Worcester Wolves battled hard on Sunday before succumbing 66-77 at Leicester Riders, one of the favourites for honours in this year’s British Basketball League.
After falling behind early, Wolves turned up their intensity to take a double-figure second quarter lead and keep their noses in front for a further fifteen minutes until Leicester eventually regained control and the victory.
Jermel Kennedy and Danny Huffor led the scoring with 18 points apiece, while Trevor Setty chipped in with 11. Marek Klassen supplied ten assists, but found his input hampered by early foul trouble.
After the opening three minutes Worcester trailed 3-10 with only Huffor on the scoresheet. After a further couple of minutes Klassen had already committed two of his permitted five fouls and the deficit had increased to 9-17.
American centre Deondre McWhorter debuted in a Wolves vest midway through the first period but was unable to avoid being whistled for a quick trio of infractions.
As the second quarter commenced Wolves were behind 16-23, before consecutive three-pointers from Huffor and Setty, and then a two-pointer for Setty, closed the gap to 27-30. A Leicester time out did little to help their cause when Huffor snatched the ball from the hands of their guard Connor Washington and swept forward for the first of a rapid-fire four personal baskets before the interval, and a stunning 42-32 lead for his side.
A 10-0 burst from Riders levelled matters at 42-42 by the initial minute of the second half. Wolves held a slight edge at 58-55 entering the final quarter of the evening, but found their structure disrupted by Klassen, Setty and McWhorter all now hovering just a single foul call away from disqualification.
With three minutes remaining Worcester still clung to their hosts’ coattails at 66-67. However, consecutive scores for forward Pierre Hampton began another 10-0 Leicester surge that decided the outcome.
Coach Paul James praised his team, saying; “The final score doesn’t show how close the game was. We played hard and were still in the contest until the last few minutes. Leicester are a lot of peoples’ favourites for the title so this was a good test for us – we were more than competitive.”
“Marek’s fourth foul meant he couldn’t play as aggressively as I’d have liked and Deondre only flew in on Saturday. He will be a powerful unit for us once he’s settled in.”
Wolves welcome Sheffield Sharks to the University of Worcester Arena this Friday (tip off 7.30). James is looking for a return to winning ways, stating: “We’re not happy losing, regardless of who might be the favourites. We’ll train hard this week, put right the things we could have done better today and look to put in a good performance against Sheffield.”