Worthing Thunder began their weekend up in the north-east with a deserved 95-89 win over Team Newcastle University in an NBL Division 1 clash at the Benfield Centre on Saturday evening.

Thunder heads into Sunday’s vital clash against Team Northumbria full of confidence as they executed down the stretch to seal the win in a game where neither team led by as many as seven points. The win also gives Worthing breathing room over fourth-placed Hemel Storm, who lost at home to Thunder’s opponents tomorrow in Hemel Hempstead tonight.

Marquis Mathis exploded for 35 points to lead the winners, including a game-sealing two-hand dunk in the final 35 seconds of play. Zaire Taylor was his usual productive self with 26 points, eight rebounds and five assists with Jorge Ebanks posting a double-double of 15 points and 12 assists.

Plus with Thunder short-handed up north this weekend, without the services of Luke Attfield, Aiman Rezk, Tom Ward and to an extent Josh Goddard, with the latter travelling and managing to play 1:14 despite suffering a dislocated finger in midweek, Worthing were more reliant on their juniors than usual and Naz Aburamadan certainly staked his claim for increased minutes as the youngster posted 10 points and three rebounds in 16:02 of action.

“We came into the week knowing we were going to be short-handed but we all just committed to communicating and figuring things out,” said Mathis. “We had a solid game plan and for the most part knew how they wanted to play.

“We just focused on our game plan and withstood their runs and came back with our own. The communication with a major key tonight for the victory. Also, we got big minutes out of Naz down the stretch also so shout out to him.”

Patrick Wrencher led Newcastle University with 34 points and 17 rebounds.

Mathis hit his first three shots for Thunder in an open first quarter that saw both sides score rather freely. An 8-0 run by the hosts gave them a 22-17 lead but Thunder, led by Mathis and the steady influence of Ebanks at the point guard spot made sure that Worthing came back and a buzzer-beating floater from Taylor tied the scores at 27-27 after one.

A 7-0 run by Thunder in the early stages of the second quarter inspired by captain Brendan Okoronkwo gave them a 40-35 lead as they looked to build on the lead with solid defence, turned into transition. However, Newcastle, heavily reliant on their three-point shooting 29 overall, connecting on just eight were climbing their way back into contention through their long-range aim. The visitors though hung on to take a 52-48 cushion at the break.

But Newcastle immediately reduced the deficit and soon enough tied the game at 54-54 thanks to free throws from Wrencher, who was causing Thunder all sorts of problems inside. Consecutive scores from Mathis restored Worthing’s lead but the hosts ran their plays through Wrencher who almost single-handedly gave his side a narrow 70-68 lead after three.

Taylor though had other ideas, as a 7-0 run early in the final ten minutes, all scored by him gave Thunder the lead again and with the game close in the final 1:20,  Aburamadan stepped up and drained a three-pointer to hand Thunder a 90-86 lead with Mathis adding the finishing touch with a dunk to ice the game.

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