Sheffield Sharks 71 Worcester Wolves 73

WORCESTER Wolves hold a slender advantage in their BBL play-off quarter-final tie with Sheffield Sharks after last night’s first leg in South Yorkshire.

Wolves will go into tomorrow’s deciding leg with the boost of a 73-71 victory against the only opponent to defeat them in league action since January, achieving the initial objective of their coach Paul James.

“It was important for us to set things up for tomorrow,” said James. “In previous seasons we have often let ourselves down in the first leg of ties.

"We’ve learnt our lesson and I’m really pleased to have come away from Sheffield with a win and with a headstart for the second leg.”

In a hard-fought encounter Worcester swept to a 43-29 half-time lead only to see their determined hosts close the gap and keep themselves in contention.

The first daylight between the teams came after six minutes at 12-6 following triples from Marek Klassen and Alex Navajas.

By the close of the initial quarter the advantage had extended to 22-14.

Trey Zeigler announced his arrival on court with a dazzling coast-to-coast lay-up as the second period began.

Trevor Setty and Jermel Kennedy chipped in five points apiece to aid Wolves’ double-digit interval lead.

A Setty three-pointer straight after the break further extended matters to 46-29 before Sheffield’s fightback finally began.

Lively guard Max Guercy hit a double of baskets and laid on an assist for Malcolm Riley.

When local youngster George Brownell connected from distance Sharks’ deficit had been slashed to 58-53.

By midway through the final quarter it was honours even at 61-61 with Wolves’ offensive production drying up.

Danny Huffor toiled for a trio of scores but was called for an unsportsmanlike foul on Rashawn Rembert in the final minute.

Rembert’s two free throws kept the match level at 71-71 but Huffor rose up to block Sheffield’s next shot attempt before galloping downcourt.

When he was himself hacked to the ground Huffor confidently drained the subsequent foul shots to give his side an edge ahead of the second leg.

Huffor on 25 points and Setty on 15 were the only Worcester men to break out of single-figure scoring with Rembert leading the way for Sharks on 20.

Wolves’ opportunity to progress to the final four of the play-offs takes place at the University of Worcester Arena at 4pm tomorrow.

James is confident his side will emerge victorious, saying: “Sheffield are not the defending play-off champions for no reason.

"They played hard and defended well and when we went through a sticky patch they came back at us.

“But it’s now all about tomorrow. We will be better than we have been last night.

"Sheffield now have to come to our house. I’m sure we’ll have another big crowd behind us and it’ll be our time to get things going.”