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Worcester Wolves 73 Leicester Riders 61
7:09pm Sunday 6th October 2013 in Sport
WORCESTER Wolves laid down an early marker for what they could achieve this season both on and off the basketball court.
They defeated reigning British Basketball League champions Leicester Riders at a sold-out University of Worcester Arena.
Urged on by more than 1,500 fans at their new venue, Wolves finally made home advantage pay by edging clear in a tight contest after a strong defensive display.
The start was delayed due to the large throng of spectators eager to witness the action.
But Leicester’s Great Britain captain Andrew Sullivan threatened to dampen the party atmosphere early on, rising high to dunk the ball home from his side’s opening possession.
The big summer story was point guard Zaire Taylor turning down the chance to rejoin last season’s treble-winning Riders and instead signing for Worcester.
It was fitting Taylor was the first person to reply, floating in a long-range shot.
The next eight points went the way of Wolves, forcing Riders coach Rob Paternostro to call a time-out with his side trailing 11-2 after three minutes.
At the end of the first quarter, Worcester were still in front at 18-13. Midway through the second period, a Sullivan basket pulled his team back to 24-23.
Guard Jay Couisnard’s three-pointer then edged Riders ahead and left Wolves coach Paul James requesting a time-out.
With the hosts trailing 34-29 in the last minute of the half, new signing Disraeli Lufadeju thrilled the crowd with an improbable shot attempt from the corner of the court which bounced off the backboard before dropping through the hoop.
A smooth turnaround shot from small forward Jamal Williams opened the second-half and levelled the score.
After a quick reply from bustling centre Rashad Hassan, Williams tipped in a Taylor miss to again equalise.
Consecutive triples from guard Caylin Raftopoulos and centre Will Creekmore opened a 44-39 gap for Wolves.
As the third quarter wound down with Wolves ahead at 51-45, Creekmore was whistled for a technical foul after dissent towards the match officials.
Riders sank one of the two free throws and young English guard Connor Washington hit a triple from the turn-over in possession, bringing the contest to 51-49.
With five minutes left, the score was still close at 59-55 but a combination of stifling defensive play and a break-out on offence pulled Wolves clear.
Five points in a row from Taylor made it 64-57. After an Alex Owumi score, Taylor produced an imperious dribble and lay-up around a flailing Washington to extend the lead to 68-57.
Forward Stefan Djukic rounded off Wolves’ scoring with a two-handed slam before Williams blocked a desperate Washington shot.
Taylor led scorers with 22 points and Creekmore registered a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds.