WORTHING Thunder Basketball Club captain James Brame is hoping for a packed crowd at Worthing Leisure Centre on Saturday when the club host Leicester Warriors in the EBL play-offs quarter-finals.
Thunder finished fourth in the EBL table after losing 106-88 at champions London Leopards on Sunday and will host Leicester, who finished fifth, with a 7.30pm tip-off on Saturday.
Thunder beat Leicester just two weeks ago – 103-78 at home and also won 80-79 away and Brame said: “We’ll go into the game pretty confident having beaten them twice already and by 25 points two weeks ago.
“But it’s always tough to play a team twice in quick succession and they only finished a place below is, so it’s going to be a tough game.
“They’re well coached, disciplined and rotate well but it’s a game we’re all looking forward to.
“It’s good to have the home crowd behind us, too, and we hope that it’s going to be a full house to watch us get through to the final-four weekend in Manchester.
“That’s our goal, if we don’t make it, we’ll feel this season has been a let-down.”
Leopards started the game on Sunday with a 10-0 run and the gap was in double digits for 36 minutes of the game.
Thunder used the game to give some of the bench players valuable playing time, with Julian Stanley, on his 18th birthday, starting. He played 20 minutes and hit five points, while Joe Carter played 13 minutes and registered three points and three rebounds.
Worthing finally got off the mark through a bucket inside from Hank Rivers and it was quickly followed by a pair of free throws from Bud Johnston, but by that point Leopards had a 10-point lead at 14-4.
The first quarter lacked any real intensity, as both teams wanted to avoid injury to their star players and despite Rivers and Tullis scoring freely, Leopards were in firm control. A three from David Buchburger gave the hosts a 33-19 lead and they kept it going into the second period, leading 33-21.
Three points in quick succession from Rivers narrowed the gap to single-digits at 33-24, but Leopards came back again through Buchburger, who restored his side’s advantage to double figures. Tullis brought the deficit down to 12 at one point after a mini run but Leopards came back again with Vernon Teel scoring at will.
Thunder were falling behind rapidly, and trailed 56-40 at half-time.
Tullis began the third quarter with a triple to cut the gap to 13 at 56-43 but Leopards responded with an 11-0 run to extend their lead to 24, capped off by a bucket from Buchburger.
Brame then made substitutions and shifted around different line-ups as Leopards ended up winning by 18 points.
Thunder were led by a 23-point and 15-rebound double-double from Rivers, while Tullis and Courtney Small both hit 22 points as all three players played the full 40 minutes.
Leopards were led by a triple-double performance from Teel who hit 30 points, 12 assists and 11 rebounds.
Brame added: “It was one of those games where it was nice to give the bench players some valuable court time, and even though we lost, we are happy to get a home seed in the play-offs. That was our goal once the title was out of our reach and we succeeded.
“Leopards are a quality team, and they showed it throughout this season. They have outstanding imports and solid team chemistry. They will be hard to stop in the play-offs.”