Worthing Thunder defeated Derby Trailblazers 81-74 in a physical NBL Division 1 battle at the Worthing Leisure Centre on Saturday night.

Once the game began, 40 minutes later than the originally planned time of 7:30 pm due to Derby being stuck in traffic, Thunder gained the upper hand early but were constantly pegged back by a stubborn Trailblazers outfit who took the lead in the fourth quarter, but guided by captain Brendan Okoronkwo, Thunder regained the advantage and sealed the win.

“It was a funny game,” Coach D said afterwards. “I’m glad we came away with the win in the end but we were made to work hard. We didn’t shoot the ball as well as we could have but we made our run in the end and it gives us momentum heading into tomorrow’s trip against Loughborough.”

Okoronkwo led Thunder with 27 points, shooting 73 percent from the field, good enough for the Barkers Tarring MVP award. Zaire Taylor added 21 points, seven rebounds, seven assists and four steals with Jorge Ebanks amassing 11 points and five steals.

Kadeem Thompson led Derby with 18 points.

Thunder understandably took advantage of a Derby team that only had 20 minutes to warm-up and pressed them for the majority of the first quarter. And the press worked at the start as they scored in transition and off numerous Trailblazers turnovers. However, Thompson was on fire for the visitors as he scored his team’s first 11 points to tied the scores at 11-11. Worthing though had the lead at the end of the first at 24-18 thanks to Taylor scoring near the end of the buzzer.

Worthing carried on where they left off to start the second as they scored the first three baskets of the quarter to lead 31-18. The Trailblazers though settled into their rhythm as they scored inside to keep the deficit to ten points. A score from Tom Ward followed by a basket inside from Josh Goddard though gave the hosts a 48-37 lead at the break.

Coach D though was forced to call a timeout just a couple of minutes into the third quarter as a triple from Matt Ward-Hibbert reduced the gap to single figures at 50-43. The timeout though had no effect as Derby attacked the basket and found the basket as well with a score from Leome Francis narrowing the gap to just a point. Scores from Marquis Mathis and Taylor though made sure that the hosts had a two-shot lead after three quarters at 65-61.

That four-point lead though was wiped out by Francis, who scored back-to-back to hand the visitors their first lead since the first period. Thunder though responded with a game-changing 12-3 run to give them the lead at 81-72, which they would not relinquish.

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