Worthing Thunder took another step closer last Saturday at Worthing Leisure Centre to retaining the National League Division One Play-Off Trophy they won last year by beating visiting Loughborough Riders 86 -74 in the Play-Off Semi Final.
In an enthralling match which Thunder came out on top in typical “come-back” fashion, Loughborough will consider that this was another victory that they let slip from their grasp.
Having beaten Loughborough earlier in the season in the National Trophy Final in a very similar way, this was another match in which Loughborough held the lead for long periods of the game only to see Thunder carve out a victory in the closing minutes.
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Thunder started the game the brighter of the two sides establishing an early 9-2 lead in the first three minutes of the match.
However the visitors’ high-paced basketball saw them recover their composure and battle back to a five point lead - an advantage that was not to be overtaken until the second minute of the final quarter.
At the end of the first period Thunder trailed by three points (18-21) and matters did not get any better in the second quarter as Loughborough extended their lead at one stage to 11 points. Some determined play saw Thunder bring the margin back to 5 (41-46) as both teams entered the locker room for the half-time break.
Loughborough were not however going to give this match up easily and they continued to keep the pressure on the home side but the momentum was gradually changing by the end of the third as Thunder trailed by just 3 points (53-56).
As has been seen so many times before, Thunder then moved their game up a gear; some brilliant defensive team-work and unstoppable shooting from Alex Owumi and Zaire Taylor amidst the ever increasingly enthusiastic crowd saw the home side storm back with a 21 – 5 run to break the game open and lead by an almost unbelievable 15 points going into the last minute of the match.
Once again never-say-die Thunder had pulled the game out–of-the-bag in the last quarter to set up a Play-Off Final against league Champions Solent Kestrels.
Alex Owumi was top scorer with 29 points hitting 14 points in the last quarter (including three three-pointers from beyond the arc); Zaire Taylor scored 28 points and 11 rebounds with Jorge Ebanks making 15 and Naz McLoughlin and Brendan Okoronkwo chipping in with 6 points each.
After the match the players and coaching staff were presented with their League Division One Runners-Up Medals in front of another virtually full house.
Thunder will travel to the National Basketball Centre in Manchester to seek to keep hold of the Play-off Trophy on Sunday 28th April tip off 3pm. The Club will be taking at least one coach of their travelling fans with them and if any supporters wish to travel to the game please contact the Worthing Thunder on firstname.lastname@example.org