WORTHING Thunder Basketball Club face a battle for the fourth and final home play-off spot for the end-of-season EBL play-offs after a frustrating defeat at Reading Rockets on Saturday.
The defeat leaves Thunder in fifth place, behind Leicester Warriors, who they host in their final home match of the season on March 31, as both sides have identical records of 13 wins and seven defeats from their 20 games – although Thunder won at Leicester by one point earlier in the season.
Thunder captain James Brame knows the importance of home court advantage in the play-offs and is targeting two wins this weekend, when Thunder host Leeds Carnegie on Saturday (7.30pm) and then travel to Brixton Topcats on Sunday.
He said: “After you slip up, you have to look to your next game and we’ve got to get two wins this weekend as we need to finish in the top four as every team is gearing up for the play-offs now.
“We need the home court advantage to achieve our goal of qualifying for the finals weekend.”
Thunder were without Liam Mitchell (unavailable) and Vinnie Darpino, who has been ruled out for the rest of the season through his hamstring injury and has now returned home to New Jersey, while coach Gary Smith was also unavailable.
That left Brame in charge and his side’s preparations were not helped by arriving just 30 minutes before tip-off owing to some junctions closed on the M4.
Thunder struggled throughout the first half and found themselves 53-35 down at half-time.
They fought back in the second half and closed the gap to four points with 6mins 14sec left but Reading held their nerve to seal the win.
Reading led 27-16 after the first quarter and remained in control throughout the second stanza.
Worthing hit back in the third quarter with a 14-0 run to close the gap to 73-64 heading into the last period.
Thunder got it back to 80-76 but Reading then found another gear and took the game away from Worthing.
Worthing’s Marcus Tullis led all scorers with 29 points, supported by 14 from Courtney Small and Bud Johnston and 10 from Hank Rivers. Lewis Champion sank 20 points for Reading, who also included former Thunder junior Luke Nelson.
Brame said: “We had a bad start and couldn’t find any energy. We got held up in traffic but I don’t put it down to that, we just couldn’t find a rhythm.
“We got it back to four but then made some mistakes and didn’t sink any shots late on.
“The better team won on the day, though, and we hold our hands up to that.
“We only played well for eight to 10 minutes of the 40 and didn’t assert ourselves until it was too late.”