WORTHING Thunder Basketball Club suffered their heaviest home defeat of the season on Saturday, 89-72, at home to Essex Leopards.
Thunder had won 80-69 at home to Leopards in the National Trophy in October but a poor first half performance left Worthing too much to do as they trailed 40-21 at half-time.
Despite forcing Leopards into committing 22 turnovers, Worthing were only able to shoot 36 per cent from the field as the hosts fell to the one of the in-form teams of Division 1.
Leopards opened the game with a 12-0 run and never looked back.
Thunder coach Daniel Hildreth said afterwards: “It’s not surprising that we suffered our biggest loss of the season after only scoring 20 points at half-time.
“We only shot 20 per cent from the floor in the opening two quarters and that gave Essex an advantage too large for us to overcome. We also missed 15 free throws, which is just not acceptable at this level. Saying that, the guys worked hard to cut their lead in half for periods of the game but we just could not sustain the pressure.
“We had a positive contribution from the bench in this game, they brought terrific energy and I’m proud of their efforts too but, no doubt, we need to be better, moving on from now.”
Thunder, who were without Tomas Seduikis through a wrist injury, were led by Rory Spencer, who scored 19 points. Bud Johnson added 15 points and Terrell Bell ten.
Howard Crawford had a game-high 22 points for Leopards. On his return to Worthing, Shaun Durant scored four points and pulled down ten rebounds.
After a scoreless first two minutes of play, Leopards’ Carl Josey got the ball rolling with a deep three-pointer. Essex started with a 12-0 burst as Thunder were held scoreless for the first five minutes and the visitors led 22-9 at the end of the first quarter.
Essex had increased their advantage to 40-21 by half-time and the closest Thunder got to Essex in the third quarter was 12 points, while the visitors got their lead up to 21 points at one stage, before Leopards closed the third stanza 63-50 ahead.
Andre Lockhart opened the scoring for Leopards in the final period. Spencer connected on a pair of free throws at the other end for Thunder who continued valiantly to get the deficit back to single digits but it was to no avail.
Hildreth then rotated his bench for the final few minutes to provide a final spark but Leopards managed to see the game out.
A double technical on Julian Stanley with 1min 42sec left gave Kris Clark four trips to the line and he converted three of his four tries.
Thunder travel to Tees Valley Mohawks, who occupy the final play-off spot in eighth place, on Saturday (5pm).