Worthing Thunder lost a heartbreaker 127-126 to Bradford Dragons after an intense period of overtime in an NBL Division 1 clash at Bradford College on Saturday evening.

In an exhilarating, high-scoring encounter, Worthing had their chances to get the win in regulation, but with no time on the clock, Zaire Taylor took the game to overtime with free throws. And with the Dragons leading the final seconds of the extra session thanks to foul shots from Disraeli Lufadeju, Thunder had the last possession.

But Taylor’s drive to the basket seemed to cut off by a sea of Bradford players which forced Taylor’s shot to be off-balanced. No foul was called by the referees as time expired.

Taylor led Thunder with 37 points, 11 rebounds and six assists. Marquis Mathis added 26 with Brendan Okoronkwo getting 24 but the loss has no doubt put a massive dent in Worthing’s hopes of a top-three place, especially as Team Northumbria beat Derby Trailblazers earlier in the day.

“It was a crushing loss,” said Coach D. “We had a few times to ice the game but our defence let us down and to give Bradford credit, they hit some remarkable shots. This loss cost us a top-two finish in the table so we have to dig deep to hold on to home court advantage in the playoffs.”

Marcus Gooding and Rihard Sulcs both had 34 points to lead Bradford.

The first quarter was free flowing with both teams scoring quickly. Thunder broke clear first as a three-pointer from Mathis gave the visitors an 11-5 lead in the first two minutes of the period. Bradford hit back, but led by Taylor and Mathis, Worthing maintained their lead and they maintained it throughout the opening ten minutes where they took a 32-29 lead.

The second period was slightly more of a tighter affair but despite it being closely-fought, both teams found no problems in putting the ball in the hoop. Gooding quickly tied the game up at 32-32 with a three-pointer, and Gooding again struck from distance to give his side the lead. Okoronkwo though levelled matters with a triple of his own.

Both teams played tug-of-war with the lead throughout the second, but Thunder held their own, holding a slender 58-55 advantage thanks to 19 points from Taylor.

Thunder kept hold of their lead and Okoronkwo stretched the advantage to six points in the first minutes of the third. But the hosts stepped up the gears and a score from Lufadeju gave Dragons a 74-73 lead. Jorge Ebanks momentarily handed the visitors pole position again, but Bradford simply couldn’t miss from the field, and at the end of the third, Worthing trailed 94-85.

However, Worthing clawed their way back in the fourth quarter, despite trailing for the majority of it. They levelled the game up late on, but the overtime session was to be in favour of Bradford, even though Taylor had the chance to win it at the end.


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