A big three pointer from Dave Walsh with 20 seconds on the clock ended the Wolves hopes of a first league win as they went down 89-85 against Bradford Dragons, on Saturday.
Thomas Baker's side had fought back from a 17 point third period deficit before just coming up short down the stretch and despite being obviously frustrated by the result, the Wolves play-caller had praise for his team:
"This one was tough to take" he said. "I thought we had it but unfortunately it got away from us. It was a crazy game with lots of fouls and free throws. We did an excellent job battling back from being down 17 to end up leading.
"We needed to show a bit more belief on the offensive end and fight a bit harder on the defensive end. Nevertheless we are heading in the right direction, we must keep pushing ourselves to get better every game."
Dragons coach Chris Mellor was impressed with the young Wolves team: "We never really got into any kind of rhythm but credit to Oaklands they played hard and we never could quite put the game out of reach" he said. "65 fouls in the game added to the entertainment along with 86 free throws, I’m just relieved we got the win and didn’t run out of players."
Jordan Santiago again led Baker's team with 18 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists and three steals before fouling out. Kane Daley also finished with 18 points, adding three rebounds and as many assists. Obi Egbunike also had a double-double with 14 points and ten boards, adding three blocks. while Jerrell Layne had 11 points despite foul trouble limiting him to just 15 minutes of action. Ollie Wright and Ahmed Ketiri completed a balanced scoring effort with ten points apiece.
Rihards Sulcs led Dragons with a 16 point, 12 rebound double-double, with Andreas Lycoudis also adding 16 points, while Ricky Fetske and Walsh both finishing with 14 points apiece.
A slow start from both teams saw a pair of Ketiri free throws give Wolves a 4-2 lead after four minutes but despite a pair of triples from Layne, the home side went into the first break with a 23-12 lead.
Wright scored from downtown to open the second period, but Fetske extended Dragons' lead to 31-19 after four minutes before Egbunike launched a personal 7-0 run with a three-point play to drag Wolves back within five points but Dragons finished the half strongly as six points from Tyme Regent-Bascombe helped them lead 45-35 at the half-time break.
Wolves only shot 21-from-37 at the foul line, and Wright missed three free-throws to open the third period before the youngster made amends with a pair of jump shots. Santiago kept the deficit at ten with a drive to the basket after five minutes before Walsh hit a triple to cap a 7-0 run which put Dragons 62-45 ahead.
But a feature of the young Wolves team this season has been their refusal to quit, and six Daley points together with a Santiago triple trimmed the deficit to 68-59 at the final break. Santiago and Lycoudis exchanged triples to open the fourth period before treys from Santiago and Layne helped Wolves score ten unanswered points to tie the game at 73 with five minutes on the clock.
But Layne left the game a few seconds later and was swiftly followed by Santiago after a highly debatable double-foul call. Daley hit a trey to put the hosts ahead for the first time since the early stages as Wolves took a 79-78 lead into the final three minutes.
Daley kept Wolves in touch as Dragons lived at the foul line, going to the stripe 13 times compared to the hosts' zero attempts, but an unsportsmanlike foul on Toby Gastaldi-Davies and a rare technical foul on Baker saw Bradford take an 86-81 lead into the final minute. Daley's lay-up trimmed the lead before Wright assisted on a Ketiri basket made it a one point game going into the final 30 seconds before Walsh drained a three to kill the hosts' hopes.