Worthing Thunder suffered disappointment when they were unable to retain their Play-Off Trophy last weekend after suffering a 100 – 81 point defeat to league champions Solent Kestrels.
In front of a large band of travelling fans at the National Basketball Performance Centre in Manchester, it was Solent who came out victorious in a match which, until the last 6 minutes of the final quarter, was generally much closer than the score suggests.
With Thunder welcoming back Tom Ward to the team they started brightly springing into a 2 point lead after Alex Owumi sunk two three-pointers early on. However with Solent pressing Thunder’s outside game and putting Thunder under pressure Thunder’s key shooters were at time finding it difficult to get their shots away and the opportunities for open shots were often limited.
Solent and Thunder traded baskets for much of the quarter bit it was the Kestrels who ended the quarter with a lead of 4 points (25-21). The second quarter played out in much the same vein with Solent leading by 8 points with just 20 seconds of the period left until a late basket from Jorge Ebanks reduced the deficit to just 6 points.
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As the teams came out for the second half it was Kestrels who started to take command of the match breaking the game open to give them a 13 point lead at 60–47 but, as we have seen so many times before this season, Thunder were not prepared to give the game up lightly.
Thunder tightened up their defence and fought back to reduce the margin to just seven points as the buzzer ended the third period. An early Solent basket took the lead out to 9 but once again Thunder upped their game and a 7-2 run for Thunder – all scored by Zaire Taylor – saw the margin reduced to just 4 points with just over seven and a half minutes to play. Solent were not to be denied however and a 12-3 run effectively saw the lead increase again to double digits - an advantage that Kestrels would not give up and which would see them pick-up the Play-Off Trophy to sit alongside the League Championship they won earlier in the season.
There is no doubt that on the day Thunder were beaten by a better side and although the margin of victory (100- 81) was significant, the gap increased to 19 points only after the game was effectively lost by Thunder.
Top scorers for Thunder were Zaire Taylor and Jorge Ebanks (20 points each); Brendan Okoronkwo (17 points) and Alex Owumi (12 points).
Although the team were unable to retain the trophy they won last year, the Club has had a tremendous season winning the National Trophy and finishing runners-up in the league by the smallest of margins.
Worthing Thunder are continuing to improve from a position where they narrowly avoided defeat on the last day of the season two years ago to having won two national trophies in the last two seasons. The Club looks to continue to develop and chase more honours next season.