WORCESTER Wolves soldiered on without point guard Alex Owumi before suffering an agonising last-shot defeat at Surrey Heat in the British League.
After seeing Heat score the opening basket, Wolves went on a 9-0 run, forcing Surrey coach Creon Raftopoulos to call a time-out after only three minutes.
And when Owumi could not return to the court after being taken unwell, young English guard Calvin Mourant-Hudson took over the playmaker position.
Heat were swift to overturn their visitors’ advantage, taking a 22-17 lead by the end of the first quarter.
A three-pointer from Arnas Kazlauskas brought matters back to 22-20 before an 8-0 run from Heat reasserted their control.
Ex-Worcester forward Sam Cricelli was in fine first-half form, scoring 10 points and snagging eight rebounds as his side went into the interval break 41-32 ahead.
Cricelli tallied six more points to help extend the Surrey lead to 49-39 before Wolves’ Stuart Thomson opened his scoring account.
Seeing the Heat lead diminish to 49-45, a steadying time-out from Raftopoulos was enough to restore a comfortable 60-50 cushion by the close of the third period.
Early in the last quarter, Wolves’ Arturas Masiulis was forced off for his fifth foul with his side trailing 64-54.
Worcester forward Stan Ocitti continued to fight hard inside against several taller opponents, freeing space for Carlos Fernandez to drive to the basket.
Scores from Fernandez and Thomson were followed by two Ocitti free throws to take matters to 66-62.
Kazlauskas maintained his 100 per cent accuracy from the foul-line to close the score to 66-64 with two-and-a-half minutes remaining.
A couple of free throws from Heat point guard Chavis Holmes preceded one made by Wolves’ Karl Noyer.
Kazlauskas added two foul shots to bring the Wolves back to 68-67 with 24 seconds left.
The exchange of free throws continued as Cricelli sank one, while Kazlauskas calmly converted two to even it up at 69-69 with 17 seconds left.
But the decisive blow was dealt when a floating shot from Holmes dropped through the hoop to cruelly deny Worcester.
Director of basketball Paul James said: “I’m proud of the guys. Losing Alex from the game with barely three minutes gone was a blow and I had to throw some young players in. To stay in the game and have a chance to win it was a tremendous effort.”
Masiulis led the Wolves scorers with 18 followed by Kazlauskas with 14, while Ocitti managed 16 rebounds alongside 12 points.