Five wins in row set up Worthing Thunder for play-offs

Worthing Thunder won their final two regular season games to give them a five-game winning streak to take into the play-offs.

Tom Ward in action against Nottingham Hoods / Picture: Kyle Hemsley
Tom Ward in action against Nottingham Hoods / Picture: Kyle Hemsley

The first of the weekend’s two matches was at the Durrington High School arena against the league’s basement club, Nottingham McDonalds Hoods.

With Hoods not having played for three weeks and rooted to the bottom, it looked a relatively easy fixture on paper for Worthing.

The first quarter, however, saw an out-of-sorts Thunder start slowly. Ten minutes of end to end scoring saw Thunder trail 23-24 after the first quarter.

Zaire Taylor leaps for glory in Thunder's win against Barking Academy / Picture: Kyle Hemsley

That was as good as it got for the visitors as slowly but surely Thunder began to exert pressure.

The second period was much better for the home favourites as Max Richardson and Howard Crawford began to score at will against a much smaller outfit.

Thunder were still only in second gear but it was always going to be enough to see them through to half-time six points to the good at 42-36.

Thunder upped the pace in the third period and took complete control.

Tom Ward in control against Barking Academy / Picture: Kyle Hemsley

With Richardson having his best game of the season and Zaire Taylor, Jack Sutherland, Howard Crawford and Tom Ward backing him the pressure finally told, with Nottingham looking a beaten team.

With a 17 point lead at the final interval Thunder were in cruise control at 67-50 and able to take it relatively easy in the final ten minutes.

Despite losing the last quarter there was going to be only one winner.

Sitting all starters down for the final five minutes gave a chance to Thunder’s bench to run the game out.

In action against Nottingham Hoods is Max Richardson / Picture: Kyle Hemsley

Dominick Ives, on his return after injury, showed up well and there were valuable minutes for youngsters Keiran Farrell and Brandon Laryea.

A final score of 86-75 did not show Thunder’s dominance but as it turned out it proved a good day and a curtain raiser for Sunday’s clash with Barking Academy.

Scorers: Richardson 27 pts, 13 reb, 5 ass, 1 st, 2 bl. Crawford 25 pts, 5 reb, 3 ass, 3 steals, 1 bl. Taylor 13 pts, 9 reb, 6 ass, 4 st, 1 bl. Ives 5 pts, 2 reb. Sunderland 7 pts, 3 reb, 4 ass, 3 st.Ward 4 pts, 13 reb, 6 ass. Fontaine 4 pts, 2 reb, 3 ass, 2 st. Laryea 1 pt.

Thunder knew a win on Sunday against the Barking Academy London Lions would secure a favourable play-off seeding – and they got it.

The game started at a furious pace and Barking rained in long shots.

Thunder held their own and despite losing influential Jack Sunderland to a nasty head injury Thunder led 22-19 at the end of the first quarter.

Zaire Taylor showed his experience in defence as Thunder dug deep and after a strong finish to the first half they led 41-36.

Tom Ward was a threat to Barking – time and again he recovered the ball in defence and turned defence into attack.

Barking hit the first ten points of the next quarter to take a commanding lead. But Thunder pulled the game back to single digits.

Max Richardson, Howard Crawford and Taylor were giving everything in defence and the Barking lead was down to 60-57 with one quarter to play.

The lead changed regularly in the final ten minutes but Taylor, Crawford, Richardson and the returning Dominick Ives were holding Barking at bay.

As time ran into the last minute it was tied – then a hero emerged in the unlikely shape of Ives.

The ball reached him deep outside the arc and under pressure he put up a thre- point effort that sailed into the ring. With seconds left, a three-point

Barking effort that rimmed out gave Thunder a scare but they held on.

Scorers: Taylor 23 pts, 4 reb, 6 ass, 3 st, 1 bl. Crawford 16 pts, 8 reb, 4 ass, 3 st, 1 bl. Richardson 15 pts, 14 reb, 3 asss, 3 sts, 1 bl. Ives 14 pts, 7 reb, 1 ass, 1 st.Ward 13 pts, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals. Sunderland 4 pts, 1 reb, 1 st, 1 bl.