WORCESTER Wolves saw their long unbeaten run at the University of Worcester finally ended with an over-time defeat against Surrey Heat.
With 30 points, Alex Owumi scored almost a third of his side’s total but was unable to prevent them losing on their own court for the first time since September.
In a pulsating contest, Worcester looked to have sealed victory before ex-Wolves forward Sam Cricelli nailed a long-range basket as time expired to force over-time.
With Sherrad Prezzie-Blue missing out because of a knee injury, it was left to Carlos Fernandez to take over point guard duties.
He responded in style, contributing five early points in a 15-6 run that prompted a Heat time-out after the first four minutes.
In the last minute of the opening quarter, a three-pointer from Fernandez was followed by a long pass across court for a Kai Williams dunk to take matters to 23-13.
With just five seconds to go in the period, Wolves centre Arturas Masiulis picked up his second foul when hacking at Julius Joseph.
The ex-Great Britain international made both free throws and then an errant inbound pass from Masiulis was intercepted and smartly converted by Cricelli.
By three minutes into the second period Surrey had drawn level at 27-27 after two free throws from centre Frank Holmes, and a moment later he sank a triple to take the lead.
Owumi hit all of Worcester’s next 11 points to draw the sides level at 38-38 but Surrey led 45-38 at half-time and had extended that to 53-43 four minutes into the third quarter.
While Owumi contributed a further 10 points in the period, no other home player made an impact and they trailed 66-61 going into the final quarter.
Fernandez helped tie the game at 69-69 before a mesmerising between-the-legs pass from Owumi to power forward Stan Ocitti momentarily froze the Heat defenders for Ocitti open to sink a three-pointer.
An ongoing battle between Arnas Kazlauskas and Holmes came to a head when Holmes appeared to elbow his opposite number under the chin and was ordered to the bench.
The resultant foul shots helped Wolves to a 76-71 lead with four minutes to go.
Heat’s backcourt pairing of Martelle McLemore and Chavis Holmes brought the sides level again.
With under a minute to go, Holmes missed a shot and Cricelli fouled Williams to stop the clock. Two converted free throws meant Wolves led 83-80 but, with two and-a-half seconds to go, Cricelli let fly from distance and the ball went in off the backboard as the full-time hooter sounded.
The five minutes of over-time began with a 7-0 run for the Heat, including further scoring from McLemore and Holmes and an already-deflated Wolves were unable to slow the visitors’ momentum.
Fernandez and Williams scored 18 and 17 points respectively, while Cricelli marked his return to Worcester with 22.