WORTHING Thunder Basketball Club advanced to the EBL Division 1 Final Fours weekend after a 76-71 win at Bristol Academy Flyers in the play-off quarter-finals on Saturday night (April 13).
This will be Worthing’s first trip to the Final Fours since England Basketball re-structured the play-off format in 2008 and they will face either Team Northumbria or Leeds Carnegie, who play today (April 14).
This victory was one of pure determination, Worthing came from behind to grind out a victory that at times seemed unlikely.
Thunder were led by captain Bud Johnston, who got 26 points, and he said: “Full credit to Bristol who played a solid game but today was meant to be.
“It’s a beautiful thing to be in the Final Fours with this group and right now, we’re all ecstatic and deservedly so for our achievements. Bring on the Final Fours.”
Hank Rivers added 21 points and Kadiri Richard, who debuted in this very venue back in January, had 18.
It was a physical beginning with neither team giving an inch to each other. It was a real play-off atmosphere as Bristol took an early 10-8 lead. Thunder hit back to lead 13-10, but Bristol, led by Mostapha Alfaki, quickly tied the game up and it was the hosts who edged the first 10 minutes, leading 17-16.
Roy Owen scored for Bristol to open the second period but, led by Johnston, Thunder hit back to tie the contest at 21-21.
Both teams traded buckets for periods of the second, but Thunder’s perimeter defence towards the end of the half was found wanting at times, and Bristol led 46-38 at half-time.
Thunder opened the third quarter slowly and trailed 51-42 despite the best efforts of Rivers and Richard. The visitors would bring it back and tie the game at 55-55, leading to a time-out from Bristol, who re-grouped and led 61-58 after three quarters of play.
The game continued to be close as the fourth quarter wore on, Thunder would find themselves behind for the majority, but thanks to veteran play from Johnston and Rivers, found themselves ahead 74-71 with 14 seconds remaining, Bristol fluffed their lines when it mattered allowing Worthing to reach the Final Fours weekend and extend their winning run to 11 games.