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Wolves see off a determined Giants

Manchester Giants 80 - 95 Worcester Wolves

Last Updated: Jan 6, 2014 07:53pm
St. Clement, Worcester
By Colin Taylor
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Worcester Wolves had to battle hard to see off a determined challenge from Manchester Giants on Sunday afternoon. The 95-80 win sees Wolves stay a couple of points clear of Leicester Riders at the head of the British Basketball League.

The eventual margin of victory does not do justice to the Giants who fought back from a double-digit fourth period deficit to put themselves in sight of a possible upset. It was largely thanks to the “Big Three” of Zaire Taylor, Alex Owumi and Will Creekmore, who combined for nearly three-quarters of Wolves’ points, that the Manchester surge was repelled.

Giants won the opening tip-off but allowed Taylor to snatch the ball back and pass it to Creekmore for a breakaway dunk. A score from Owumi increased the lead to 4-0. However, former Worcester favourite David Watts was on hand to intercept an errant Taylor pass and lay on a score for Mersey veteran David Aliu, and then sank a three-pointer as the next ten points all went the way of the hosts.

Kai Williams entered the fray and was soon on target from afar. A bullet pass to Owumi saw him alone under the basket for an easy lay-up, and Worcester were back in touch. The opening period ended on a coast-to-coast buzzer beater from Taylor for his side to trail by a single point at 22-23.

Great Britain guard James Jones committed a clumsy foul on Stefan Djukic as he opened his scoring account and had to watch as the Worcester man confidently sunk the bonus free throw to edge Wolves in front. Stout defense slowed the Giants’ attacks, limiting them to only four baskets from the field in the entire second quarter. In the meantime the Wolves had no such offensive difficulties, widening the advantage to 50-41 by half-time.

By three minutes into the second half it looked as if the contest could be over after Taylor and Creekmore showcased their understanding of each other’s strengths. On three successive possessions Taylor delivered the ball into Creekmore’s hands and stood aside as his teammate finished the plays, boosting the Wolves’ lead to 60-45.

The advantage held steady at 72-59 entering the last period, but five quick points from Aliu reminded the visitors that the victory was still not secure. With seven minutes remaining Aliu’s fourth three-pointer had reduced the deficit to single figures at 76-67. When Jones also sank from distance a couple of minutes later, putting the afternoon at 80-72, Wolves’ coach Paul James deemed it necessary to call for a steadying timeout.

A burst of action from Djukic was the final decider of the match. Firstly he was on hand to tip in a Williams miss, and then stole the ball for another basket. Making two from two foul shots kept up his perfect record from the free-throw line and once more established daylight for his side at 90-77 with less than two minutes to go.

Paul James was relieved to finally see out the win, saying: “It was much closer than the score suggests. Manchester played hard for forty minutes. It never really felt like we had the game fully under control, but we managed to grind out the win.”

“It’s great to enter 2014 at the top of the table, but it means every side we play now sees us as the team to beat. We will need to stay focussed and play our style of basketball,” added James.

Creekmore led the Wolves scoring with 26 points, followed by Taylor and Owumi with 23 and 18 points respectively. Taylor also served up eleven assists. Djukic fell just short of a double-double, tallying nine points and nine rebounds. Aliu dominated the Giant’s scoring with 35 points.

Next up for the Wolves will be the visit of Durham Wildcats to the University of Worcester Arena, this Friday 10 January.  

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