Rivers leads the way in Thunder’s first win of the season against Trailblazer

Vinnie Darpino

Vinnie Darpino

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WORTHING Thunder Basketball Club secured their first victory of the EBL season on Sunday evening as Hank Rivers led the way against Derby Trailblazers.

WORTHING Thunder Basketball Club secured their first victory of the EBL season on Sunday evening as Hank Rivers led the way against Derby Trailblazers.

Thunder made hard work of their 84-82 win, as their 12-point lead with eight minutes to go was cut to three points with just under a minute to go, but they held on in front of the home crowd at Worthing Leisure Centre for their maiden league victory.

Rivers, in just his second match for Thunder since returning to the club, led the scores with 23 points, Vinnie Darpino supported with 22 and Courtney Small added 17.

Having suffered a late defeat against Bristol Academy Flyers last weekend, Derby’s final-quarter pressure, where they came from 12 down, looked as though Thunder could again suffer an agonising final minute.

But Thunder captain James Brame praised his side for holding on and now wants them to get on a run of results, starting with Saturday’s trip to Westminster Warriors.

He said: “It was great to get our first league win, especially against Derby, who are a club tipped to be up there this season.

“We played really well as a team and we should have taken a more convincing win, but we found it hard to control the game at times and became a little stretched towards the end. We are still finding our feet, but it’s a good win against a strong and established side.

“To be honest, we should have put them away by 20 points, but they are a veteran and experienced team and credit to them.

“They just kept coming at us and ran us close in the final stages and had chances to win it in a nail-biting finish.

“To have thrown it away having played so well, like we did the week before against Bristol, would have been a big kick in the teeth, we need to focus on closing out games in the final stages.

“But we have come away with a big, big win, which we need to take to Westminster on the road this week and get a streak going.

“Now we’ve found the winning formula, we need to try and stack up the wins.”

Trailblazers led 9-2 early on, then 18-8, before Thunder pulled it back to 26-19 at the end of the first quarter.

Thunder continued the strong finish at the end of the first into the second and runs from Darpino and Rivers put them 50-40 up at half-time, and they maintained that 10-point lead at the end of the third with a 67-57 score line.

Derby’s late push in the fourth was helped by rash decisions from Worthing and the visitors cut the deficit, thanks to Martyn Gayle and Rishi Kakad’s baskets, to take the score to 82-79.

Marcus Tullis only made one of his two free-throws which would have helped Thunder seal it, and after Derby had a chance to win it, Small netted to seal Thunder’s victory.

Brame added: “We had a lot of energy coming off the bench, Vinnie came off and hit some big points.

“Hank has settled in well and top scored, but he did well under both hoops, both scoring and getting the rebounds down off our own basket.

“Courtney Small also had a good game with some vital play and everyone else chipped in around them.”