Smith delighted with victory at Essex

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WORTHING Thunder Basketball Club coach Gary Smith praised his team after they recorded their fourth BBL Championship win of the season on Sunday.

Thunder won 86-74 at Essex Pirates after sinking 38 points in the final quarter – after trailing 54-48 at the end of the third stanza – and Smith said: “We haven’t had a great season but the guys work hard and now we’ve beaten Essex in the head-to-head, and also MK Lions, which is a massive positive for us.

“We held Essex to six points in seven minutes in the last quarter, which is unheard of for us, and we were able to execute offensively and score baskets, while also knocking down our free throws.”

Thunder saved the best for the final quarter of their double-header weekend, hitting a stunning 38 points to seal victory at Essex Pirates. The win was even more impressive coming off a tough 92-71 loss at home to league-leaders Mersey Tigers the previous night.

Thunder appeared to be suffering the effects of Saturday’s game as Pirates established a 23-8 first-quarter lead. Thunder finally found their range in the second quarter, as Dominic Baker provided energy and Cleve Woodfork dominated under the rim to give Worthing a 33-32 half-time lead.

Thunder again started the third quarter sluggishly, allowing Taner Adu to fire his way to a team-high 21 points and leave Pirates leading 54-48 with one quarter to go. But then Thunder put in what Smith described as “our most complete quarter of basketball all season.”

Sherrad Prezzie-Blue was unerring from the free-throw line, nailing 11 of 12 attempts enroute to a 22-point haul. Adam Williams topped even this with 24 points, and Thunder established an ultimately insurmountable 12-point lead to claim the season series against Essex.

On Saturday, Thunder were fighting hard for an historic win over Tigers, the only BBL team they have never defeated, until Smith was ejected in the fourth quarter.

It was a four-point game when Smith was sent from courtside by referee Mark Ennis, following a disputed offensive foul call. He said of the decision: “We were in there battling all night and just didn’t get the calls. On that one, Shaun Durant was battling in the paint against three guys and then the foul goes against him. All I said was, ‘give us a call’ but the ref chose to apply the rulebook strictly.”

The debatable calls began in the third minute when Tigers’ Andrew Sullivan looked out of bounds as he hit a three-pointer. Worthing struggled to contain the power of Sullivan and David Aliu as Mersey opened a nine-point lead by the end of the first quarter.

Good perimeter-shooting from Williams, who had a team-high 19 points, allowed Worthing to stay in touch most of the half; but Andrew Thompson dominated the paint and Tigers led 42-33 at the break.

Woodfork scored six quick points before being fouled out, as the officials continued to involve themselves. More controversially, Tigers’ coach Tony Garbeletto received just a technical warning for a two-minute tirade at referee Ennis shortly before Smith’s ejection.

Tigers then went on a 20-5 scoring burst to end the game as a contest.

Durant hit a double-double and Capers 19 points, but Thunder were ultimately beaten by stunning showings from Thompson, Sullivan and Aliu, who combined for 64 points.

Thunder travel to Sheffield Sharks on Friday and are at Glasgow Rocks on Sunday. Smith said: “They’re both class opponents but if we play to our strengths, both games are winnable.”