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Wolves Hold On to Second Place

Another winning weekend for Worcester Wolves

Last Updated: Apr 13, 2014 09:06pm
St. Clement, Worcester
By Colin Taylor
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London Lions 73-98 Worcester Wolves

Worcester Wolves consolidated their hold on second place in the British Basketball League after a comprehensive 98-73 win at London Lions on Thursday.

In their last league encounter at London’s Copper Box Arena the Wolves 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 the first quarter, and stubbornly barring their host’s attempts to mount a comeback.

On the first possession of the evening Lions’ Michael Martin shot attempt went awry. Wolves’ Kalil Irving snatched the rebound and passed the ball to Will Creekmore who sank a confident triple. Creekmore was next to score for Worcester, and saw team mate Alex Owumi take the next five points for an early 10-7 advantage.

A score from Joe Ikhinmwin levelled matters at 18-18 as the first quarter concluded, but a long-distance success from point guard Zaire Taylor soon put Wolves back in charge as the second period opened.

After three minutes had elapsed the advantage had increased to 27-20, before Martin set off on a purple patch of scoring. The 40-year-old former Great Britain forward nailed a remarkable half-dozen baskets before the end of the first half, and it was only a trio of three-pointers from Jamal Williams and Owumi that allowed Wolves to hold London at bay at 44-35.

It was Creekmore who was again first to move the scoreboard after the interval, before, inevitably, Martin replied. Scoring support finally arrived for London in the shape of American forward Jason Davis, whose six points aided his side to edge closer at 50-46 by midway through the third period. However, two fouls committed by Martin in little over a minute forced his withdrawal to the Lions bench, allowing the visitors to once more pull clear, leading 69-55 entering the final quarter.

Matters only worsened for the hosts in the next couple of minutes after a double of scores from outside the arc from Kai Williams helped build a healthy 77-57 cushion. When Williams again connected two minutes later, the last flickerings of London resistance were extinguished. With Taylor and Creekmore in particular continuing to rack up points, the victorious trip to the Capital was finalised.

Paul James was happy with what took place, commenting: “It was a very good team performance, with five of our players all hitting double-figure scoring for us to take the win.”

Looking ahead to Friday’s match at the University of Worcester Arena against Leicester Riders, (tip off 7.30pm), James added: “As long as we carry on where we left off today, with tough defence and good movement of the ball on offence, then we will do well.”

Taylor led the Worcester scoring with 22 points, closely followed by Creekmore and Owumi with 21 and 20 points respectively. The Williams brothers combined for 20 points between them. Martin top-scored for London with 19 points though, tellingly, all but two of that total came in the first half of the evening.

Worcester Wolves 84-76 Leicester Riders

Worcester Wolves did what they had to do at the University of Worcester Arena on Friday in defeating the reigning British Basketball League champions Leicester Riders, and thereby keeping hold of second-place in the table.

Leicester and, to a lesser extent, Wolves both experimented with their line ups in preparation for the fast-approaching end of season play-offs. Although Wolves’ victory was never in doubt, the performance was at times a little disjointed, with their lead maximising at 20 points before settling down to 84-76 by the final buzzer.

In Worcester’s triumph the night before at London Lions, there was a welcoming spread of scorers throughout the team and this carried over into their return to home court. Riders’ Andrew Sullivan, the captain of Great Britain’s Olympic squad, notched a basket in the opening minute, but it would be a further five minutes before any of his team-mates also troubled the scoreboard. In the meantime, Kai Williams came off the Wolves’ bench to hit a three-pointer, and saw elder brother Jamal do likewise to take the advantage to 15-7.

By the close of the initial quarter the lead had ballooned to 28-14, helped by two more long-distance successes for Williams the younger. One-time Leicester point guard Zaire Taylor thrilled spectators when twirling around his former backup, Connor Washington, for a cheeky lay-up to open the second period. By midway through the period, after Wolves’ reserve guard Disraeli Lufadeju sank a confident shot from the corner, it was time for exasperated Riders’ coach Rob Paternostro to call for a halt to proceedings as he looked up at a 36-19 deficit.

A half-dozen points from Anthony Downing aided a revival of fortunes, reducing the arrears to 40-29 by the end of the half. However, for Worcester, of greater concern than the score was a worrying sharp tumble to the floor by Jamal Williams as he defended the home basket. Unable to rise without assistance, he was forced to hobble to the locker rooms, only seconds before the interval.

Four points for Leicester’s bustling centre Rashad Hassan, and five for Sullivan, had closed the gap to just 44-38 after four minutes of the second half had elapsed. But business-as-usual was restored following consecutive outside successes for Lufadeju and forward Kalil Irving. With Worcester big men Will Creekmore and Stefan Djukic also holding sway on the inside, the advantage had built back up to 63-45 entering the final ten minutes of the evening.

With the outcome seemingly already decided, both coaches spread court time across their squads. Although Hassan revelled in the easing of the defensive pressure to notch an impressive 16 points in the final quarter, support was lacking in other areas, with the game winding down to another Worcester win.

Wolves’ coach Paul James gave his thoughts on the match, saying: “It was kind of a strange game. I’m not sure how much it mattered to Leicester, with them already fixed in fourth place in the table. Having said that, I like what we’re doing right now, with a nice spread of scoring. Zaire has got better and better as the season has gone on at distributing the ball and getting our scorers open, as well as still being able to pick up his own points.”

Asked about the injury to Jamal Williams, James replied: “He’s rolled his ankle. But with rest, and with ice on it, we’re hoping that he’ll have recovered in time for next Wednesday’s match at Sheffield.”

Taylor led the Worcester scorers with 17 points, closely followed by Kai Williams and Creekmore with 16 and 14 points respectively. Djukic tallied ten points and Alex Owumi totalled eight. Taylor bolstered his numbers with a fine 14 assists, as did Creekmore by snatching a rousing 18 rebounds. Hassan led the way for Leicester with 27 points.

The regular season will conclude for the Wolves next week. On Wednesday they travel to third-paced Sheffield Sharks, before returning home to the University of Worcester Arena on Friday to host the BBL Trophy runners-up, Glasgow Rocks. Their final outing before the commencement of the post-season play-offs will be at Surrey United on Saturday. 

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