WORTHING Thunder suffered National Cup heartache as they lost to Reading Rocket in the semi-finals on Sunday at the Rivermead Leisure Complex.
After leading 71-61 with five minutes remaining, Thunder then lost their way as Reading brought it back to 74-70.
Then, with Thunder unable to keep the ball and get the offensive rebounds needed in the final minute, a tip dunk from Alex Zurn gave Reading a 76-74 lead and from there, they never surrendered their advantage.
Worthing coach Daniel Hildreth was happy with his side’s performance against a side they lost 101-84 to last month.
He said: “I was pleased with the guys from start to finish.
“I knew it was going to be a dogfight, all the players stepped up and played fantastic defence.
We stuck to our game plan and the number one aim was to improve from our last showing here, which we did.”
Thunder began poorly and let the Rockets blast into an early 9-2 lead, but thanks to buckets from Chavis and Brendan Okoronkwo, the visitors were right back into the game.
Reading would take advantage of a couple of bad misses from Thunder but Hildreth’s aggressive tactic of attacking the Reading players in the hope of getting them into foul trouble eventually worked in the end and both teams were tied at 17-17 after one.
A scrappy opening to the second quarter was finally blown open when Reading went on a 7-0 run to take a 30-27 lead. Worthing hit back later on in the quarter thanks to great transition basketball and stern defence, leading to numerous Reading turnovers.
A three on the buzzer from Allen in the corner made it close at half-time, but Rockets still held a slender 35-34 lead.
The third quarter was always going to be the big question as it led to Worthing’s downfall in their last meeting in the league, but the team were determined not to let that happen this time and a 9-0 finish gave the visitors a 59-53 lead heading into the last quarter.
Worthing continued their smart defence, which then resulted in easy baskets at the other end and consecutive turnovers by the hosts.
Reading’s main offence seemed to come from the foul line and they were not enjoying the best of success from there either. Thunder enjoyed a double-digit lead thanks to a bucket from Allen.
Reading then had one more fightback left in them as they booked their place in the final, which will be in Sheffield in January.