Under 14's make it double winning day

Worthing Thunder under-14 won the national title as they defeated London Thunder Lewisham 87-72 in the NBL Playoff championship game at Belle Vue on Sunday afternoon.

Cameron Hildreth led Thunder with a game-high 34 points and seven rebounds. Abdou Gaye added a 21-point, 12-rebound double-double for the winners who made it a double winning weekend for the Worthing Thunder junior program.

Saul Iwowo led London in defeat with 13 points.

Like their under-16s before them, Worthing fell behind early but responded in the second quarter as a basket by Cameron Hildreth tied the score at 24-24 and even though the London side regained the lead, Worthing were close behind. A score by Josh Hicklebottom gave the Thunder the lead, which grew to double-digits at the half.

Worthing’s momentum carried onto the third quarter where they led by as many as 16 points thanks a score from Hicklebottom. However, Lewisham finished the quarter strong, narrowing the deficit to single digits at the end of the period. Worthing still enjoyed a 63-55 advantage heading into the fourth.

Worthing though quickly restored their ten-point lead early in the last period thanks to a bucket by Hildreth and from there; Worthing’s lead remained in double-digits as the boys from London fatigued.

Under 16's pull away in fourth quarter for title success

Worthing Thunder under-16 boys became national champions after they beat the Haringey Hawks 80-68 in the NBL Playoff final at Belle Vue on Sunday lunchtime.

Leonard Musahl led Thunder with 17 points and 11 rebounds as he shot 73 percent from the field with Hosana Kitenge adding 16 points, 17 rebounds, six blocks and five assists which was good for the MVP award.

The season ends with a trophy as well as a joint regular season best record of 19-3, which a testament to the enthusiasm and commitment to the Thunder junior program.

Spyridon Kapsalos led all scorers with 39 points for Haringey but he had little support as he was the only Hawks player in double figures.

After trailing 19-18 at the conclusion of the first quarter, Thunder found their rhythm in the following period as a score by Musahl handed Worthing the lead. Both teams wrestled with that lead in the early stages until a three from Blaize Sagna gave Thunder a 29-27 lead, which they would not relinquish.

Despite narrowing the gap and gaining momentum Haringey trailed 53-51 after three quarters. But Worthing showed tremendous professionalism and with 4:52 left, a triple from Lewis Jee gave Thunder a double-digit lead and from there, the lead peaked at 16 securing a title-winning victory.   

Thunder juniors successful in NBL Junior Final Fours

Worthing Thunder’s under-14 and under-16 boys teams have made their respective Playoff finals after picking up deserving victories at Belle Vue in Manchester.

The under 14 boys got off to a good start and never looked back as they comfortably dismissed the challenge of City of Birmingham 99-72.

Leading 26-18 after the first quarter, Thunder’s lead grew as the second quarter progressed as they took a comfortable 49-34 cushion and their opponents were unable to mount a comeback.

Cameron Hildreth exploded for 37 points to lead Thunder.

Worthing will play London Thunder Lewisham in the final on Sunday.

The under-16 boys overcame the Newham Youngbloods 62-52 to set up a final with the Haringey Hawks tomorrow.

Leading 19-11 after the first quarter, Worthing’s lead shrunk to just two points at the half as they struggled to pull away from a physical Newham side. In the end, Worthing finally broke through in the fourth as the Youngbloods defensive power weakened for good.

Blaize Sagna paced the winners with 16 points, supported by 13 from Hosana Kitenge.

Thunder Press Release

Now that the season has reached its conclusion Worthing Thunder will be starting their search for a new coach.

Club Chairman Frank Gainsbury said:- 

“After another disappointing season, we now embark on the work to find and appoint a new high-calibre coach.  The Club’s position in the league has declined steadily year-on-year over the last five campaigns - in every season during this period we have never won more league games than we have lost. This season we only managed to avoid relegation in the last few weeks of the season as a consequence of the results and performances of other teams around us. This is not a position with which we should be satisfied. Worthing Thunder is one of the best organised teams in the league with great supporters and an amazing workforce of volunteers that contribute to the successful running of the club and provide one of the best match-night experiences in the league.  In addition, we have a well-supported junior organisation which continues to find and develop young players bringing them through to play at the highest level in our senior team and beyond. For these players to reach their full potential it is essential that they are regularly engaged with the senior end of the organisation.

Whilst it is always gratifying to hear favourable comments about our organisation from other clubs and indeed Basketball England, quite frankly Worthing Thunder and it’s supporters deserve the team to be more successful than it has been over the past few years. Appointing a new head coach is part of the process needed to improve our club and to strive for more success on court.

We have had many expressions of interest in regard to the vacant head coach's  post and we will take our time to carefully assess and appoint the right candidate, ensuring amongst other things, that they are fully involved with and to continue to develop the Junior Organisation and  the schools and community coaching programmes in and around Sussex

I would like to take this opportunity to again thank the army of volunteers and in particular the Supporters Club without whom the club would simply not exist.

