Worthing Thunder outlasted Tees Valley Mohawks 85-79 in a must-win National Basketball League, Division 1 clash at the Worthing Leisure Centre on Saturday night.
Thunder enjoyed numerous double-digit leads throughout the game but their most important advantage came late in the fourth quarter when three-pointers from Louis Allen and Brendan Okoronkwo gave them a 79-72 lead, which they never relinquished.
It was a deserved win for Worthing, who maintain their Playoff spot ahead of next Saturday’s vital game away to Hemel Storm.
Milton Chavis led Thunder with 28 points with Hank Rivers amassing 27 points and 16 rebounds, the latter earning Barkers Tarring MVP honours.
“This week we just said we were going to go out there and play hard,” Rivers said afterwards. “The x’s and o’s are always there and always talk about playing hard in third and fourth quarters but we normally just sit down and chill because we’re up by a few points but we didn’t this week.”
Thunder coach Daniel Hildreth was proud of Thunder’s determination in the latter stages of the game, which helped his side chalk up their first win in five games.
“There was something said at half-time that spurred the guys on to come out aggressively at the start of the third quarter and that worked,” Hildreth explained. “There was a level of intensity that we came out on the defensive end, and the stops gave us buckets at the other end.
“The game plan worked to a point and ultimately I’m just pleased that we’re back on winning ways.”
Romann Nelson led Tees Valley with 22 points. Bryan Hockaday added 20 points and 19 rebounds.
Okoronkwo got Thunder off the board with a singular free throw but the visiting Mohawks began the brighter, as they raced out to a 7-1 lead. The duo of Rivers and Chavis got the hosts back into the game as they looked to counter Tees Valley’s overall speed.
But it was the sharp shooting Allen that gave Thunder its first lead of the game from three-point land, and it was the Southampton-based guard that ignited an 11-0 finish to the first quarter as Worthing enjoyed a 22-19 lead.
Despite the hosts’ hot form towards the end of the first period, they all of a sudden went cold in the second, as Tees Valley snatched the lead back thanks to Jonathan Faulds and Charles Rhodes.
Worthing finally got off the mark with 6:28 left in the half thanks to back-to-back buckets from Rivers and from there, the hosts played with confidence and they forced Tees Valley into numerous turnovers, holding them to just 9 points in the second and Thunder themselves ended the half with an 8-0 spurt to lead 36-28.
As the third quarter began, the look on the faces of the Thunder five that walked on to the court was focused – determined not to repeat last week’s collapse against Reading – and thanks to Rivers, the hosts did just that. He scored 8 points in a little under four minutes to give Worthing a 46-34 cushion.
The Mohawks did not want to fade away though, and with the nippy guard Nelson in devastating form towards the end of the period, they found a way back. Thunder’s lead was only 56-54 heading into the final quarter.
And that advantage was quickly erased when Nelson hit from deep to start the final quarter. But Worthing refused to let Mohawks confidence-booster get the better of them and buckets from Chavis and Rivers gave Worthing a 63-57 lead.
Tees Valley pushed once more, but Thunder had a final answer and kept their lead for good.
Watch the highlights of Thunder’s six point victory right here.