WORCESTER Wolves won their seventh game in a row as they beat Sheffield Sharks to maintain the pressure on the Newcastle Eagles at the top of the British Basketball League.
Although it was a comfortable final margin of victory, the Wolves struggled to shake off the Sharks, only pulling clear of their opponents in the last part of the game.
It was a low-scoring start to the match through the first six minutes, before the Sharks made the first push. Guard Jimmy Langhurst scored five straight points for his side to lead 14-9.
But, from there, they had a four-minute scoreless spell, while baskets from Tommy Freeman and Alex Zimnickas narrowed the gap to 14-13 after the opening 10 minutes.
The second quarter continued in the same vein, with neither team able to establish a clear advantage.
Seeing increased court time with centre Richie Gordon on the bench after early foul trouble, Zimnickas posted consecutive baskets to keep Wolves in contention at 20-18 after three minutes.
By this point, Worcester coach Paul James had also sent English duo Callum Jones and David Watts on court, as several of his starters failed to make an impact.
Watts, in particular, responded well to the extra responsibility, scoring all seven of his side’s points as they grabbed a slender 32-31 lead a couple of minutes before the half-time break.
However, further scoring from Langhurst saw Sheffield back in front at 38-35 by the interval.
In a first-half of wayward outside shooting, the normally-dangerous Wolves only managed to convert two of 13 attempts from distance. However, immediately after the break Freeman opened with a
three-pointer and the game was once more tied.
It was still all square at 44-44 after Carlos Fernandez stole the ball and finished with a dunk for the hosts.
As Freeman finally broke clear of tight defence to slot home a couple of more scores from outside the arc, Wolves moved ahead at 54-48 midway through the period.
In the last minute of the quarter, Lithuanian forward Arnas Kazlauskas cleverly intercepted a Sharks pass and dunked the ball home to make it 60-54.
Sheffield opened the fourth quarter with a three-pointer from Ryan Patton to make it 62-59, but this was the closest the visitors got for the remainder of the contest as the Wolves offence finally
A burst of scoring from Freeman and Prezzie-Blue took matters out to 76-66 at five minutes to go, before Sharks player-coach Atiba Lyons called a time-out to try to halt the onslaught.
There was no respite as Kazlauskas nailed consecutive baskets for the Wolves to pull further clear.
A near-capacity University of Worcester crowd was brought to its feet as Kazlauskas celebrated his final score with a swooping dance and
Freeman secured the victory from the free-throw line.