We are enthusiastically looking forward to a new season when I hope we will be able to strengthen our playing squad, welcome back many of our current team and strive for greater success”.

Hildreth gives thanks to his family as he departs

Whilst exchanging hugs from all those close to him after his last game in charge of Worthing Thunder, Daniel Hildreth saw an opportunity that he could not pass up.

He bumped into Thunder’s MVP Lyonell Gaines, for whom he had had spent near enough every day of the 2016-17 NBL Division 1 season with, not only coaching but guiding the American through his first year as a professional. The two were virtually inseparable but there was one thing Hildreth needed to do before they headed to the locker rooms.

Introduce Gaines to the person that has been with the outgoing coach since day one. His biggest supporter: wife Helen.

“It’s actually remarkable that Lyonell has never met my wife considering the mass amounts of time we have spent together during the season,” Hildreth said with a grin.

“It was great that they finally met even though I left it until the end of the season but my wife has been my biggest supporter along with my kids while I’ve coached this terrific group of guys and her support is priceless.”

“I finally met Helen, I wasn’t even sure if she existed,” Gaines joked.

“But it was really lovely meeting her for the first time and having a brief talk. Coach Danny has been like a brother to me and I am grateful for everything that he has done for me during my first season. He has sacrificed a lot for me this year and part of that sacrifice was spending more time with me than his own family. I’ll never forget that.”

Gaines has not been alone. Throughout his time with the club, both at senior and junior level, Hildreth always wanted to get the best out of his players and would spend as much time as humanly possible in order for them to achieve their potential.

And despite the emotion in his final game in charge, Hildreth stayed true to his coaching nature, refusing to talk about what his thoughts were on the occasion itself until he spoke about the game first, a narrow 113-110 loss to Essex Leopards after double overtime.

But when the game was said and done, his thoughts were shared, Hildreth’s tone changed. He was in deep thought about what he wanted to say, but was thankful for such a supporting family guiding him through a tough moment.

“It’s gutting to leave the senior team, I still can’t quite believe that the time has come to be honest,” Hildreth said.

“The guys have been outstanding this season. We’ve battled numerous injury setbacks and if we were at full strength, we might have been fighting for a Playoff spot and this season would have been extended but ultimately, I know that now the show and the club must go on. I’m not bigger than this club and hopefully next season, I can come down with my family and be a supporter, cheer the guys on and heckle the referees knowing that I won’t get a technical.

“But most importantly, starting this off-season, I’ll be able to spend time with my family, which I’m really looking forward to. I’ve dedicated a large portion of my life to this club and I feel that I’ve left my family in the backseat and now I can spend my time with my supportive wife Helen, go to my daughter’s dance and ballet competitions, my son’s basketball games and just enjoy being a family man.

The future for Hildreth’s role within the junior ranks still remains as he prefers to enjoy the off-season before making a decision, but he leaves Thunder having guided them to the Playoff final in his first season in charge back in the 2012-13 season, the Playoff quarter-finals in the 2014-15 campaign and the National Cup final in January 2016.

Gaines, Kitenge and Sunderland all scoop awards at Thunder end of season ceremony

Lyonell Gaines, Jack Sunderland and Hosana Kitenge were the three award winners during Worthing Thunder’s end of season award ceremony, which happened at the conclusion of Thunder’s narrow double overtime loss to Essex Leopards.

Following an emotional goodbye speech from outgoing coach Daniel Hildreth, he proudly announced Hosana Kitenge as his Coaches Player of the Season.

The 16-year-old Kitenge played in 25 matches for Worthing this season, averaging 4.4 points, 4.3 rebounds and 0.8 blocks a game. But it was his never give up attitude and his work away from the stat sheet that won him over with the Thunder fans.

“I’m blessed to be in this position and feel incredibly happy to get this award, especially from coach Danny who has been an incredible mentor for me this season,” Kitenge said.

“Knowing that this is a final season, it means a lot to me that what he said about me means so much. I want to thank my family also for always being there, home and away and supporting me, too.”

Thunder’s players also praised Jack Sunderland, as the Angmering product won the Player’s Player of the Season. Sunderland averaged 8.6 points a game, shooting 46 percent from the field along with 2.8 rebounds in a stellar season.

“I’m so proud to be accepting this award from my team-mates, many of whom I’ve known for years and it feels like a family instead of a team,” Sunderland said afterwards.

“I also want to thank the fans for being the best fans in the league and even though we didn’t give them the win in coach Hildreth’s final game, they turned out and supported until the end.”

Thunder’s MVP for the 2016-17 season though fell to Lyonell Gaines, who completes his first season as a professional averaging an NBL Division 1-high 32.7 points. The American also averaged 11.5 rebounds a game. He finished the season with a 43-point, 13-rebound double-double against the Essex Leopards and also got a career-high eight steals.

“I want to thank god for giving me the opportunity to do this and in my first season, I am incredibly humbled,” Gaines said.

