Worthing Thunder tame London Lions to reach play-off last eight

Worthing Thunder set up a play-off quarter-final visit to Thames Valley Cavaliers this Saturday after a thrilling 89-83 win in the preliminary round over BA London Lions.

Ishmael Fontaine - pictured here facing Leicester - was in fine form to help Thunder beat the Lions / Picture: Kyle Hemsley
Ishmael Fontaine - pictured here facing Leicester - was in fine form to help Thunder beat the Lions / Picture: Kyle Hemsley

Two weeks after a thrilling battle in the league Thunder had the same opponents in the first stage of the post-season play-offs.

BA London Lions always seem to produce their best form when taking on Worthing Thunder and this game was no exception. It required a super performance by the home favourites to see Thunder to the quarter-finals, where they will now have a trip to the second seeds Thames Valley Cavaliers.

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Thunder started slowly as the visitors raced into an early eight-point lead. Thunder got into their stride with Max Richardson dominating the defensive boards, gradually pulling back to 14-14 after the first five minutes. Thunder exerted the pressure in the run-up to the first break with an 8-0 run of their own to take the lead after 10 minutes by 24-18.

The second period started well for the Thunder, outscoring the visitors in the first five minutes. The Lions the held firm to stay in touch with the Thunder at 41-31 at the half-time break! Richardson and Howard Crawford were performing well in defence and with Ishmael Fontaine scoring well in attack, it was an entertaining first 20 minutes.

BA London Lions came out for the third period with all guns blazing as with a change of tactics they had Thunder under pressure. Their new tough play pulled the deficit back as the quarter progressed.

Thunder dug in to weather the storm with the impressive Zaire Taylor hitting some massive treys. The lead for Thunder was still six points as the final break arrived at 66-60 with all to play for. Taylor's three long shots had kept Thunder's advantage and they were holding firm.

Thunder started the final ten minutes well, increasing the lead to double digits after five minutes. Crawford had gone to four fouls early in this period and found himself benched as a precaution.

Josh Brown made his return after a long gap, replacing the injured Jack Sunderland, and joined the fray - and with Tom Ward working hard at protecting the lead, the game got harder. The lead narrowed to just three points as the final three minutes arrived and it looked as if overtime was a possibility.

The reintroduction of Crawford proved a turning point as once again he dominated in defence to repel the young visitors. With under a minute remaining the gap was still four points.

The Lions fired in a long three-point effort that rimmed out and fell kindly for Thunder. A quick foul saw Thunder hit two free throws to make the winning margin six points at 89-83.

This was another magnificent performance in a fantastic game that saw Thunder progress. Every member of the team was superb but Richardson's early performance put Thunder on the road to victory. Fontaine's 20 points were another big factor as the popular Thunder veteran had his best game in a Thunder shirt.

Thunder are on the road in the quarter-finals on Saturday as they take on league runners-up Thames Valley Cavaliers, tipping at 6.30 pm. The game will be live streamed by TVC on their Facebook page so it will be well worth a view.

Scorers: Taylor 23 points, 1 rebound, 4 assists, 3 steals, 1 block. Fontaine 20 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals. Richardson 17 points, 20 rebounds, 6 assists, 1 steal, 1 block. Crawford 14 points, 13 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks. Ward 12 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists. Brown 3 points, 2 rebounds 1 assist.