WORTHING Thunder Basketball Club opened their season with an exciting over-time win over a USA Select side in a friendly on Saturday night.
In an entertaining match played in front of a decent-sized crowd at Worthing Leisure Centre, Ziffit-sponsored Thunder edged out their American counterparts 101-97 with an impressive display that leaves them in good shape ahead of their first competitive match of the season – at Reading Rockets in the National Trophy on Saturday.
New signing Tom Ward was the star of the show, top-scoring with 28 points and seven rebounds on debut, and Bud Johnston also chipped in with 25 points.
Thunder coach Daniel Hildreth said: “We knew that they would come with a big squad and that they wouldn’t get fatigued, so I was impressed with the way we kept going, even in over-time.
“We’ve done a lot of work off the court in pre-season and we carried on our good form on the court, which I’m happy with.
“I cannot say enough about the crowd. I thought as it was a friendly only 100 or so would turn up but they were loud throughout the whole game and they were great. I was very impressed with the way we approached the game in general and how we played. It was a good test for us.”
Terrence Bridgeman was the pick of the USA Select team, scoring 18 points, along with Elijah Wilson, who netted 14 points and claimed three rebounds.
The hosts led 21-20 at the end of the first quarter and had extended their lead to five points by half-time.
Consecutive three-pointers from Clay Wilson and then Antonio Bethea took the USA side ahead and the game remained close throughout as Donald Qualls’ three-pointer levelled the game for the USA and sent it to over-time.
Despite falling behind early on, Thunder held their nerve and they took the lead for the first time in the added period with a minute-and-a-half remaining.
Two converted free throws from Max Richardson in the dying stages then sealed victory for Thunder.