“I want to thank my team-mates for being supportive, the terrific fans here in Worthing for welcoming me as part of their family and coach Danny Hildreth for being my mentor and a brother to me. I feel like I have made a friend for life with coach Danny.”

Thunder and Essex Leopards put on classic in Hildreth's finale

Worthing Thunder lost in an enthralling contest 113-110 to Essex Leopards after two sessions of overtime in the final game of the NBL Division 1 season at the Worthing Leisure Centre on Saturday night.

Both sides’ fate was already sealed with Leopards relegation to Division 2 confirmed last week and Worthing retaining their Division 1 status at the same time but despite the dead rubber factor, the two teams still put together a game that will be remembered for many years, not just because it was head coach Daniel Hildreth’s last game in charge but also for the level of play that both teams displayed in a terrific advert for Basketball England’s top tier.

Lyonell Gaines exploded for 43 points, 13 rebounds and eight steals to lead Thunder with Jack Sunderland adding 16 points and seven rebounds. Brendan Okoronkwo amassed 12 in the loss.

But for coach Hildreth, he was disappointed not to have ended his tenure with a win but he praised his guys for a fantastic effort in the final game of the season.

“It’s gutting not to have won, but I’m still incredibly proud of the guys and how they performed,” Hildreth said.

“It was a shame that there had to be a loser to be honest, but my guys were brilliant not just tonight but throughout the season. Our final league standing doesn’t reflect us as a team as we have busted our butts all season long and I’m glad that Worthing Thunder will be playing Division 1 basketball next season.”

Douglas Bennett led Leopards with 33 points as he went 15/20 from the free throw line.

The first quarter was a fast-paced affair as both teams traded scores frequently. And it wasn’t until the final minutes of the period where a three-pointer from Leopards veteran Perry Lawson broke the game open with the visitors leading 21-16, only for Hosana Kitenge to reply swiftly with a hook shot off the backboard but the hosts still trailed 21-18 after one.

A 7-0 run by the Leopards handed them a 28-22 lead early in the second quarter, which was cancelled out by a three by Josh Brown. The period though was a scrappy affair with both sides turning the ball over until Worthing ended the half on a 14-0 run to take a 44-40 lead at the break.

Leopards began the third quarter by answering Worthing’s run with an 8-0 burst themselves as the visitors regained the lead that they had enjoyed for the majority of the first half.

Led by Gaines, Worthing finished the third quarter strong, but the hosts still trailed 70-64 heading into the fourth quarter.

Thunder hit back in the final period in a game littered with runs, Worthing went on a 10-2 spurt to wrestle the lead back at 74-73 but despite both sides having their chances to win it in regulation, the game went to overtime, tied at 87-87.

After both teams failed to break free from each other in the first period of overtime, it was the visitors who pulled clear in the second session, as a score from Jamie Hayes and a three by AJ Roberts gave Essex a 109-106 lead and from there, they iced the game from the foul line.

Emotions will run high in NBL Division 1 finale against Leopards

Worthing Thunder head into their last home game of the NBL Division 1 season on Saturday safe in the knowledge that they will be playing in Basketball England’s top tier next season but despite the match against Essex Leopards at the Worthing Leisure Centre itself being a dead rubber, emotions will be running high.

For Essex, they were relegated to the NBL Division 2 next season after two heartbreaking losses last weekend to London Lituanica and Lancashire Spinners. It is unclear what mindset they will be in when they travel to the south coast.

And for Thunder, Saturday’s match will be head coach Daniel Hildreth’s last game in charge but despite the emotion that will be experienced at the Leisure Centre on Saturday, the outgoing playcaller is concentrating solely on the game, such is the nature of Hildreth’s methods.

“Nothing has changed,” Hildreth declared.

“We went into this thing wanting and trying to win every game and we will do so tomorrow regardless of the fact that the game has little importance. What is unknown is the mindset of Essex but we can only assume like us they want to finish with a win. They were extremely unlucky in their last two games, a double overtime loss and a shot on the buzzer to get relegated must have been heartbreaking, again further motivation to want to beat us I'm sure.

“We want this for the fans and to finish off a very difficult season with the chance to move up a place in the league and only two wins less than last season.” 

Thunder’s clash with Essex Leopards tips-off at 7:30pm with kids getting £1 entry if they arrive with a paying adult. There will be an end of season awards ceremony at the conclusion of the game.

Thunder take one step closer to safety with win over Westminster

Worthing Thunder convincing defeated Westminster Warriors 97-82 on Saturday evening at Capital City Academy to leave themselves one step closer to NBL Division 1 safety.

With Essex Leopards losing to London Lituanica earlier on in the day, it means that if the Leopards lose to Lancashire Spinners on Sunday it would relegate the Essex outfit and ensure Division 1 safety for Worthing ahead of their last game of the season next Saturday at the Worthing Leisure Centre.

Despite playing against a Westminster team whose relegation was confirmed before the game started, Worthing still needed to be at their best, and they began strongly, taking a 30-19 lead after the first quarter and never looking back.

