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Worcester Wolves 65-83 Leicester Riders

Last Updated: Dec 16, 2015 07:28pm
St. Clement, Worcester
By Colin Taylor
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Worcester Wolves battled hard for three quarters of their contest against Leicester Riders on Friday before finally succumbing to a barrage of three-point shots.

The 65-83 loss keeps Wolves fixed in third place in the British Basketball League while their Midland rivals have a firm hold on second place in the table having tasted defeat just once this year, a step behind the unbeaten Newcastle Eagles. 

Trailing by just 36-39 at the half, after the interval Worcester’s offense deserted them, with only Jay Couisnard able to keep their side of the scoreboard ticking. In the meantime Leicester blasted their way to six three-point successes as well as forcing a succession of turnovers.

Aside from Couisnard’s match-high 26 points, only Javier Mugica and Ashton Khan were able to edge into double figures, with ten points apiece.

With reliable centre Perris Blackwell and his fellow big man Ben Eaves out of action through injury, Wolves were forced to juggle their resources. Couisnard and Khan took up the guard positions, latest signing Orlan Jackman came in at forward and it was left to Pavol Losonsky and Mugica to provide height for the line-up.

There was no sign of any uncertainty as the game began. Couisnard flew past defenders for a double of early scores and then rose high to block a Leicester shot and pass the ball to Mugica for a three-pointer. Two baskets for Jackman contributed to a 23-17 first-quarter lead.

At midway through the second period Jackman was in the right place to steal the ball from Neil Watson and convert the possession, stretching the advantage to 34-26 and prompting a Leicester time-out. From the restart the visitors took control, limiting Wolves to a single score for the remainder of the half, overturning the lead.

By four minutes into the second half it was the turn of Wolves’ coach Paul James to call for a halt to proceedings after seeing a snappy five points from Watson drop the hosts into a 40-48 hole.

After fighting back to 52-56, the air was taken out of a noisy home crowd at the third-quarter buzzer when a long-distance hurl from Tyler Bernadini trickled through the hoop.

Bernadini was in the thick of it as the final period commenced. Within the first minute he had taken a score and assisted another. When Watson was then given free rein to intercept a lazy inbound Wolves’ pass and serve it to Bernadini for a triple the evening was as good as over, at 52-66 and counting. 

While disappointed with the outcome, James credited his team’s earlier efforts, saying: “The final score-line doesn’t tell the story of how well we played initially. For three quarters we competed, but then lost our way in the final part of the game, which you just can’t do against a very good side like Leicester.” 

Wolves have opportunities to make amends with an upcoming double of matches at the University of Worcester Arena. Surrey Scorchers are the visitors next Friday 18 December, with London Lions coming to the city on Sunday 27 December.

Asked about preparations for these matches, James replied: “It was a hard match tonight; Leicester would have been tough opponents even if we had been at full strength. Jay did a valiant job, but we will need more scorers. With another week of practice, everyone will get more familiar with what is needed and we’ll certainly be looking to bounce back.”

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