A short-handed Worthing Thunder were eliminated in the third round of the National Cup, losing 90-88 to NBL Division 3 side Cardiff City Basketball Club at the House of Sport on Saturday night.
Due to travel issues thanks to the adverse weather conditions hitting various parts of the south, Aiman Rezk and Luke Attfield were unable to make the game while Tom Ward and Kadeem Crabbe were both unavailable. It left Thunder with only six players.
After a closely-fought first two quarters, the visitors led for the majority of the second half until a late flurry from Cardiff, mixed with solid defence in what was a scrappy contest, littered with turnovers, earned the Welsh side perhaps the biggest win in their history.
Captain Brendan Okoronkwo led Thunder with 32 points. Zaire Taylor added 24 and James Grinham amassed 15.
“We let ourselves sink to their level,” Okoronkwo said afterwards. “Having six players meant we had to be careful of foul trouble which allowed a high scoring first half.
“When we were in a position to make a push and be more aggressive, we didn’t take it. They played with nothing to lose and it paid off, well played to Cardiff.”
On a difficult court, equaled by rims not favouring the shooters, Thunder struggled at the start but they still raced out to an 8-2 lead early on as they looked to attack the basket. The short-handed Thunder though couldn’t contain a Cardiff side, who were at full strength and had nothing to lose. The hosts took a 22-20 lead after the first quarter.
The third division side extended their lead to eight points thanks to a 6-0 burst at the beginning of the second quarter, which was snapped with a strong drive to the hoop by Okoronkwo. Cardiff managed to keep the lead until the latter stages of the half when Thunder, thanks to Taylor finished on an 8-0 run with the American grabbing six of those points to leave the game tied at 46-46 at the break.
Worthing began the third quarter the much stronger of the two as Okoronkwo and Tor Freeman attacked the basket to great success as the Division 1 side enjoyed a 57-51 lead and despite pressure from the hosts, Thunder took a 72-65 cushion into the fourth quarter and looked in control.
Baskets by Okoronkwo and Samson Soulis gave Thunder a 77-67 lead early in the final period, with Cardiff’s offence seemingly drying up on their home court. The rims though haunted Worthing as many missed shots, coupled with turnovers allowed the Welsh side back into the game and they managed to hold the lead with a minute left for a famous win.