“It was a fantastic start for us with Jack connecting on his first four attempts giving us such a spark,” Thunder coach Daniel Hildreth said. “Obviously we knew how much it meant and in the first quarter we amassed 30 points and some solid defence.

“There was a lull in our performance in the second quarter as we seemed to trade baskets for the most part and we took a seven point lead into the half. The first five minutes of the second half were vital and we opened the game up again and led 81-65. It was a solid fourth quarter and we came away with a comfortable win allowing court time to those deserving.”

Lyonell Gaines led Thunder with a game-high 39 points with Jack Sunderland continuing his rich vein of form with 22 and Brendan Okoronkwo adding 16.

Thunder’s final game of the season sees Essex Leopards visiting the Worthing Leisure Centre in what will be an emotionally charged evening as Daniel Hildreth takes charge of his final match as head coach of the club.

Worthing head into final two games in unfamiliar territory

Worthing Thunder head into their final games of the NBL Division 1 season locked in a battle to stay in the league, which is something that the club is very unfamiliar with. They travel to bottom side Westminster Warriors on Saturday.

Coach Daniel Hildreth though remains focused on making sure that Thunder stay in Division 1 next season and a win against the Warriors would relegate the North London side to Division 2 and leave Worthing with leverage heading into next Saturday's clash with Essex Leopards, providing that they lose their fixtures to London Lituanica and Lancashire Spinners this weekend.

Hildreth though is focused on his team’s performance on Saturday though - not that of Essex Leopards.

“You go into every season thinking the last couple of games will be important for final Playoff positions or a chance to take the title but we certainly didn't expect or anticipate the last two games would be for survival,” Hildreth admitted.

“Westminster have some wins and have a little momentum going into this game Sometimes playing with a nothing to lose mentality works in your favour and Jon Johnson has been putting up some big numbers for the side all year. 

“We know that our fate is still in our own hands and that's something we are taking as motivation into the game. Nothing less than our best effort and playing smart for 40 minutes will be enough. The pressure’s on, we know that  and we will pull through.” 

Hildreth does have an injury concern for the upcoming trip as regular starter Josh Brown is doubtful so there will be a shift in the rotation.

Saturday’s trip to Capital City Academy tips off at 6:30pm.

Thunder outdone by Solent

Worthing Thunder were beaten 106-76 by Solent Kestrels in an NBL Division 1 encounter at the Worthing Leisure Centre on Sunday afternoon.

Despite brief flashes by Worthing, they lost to a Solent team who shot 60 percent from the field and had five players in double figures, scoring wise.

“Being truthful, there really isn’t many positive that I can think of, we are really disappointed,” Thunder coach Daniel Hildreth said.

“It’s a kick in the teeth for the fans, who came out and supported us brilliantly. These sort of performances are simply just not good enough. Credit to Solent though, they have had an excellent first season in Division 1 and are fully deserving of a place in the Playoffs.”

Lyonell Gaines led Thunder with a double-double of 32 points and 12 rebounds. Jack Sunderland won the Barkers Tarring MVP with 20 points, three assists and three steals with Tom Ward adding 10.

“It was a tough loss for us tonight,” Sunderland said. “We felt that we matched up well with Solent but they had a lot of energy, they shot the ball well and deserved the win.”

Jalen Watson paced Solent with 28 points and 11 rebounds.

Solent got off to the better start and a three by Elliot Dodds handed them an 8-6 lead, which was cancelled out by a thunderous dunk in transition by Gaines. But Solent fought back and a 7-0 run by the visitors gave them a 15-8 cushion, mid-way through.

Worthing tried to push the ball in transition but the ball failed to drop whereas Solent scored consistently and a 6-0 finish handed them a 31-18 lead after one.

However, the hosts cut the deficit significantly with a 13-0 run in the early stages, led by Sunderland brought it back to 36-32 before Watson ended the Kestrels drought with a bucket inside.

Watson’s basket sparked a 7-0 run by Solent as they ended the half 47-37 in front.

Gaines scored Worthing’s first six points in the third quarter as the hosts reduced the deficit again to 49-43 but Watson steered Solent back to a double-digit lead with 5:07 left in the period, forcing coach Hildreth to call a timeout.

The double-digit lead for Solent only grew as an 11-2 finish to the third ensured that the visitors took a 75-56 advantage going into the fourth.

It wasn’t long before Solent’s lead reached twenty points as Thunder struggled to make their jump shots. Ward and Gaines provided a brief fightback for Worthing, which forced Kestrels coach Matt Guymon to call a timeout with 5:17 left.

But Solent were composed and an 8-0 run towards the end ensured that they would leave West Sussex with a win.

Worthing undone by accurate Rockets shooting

Worthing Thunder lost 110-78 to the NBL Division 1’s hottest team, the Reading Rockets at Bohunt School in Wokingham on Saturday evening.

