HULL Wasps narrowly lost out in the third round of the National Shield after a close 83-78 defeat at home to Division 3 high-flyers Sefton Stars.
Hull pushed their Division Three opponents all the way before luck deserted them as they attempted to take the game into overtime with just 18 seconds left.
Both 6ft 8in centre John Brignell, who scored 24 points, and guard Andy Marr had good shots to tie the game with the score at 80-78 to the visitors.
But both saw their close-range efforts drop agonisingly off-target. First Marr impressively split the Sefton defence before lofting a layup towards the rim, only to watch it roll out. Brignell collected the rebound but could not convert his shot off the backboard under pressure.
Defeat was less than Hull deserved after their best defensive performance of the season. It was epitomised by point guard John Kelsey, who kept the Sefton guards under constant pressure and both led and finished the Wasps fast-breaks at the other end of the court to hit 13 points.
The Wasps could only kit-up eight players after injuries to experienced forwards Miles Anderson and Jimmy Coulson and the absence of forward Rob Birchmore and guards Ash Rice and Chris Cummings.
But starting the game as the underdogs only seemed to spur on the hosts as they bullied Sefton at both ends, leading 20-15 after the first quarter.
A see-saw game saw both sides have impressive runs, with Sefton heading into the fourth quarter up by two, a lead they stretched to seven points in the final stages.
And Hull’s tough task was further compounded when captain Jamie Goodwin, who scored 12 points, fouled out and centre James Rayner was forced out of the game with injury.
But Hull refused to collapse and again took the score to within two with just 18 seconds remaining, before Kelsey also picked up his fifth and final foul.
It was then that Hull’s luck deserted them before Sefton put the game to bed with a three-point play.
Goodwin said: “We may be out of the Shield, but this matched showed that we are more than capable of competing with Division Three sides and if we play like that against the best teams in our own league, Division Three is exactly where we will be next season.”
Hull beat Newcastle Eagles II 88-58 in Division Four the previous day to stretch their record in league competition to six out of six. Brignell scored 19 points, guard Ade Blatherwick hit 18 and Rayner added 11.
The second-placed Wasps must now prepare for their toughest league game so far against fourth-placed Burnley, who are 5-1 in the league.
The game tips off at 7.30pm on Saturday at the Bonus Arena in Walton Street, west Hull. Entry is £4 for adults and £3 for juniors.
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