WORTHING Thunder Basketball Club finished their season on a high with a thrilling 82-80 win at home to Bradford Dragons on Saturday.
The result was Thunder’s third successive win as they ended their EBL Division 1 campaign with seven victories from their last nine games.
Early season defeats to Westminster, twice, Team Northumbria and Leicester, who all ended up in the bottom three, ultimately left Thunder with too much to do as they finished tenth – four points behind Newham, who finished in the final play-off place.
Thunder were without the injured duo of captain Bud Johnston and American Rory Spencer for Saturday’s game and included junior players Chris Bryan, Dennie Burling and Selby Hind-Willis in their squad.
On the victory, Thunder coach Daniel Hildreth said: “It’s fantastic win, it’s great for the team, for the club and for the fans. We said that we wanted to prove to everybody we were capable of competing at this level and also beating the top teams in this league. We’ve done that, so we can at least go away with our heads held high and I’m proud of the guys to have finished strongly.”
In a back and forth encounter, the lead changed hands on nine occasions and the score was tied ten times.
Bradford scored the opening four points of the game but Thunder responded with a seven-point run, including a Tom Ward three-pointer, to lead 7-4.
Bradford levelled at 7-7 but Worthing were in control for the remainder of the stanza and led 20-16 at the end of the opening ten minutes.
The visitors fought back in the second period and a basket from Vance Silcott took them back ahead midway through the quarter, 27-26.
The lead changed hands during the rest of the half and Bradford led 40-35 until Terrell Bell sank three free throws with a second to go to make the half-time score 40-38.
Thunder were quickly level with a pair of free throws from Tomas Seduikis in the second half but the lead continued to chop and change. The match was tied at 54-54 with ten minutes to play and the final quarter was thrilling throughout.
Bradford started strongly to move 62-56 ahead with 8min 40sec to go but Thunder fought back with a 12-point run, led by Jack Sunderland who sank eight of those points, to move 68-62 in front.
Bradford hit back to level at 72-72, before a 8-1 run put Thunder back in the driving seat as they moved 80-73 ahead with 1-36 left. A 7-0 run levelled the game for Bradford but the visitors’ Carl Pearson was called for travelling with 30 seconds to go, which gave possession back to Worthing.
Bell sank two free throws after a foul by Jermayne Laing with 14 seconds to go to put Thunder two points clear and Bradford then failed to get a shot off in time as the hosts held on to finish their season with a third straight victory.
Bell led Thunder with 28 points and nine rebounds, Ward sank 18 points, Sunderland 12 and Seduikis ten. Chris McGrew top-scored with 26 points for Bradford.
After the game, Thunder’s end-of-season awards were handed out, with Seduikis named players’ player and the MVP, as voted for by the Supporters Club. Ward was coach Hildreth’s player of the season.