WORTHING Thunder Basketball Club started the new year with a 84-64 defeat in a feisty BBL encounter at Mersey Tigers on Sunday.
With the game reaching its conclusion and just 21 seconds left, Thunder’s Adam Williams was ejected from the game for his second unsportsmanlike foul, on Great Britain captain Andrew Sullivan, who was heading towards the basket.
Sullivan’s reaction to the foul brought him an ejection from the game and then Thunder’s Shaun Durant and Tigers’ David Aliu were also ejected for leaving their respective team’s bench areas.
Durant will now serve a one-game ban for Thunder’s home game with Guildford Heat on January 15 but Thunder are hopeful that Williams will not receive further punishment for his two fouls. Mersey’s Sullivan and Aliu will both also serve one-game bans.
BBL leaders Mersey, who had won their previous six matches, stormed out of the blocks and won the first quarter 25-10 as they stifled Thunder defensively.
The pendulum swung Thunder’s way in the second quarter and they trailed just 35-33 at half-time.
Mersey fought back to win the third quarter 25-16 and an 8-0 burst to open the fourth quarter effectively sealed the win before the match got heated late on.
Aliu led the scoring for Mersey with 17 points, supported by 15 from Andrew Thomson and 13 from Tafari Toney.
Marlin Capers top-scored for Thunder with 17 points, while Durant sank 15 and had 14 rebounds, Pepe Zafirov scored 14 points and Sherrad Prezzie-Blue 12.
Thunder now head into a period of five successive home Saturday matches and they have a home game on eight of the next nine weekends.
Plymouth Raiders are first to head to Worthing Leisure Centre on Saturday (7.30pm) and Thunder assistant coach Alan Sweetman-Hicks said: “It’s quite a tough series of home games and Plymouth on Saturday is a big game.
“Gavin Love has just been named the coach of the month so, from our point of view, we’ll hope it has the same effect as when a football manager gets the curse of the manager of the month award.
“Hopefully, the run of home games will enable us to get on a roll. A couple of years ago, under Gary Smith, we won five of our seven home games in January.
“We just missed out on the play-offs that season but are in a different situation now although, hopefully, we’ll set ourselves up well for the rest of the season.”
Thunder hope to have a new player in for their home game with Guildford on January 15.