Despite a strong finish to the third quarter, where Thunder closed the period on a 16-2 run, they were undone by a Rockets team who shot a sublime 60 percent from the field, including hitting 16 three-pointers, going 52 percent from deep.

It was an accurate display of shooting by Reading but even though Worthing were unable to halt the hosts’ hot streak, they still managed to play solid offence and create good looks for themselves. Lyonell Gaines led the way with a monster 30-point, 20-rebound double-double. Tom Ward added 15 with Brendan Okoronkwo going for 12 points and five rebounds.

But, Thunder coach Daniel Hildreth recognised that the key to Reading’s win was that they simply could not miss from the field.

“It was a hard day for us, especially as I think we didn’t play badly at all, it was just Reading could score from any part of the court and when you have that confidence, everything is going for you” Hildreth said.

“We had spurts of great basketball. At half-time I told the guys that the score was irrelevant and from now, we need to be composed and fight for everything and we did, we brought the score right down and we had a chance in the fourth but Reading regrouped and they went on a big run towards the end which settled the tie.”

Craig Ponder led all scorers with 36 points for the Rockets who extend their winning run in the NBL Division 1 to 18 games.

Okoronkwo scored on Thunder’s first possession to give them a 2-0 lead, but it was to be the only time Worthing enjoyed a lead as Reading went on a 6-0 spurt after that and later in the period, a three-pointer by Ali Sbai handed the hosts their first double-digit lead at 20-10 leading to a 27-14 advantage after one.

Worthing hit back in the second quarter as two triples by Ward and one by Oscar Wilkins left Reading stunned as they called a timeout with Thunder only trailing 29-25.

After that timeout, the hosts responded with an 11-0 run of their own and back-to-back buckets by Ponder gave Reading a 61-36 cushion at the break.

A three early into the third period by Juan Valerio pushed Rockets’ lead to 70-40 and the players were even attempting a few highlight reel plays, which failed to pay off. It was then where Worthing felt the time was right for a comeback and led by Gaines and Okoronkwo, the visitors ended the third on a 16-2 tear to only trail 76-61, leaving Hildreth’s side with a fighting chance.

But Reading had another run left in them and seven points from Valerio in a 16-0 run in the fourth to the game to bed as both teams ran their benches.

Worthing face double-header with old Trophy foe

Worthing Thunder face a double-header weekend against Reading Rockets and Solent Kestrels on Saturday and Sunday, respectively as Worthing look to do what they did in the National Trophy in the first two weeks of the season.

But Thunder coach Daniel Hildreth knows that both sides have significantly strengthened their sides since the early stages of the season. Saturday's opponents Reading have since defeated Worthing in the league and Hildreth knows that Saturday's road trip to Wokingham will be difficult as the Rockets are on a 17-game winning streak.

"Reading has always been one of the toughest places to go to, even if we are playing at a difficult venue and not their usual venue at the Rivermead," Hildreth explained.

"They are a constant front runner for the championship and part of that is because they are well coached with all their players knowing exactly what roles they have on the team."

A little less than 24 hours later, Thunder return home to the Worthing Leisure Centre to face Solent Kestrels who despite a slow start to life in NBL Division 1 have improved rapidly and as a result, are sitting in fifth place and look set to complete their debut season in Basketball England’s top tier in the Playoffs.

Coach Hildreth is aware of the threat that Solent bring as despite an early season win in the Trophy, he has seen Kestrels beat Worthing twice since September with a narrow overtime win in the National Cup followed by a win before the turn of the year in Southampton.

“There is no doubt that Solent have had a great first year in Division 1 and they have deserved it,” Hildreth said.

“We will be ready for them as we have pushed Solent very close even with our team plagued by injuries and players playing with knocks. We are hopefully at full strength and we will compete with them all the way.”

Thunder’s road game against Reading will be played at Bohunt School in Wokingham on Saturday, tipping off at 6:00pm. If supporters wish to make the short trip up to Wokingham, the post code for the venue is Bohunt School Wokingham, Sheerlands Road, Arborfield, Reading, RG2 9GB.

Sunday’s clash against Solent tips off at 5pm at the Worthing Leisure Centre.

Meet and greet with players as award nominations open

Worthing Thunder Basketball Club will be hosting a special meet and greet with the players, on Sunday 12th March, as polls are now open for the end of season awards where fans can vote for the club MVP of the 2016-17 NBL Division 1 season.

The club’s jersey sponsors The Mulberry Flaming Grill will be hosting the special meet and greet with the players after Sunday’s NBL Division 1 encounter against the Solent Kestrels, which tips off at 5pm.

The location of the restaurant is a five-minute drive from the Worthing Leisure Centre on Goring Rd, Goring by Sea, Worthing BN12 4NX. 

You can now vote for your end of season MVP.

VOTE NOW

 

 

The third quarter proves to be the guiding light

Throughout the years, third quarters have never been kind for Worthing Thunder, most recently it cost them the National Trophy semi-final against London Lituanica as well as the vital battle two weeks ago against Lancashire Spinners.

