Worthing Thunder bid farewell to the National Basketball League, Division 1 season after a 92-83 loss to Derby Trailblazers in the quarter-finals of the Playoffs at Noel Baker School on Saturday night.
The tip-off of the game was delayed by 15 minutes due to a road traffic accident on the M25, resulting in Thunder’s players and travelling fans getting to the venue late. Once the contest got going, Thunder started solidly, but once again fell victim to a third quarter collapse.
As a result, Worthing trailed by as many as 16 points early in the fourth. They were able to narrow the gap to single digits late on, but found themselves with too much to do.
Hank Rivers led Thunder with an impressive haul of 23 points and 20 rebounds; Louis Allen added 21 and Milton Chavis’ first season overseas concluded with 19.
Afterwards, coach Daniel Hildreth reflected on what has been a solid season, where Thunder reached the National Cup semi-finals, Trophy quarter-finals and a return to the Playoffs after missing out last term.
“It’s a shame that our season has ended, but the positive from this season as a whole is just how competitive it has been,” Hildreth said. “It was a league where any team could beat anyone, proof of that was that we did the double over the league champions, bottom side Newham beat Manchester and Reading, you know so it has been really interesting.
“For us, looking back, there were games that should have won and things that you think about and say to yourself, ‘we should have done better’ but our goal was to make the Playoffs and we did that. The effort shown tonight was fantastic and the support we got tonight from the travelling fans was immense, but it just wasn’t our day.”
Chris Shelvoy led Derby with 30 points with Raheem Thompson-May adding 26.
Allen was on fire to begin proceedings as he hit three straight 3-pointers to give Thunder an early 9-2 lead and it seemed that the visitors were dictating the tempo of the game as Milton Chavis scored for an 11-6 advantage.
Derby though found their grove and inspired by Shelvoy, led 14-13. Thunder finished the first period strong though and a lob in the half-court from Brendan Okoronkwo was caught by Chavis for the slam to give Worthing a 22-19 lead.
The duo of Thompson-May and Shelvoy helped Derby tie the game up at 24-24 as Thunder struggled to re-create the positive start that they did in the first exchanges. Rivers and Chavis kept the visitors in front but Derby looked the more threatening of the two sides.
And sure enough the Trailblazers found a way through thanks to Thompson-May, who handed Derby a 39-36 lead at the half.
Derby hit the first two buckets of the third quarter before Allen opened Thunder’s account from deep, Derby maintained their lead in the early stages of the third but couldn’t find any daylight as Tomas Seduikis was fed the ball inside by Brendan Okoronkwo for a nice bucket inside.
Late on though, Thunder left holes in the defence and as a result, Derby were able to take advantage and open up a 54-44 lead. Back-to-back three-pointers from Chavis gave Thunder confidence but the visitors found themselves 64-56 behind with 10 minutes still to play.
The Trailblazers continued their onslaught to start the fourth, and a three-point play from Thompson-May gave the hosts a 76-60 cushion with 7:28 left to play. Worthing resorted to a full-court press, which worked on the whole, but unfortunately they left themselves with too much to do and their season came to a halt.