Worthing Thunder were made to sweat, but they began 2018 with an 84-73 win over Kent Crusaders in the NBL Division 1 clash at Barking Abbey School on Saturday afternoon.

Enjoying a comfortable 70-54 lead after the third quarter, Worthing were pegged back by a dogged Kent side who put Thunder in foul trouble early and as a result, Zaire Taylor fouled out, midway through the fourth with captain Brendan Okoronkwo following later on.

As a result, Jorge Ebanks, who was supposed to be rested for this game as he recovers from a shoulder injury played the final 4:29 and was amongst the players that iced the game from the foul line as Worthing sealed their seventh straight win in NBL Division 1 and for the time being, leap into second.

Zaire Taylor led the scoring with 30 points, eight rebounds and seven assists with Aiman Rezk adding 21 points as well as pulling down a season-high 21 rebounds and swatting away four Crusaders’ field goal attempts.

“I felt comfortable during the entire game up until the last quarter I knew they’d make a run,” Rezk said afterwards. “I was unsure if we could maintain the lead just with the inexperienced guys we had but we pulled together and came out with the W.

“Kent are a young talented team I thought it was going to be another close game between us like our first encounter with them. I’m just happy we started the year off right.”

James Grinham shot 41 percent from three-point land as he scored 16 points for the Thunder, including a timely triple towards the latter stages of the fourth to restore a double-digit lead, when the hosts had Thunder seemingly on the ropes.

Caleb Fuller led Kent with 29 points.

Rezk and Grinham immediately got Thunder off to a perfect start before they were pegged back by Kent. Taylor, who was slow to get off the mark gave Worthing a little breathing space as he scored back-to-back buckets followed by a three from Grinham put the visitors up 21-13, leading to a 23-16 cushion after the first.

Scores from Taylor and Grinham quickly put Worthing up by double-digits in the second as they scored at will against a Crusaders defence that could not contain a bigger Thunder line-up.

The sizeable cushion allowed Coach D to rotate his players, giving Naz McLoughlin and Luke Attfield more court time. By the end of the half, Thunder led 44-29.

Kent though would not go away and led by Pierce Maslen, they went on a 7-0 run, early in the third to cut Thunder’s lead to 51-41, which was swiftly ended by great link-up play between Josh Goddard and Rezk with the former getting the score.

Worthing found their rhythm again as they frequently out-rebounded a much smaller Crusaders line-up and with the visitors scoring regularly; they took a commanding 70-54 lead heading into the final quarter.

Despite the margin, Kent continued to attack Worthing and their award was getting Taylor and Okoronkwo fouled out of the game. Because of this, Ebanks, who is still recovering from his shoulder injury came on and steadied the ship for the final four minutes as Worthing sealed the win.


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