Worthing Thunder can’t take down Hoods – but it’s a narrow Nottingham triumph
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The opening throws of the game saw two of English Basketball’s brightest stars trade blows as Hafeez Abdul and Joshua Guddemi took their sides on eight and six-point runs respectively. The plan from Thunder was clear early on, mid-season signing Jake Eynon never let the NBL’s top assister Johde Campbell out of his immediate sight.
Thunder looked to be in control at the start, Tom Ward and Ishmael Fontaine providing the answers to the questions posed by Statesman Landon Taliaferro from the perimeter. Taliaferro’s compatriot, Zaire Taylor, getting injured (which we wish him all the best with) preceded Thunder’s slump, allowing the home side on a 10-0 run. Tola Okiki’s composure at the free throw line reduced the deficit to seven at the end of the first.
The Hoods’ momentum continued into the second. Another 6-0 run beckoned as Greg Skoric, eventual double-double achiever in points and rebounds, hit a layup giving them a thirteen-point lead. Thunder reacted perfectly, exacting precise revenge where the Hoods hurt them in the first, notching up four unanswered layups. Tom Ward’s superb shot subsequently put them ahead.
Luke Moore’s late layup and a run courtesy of Daniel Johnson-Thompson and Tyler Fairbairn kept Thunder’s heads above the Nottingham water at the interval. Johnson-Thompson, who picked up a double-double, topped the rebounding stats sheet which was not easy considering some required multiple bites at the cherry.
The first half of the third played host to scintillating Basketball. In a quarter of small margins, Ishmael Fontaine’s three and Hafeez Abdul’s back-to-back dunks only left them within one-point of Nottingham. The frantic pace of the match never let up, explaining the frequency both sides turned the ball over.
Nottingham struck once more, stringing together a run which left them five-points ahead, forcing Mike Blatchford to call a timeout. Tola Okiki settled the ship, his 100% record at the free-throw line on his return after injury meant both sides couldn’t be separated with just one quarter left.
Hafeez Abdul and Jake Eynon took the billing seriously, recording back-to-back threes as Greg Skoric and Joshua Guddemi kept things ominously close. Eynon and Abdul epitomised Thunder’s competitive spirit, the former cleverly denying Johde Campbell under the basket and the latter diving on every loose ball in reach.
A grandstand finish set up with the game still tied, one the home contingent would enjoy as Landon Taliaferro contributed seven to an 11-0 run, putting Hoods up by nine-points. Despite it decimating their challenge, Thunder hardly gave in, drawing back to four-points with Tola Okiki’s three and Daniel Johnson-Thompson’s layup. Landon Taliaferro, the second Hoods player to get a double-double on the night, stepped up to break Thunder hearts. His shot, compounded by Latrell Maitland’s free throw, gave the Hoods an unassailable seven-point buffer.
Despite not getting the result, Thunder can take heart from the spirit they showed throughout the game. That spirit is needed again this week (Saturday January 20) when they welcome league leaders Essex Rebels to the Thunderdome, with the match getting under way 7:30.