BBL Trophy LogoHome advantage and some impressive distance shooting wasn’t quite enough to end the Glasgow Rocks’ near-11-year title drought in the BBL.

Instead, the Worcester Wolves, whose route to the final had seen them polish off the likes of holders Sheffield and Championship rivals Newcastle, wound up winning the first title in their eight-year history in the top drawer, 83-76.

Jamal Williams was named MVP for his 26 points but the major factor in this game, as Williams acknowledged afterwards, was the inside power of Wolves centre Will Creekmore, who had 22 points and 15 rebounds and was a problem that the Rocks never looked like finding a solution to.

The 10 fouls Creekmore drew from opponents – almost all of them from the hard-pressed Rocks big men Fran Urli, Daniel Northern and player-coach Sterling Davis, reopened the debate on whether that stat should be included in triple-double calculations.

It wasn’t easy though. After Alex Owumi’s three gave the Wolves an early 7-3 lead in a nervous opening, Worcester found themselves having to earn their first piece of silverware.

Seven minutes later, after Gareth Murray splashed a three to end the first quarter, Rocks were 10 points up (25-15) and the formbook – third-placed Worcester v 10th in the pile Glasgow – was looking a little frayed.

It was in the second quarter, when soon-to-be MVP Jamal Williams got going, that Worcester started to look like winners. Back to within two points, they were kept at bay by two uncontested threes from the left baseline by Murray, who added a two on the buzzer on the stroke of half time to keep the hosts ahead 44-38 at the break.

Wolves coach Paul James insisted at half-time that his players return to the game plan of going inside to Creekmoreand within 25 seconds, it started to pay dividends. Northern’s third foul took him out of the game and out of the picture offensively, his 10 further minutes offering just two more points.

Worcester would have reeled the Rocks in quicker if they had not missed six of the 13 free throws they took in the third quarter, which neutralised Creekmore’s continued monstering of the Rocks’ interior defence.

“I never had any doubts because the defence has been our anchor the whole year,” said Owumi. “When we went away from that, that was the problem.”

When the lead came it was with less than a minute of the quarter remaining, and through a pair of free throws and a two from Williams, followed by Zaire Taylor’s first field goal of the afternoon.

At the start of the fourth, the Rocks staged what was to prove a last stand. Davis hit a three, then Murray two more, as the hosts gave the 5,000 crowd one last reason to hope with a 65-64 lead.

Creekmore, Williams and Taylor then scored 14 of the next 19 points to go on the scoreboard and, with 1:25 on the clock and without a score in the paint for a full 15 minutes, the Rocks realised the game was up.

It was almost a shame that Murray’s 23 points (on 5/9 three-point shooting) was in a losing cause, and Wolves captain Owumi (11 points, seven rebounds) praised him as a ‘great player’ afterwards, but Worcester’s better defensive effort after the break gave the Rocks just four two-point field goals in the second half, so they needed plenty more than that from long range.

Williams acknowledged his career performance, saying simply, “when it’s your day it’s your day,” at the same time confessing that his first attempt was an airball.

James was understandably happy afterwards, revealing he was ahead of schedule on his promise to the owners: “I said to them ‘give me five years and I’ll get you to a final, I’ll get you a trophy,” he said. “I think we’ve done it in four. Its’ been little steps but I’m delighted to have got there.”

Davis’s situation looks less certain. The Rocks have now not won a BBL title since their play-offs triumph in 2003 and player-coach Davis – who was on the losing side with Brighton that day – stands on the verge of steering the club through eight silverware-free seasons.

The Rocks have been effectively out of this season’s Championship race since the turn of the year and only a strong finish (perhaps inspired by their performance in this final) would see them make this season’s play-offs.

“It’s going to be a challenge for us – it’s been a challenge all year long,” said Davis. “Looking at our record, you can tell it’s been a struggle but we have to fight for what we have remaining in the league and that’s a play-off spot.”

Although the Wolves always had the league title as their main priority – their chances are still good despite Friday’s defeat by Sheffield (“we just didn’t have it on the night and Sheffield played well,” said James) – landing their first silverware will take some pressure off the team and add confidence for the title run-in and next month’s play-offs.

“I think we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to win something this year,” said the coach. “The worse thing that could have happened would be if people were saying what a great season the Wolves had and we had nothing to show for it.

“I’m really delighted that we have something to show for the great season we’ve had so far and hopefully that will relax us now.”

Worcester could still win three titles this season – the same as Leicester managed last season, but James is unwilling to predict a coup.

“When you look what we’ve had to do to get here – we had to come through London, Newcastle and Sheffield, then maybe there is a shift,” he said. “We’re going to enjoy this moment, then we’re going to finish off the league. Then come back next year and try to be stronger.”

Share and Enjoy:
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • MySpace
  • Print

You must be logged in to post a comment Login