However, much to the delight of Thunder coach Daniel Hildreth, the players and the fans, there was a welcome role reversal in their 67-60 win over Derby Trailblazers on Saturday, which certainly helped their NBL Division 1 status.

An 11-0 run towards the end of the third period that went the way of Worthing rocked Derby and despite the best efforts of the visitors towards the end, Thunder finished the stronger of the two teams mainly thanks to the efforts of Jack Sunderland and Brendan Okoronkwo.

"We knew Derby would fight back and we were ready and prepared for it, we didn't let our heads drop as we wanted this win badly," Okoronkwo said.

"This win goes a long way to securing our status in Division 1, which is what we want to do. This team doesn't deserve the drop and we will work as hard as anyone to make sure we stay here."

Okoronkwo might have one of the factors behind Thunder's strong finish but Worthing coach Daniel Hildreth credits the third quarter performance to the entire team and hopes that this win could be the springboard that they need to beat the Division 1 drop.

The playcaller added that he decided not to comment on past third quarter performances and just let the players do what they do best.

“We all pulled together and played with determination and desire,” Hildreth said. “Being honest, at half-time, I didn’t want to mention our past third quarter performances and I just commented on how we can beat Derby. It definitely motivated them.”

Thunder keep survival hopes alive with win over Derby

Worthing Thunder kept their NBL Division 1 status alive with a morale boosting 67-60 win over Derby Trailblazers at the Worthing Leisure Centre on Saturday night.

In a game where neither team shot the ball particularly well, it was a game-changing 11-0 run in the latter stages of the third quarter, forcing Derby into 28 turnovers overall and keeping Derby, a renowned three-point shooting team to a low 16 percent from deep, as they went 3/16 overall.

That piled in finally gave Daniel Hildreth’s side some relief as they aim to stay in Division 1 next season.

“It was a great win for us tonight,” said Hildreth. “We know that they can shoot the ball tremendously so it was about making life hard for them on the perimeter and we did just that. We ran them off the line and made them drive to the hoop where they don’t have a lot of confidence in that I believe and we stuck with our game plan throughout. We made key defensive stops and offensively we maintained our composure.”

Lyonell Gaines led Thunder with 24 points with 13 of those coming in the second quarter. The American also added 11 rebounds to his tally. Brendan Okoronkwo added 18 to go along with four assists as he picked up the Barkers Tarring MVP award.

“We match up against this team and as a team we thought we were unlucky not to win at their place so we knew we could get the win tonight as long as we stuck to our strengths and play to our gameplan, which we did,” Okoronkwo said.

“We knew that they could shoot the ball well so our plan was to limit them at all costs and we did, plus we were able to get out often in transition and get ourselves some easy buckets which gave us momentum to get the win.”

Alex Morrison was the only Derby player in double figures as he scored 10 points and the big man got four blocks as well.

Both sides were slow to get out of the traps and even an 8-0 spurt by Thunder couldn’t lift the two teams as a defensive-minded first quarter ended with Worthing enjoying a 17-16 advantage.

Derby though found their stride in the early stages of the second quarter as scores by Jake Wesselingh and Chris Taylor handed the visitors a 26-19 lead. But, inspired by Okoronkwo, Thunder pulled it back with a 6-0 run to bring it back to within a point.

Derby though, forced the hosts into multiple turnovers in the latter stages of the second quarter and as a result, the Trailblazers enjoyed a narrow 33-30 lead at the break.

Both teams continued their struggles to begin the third period and instead resorted to attack the basket. Eventually a three-pointer from Gaines tied the game at 39-39, midway through the quarter.

The hosts then exploded with an 11-0 run as they turned their aggressive defence into easy transition scores, leaving Derby trailing in their wake and Worthing had a 51-44 cushion heading into the final period.

Despite pressure by the Trailblazers, Thunder maintained their lead with a 6-2 start and a score by Gaines inside handed the hosts a 67-57 lead, which was their biggest of the game.

The Trailblazers responded late on and brought the deficit to just two points, but the combination of Okoronkwo and Jack Sunderland helped Thunder home in the latter stages to pick up the important win.  

Thunder look to Derby clash to escape the bottom two

Worthing Thunder finish their short two-game home stretch on Saturday night as they host Derby Trailblazers at the Worthing Leisure Centre looking to get out of the bottom two in the NBL Division 1 standings.

And as they face the Trailblazers, Thunder can take comfort in the performance that they put in against the Manchester Magic last Saturday as they competed with them only to fall short in the fourth quarter of play.

The last time that Thunder and Derby collided in Alvaston, Worthing led for the majority of the contest only for the Trailblazers to take control in the final period as a 15-2 burst early in the fourth led them to a narrow 77-73 win over Daniel Hildreth’s side.

And Hildreth will take that showing as well as last week’s showing at home to the Magic and look to improve further this weekend.

“We can take a lot of positives out of last weeks performance against Manchester,” Hildreth explained.

