It says something that we went to the free throw line just 16 times while London went there 42 times.” 

Sullivan was London’s second-highest scorer on 22 points, while only Owumi (18 points) and Holmes (13 points) were able to reach double-figure scoring for Wolves.

In relation to the season as a whole, James added: “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. 

“The players have worked hard throughout the year and we’ve had some really good times. Season-on-season we are now confirming Worcester as one of the country’s top-level teams.”

Wolves’ Managing Director Mick Donovan added to James’ words, saying: “We’ve had some really exciting and entertaining matches this season, with big crowds coming along to the University of Worcester Arena. This team has shown that it can beat anybody, including defeating the League Champions, Newcastle Eagles, each time we’ve met them.

“We intend to recruit well in the off-season. We intend to drive this club to become the leading side in the British Basketball League.”  


 

Friday 24 April 2015

 

 

 

Worcester Wolves 75-80 London Lions

 

 

 

Worcester Wolves face a stern test if they are to retain their hold on the British Basketball League Play-Off title they celebrated last year at Wembley Arena. A 75-80 reversal against London Lions on Friday means that Wolves will have work to do to overturn the deficit in their quarter-final second leg in the capital this Sunday.

 

From the outset, 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 post-match statistics showed parity in all but two categories: Worcester  surrendered the ball nearly twice as many times as their visitors, and also allowed London to hold sway close to the basket.

 

Lions’ centre Olumide Oyedeji displayed the talent that earned him a three season-stint in the NBA by forcing his way to a couple of early scores. It would take until nearly four minutes had elapsed before Wolves’ captain Alex Owumi gained his team’s first reply from the field. 

 

A narrow 21-19 first period advantage grew to 30-26 once Jamal Williams and Robertas Bitinas had opened their scoring accounts. Bitinas was on target again to ease Wolves out to 33-26 by midway through the second period. Half-a-dozen points from last season’s Worcester fan favourite Zaire Taylor helped close the combatants to 39-37 by the interval.

 

As the second half opened Taylor connected with a long three-pointer, repeating the feat a minute later. However, Wolves’ Paul Guede burst to life with a trio of scores to keep the match close at 50-47 with five minutes of the half played.

 

The lead had see-sawed back to 58-60 entering the last ten minutes of the evening. A spell of ill-discipline would cost Wolves dear when Robert Thurman was called for his fourth foul as he battled to contain his counterpart Oyedeji, and Williams compounded matters by picking up a technical foul for disputing the referee’s decision.

 

Another triple from 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 with the Lions’ basket at his mercy. A large University of Worcester Arena crowd were relieved to see Taylor fail to connect with a long-distance effort as the final buzzer sounded.

 

Owumi led the Worcester scoring with 21 points, supported by Guede and Thurman’s 13 points apiece. Great Britain captain Andrew Sullivan top-scored for London with 17 points.

 

Wolves’ coach Paul James, while disappointed, maintained his optimism for the second leg, saying: “It was frustrating out there. We had players who were hot and cold. Every shot we took was a tough one and we allowed London to get too many cheap buckets.

 

“Having said that, we know we can do a much better job on Sunday. A five-point deficit is by no means insurmountable.”

 

After the match, Jamal Williams stepped forward to receive the Wolves’ Player of the Season Award. James gave praise to his second-year forward, saying: “Jamal has been tremendous for us all-season long. He is a true leader. He always gives his all and isn’t a guy who ever takes a day off.”

 

Photo: file pic

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