WORTHING Thunder Basketball Club endured a disappointing end to their year by throwing away a nine-point lead in the final quarter to lose 83-77 away to Hemel Storm on Saturday night.
Thunder led 60-51, heading into the fourth quarter, but Hemel then reeled off 20 points to Worthing’s four in the opening minutes of the final stanza to seal the win.
Thunder’s cause was not helped when forward Tomas Seduikis had to be helped off the court late in the third quarter after driving baseline and landing awkwardly on his ankle, going for the dunk.
Rory Spencer led Worthing with 21 points, followed by Seduikis with 19. Tom Ward added 15 points, after a hot start that saw him score 10 points in the first quarter.
Zak Wells led Hemel with 20 points.
Ward got Thunder off to a cracking start as he scored ten points in just under five minutes to give the visitors a 17-6 lead, midway through the quarter.
Worthing’s defence, particularly in the half-court was excellent, and forced Hemel into numerous turnovers. By the time Ward hit his second three-pointer of the game, Hemel were forced into a time-out. Storm pulled it back to 17-11, until a bucket from Spencer inside made sure that Worthing went into the second quarter 19-15 ahead.
In the second quarter, Spencer finished off a nice pick-and-roll with Ward to extend Thunder’s lead to 21-15, two minutes in, ending the visitors’ cold streak.
The Storm went on a 6-0 run midway through the second period to narrow the gap, before Brendan Okoronkwo hit a much needed three-pointer to give Thunder a 31-23 lead.
Storm rallied as the half-time break approached, Simon Kearney hit a desperation shot as the buzzer was about to sound, but Thunder led 38-31 at the break.
A 6-0 burst to start the third quarter saw Thunder’s lead balloon to 46-35, but a 9-0 response from Hemel brought them back to 46-44, before Ward halted the streak with two free throws.
Dominic Baker came into the game with five quick points, including a wide-open three to give Worthing a 53-46 lead, and, with Hemel gaining momentum towards the end of the period, Baker stepped up to hit on the buzzer to give the visitors a 60-51 lead.
Hemel stormed back at the start of the final ten minutes, as a 7-0 opening, capped by a three from Bode Adeluola narrowed the gap to 60-58, and forced Thunder coach Daniel Hildreth into a time-out with 7-57 remaining.
The time-out, though, had no effect as the hosts tied the game at 60-60 on the next play.
Adeluola gave Hemel the lead for the first time in the game at 62-60, before Okoronkwo snapped a four-minute cold spell for Worthing from the foul line. Hemel, though, after a minute of bucket trading got back into the lead and held on to seal the win.
Seduikis said: “The ankle is a little sore, a bit of a stinging sensation. I’ll be fine, though. Thankfully we’ve got a Christmas break now and I can get the ankle stronger for when we play again in the new year.”
Thunder will have a quick shot at revenge as they are back in action on January 4, when they welcome Hemel in the return fixture.