“The score line certainly was not a reflection of the game with Manchester finishing on a 15-2 run. Before that they were forced into taking a number of difficult shots, which they simply made more often than not. This week we face a team who have been forced into multiple changes to key players.

“They have managed to remain in the top four and have a very well rounded team with multiple scoring portions.”

A former Derby player himself, Hildreth is aware of the traditional playing style that Derby brings to the table. The Thunder playcaller will look to use that to his advantage on Saturday.

“They play a bunch of zone press for large portions of the game, something we've not seen a great deal of. We need to play aggressive on offence and make them work hard every time down the floor. On defence we need to protect the key and rebound well against one of the best in the league.”

Thunder’s game against the Derby Trailblazers tips off at 7:30pm at the Worthing Leisure Centre. 

Thunder go down fighting against Manchester Magic

Worthing Thunder gave a spirited showing but lost 95-70 to newly crowned National Trophy winners Manchester Magic in an NBL Division 1 clash at the Worthing Leisure Centre on Saturday.

Thunder forced 17 turnovers out of the Magic plus the hosts went to the foul line 26 times compared to just nine trips by Manchester but the visitors’ superiority was that they shot an efficient 57 percent from the field, while Worthing went for 39 percent.

Thunder’s cause was not helped from those 26 trips to the free throw line as they only connected 18 times going for 69 percent.

“We pressured Manchester as well as we could but in the end we didn’t make our opportunities count plus we ran out of steam in the fourth,” Worthing coach Daniel Hildreth said.

“Manchester are an incredibly well coached side with players that understand each other inside out. They were very patient with the ball, knew the right shots to take and had enough defensive skill to keep us at bay. I’m proud of how we performed against such a highly skilled outfit and we can take a lot of this.”

Lyonell Gaines led Thunder with 30 points plus nine rebounds. Brendan Okoronkwo added 11 points and Josh Brown had nine.

The game night sponsors Harper Stone named Jack Sunderland the game’s MVP.

Simon Anumba paced Manchester with a game-high 34 points.

Worthing hung with Manchester for the majority of the first quarter as they attacked their opponents from the start, forcing Magic into early foul trouble. However, the visitors kept their noses in front thanks to Simon Anumba and Stephan Gill.

The hosts though forced the Magic into numerous turnovers and coupled with frequent trips to the foul line, tied the game at 19-19 as Jack Minister was given a technical, which allowed Gaines to even the scores up. Simon Anumba scored again, but Brown answered to end the first knotted up at 21-21.

Manchester started the quicker of the two teams in the second quarter and a 9-0 burst stretched their lead to 32-23, giving coach Hildreth no choice but to call a timeout.

The timeout had an effect as Worthing brought to within five points thanks to a score inside by Hosana Kitenge but Magic fought back and a three from near half-court by Simon Anumba on the buzzer gave them a 48-38 lead at the half.

An 8-0 start to the third by the visitors increased to 54-42, as Thunder couldn’t get the ball to drop. Manchester continued their high shooting percentage but Worthing were still making life difficult with a score inside by Brown followed by a jumper on the baseline from Sunderland.

Manchester though finished the third strong as they took a 68-52 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

Going for broke, Worthing tried to push the tempo against a well-balanced Manchester attack. Scores by Gaines and Okoronkwo brought it back to 72-62 but a 13-0 run by the Magic ultimately ended any hopes that Worthing had of salvaging something.

Thunder return home looking for a bit of Magic against Manchester

Worthing Thunder return to the Worthing Leisure Centre after spending last weekend on the road as they welcome the recently crowned National Trophy winning Manchester Magic on Saturday night.

No doubt, this will be a tough contest for coach Daniel Hildreth and his side having suffered a major setback with losses to Loughborough Student Riders last Saturday and then to Lancashire Spinners the following day. Manchester claimed the clean sweep of NBL Division 1 titles last season, which included a National Cup success against Worthing in January 2016.

Thunder are currently 5-15 and sitting in 13th place in the NBL Division 1 standings while the Magic are locked in a three-way battle for the title along with Reading Rockets and league leaders Team Northumbria.

Manchester though are a much different team to the one that conquered all before them last season, but they do boast former Manchester Giants guard Stephen Gill to the team and, as their league position suggests, are still one of the top teams in the NBL.

“Manchester are full of talent and experience and are extremely well coached,” said Thunder coach Hildreth.

“The addition of BBL star Stephen Gill to this year’s team is one to watch, the little man consistently finds ways for his team to win.

“We will have to be disciplined at both ends of the floor for 40 minutes and if we can shoot the ball well we feel we can beat anyone.”

The last time these two sides met up north, Manchester were 95-77 victors. Lyonell Gaines posted 30 points and 13 rebounds in the defeat.

Thunder against Manchester Magic tips off at 7:30pm on Saturday night.

Thunder slump to narrow loss to Lancashire Spinners

The third quarter curse came back to hurt Worthing Thunder as they went down 73-65 to Lancashire Spinners in an NBL Division 1 clash at Myerscough College on Sunday afternoon.

