Before Worthing Thunder’s Brendan Okoronkwo stepped onto court for warm-ups ahead of the National League Division 1 play-off final on Sunday, he read a text from his girlfriend saying that she was watching a live stream of the game.
Helena, who told Brendan that she was unable to travel up to Manchester, wished the Thunder captain good luck as she tuned in.
Okoronkwo, who posted a double-double of 12 points and 11 rebounds in Thunder’s 67-57 play-off final win over Hemel Storm, collected the trophy and embraced his mother, father and brother who had travelled from their home in Milton Keynes.
All of a sudden, a young female came rushing up through a sea of Thunder fans towards Okoronkwo from the side.
It was Helena, who surprised the Worthing guard with her presence. She had been in Manchester the entire time and was not watching the live stream but instead cheering on from the stands.
The two shared a private moment together away from the supporters before they rejoined the group, hand-in-hand. Okoronkwo said with a smile: “My own girlfriend tricked me.
“But I’m made up seeing her here. She text me to say good luck and she was watching the live stream on Facebook but to see her surprise me and be here is amazing. Seeing my family and girlfriend here makes the win even more special.”
The play-off win caps off arguably Okoronkwo’s finest season in Thunder colours. Leading from the front as captain, he averaged 14.5 points and just seven rebounds a game in his sixth year with the team.
It was also a case of third time lucky for Okoronkwo, who had been on the losing side on the two previous occasions Worthing competed in a National League Division 1 final since their return from the British Basketball League in 2011.
Okoronkwo said: “This feels incredible. It was an honour to be in the two finals that we were in but when we lost, it was a case of needing something to work on.
“In basketball, there is always something to work on but that can wait for the off-season as we want to enjoy this. It’s been a long time but we have really earned it.”