Taylor's heroic backyard hoop dreams sink Riders
Worthing Thunder Basketball Club's Zaire Taylor likened his game-winning basket on Saturday against Loughborough Student Riders to an infant shooting hoops in the backyard, hitting the big shot, whilst counting down in their head.
Taylor, who leads National League Division 1 in scoring, had one of his quieter games against the table toppers but still came up with the goods as his circus shot with 0.7 seconds left gave Worthing an 82-80 victory at the Worthing Leisure Centre.
The win, Thunder’s sixth straight in the league, leapfrogs them into third place in Division 1 as the season enters the halfway mark with the Christmas break halting action until the new year.
Taylor said: “It’s moments like this that every basketball player loves, and I thrive on moments like this.
“Back home, every kid on the street that had a basket would shoot hoops and countdown in their head and make the winning shot. That’s the second time I’ve done that this season and it’s great to keep our unbeaten home record going.”
In a top-of-the-table clash played in front of a near sell-out crowd, Thunder, who had led since the third minute of the first quarter were pegged back by a dogged Riders unit who would not go away and gradually chipped away at the hosts’ advantage.
Worthing’s cause was not helped by Jorge Ebanks having to come out of the game early in the second quarter with a shoulder injury.
Despite the pressure, Worthing managed to keep the lead throughout until the final few seconds when one-time Brighton & Hove Sixth Form student Lucien Christofis hit a three-pointer for the visitors with 4.3 seconds left to tie the game at 80-80.
Despite the jubilation at the away end, Worthing had one final possession and Taylor’s heroics made sure that Thunder’s home record in Division 1 remained unblemished.
Brendan Okoronkwo, who led Thunder with 22 points, said: “This meant a lot to us. It was a win that we needed to give us momentum going into the break but also to tell the league leaders that this is our court.”
Thunder’s next game is on January 20, when they host new leaders Solent Kestrels – who took over at the top from Loughborough on Saturday.