Worthing Thunder coach Daniel Gayle hailed Saturday’s 72-57 win over Leicester Warriors in their National League Division 1 season opener as the best performance of the season so far, writes John Hobbs.
Thunder previously had lost their opening two games in the National Trophy to Solent Kestrels and Reading Rockets, respectively before sealing a last second win over Kent Crusaders last Sunday.
However, with Gayle handing debuts to Greek guard Samson Soulis and popular local boy Tom Ward, who returned to the fold, Saturday’s performance against Leicester was as assured as they come and left the coach able to frequently rotate players allowing for better basketball.
Gayle said: “I think that was our best performance. We managed to get a few extra guys in and I think that helped reducing the minutes of some of the starters and so we had fresh legs when we were at the start of the quarters.
“They are starting to understand their offences, they are starting to understand their roles.”
Thunder led for the majority of the contest, with three straight triples from James Grinham, who led Worthing with 16 points, giving the hosts a 13-6 lead early on. Soulis got his first points as a Thunder player, later on in the period, which was part of a 7-0 burst, leading to a convincing 27-11 lead after one.
And Worthing maintained the pressure throughout. Not allowing Warriors any room to breathe inside, with forward Aiman Rezk leading the way with 11 rebounds, six blocks to go along with eight points, on his way to a second straight Barkers Tarring MVP award.
The lead peaked at 29 points as Thunder remained firmly in control. There was a blip early in the fourth quarter as Warriors veteran Martyn Gayle hit three consecutive three-pointers followed by another triple from Carl Pearson to bring the visitors to within 11 points.
The Worthing fans, who were making noise all evening, all of a sudden became slightly nervous and it took the introduction of Grinham, who was in foul trouble throughout to bring the hosts out of their funk as his timely three-pointer brought Thunder out of the cold spell, and from there, to victory.
Grinham said: “Everyone was on me for not shooting enough last week. So I studied the game tape, and went through a few things and I gained more confidence with every shot.
“Having the team-mates around you, and supporting you is a massive booster and right now, I feel like we are nearly there as a team. We’re understanding each other and everyone has a role that they are settling into.”