Worthing Thunder are a step closer play-off glory after beating the odds to win their quarter-final away to Thames Valley Cavaliers.w
Thunder were big outsiders against the league’s second best side, having lost to the West London team twice in the regular season.
But Thunder had other ideas as they produced their best performance of the season to come home with a 94-89 victory to set up a semi-final away to old rivals Hemel Storm.
TVC came out fast, hitting the first four points. But that was to be the biggest lead they were to have.
Thunder started to play some superb team basketball and their first score was a sign of things to come as Tom Ward hit his first trey of the night in what was to be his best showing in a Thunder shirt.
With Howard Crawford hitting four early points it was looking good but he picked up two early fouls to be benched.
Ward’s nine first quarter points kept the scoreboard ticking over and at the first quarter the home team led 24-21.
Thunder came out for the second period with all guns blazing.
Max Richardson tied the scores with a big three-pointer and things were looking good.
Another nine points from Thunder’s longest serving player backed up by five from Ishmael Fontaine meant Thunder pulled 12 points in front. That grew to 14 a minute later and with the energetic Jack Sunderland running amok, Crawford was not missed.
TVC are always likely to mount a comeback and towards the end of the quarter they pulled it back to 44-40.
The third period was Ward’s finest ten minutes as he stroked in 13 points. Whether in offence, defence or transition he controlled the game. With Crawford back on to control the defences, TVC were finding it tough.
With Crawford, Richardson and Zaire Taylor dominating the defensive boards and Thunder regularly scoring they led 68-60 with one session to play.
TVC again came out hard and Richardson hit foul trouble and was benched.
With five minutes left, Thunder’s lead was just two points. It was beginning to look like tiredness was hitting the Thunder but they dug in.
Crawford was influential but into the last couple of minutes, Thunder’s lead was one point.
But Richardson was back on and two very long treys from a limping Taylor helped Thunder maintain the slender lead.
Eventually Thunder got home by five points.
This was a seventh straight win and means another play-off semi final.
Matches against Hemel Storm are always exciting and who would bet against Thunder pulling off another surprise?
The game will be played at Hemel this weekend – time to be confirmed – and will be live streamed on Facebook.
Thunder scorers: Ward 35 pts, 11 reb, 4 ass 1 bl. Crawford 16 pts, 6 reb, 1 ass. Richardson 16 pts, 12 reb, 2 ass, 1 bl. Taylor 10 ps, 6 reb, 6 ass, 4 st, 2 bl. Fontaine 7 pts, 2 reb. 1 ass. Sunderland 6 pts, 1 reb, 3 ass, 2 st. Eves 4 pts. Brown 1 reb.