Late winner ends Wolves' title hopes

By Nigel Slater 09/04 Updated: 09/04 14:51

Buy photos » Sherrad Prezzie-Blue's late basket looked to have been enough for Worcester Wolves to beat Newcastle Eagles until Andrew Thomson netted in the final second to give the home side a crucial win and end Wolves' BBL title hopes. Picture by Keith Hunt.

A DRAMATIC last-gasp winning basket for the Newcastle Eagles ended Worcester Wolves' dreams of landing their first ever Championship title.

In a thrilling match, Wolves looked set to record a vital victory until Andrew Thomson netted in the very final second of the game to give the hosts a massive 85-84 win in their pursuit of being crowned BBL champions.

Friday night's defeat means it is mathematically impossible for Wolves to clinch this season's BBL Championship title and will now look to finish as runners-up before bidding for silverware in the BBL Playoffs.

After a tight opening, the BBL leaders began to assert themselves with a 15-2 run in the second part of the opening quarter to put them 22-11 ahead going into the second period.

But Wolves got back into it when both Tommy Freeman and Arnas Kazlauskas started to find their range and reduced their deficit to just two points at 27-25.

Both teams then exchanged baskets before the Lithuanian struck again with a three-pointer to level the scores at 38-38 going into half time.

Wolves were back ahead early in the second half when centre Richie Gordon fired in a basket as scoring resumed. But the Eagles flew into gear again as consecutive triples from Joe Chapman gave them a 57-49 lead forcing Wolves coach Paul James into a timeout.

And the timeout did wonders for the visitors as they went on to produce their best spell of the contest scoring the next 15 points without reply as Wolves led 64-57.

Andrew Bridge stopped the rot for Newcastle with a pair of free-throws before scoring again minutes later to put the Eagles back ahead in a thrilling topsy-turvy clash. The hosts led 65-64 going into the crucial final quarter.

The Eagles looked to have won it deep in the fourth period when Wolves centre Richie Gordon was fouled out of the game and Charles Smith's three-pointer with less than 90 seconds to go gave them a five-point lead.

But Wolves, needing to win to keep their title dreams alive, fought back as Kazlauskas scored the next five points to level the scores with just 26 seconds remaining.

But the Lithuanian was forced off the court after committing the last of his five permitted fouls. Smith buried his two foul shots before Wolves' Sherrad Prezzie-Blue shocked the home crowd scoring three points to give Wolves the lead at 84-83.

But the incredible drama continued when in the final moments a last-gasp scramble for the ball led to Thompson attempting basket in the hope of a winner and the ball dropped tantalisingly through the hoop to leave the Wolves squad heartbroken.

After the game Wolves head coach Paul James said he was delighted with his players performance and work rate despite the defeat.

"I am very proud of the team," he said. "We fought all the way to give ourselves a chance to win but in the end it was not our day. But our day will come.

"This was another thrilling game with Newcastle and another where we were just one rebound away from a win. We showed a lot of character to stay with them in the early stages."

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