WORCESTER Wolves came within a minute of beating table-topping City of Birmingham Rockets on Friday night in front of more than 1,000 fans at the University of Worcester Arena.

Third-placed Wolves dragged the National Basketball League Division Two leaders into a 79-79 tie in the final minute of the contest before having to settle for an agonising 83-79 defeat, in front of 1,038 enthralled fans.

Birmingham raced 11-2 ahead while their hosts took time to find their feet.

After Wilfrid Santhe connected from distance, Isaiah Walker announced his arrival with a similar success and then a three-point play when being fouled as he slashed to the hoop, nudging Worcester 15-14 in front six minutes into the evening.

The teams were level at 23-23 before Rockets’ Luke Okosieme demonstrated the leaping ability that made him an England Junior high jumper to thump home a quick-fire eight points.

Wolves took aim from outside the perimeter to restrict Birmingham to a 43-39 half-
time advantage.

A dizzying burst of action from Lucas McGregor brought spectators to their feet after
the break.

In little over half a minute he repeatedly thrust forward for an electrifying triple of scores, each time earning a bonus free throw as he swept past flailing defenders, propelling his side 52-46 ahead.

Worcester held a slender 63-62 edge entering the last quarter. Surging belief was typified by Evan Longman harassing Birmingham player-coach Martyn Gayle into turning the ball over as he inbounded underneath his own basket.

Three-pointers from McGregor, Santhe and Ian Vivero-Rodriguez maximised Wolves’ lead at 77-72 with four minutes remaining before Rockets showed enough to wrestle control and take the late spoils.

McGregor top-scored with 22 points, supported by 14 from Santhe and a dozen apiece for Walker and Vivero-Rodriguez.

“Birmingham have of course been unbeaten all season,” said Wolves’ coach Dean Blake.

“For us to have got the win today would have been massive. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be, but I’m proud that we competed and gave it a real good go.”