With the regular season now entering the home stretch, Thunder suffered a blow to their top-four aspirations as they slipped to a narrow 127-126 loss to Bradford Dragons on Saturday.
Zaire Taylor (37) led the way in terms of points for Worthing along with vital free-throws at the end of the fourth quarter, which took the game into overtime.
However Taylor missed a potential game-winner at the buzzer, even though he appeared to have been fouled when going up for the shot.
It was Thunder’s seventh loss of the season but perhaps, more importantly, it drops them to fifth in the standings with Reading Rockets and Team Northumbria leaping above them into third and fourth respectively.
More crucially, Reading hold the head-to-head over Worthing, while Team Northumbria have a better win-loss record overall but Thunder hold series advantage over the Newcastle-based side. All this means that Thunder’s chances of a top-four finish now fall on both Reading and Northumbria slipping up as well as Worthing winning all their remaining games.
Thunder host second-from-bottom Derby Trailblazers on Saturday, then they travel to title-chasers Loughborough Student Riders less than 24 hours later.
Mathis sees this as a crunch time in Thunder’s season and said: “We know every game from now through the rest of the season is crucial for us.
“We want to go into the play-offs with a bit of momentum. This week is no different than last week, we just need to execute better than we did on the defensive end of the floor. Bradford was a tough loss for us but I can see us using that as motivation to play with a bit more fire.”
Thunder have beaten both Derby and Loughborough this season, so have the advantage in that aspect.
However, circumstances are much different to when they met this weekend’s opposition back in December.
Coach Daniel Gayle is calling for his team to be united, especially on the defensive end when they take to the floor.
Gayle said: “Our defence hasn’t been great this season, we’ve had so many lapses on that side of the ball.
“As a unit we have to stick to our principles and be unified, that’s the only chance to win at any level – secure home court and win the rest of our games. We have to play together on the defensive end of the floor.”
Thunder’s meeting with Derby Trailblazers at Worthing Leisure Centre on Saturday tips-off at 7.30pm.