WORCESTER Wolves director of basketball Ty Shaw praised his team’s battling qualities after they gave themselves a chance of overturning table-topping London Lions at the University of Worcester Arena last night.

Trailing 65-50 in the final quarter, Wolves looked beaten but led by Deshawn Freeman’s 24 points and 18 rebounds on an inspirational home debut they nearly halved the deficit for a 71-63 final outcome.

“If you change one or two things we would have come out with a victory,” said Shaw.

“Our defence and our rebounding were fantastic. It wasn’t a great shooting night but we have players who are usually much better than that.

“Keeping our opponents down to 71 points is a much better job than we’ve done lately. I’m proud of the way we’re competing and fighting.”

Freeman had already muscled to a half-dozen rebounds by the time he opened his scoring account for an early 6-4 Worcester lead.

At the first-quarter buzzer Lion’s Andre Lockhart floated home a three-pointer from the right corner of the court to give his side a 20-14 advantage.

As the second period began Jerelle Okoro immediately converted from the opposite corner to widen the lead.

Young British forward Daniel Johnson-Thompson turned a neat hand-off from Filip Kramer into a powerful dunk while Robert Crawford and Jordan Whelan found their range from afar to keep Wolves in touch at 40-35 by half-time.

Freeman continued to make a nuisance of himself after the interval. If his initial shot attempts did not succeed he invariably fought his way to second-chance points, spurring his team-mates into similar exertions.

With five minutes left in the match a Freeman triple put matters at 65-53.

Twice London were whistled for unsportsmanlike fouls as they struggled to slow down the home debutant’s attacks.

By the final minute Worcester had reduced their arrears to 70-63 before late misfires allowed Lions to eke out the win.

Beyond Freeman, Crawford was the hosts' only other double-digit scorer with 12 points.

Wolves now set out on a month of road matches beginning with a trip to London on Sunday (4pm) to meet Lions again in the quarter-finals of the BBL Cup.

After the release of Terrel Martin-Garcia and an injury to Miki Servera, only seven players took to the court on Friday but Shaw stated his players are prepared to do whatever is asked of them.

He said: “Miki will be a game-time decision on Sunday. But no one is making any excuses. It’s not all going to be pretty but I like where we’re at in competiveness and fight and the players’ willingness to go into battle for each other.”

It will be Friday, December 14, before Wolves come back to the University of Worcester Arena when they will take on Cheshire Phoenix.