Worthing Thunder battled in the fourth quarter but ultimately lost out to Loughborough Student Riders 91-75 on the Loughborough University campus on Sunday afternoon.

Trailing 78-56 at the end of three quarters of play, Thunder were struggling. But they fought their way back into contention, narrowing the gap to 12 points at one point. However, the Student Riders held Worthing at bay for the remainder as they consolidate top spot in NBL Division 1.

Thunder, despite a game-high 28 points and eight rebounds from Zaire Taylor were undone in rebounds and second-chance opportunities as the Riders outrebounded Worthing 48-34 and conceded 21 second-chance points.

Brendan Okoronkwo posted 21 points and Marquis Mathis added 20 in a day to forget for Worthing who were without starting point guard Jorge Ebanks, who had a groin problem.

“Credit to Loughborough today, they executed really well and spread the ball around so that everyone got good looks and defensively they were strong, they jammed the paint making it hard for us to get good looks,” Coach D said afterwards.

“We had moments where we played good basketball but we were not consistent enough at both ends, whereas they were and they got the job done.”

Former BAHSVIC student Lucien Christofis led Loughborough with 19 points. Former Thunder players Max Richardson and Hosana Kitenge put up 12 and four points, respectively.

Both teams traded buckets as Loughborough’s inside presence was matched by Worthing’s mix of individual drives to the hoop and three-point execution. However, the hosts used their quickness to gain numerous second-chance opportunities and a triple from Taylor was met with an 8-0 run from the Student Riders allowing them to build into a 29-16 lead after one.

Thunder were slow to get out of the blocks in the second quarter as Student Riders’ lead ballooned to 39-19 thanks to a score from Sesan Russell. Worthing though gradually chipped away at the deficit, slowly getting more and more stops guided by Okoronkwo and as time expired at the end of the half, Taylor drained a step-back jumper to narrow Loughborough’s lead to 53-44.

The hosts though scored the first eight points of the third quarter, led by Richardson. Okoronkwo hit back but for Thunder - nothing was falling - as Loughborough’s lead increased once again as they headed into the fourth quarter 78-56 ahead with the visitors, having it all to do.

Worthing though were not letting the giant task overcome them. Led by Taylor and Mathis, they narrowed the gap to 82-70 thanks to a lay-up by the latter with 4:20 to go. But despite renewed belief, Thunder couldn’t add much more to their total, as Loughborough came away with the spoils.

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