CHESHIRE Jets almost snatched defeat from the jaws of victory but came away from Worcester Wolves with an 80-80 tied first leg play-off result that will have satisfied head coach John Lavery going into tomorrow's decider.
It was a nervous start for both sides, but soon the Jets took the initiative going on a 12 point run when 3-0 down. Paul James' Wolves would fight back, but Cheshire would retain control as Adam Brown made it a five point lead, 24-19, going into the second quarter.
A tight second period saw Matt Schneck pick up a third foul early on, which allowed Nathan Schall to pick up a considerable amount of minutes on the night. The lead changed hands midway through the quarter with Tomas Kaslauskas converting three from the charity stripe followed by a big three from Tommy Freeman. The Jets regained the advantage shortly after to maintain the five point advantage, 45-40, going into half time.
After the break, the lead was extended with some impressive fast breaks, but with Schneck again having to sit out after quickly picking up a fourth foul. Despite having a 15 point lead late in the third quarter, points from Richie Gordon and Sherrad Prezzie-Blue cut the gap to 10 points, 65-55, as the home side showed signs of a revival.
It was about to rain down three pointers for Worcester as Freeman and Prezzie-Blue found their range, three on the run dropping for the latter. The home crowd soon began roaring their side on and Kaslauskas nailed one from outside which sealed the fight back.
It was about hanging on for Cheshire as Schneck returned to the court, but was ejected for good not long after. As the lead flipped one way then the other, Freeman missed one of his two free throws to make it 78-78. Prezzie-Blue stole the ball to convert and leave the Jets in need of one last score to level the tie.
Brown completed a 31-point haul by nailing that shot as the Jets saw out the final few seconds of the game to make tomorrow's second leg - in front of their growing band of Team Mohawk fans at the Northgate Arena - a one-off winner-takes-all clash.