Thunder beat Leeds in league opener

Bud Johnston in action against Leeds
Bud Johnston in action against Leeds

A THREE-pointer from captain Bud Johnston with ten seconds to go got Worthing Thunder Basketball Club’s league season off to a winning start on Saturday.

Thunder came from behind to win the EBL Division 1 match 72-71 at home to Leeds Carnegie, although Leeds still had an opportunity to win but Josh McGinn’s three-point attempt in the final seconds was off target.

American Rory Spencer led Worthing with a double-double of 23 points and 16 rebounds. The Atlanta-born forward added four blocks and three steals and said afterwards: “I thought it was a great team win.

“We showed a lot of fight and resilience to battle back, this team is just going to get better and better and our coach did a great job tonight.”

Spencer knows there is still room to improve, though, and said: “I thought my performance was okay, I almost cost us the victory with my two missed lay-ups at the end. There’s a lot that I can improve on, I’m just trying to get better.”

Johnston sank 17 points and Tom Ward hit 16, as the latter showed no signs of the dead leg he suffered two weeks ago.

Worthing made a great start, and led 15-8 thanks to a bucket inside from Spencer with two minutes of the quarter remaining. Leeds were guilty of committing a few turnovers in the opening ten minutes, which led to Worthing leading 18-13 at the end of the first quarter.

The visitors came out determined in the second quarter and an 8-2 run kept them in proceedings. Leeds took the lead midway through with free throws from Branimir Mikulic.

The hosts missed a lot of open shots and found it hard to crack an energetic Carnegie defence, and the visitors led 41-35 at half-time.

A poor third quarter from Worthing saw Leeds open up a double-digit lead.

However, Spencer lifted the home crowd’s spirits by scoring off a steal with eight seconds of the quarter remaining to cut the deficit to 58-51 with one stanza to play.

Worthing fought back in the final period to reduce the deficit to just one point with four minutes left.

A three-pointer from Ward was then followed by a bucket from Johnston as Thunder took the lead for good in the game’s dying seconds.

Leeds tried to snatch back the lead but were unable to do so.

Rowell Graham led Leeds Carnegie with 15 points.