Wolves: Prezzie-Blue, Freeman, Fernandez, Gordon and Kaslauskas.
Jets: Brown, Williams, O’Reilly, Schneck and Cole.
In a typically frantic start to a BBL game, Worcester managed to establish a lead as the Jets looked to guard the perimeter. Gordon went to work early in the Jets key and gave them something to think about as Williams stayed glued to Freeman 20 feet from the basket.
Sherrard Prezzie-Blue got free on a couple of occasions as things started to shake down and added five points to the Worcester cause. And while Freeman couldn’t find much room with the ball, he was able to set up a screen for Watts to drain one from distance. Watts was in early for Fernandez as Coach James looked to add to his armoury and keep the visiting defence guessing.
It was a night made for Arnas Kaslauskas who is the perfect foil when his team mates hold the attentions of others and he didn’t disappoint with 22 points, adding six in consecutive plays as he found the basket from long range and got fouled on the subsequent bucket for another three point play. Wolves led by four with under three to play in the first.
Gordon was as ever imperious on his own glass and ended the game with nine boards under his own basket and 14 for the game in a double double performance leading the scorers with 23 points.
Just before the end of the ten Freeman registered his first points as a visit to the free throw line resulted in the usual conclusion of a 100 per cent conversion rate. Wolves led by six after the first ten at 26-20.
An opening three point salvo for the Wolves started the second, but the Jets weren’t going anywhere and kept themselves within striking distance never more than a couple of scores back. In fact it was Cheshire who led the quarter after five as Page took one from the charity stripe to give them three more points than their hosts so far in the second ten.
As Watts was in for more time he had been given more responsbility and was asked to fill the small forward role vacated by Fernandez as well as pose a three point threat. Coach James was using his bench well as Jones helped Wolves to a five point lead. Freeman found a way over his man as he stood back from O’Reilly and put one higher than normal. His accuracy didn’t fail him and three fingers were held aloft by the official.
The Jets were having a bad time of it at the line and emerged from the contest with a success rate of just above 50%.
Late in the half Richie Gordon made an aggressive move to set a screen for Freeman who accepted his offer of the open basket to add another three points to his stat line. Wolves led by five at the half (44-39) in what had been a very tactical opening twenty with both coaches asking questions of the other. Kaslauskas led the scorers with 11 points as they took to the locker rooms.
The second half got underway with both starting fives back on the floor and it was a hard fought first few minutes as they looked to put something together. Gordon was influential for the Wolves, but February’s player of the month openend the game back up after being given an open look behind the arc.
The home side were working hard for each other with two lay-ups from Fernandez either side of a Kaslauskas steal. The lead was never more than seven though. Watts was surprisingly back in early for Fernandez as the Spaniard was enjoying his best spell of the game.
The Jets continued to match their hosts as the momentum swung either way and an Adam Brown three made it a one point game with under four to go in the quarter. Brown and Prezzie-Blue had been relatively quiet (in terms of points) up until this stage in the game, but that is testament to their ability to guard each other and was also due to the nature of the game.
Gordon continued to make his presence felt to keep Wolves ahead. He shows his importance to this Wolves side every time he takes to the hardwood, going about his business and building the platform for victory. He is almost an unstoppable force and often good for 20 points and ten rebounds.
Kaslauskas was pumped up resulting in the official having a word with both him and Schneck for handbags. Arnas responded with his first three of the second half and the words hadn’t worked as he attempted to wind up Schneck after the score.They were putting on a show between them as Arnas scored again (taking him to 17 for the game) and then Schneck replied with two and made his thoughts known. After that interval however, they both got on with the job of being professional and trying to help their team to a win. Kaslauskas continued to hand out the death stares though to any player he encountered.
We had a three point game as O’Reilly put up an attempt at a three to level, but failed. At the other end Gordon again was the difference maker as he extended the home side’s lead back out to five. Worcester’s two big men had kept the Jets at arms length all night and they continued to do the damage as Worcester took a six point lead in to the last ten (68-62).
The visitors had no answer for Gordon or Kaslauskas as they again brought it at the start of the fourth. The hot hand of the Lithuanian giving Worcester their biggest lead of the night so far at eleven points.
If Worcester can engineer breathing space for themselves in the fourth, they can really put teams away. Prezzie-Blue and Fernandez distribute, Freeman turns more dribbler than shooter drawing fouls and downing free shots at the bucket and Gordon commands the low post and both ends of the court. Worcester’s point guard will also then step up and put a dagger through your heart as he did right on cue with a three to put the visitors 13 back.
Wolves led 84-67 with just over four left.
Cheshire had to look for threes but nothing doing as they rained them in, and as Coach James called the time out it looked like the home side would see this one out. Cole got awarded his fifth personal and took a seat with 18 game points (leading the visitors on the night) to his name. Bill Cole is a player who always deserves more, he’s talented and a hard worker and also a joy to watch on the hardwood often making things look effortless.
As Prezzie-Blue continued to bring it he went coast to coast with ease for two.
The last eventful moment of the game was a clash of heads between team mates Freeman and Fernandez. The small forward took the brunt of the clash and was later to head off for stitches in his head. Freeman injured his mouth but after a short time off court, he returned for the end of game celebrations.
Jones and Tin Tin were the replacements and Captain Jones ran down the clock to give Wolves the 95-79 win at the buzzer.
As he left the gym carrying his player of the month award, Tommy Freeman gave me his thoughts on the game:
“It was a hard fought battle. Williams really gives them a nice scoring option and they didn’t have O’Reilly last time so they were able to hang right in there with us and they were scoring as well as we were for the first three. We were just able to grind it out and stay with what we were doing and were able to out condition them a little I think in the fourth, and stick to our game plan a little better than they did.”
The Worcester Wolves travel to Surrey on Sunday (4 March 2012) to take on the Guildford Heat in a game that will be shown again on Sky Sports on Tuesday night. Tip-off in Guildford is 3pm.