Thunder exit National Cup at Leeds

Hank Rivers top-scored for Thunder on Sunday
Hank Rivers top-scored for Thunder on Sunday

Worthing Thunder Basketball Club bowed out of the National Cup at the semi-final stage on Sunday after a 61-45 defeat at Leeds Carnegie.

A brave cup run from Daniel Hildreth’s side, that included wins over Medway Park Crusaders and Derby Trailblazers, ended in Yorkshire against a well-disciplined side vying for league glory this season.

It was a low-scoring, defensive battle of wits, which the hosts won thanks to a strong fourth quarter where they went on a 12-2 run over a five-minute period to put the game out of Thunder’s reach.

Both teams struggled with their shot, especially from three-point range where both teams shot a combined three out of 33 attempts. Worthing’s woes came also from the foul line, though, where they shot just 56 per cent, missing seven of their 16 attempts.

Coach Hildreth said: “It was a fantastic achievement to make it to the semi-finals but, on the day, ultimately poor shooting cost us a place in the final.

“You can’t win at this, or any level, only scoring 45 points. Our shooting percentages were terrible across the board and they scored 18 fast break points off our turnovers, 16 more than us, which was the difference in the score.

“We now have to concentrate on getting that illusive first win in the league and, if we can combine that defensive effort with a better shooting display, it won’t be long before we’re off and running.”

Hank Rivers led Worthing with 14 points and was a rebound shy of a double-double. Bud Johnston added 11 but was hampered by foul trouble and a sickness bug beforehand. Dominic Baker got nine points, including two triples, Thunder’s only threes of the night.

Henry Wilkins led Leeds with 21 points as they now get ready for a National Cup final against Bristol Academy Flyers, who beat Reading Rockets 72-64 in the other semi-final.

Thunder started brightly, forcing Leeds into difficult shots and playing superb defence but, even though the shots were not dropping straight away, Worthing found a rhythm and led 14-12 after the first quarter.

Thunder’s shooting did not improve in the second quarter as they missed several opportunities to extend the lead, and Leeds broke through and took the lead as they made the most of their defence and scoring on the fast break.

Leeds led 29-21 at half-time as both defences continued to reign supreme.

Worthing fought back in the second half but they were still missing easy shots and open three-pointers.

Their defence stayed strong and they ended the third quarter the stronger of the two teams, trailing 39-34 after three quarters.

Leeds found a higher gear in the final period and extended their lead to double digits thanks to a game-changing 12-2 run to end Thunder’s run in the competition.

Thunder have two home games this weekend at Worthing Leisure Centre as they search for their first EBL Division 1 win of the season.

They host Bristol Academy Flyers on Saturday (7.30pm) and entertain Westminster Warriors on Sunday (5pm).