Small inspires Thunder to victory over Warriors

Courtney Small
Courtney Small

WORTHING Thunder Basketball Club overcame Westminster Warriors on Saturday thanks to a game-changing 12-2 run in the final four minutes of play at the Worthing Leisure Centre.

Courtney Small scored 10 of those 12 points, plus an assist to Marcus Tullis, as Thunder remained third in the EBL table with their 96-85 win.

Small ended with 25 points and said: “It wasn’t just me, the whole team played their part on the defensive end to stop Westminster from scoring easy buckets.

“I was allowed to be creative in some way on the offensive end and I saw gaps on the defensive side that I needed to exploit.”

Thunder coach Gary Smith felt that Small’s fourth-quarter explosion made a huge impact on the game: “It’s hard to not include Courtney’s contribution in those last three or four minutes, and he played with great intensity and heart.

“The whole team played well, though. I wasn’t happy that we gave away a lead in the first place, but we showed great professionalism and we fought hard at both ends and that’s what I love seeing.”

Hank Rivers had another double-double with 28 points and 17 rebounds, while Bud Johnston continued his good form with 18 points and Liam Mitchell hit 10, while Vinnie Darpino played 11 minutes on his return from a hamstring injury.

Bottom-of-the-table Westminster included former Thunder duo Marvin Addy and Damian Harris and, after an entertaining first stanza, Thunder led 30-25.

Darpino’s return to action sparked a 9-0 run for Thunder in the second quarter and they led 44-30 with 2mins 34sec left in the period.

Westminster fought back, though, and finished strongly, with an Akeem Abdul three-pointer making the half-time score 46-40.

Baskets from Rivers and Mitchell opened up a 50-40 lead for Thunder, which they held throughout the first five minutes of the quarter, but Westminster came back with a 10-0 run to trail 65-61 at the end of the third quarter.

Former BBL veteran Lekan Popoola and Abdul brought Westminster level at 77-77 in the final quarter, before Small took centre stage and took Thunder to victory.

Thunder, who have now won three of their last four league matches, travel to third-from-bottom Tees Valley on Saturday.