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Wolves' 82-73 triumph at London Lions

Last Updated: Feb 3, 2014 06:12pm
St. Clement, Worcester
By Colin Taylor
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Worcester Wolves maintained their red-hot streak of form when overcoming London Lions 83-72 in a BBL Trophy encounter on Sunday afternoon.

This latest victory, their ninth in a row and the third time they have beaten Lions this season, now sets up a mouth-watering quarter-final clash at high-flying Newcastle Eagles later this month.

The last time Wolves travelled to London’s Copper Box Arena they had to pull back a late deficit to finally triumph after overtime. On this occasion the visitors left no room for error, moving into the lead shortly after half-time and continually repelling their host’s attempts to turn the tables.

After a trip to the capital delayed by traffic, Worcester had less than the usual time to prepare on court and subsequently got off to a laboured start. In the opening minutes of the contest they slipped behind 2-7, with only Alex Owumi troubling the scoreboard. But by midway through the quarter a 16-11 advantage had been established following Owumi’s first three-pointer of the night, at his third attempt. Lions’ locally-born forward Joe Ikhinmwin hit his second triple towards the end of the quarter, with his side trailing 28-23.

London’s recent signing from Cheshire Phoenix, Chez Marks, was also on target from distance to begin the second period, but then watched the Worcester trio of Zaire Taylor, Will Creekmore, and Kai Williams sink successive baskets to move their team clear at 34-26. However, seven points from Marks, and his supply of a neat assist for Ikhinmwin to slam home, were enough to edge Lions ahead at 36-39 with four minutes of the half remaining.

Worcester came out of the interval still in arrears at 47-50, but drew level after Taylor snatched the ball from Marks and floated in a triple. Over the remainder of the third quarter harassing defence from the Wolves led to poor shot selection from their opponents, limiting them to just ten points during the same number of minutes while surrendering a further sixteen points, allowing Wolves to take control at 66-60.

Lion’s veteran ex-Great Britain forward Julius Joseph misfired badly on consecutive shot attempts from beyond the arc before his teammate Ikhinmwin showed him how it should be done. When their American pairing of Rod Brown and Kramer Knutson also converted, the Lions were back in touch at 69-67 with five minutes left in the match.

A timeout from Coach Paul James was enough to steady the ship. From the restart Brown was the man to suffer as firstly Taylor, and then Creekmore, stole possession from him and upped their team’s lead. With less than three minutes of the afternoon to go Taylor was once more tormenter-in-chief. After outduelling everyone to rebound his own miss, he next floated a pass for Kalil Irving to dunk through the hoop, re-establishing a comfortable 77-69 advantage and leaving too much for the Lions to claw back.

Paul James was pleased at what took place, commenting: “Our bus being delayed probably had an effect on how we began the game. We were initially slow defensively, giving up 50 points in the first half. But after that we settled down and our defence kicked in. We missed quite a few free throws which kept Lions in the game, but we kept our nerve and showed composure down the stretch.

“We’ve had a tough draw having to come to London and now we will have to travel to Newcastle in the quarter-finals, but we’ve never been afraid to play anybody and we will carry on and do what we have to do in order to progress.”

Taylor, who was on court for the full 40 minute duration, put forward an all-round performance, top-scoring with 25 points, as well as contributing six assists, four steals and five rebounds. Owumi and Creekmore were next highest scorers with 15 points and 14 points respectively, with Creekmore registering a double-double of statistics by also grabbing eleven rebounds. Marks and Ikhinmwin tabbed 21 and 15 points for London.

There was more good news for the Wolves as they remain clear at the top of the British Basketball League, with a 16 wins and three defeats record, despite sitting out league action. Title-holders Leicester Riders, also one of this year’s challengers, suffered a double of reversals over the weekend. After narrowly losing out 84-86 at Newcastle Eagles on Friday, they then slumped to a dismal 79-95 loss at home versus Durham Wildcats. This leaves Leicester in fourth place, with 14 wins and five defeats so far this season. Sheffield Sharks and Newcastle stand in joint-second place in the table with 14-4 records.

It will be nearly a fortnight before Wolves return to the University of Worcester Arena, to face Glasgow Rocks on Friday 14 February. Prior to that they face a double-header of away action, at Plymouth Raiders and Cheshire Phoenix, on consecutive nights next weekend.

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