WORTHING Thunder Basketball Club progressed into the quarter-finals of the National Trophy on Saturday with victory over Essex Leopards.
Thunder have a 3-2 record in the South Group and conclude their Trophy campaign at Reading on November 8.
A scrappy but closely-fought contest was decided in the final three minutes, when Thunder, who had trailed by double-digits at one point, went on a 7-0 run, leaving Leopards desperately trying to foul to put time on the clock, but to no avail.
The game was certainly the perfect warm-up to Saturday’s league clash between the two sides and Thunder coach Daniel Hildreth wants to see improvements despite the victory.
He said: “Overall, I’m happy with the win but we certainly need to make improvements defensively and offensively.
“We gave Essex too much room inside and we didn’t push the tempo like I wanted us to in the first half, but it’s a win and we can now look forward to a quarter-final place in the Trophy.”
Tom Ward led Worthing with 31 points, Josh Brown and Louis Allen both added 18 points in the win.
After a sluggish start, where both teams were unable to trouble the scorers for the first two minutes, Essex eventually built a 6-2 advantage before back-to-back three-pointers from Louis Allen and Ward put the hosts back in contention as the score was 21-21 at the end of the first quarter.
Leopards began the second stanza brightly and two triples in quick succession by Dougie Bennett highlighted an 8-0 burst that gave the visitors a 32-23 cushion with four minutes of the period played.
For the majority of the second, Leopards enjoyed a double-digit cushion but Thunder finished strongly and narrowed the deficit but still trailed 43-36 at half-time.
A solid start to the third by Leopards, where they led 50-38 in the early stages, was countered by Worthing as buckets from Ward, Brendan Okoronkwo and Brown, shrunk the gap to 50-47 mid-way through.
Leicester took a 66-62 lead into the final quarter but Jack Sunderland hit the first points of the fourth to pull it back to a two-point game for Thunder.
The hosts became increasingly frustrated as Leopards held on to their advantage until Ward buried a three, which was followed by a steal and score by Sunderland to give the hosts a 76-73 lead.
Despite Leopards’ best attempts, Worthing did not relinquish that cushion.
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