Thunder seal place in quarter-finals

Tom Ward sank 31 points in Worthing Thunder's National Trophy win at home to Essex Leopards on Saturday
Tom Ward sank 31 points in Worthing Thunder's National Trophy win at home to Essex Leopards on Saturday

WORTHING Thunder Basketball Club progressed into the quarter-finals of the National Trophy on Saturday with victory over Essex Leopards.

Thunder have a 3-2 record in the South Group and conclude their Trophy campaign at Reading on November 8.

A scrappy but closely-fought contest was decided in the final three minutes, when Thunder, who had trailed by double-digits at one point, went on a 7-0 run, leaving Leopards desperately trying to foul to put time on the clock, but to no avail.

The game was certainly the perfect warm-up to Saturday’s league clash between the two sides and Thunder coach Daniel Hildreth wants to see improvements despite the victory.

He said: “Overall, I’m happy with the win but we certainly need to make improvements defensively and offensively.

“We gave Essex too much room inside and we didn’t push the tempo like I wanted us to in the first half, but it’s a win and we can now look forward to a quarter-final place in the Trophy.”

Tom Ward led Worthing with 31 points, Josh Brown and Louis Allen both added 18 points in the win.

After a sluggish start, where both teams were unable to trouble the scorers for the first two minutes, Essex eventually built a 6-2 advantage before back-to-back three-pointers from Louis Allen and Ward put the hosts back in contention as the score was 21-21 at the end of the first quarter.

Leopards began the second stanza brightly and two triples in quick succession by Dougie Bennett highlighted an 8-0 burst that gave the visitors a 32-23 cushion with four minutes of the period played.

For the majority of the second, Leopards enjoyed a double-digit cushion but Thunder finished strongly and narrowed the deficit but still trailed 43-36 at half-time.

A solid start to the third by Leopards, where they led 50-38 in the early stages, was countered by Worthing as buckets from Ward, Brendan Okoronkwo and Brown, shrunk the gap to 50-47 mid-way through.

Leicester took a 66-62 lead into the final quarter but Jack Sunderland hit the first points of the fourth to pull it back to a two-point game for Thunder.

The hosts became increasingly frustrated as Leopards held on to their advantage until Ward buried a three, which was followed by a steal and score by Sunderland to give the hosts a 76-73 lead.

Despite Leopards’ best attempts, Worthing did not relinquish that cushion.

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