Thunder went into the third quarter 38-28 ahead, after holding the Spinners to just nine points in the second period. However the hosts roared back to start the second half as Worthing couldn’t buy a bucket and despite a last ditch effort in the fourth, the visitors came up just short.

The result sees Worthing drop to 13th place in the Division 1 standings, with a 5-15 record and Lancashire securing the season double over the south coast side and leapfrogging them in the table.

And now with six games left in the season, Thunder simply have to start winning in order to avoid relegation to Division 2 next season.

Lyonell Gaines led Thunder with 24 points and 11 rebounds with Jack Sunderland adding 13 and Josh Brown getting 12 points as Worthing were once again with Brendan Okoronkwo due to an ankle injury along with Louis Allen, Ian Marshall, Darren Sealy and Wayne Kitenge.

Despite being short-handed during the weekend on the road, Thunder coach Daniel Hildreth remains committed to providing Division 1 basketball for next season.

“We had a decent start and were able to assess how we were going get our opportunities and a half-time lead gave us the momentum,” Hildreth explained.

“Fatigue started to set in and we just struggled to put the ball in the hoop. A number of missed open shots swung the game in their favour as we lost the quarter 23-7. Despite going down double digits we got it back to five with possession of the ball on two occasions in the last minute but failed to connect on what would have created a great finish, however they were able to seal the game from the line.  

“I'm so proud of the effort the guys showed this weekend with a long journey and back to back games where they played so many minutes as such an intense pass. We know we now need to finish a clear game ahead of Lancashire to avoid relegation, something we are all committed to do.”

Mark Rangley led the Spinners with 18 points, going 50 percent from three-point land (3/6).

Trailing 19-15 after a closely contested 19-15 first quarter, Worthing broke the game open in the second period as a 15-0 burst shot them into a 38-28 cushion.

But that cushion quickly lost its padding as Worthing struggled to put the ball in the basket, allowing the Spinners to hit back and take a narrow 51-45 lead heading into the final quarter.

Lancashire looked to seal the game by taking an 11-point lead early in the final quarter, but gradually Thunder came back and narrowed the deficit to five points with three minutes left. But Lancashire withstood Worthing’s run and sealed the game from the foul line.

Short-handed Thunder side lose to the Student Riders

A short-handed Worthing Thunder got their NBL Division 1 double-header on the road off to a rough start as they went down 86-64 to Loughborough Student Riders at Loughborough University on Saturday night.

It was always going to be a tough night for Worthing against a full strength Loughborough side. Daniel Hildreth’s side were without starter Brendan Okoronkwo who twisted his ankle during Wednesday’s practice session along with Louis Allen, Ian Marshall, Darren Sealy and Wayne Kitenge. And despite strong efforts in the final quarter, Thunder go into tomorrow’s clash with Lancashire Spinners needing to win to move away from the relegation spots.

Lyonell Gaines paced Worthing with a double-double of 32 points and 12 rebounds with Tom Ward adding 11 and Hosana Kitenge amassing nine points and six rebounds. The loss though keeps Thunde rthird from bottom ahead of tomorrow’s trip to Myerscough College.

“Credit to Loughborough they came out and put it on us from the get go, we knew the press was coming and how to counter it but unfortunately we got caught up rushing shots and were too static which led to a number of fast breaks for the hosts,” coach Hildreth explained afterwards.

“Despite the slow start we slowly clawed our way into contention down by six points before an onslaught turned the game on its head. Having only amassed 19 points at half time it was back to the drawing board and we did ourselves justice in the second half. We moved the ball much better and played defence like we need to in order to compete at this level. Again credit to Loughborough as every time we made a mini run they seemed to hit a big three late in the shot clock to keep us at bay.”

Josh Ward-Hibbert led the Student Riders with 29 points. This win keeps them in fifth spot in the NBL Division 1 table. 

The visitors did not get off to the best start, falling behind 7-0 before Kitenge got Worthing on the board with a basket inside. The Student Riders however raced into a 12-2 lead before settling on a 19-9 lead after the first quarter.

Worthing began the second period positively as scores from Gaines and Luke Attfield kept Thunder in touch, however, a basket by Brighton-born Lucien Christofis kept the Student Riders double-digit lead and as the quarter progressed, Worthing’s deficit grew as they were held to just ten points and trailed 47-19 at the break.

The hosts stretched their lead to 50-19 at the start of the third before Jack Sunderland scored in traffic to get Worthing off and running in the third. Thunder had limited resources though as a fresh Loughborough side defensively held their own and as a result of their solid defence, scored easy buckets at the other end.

Gaines and Sunderland kept Worthing respectable as the third quarter went on but the Student Riders had a comfortable 70-39 cushion after three.

Determined to make the score even more respectable, Worthing started the fourth on an 8-2 run but everytime Thunder made a mini run, the Riders countered with three-pointers as they kept their lead above 20 points to secure the win.

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