Worcester Wolves were left disconsolate after somehow managing to throw away a much-needed victory in dramatic circumstances at the University of Worcester Arena on Friday.
An 87-83 lead with 21 seconds to go against Manchester Giants ought to have been sufficient. Dangerous guard Anastasios Traianos was able to connect with a three-pointer to give Giants a sliver of hope.
With just six seconds remaining, Wolves’ Jermel Kennedy missed one of two free throws to make it 88-86. Former Worcester captain Callum Jones then hurriedly located Moritz Lanegger standing poised on the side-line to calmly lob up a long-distance winner.
As Manchester players and staff bounced around the court in wild celebrations Wolves’ coach Paul James expressed his upset at what had taken place, saying: “I have no idea what our players were thinking in the last 20 seconds or so. We only had to play straight-up defence, but we instead gave Manchester a shooter’s chance. We should have locked in – it was a stupid way to lose the game.”
The evening started positively as new 6 feet 10-inch centre Maurice Walker made an immediate impact with four close-range baskets from four attempts and a 17-8 advantage. However, a 5-16 end to the quarter allowed Giants to edge ahead.
A back-and-forth first half ended with six points from Jones and the teams level at 41-41. The third quarter saw much of the same as the sides exchanged scores.
By a couple of minutes into the last period Wolves were in front at 66-64 following a long assist from Marek Klassen for a Kennedy dunk. Meanwhile, Walker continued to impress as he settled into a pattern of bullying past defenders for repeated successes.
By the last minute of the match Wolves looked comfortable with an 84-77 lead, until their late breakdown.
Walker finished with striking debut statistics of 32 points and 11 rebounds. James praised his new arrival, saying: “Maurice did a great job and will hopefully continue that form for the rest of the season. It’s just a shame that he put in all that work and he still ended up on the losing side.”
Wolves now have matches on the road at Plymouth and Leeds, before returning to the University of Worcester Arena on Friday 2 December to host Bristol Flyers.
“We had the game won tonight but for 20 seconds of madness. It will be hard to pick ourselves up, but we simply have to,” added James.