WOLVES bounced back from defeat at London Lions to win a pulsating back-and-forth tussle with their visitors, edging to a three-point British Basketball League victory over Sheffield Sharks.
Veteran Lithuanian forward Arnas Kazlauskas was the main man for the home team, piling up a game-high 20 points, including two decisive free-throws at the close of the match.
Sheffield were able to shackle normally fast-starting centre Arturas Masiulis, limiting him to a mere two first-quarter points, as the Sharks ended the first period 16-9 ahead.
Daniel Belgrave brightened matters for Worcester when floating home a long-range shot to begin the second period, but Sheffield again pulled away.
By four minutes into the period, the deficit had increased to 28-15, but a surge of scoring from Wolves’ play-maker Alex Owumi dragged matters to an even 34-34 with two minutes remaining in the half.
A delicate finger-roll gave Owumi the last of his 11 second-quarter points and Wolves their first lead, before successive baskets from Carlos Fernandez made it 40-34 with a few seconds to go.
Babalola then clumsily stepped in the way of Kazlauskas, allowing the Lithuanian to make both resultant free-throws as the first half expired.
It was Kazlauskas who began the scoring in the third quarter before seven points in a row from Sheffield guard Micah Williams closed the deficit to 46-43 by midway through the period. Neither side was able to assert control for the remainder of a third quarter that ended at 56-53 to Wolves.
Just as he did at the beginning of the second period, Belgrave once more sank a shot from outside to begin the final period. Again the Sharks refused to be subdued, replying in kind to bring themselves back into the contest at 62-60 with six minutes remaining.
A score from Owumi preceded the fourth triple of the night from Kazlauskas and again the margin widened.
At 69-65 with a couple of minutes to go, Sharks’ American debutant Demitrius Johnson battled with Kazlauskas under the Wolves basket and was adjudged by the referees to have crossed the line of sportsmanship in his behaviour.
Johnson was disqualified from the match, while Kazlauskas was awarded two free-throws.
But the normally-reliable Lithuanian fell short on both throws.
A series of nervous misses from both teams then ensued, before Williams finally connected with a three-pointer to bring his team to within a single point.
After more wayward shooting and with the game clock winding down, Wolves held possession. With eight seconds remaining, Sharks’ guard Zach Gachette pulled Kazlauskas to the floor to stop the clock.
As the large home crowd held their breath, Kazlauskas this time made no mistake to seal the victory.