Worthing Thunder advanced to the National Basketball League, Division 1 Playoffs; finishing in seventh after beating Newham Neptunes 103-81 at the University of East London’s SportsDock on Saturday afternoon.
Thunder will travel to the league’s runners-up Derby Trailblazers in the quarter-finals next Saturday night after Team Northumbria, Kent Crusaders and Reading Rockets all lost in other games played elsewhere tonight.
While the scoreline suggests a comfortable win, it was anything but for Worthing as they came up against a scrappy but incredibly hard-working Newham side who only turned up with five players.
Those five players though took the game to Thunder throughout, but the hosts’ predictable demise was complete when they were reduced to four players after a player got fouled out with over three minutes left. That allowed Worthing to go on a 13-0 run to seal the game and a place in the post-season.
Milton Chavis led the way with 28 points and 9 rebounds. Hank Rivers added 24 points and 16 rebounds with Louis Allen hitting 12 points, all of them three-pointers.
While Thunder coach Daniel Hildreth wasn’t happy with the performance itself, the main goal was to win, and he got that.
“At the end of the day, the win was what we came here for and we did that,” Hildreth said. “I said to the guys that Newham might have five guys only but they will fight and compete until the final buzzer and they did.
“They are a team that scraps, plays in complete chaos but it works for them and they have beaten some great teams this season.I’m glad we have the win that we needed though and we will be ready for the Playoffs for sure.”
Wayne Yeboah led Newham with 31 points.
Rivers got Thunder off to the perfect start inside with two easy buckets and as the quarter progressed Worthing continued to spread the ball around with ease allowing for easy shots from deep.
That then gave the visitors breathing space as a three from Allen handed Worthing a 23-13 lead with three minutes of the first period remaining. Despite playing with five players, Newham finished strong and made the score respectable, but Thunder maintained their lead at 28-22.
Newham, relying solely on isolation plays found gaps in Thunder’s defence at the start of the second and managed to reduce the gap to 31-26 early in the quarter.
Thunder though responded and managed to get it back to 36-26 thanks to a thunderous one-hand slam from Chavis. Neptunes though found a way back into the game and a 10-0 run helped them slim the deficit to 42-39, forcing coach Hildreth into a timeout.
Chavis and Selby Hind-Wills guided Thunder through the last minute of the second, which allowed them to keep their noses in front at the half at 46-41.
In another attempt to claim a double-digit lead, Thunder began the brighter of the two sides in the third and they were rewarded when a three-pointer from Allen, two minutes into the quarter gave the visitors a 55-44 lead.
Newham were once again quick, as they chipped away at Thunder’s advantage slowly but surely. The majority of Neptunes’ scoring ended up coming from steals and despite free throws from Selby Hind-Wills to end the quarter, Thunder only led 67-61.
A three-pointer to begin the final quarter made it a one-possession game and the large contingent of Thunder fans were beginning to get a little nervous. But seven points from Chavis in a 7-2 run gave the visitors some more breathing room and when the Neptunes were reduced to four players, Worthing took full advantage.