WORCESTER Wolves eventually registered a comfortable victory as Durham Wildcats belied their lowly placing in the British Basketball League.
Although it looks difficult for any side to catch Newcastle Eagles with only a third of the season left, Wolves strengthened their hold on second place and hopes of a high play-off seeding.
The first four points went to the hosts but Wolves’ Tommy Freeman levelled matters when twice fouled in the act of shooting and making all of the free-throws.
Neither side could pull clear until the introduction of Wolves’ forward David Watts towards the end of the first quarter. Consecutive baskets from Watts put Wolves 18-12 in front.
Although entering the second period 24-14 ahead, Worcester could not build their advantage.
Strong inside play from power forward Mario Flaherty and accurate outside shooting by guard Paul Elderkin brought Durham level at 34-34 with two minutes of the half left.
A basket on the half-time buzzer from Mark Elderkin pulled the score back to 40-39.
A long assist from Wolves’ Arnas Kazlauskas to Richie Gordon opened the second-half scoring.
Another Gordon basket took his side further ahead before Flaherty troubled the Durham side of the scoreboard.
By midway through the period, Wolves’ advantage accelerated to 54-44 as room was exploited by Freeman and point-guard Sherrad Prezzie-Blue.
Prezzie-Blue made all the free-throws after a foul and dissent by forward Notis Chalkiidis to cap off a pulsating 27-12 third quarter from Wolves.
A neat reverse lay-up from Gordon took the advantage to 69-51 and left no way back for Durham.
Wolves director of basketball Paul James said: “You’ve got to come to places like Durham and be prepared to grind out the win.
“The results they have had do not tell the full story.
“We came out in the second-half with a little more enthusiasm and commitment and thoroughly enjoyed the win in the end.”
Tommy Freeman once more led Wolves’ scorers with 29 points and said: “It’s a long road trip up here and a tough place to play.
“I tried to be aggressive when our offence got a little stagnant and it was a question of just grinding it out.”
Gordon and Prezzie-Blue added 18 and 15 points respectively with Flaherty responding with 19.
Wolves return to the University of Worcester on Saturday at home to Cheshire Jets (7pm).