WORTHING Thunder Basketball Club could complete a fairytale turnaround when they head to Manchester for the Final Fours showdown this weekend, with the chance of being crowned national champions.
Thunder were bottom of the table, without a win at Christmas, but have turned their season around in the new year. They have won 14 of their last 17 matches, including the last 11 in a row and that saw them finish the EBL Division 1 season in seventh place to qualify for the end-of-season play-offs, where they won at Bristol Academy Flyers, who finished second, to reach the semi-finals.
In the last four, Thunder will meet Team Northumbria at the Amaechi Centre at 6pm on Saturday. The winners will then face either champions Reading Rockets or Essex Leopards in the final on Sunday at 3.30pm. They meet in their semi-final at 4pm on Saturday.
Worthing coach Daniel Hildreth is looking forward to the weekend and said: “We’re one of just four teams in the league who are still practising and it’s a privilege that our season is still going.
“We’re one of four teams who could be crowned national champions. Obviously, that’s our target and goal but we’ll keep taking one game at a time.
“I’d love to know whether a team has gone from bottom of the table at Christmas to winning a championship, I don’t know if it’s happened before.
“What we’ve done already has been fantastic but the championship would be the icing on the cake and would be a nice reward for everyone at the club – the players, supporters and the ownership.”
Hildreth is not even thinking about a possible clash with Reading or Essex yet and said: “We’ll always prepare for one game at a time. We’ve got to play Team Northumbria on Saturday, before we can even think about Reading or Essex.”
Thunder have a full squad available for the weekend, including former captain James Brame, who is back after four months working in America.
Hildreth said: “We’ll have our 15 registered players going up and they’ll all be part of it. It’s going to be a great experience for our younger players and it’s great to have James back as well as he’s got the respect of all the guys.”
A number of Thunder fans are set to head up to Manchester and Hildreth said: “We have been spoiled by our fans this year. Quite often at away games, we’ll have the same amount of fans, or more, than the home team.
“Their noise at Bristol helped to spur us on and it will be great to have them there this weekend.”
For live updates and to keep up-to-date with the Final Fours weekend, follow us on Twitter @Worthing_sport
Match reports and reaction will also be on our website, www.worthingherald.co.uk