WORTHING Thunder Basketball Club reached the final of the EBL Division 1 play-offs on Saturday (April 27) in a massively controversial finish against Team Northumbria.
Team Northumbria, who were behind for all of the match, at the Amaechi Centre in Manchester, took the lead for the first time with 1min 02sec to go, to lead 53-52.
Both sides then missed two-point attempts, before Joe Carter’s shot was blocked to give Thunder possession with 2.4sec to go. Kadiri Richard passed the ball to Hank Rivers, who put his shot up and the ball span around the hoop before coming down.
The Team Northumbria players started to celebrate as their jubilant bench ran on to the court to celebrate with their team-mates. However, the referees came together and, after about a minute of discussions, gave Thunder the basket on the goaltending rule as they adjudged Northumbria’s Jack Wilson had interfered with the ball.
The officials were quickly escorted off court as Northumbria were furious with the decision.
Wilson’s hand did go into the net but the replay was inconclusive as to whether Rivers’ shot would have dropped anyway.
The Thunder players could then hardly contain their joy at the decision and will now face Reading Rockets in the final tomorrow (April 28, 3.30pm).
Reading overcame Essex Leopards 75-70 in over-time as former Thunder junior Luke Nelson scored 19 points for Rockets.
Thunder had led for the majority of the match against Northumbria as they were 15-12 up at the end of the first quarter and had moved 30-14 ahead with 4mins 15sec left of the second quarter.
Northumbria got the score back to 31-25 at half-time but Thunder led 47-40 with one stanza to play.
Northumbria took the lead with little over a minute remaining, before the controversial finish that took Thunder through to the final.
Brendan Okoronkwo led Thunder’s scorers with 13 points, while Hank Rivers had a double-double of 10 points and 13 rebounds. Captain Bud Johnston scored 11 points and had seven rebounds, while Kadiri Richards had 12 rebounds.