WORCESTER Wolves needed a desperate late comeback in order to stay in contention with their British Basketball League play-off quarter-final opponents as they drew 80-80 with Cheshire Jets at the University of Worcester.
A packed crowd saw the Wolves roar back from a 74-61 deficit with just six minutes remaining, to leave the tie all-square going into the second leg.
A 12-3 start to the game from the Jets put them into the driving seat mid-way through the opening quarter, before five straight points from Carlos Fernandez got Wolves right back into the game.
The Jets once more opened up a double-digit lead at 10-20, but a three-pointer from Arnas Kazlauskas helped Worcester cut the deficit to just five points as the first quarter came to an end with the Jets leading 24-19.
Six points from Kazlauskas and a Tommy Freeman triple put Worcester ahead for the first time, at 37-35 with four minutes remaining in the half, but a Bill Cole basket sparked a 10-3 finish to the half that saw the visitors head into the locker rooms leading 45-40.
Influential guard Adam Brown soon added to his 16 first half points as the Jets stretched their advantage to 56-45 mid-way through the third period and they stretched that to 65-50.
With home supporters now on their feet creating a barrage of noise, a rattled Cheshire side were unable to puncture the Wolves defence, while at the same time falling victim to accurate shooting from Sharrad Prezzie-Blue and Freeman.
A Kazlauskas three-pointer was the last score of a 17-2 tear for the Wolves to hand the home side the lead at 75-74 with three minutes remaining.
A basket from Richie Gordon with a minute and half to go kept Wolves in front at 77-76, but the Jets responded with a Nathan Schall bucket to retake the lead.
A Freeman free-throw followed by a Sherrad Prezzie-Blue steal and lay-up took matters to 80-78 with 31 seconds left.
The impressive Adam Brown concluded the night’s scoring, levelling the game at 80-80 to set up a thrilling decider at Chester’s Northgate Arena.
Worcester director of basketball Paul James was relieved at the outcome: “We didn’t play for three-quarters of the game and Cheshire threatened to blow us away at one point. But we came right back into it towards the end.”
Prezzie-Blue and Freeman were joint-top scorers for the Wolves with 22 points each. However, it was Brown who led all scorers in the game, with 31 points.