WORTHING Thunder Basketball Club advanced into the National Cup final after they won 86-83 away to Loughborough Student Riders on Sunday evening.
Worthing will face Manchester Magic at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield on January 24, looking to win their first ever National Cup crown, which would then complete the set of Basketball England titles that Thunder have won since they started up in 1999.
They nearly lost their chance in the latter stages of the fourth quarter when Worthing saw their 19-point cushion shrink to just a point with 7.9 seconds left. Luckily for Thunder, they had possession and Harrison Gamble was forced to foul Louis Allen, who hit both foul shots to seal the win.
James Cambronne led Thunder with 27 points and 16 rebounds, supported by Tom Ward, who hit 22 points.
Brendan Okoronkwo carried on where he left off on Saturday night by amassing a double-double of 13 points and 13 rebounds.
Thunder coach Daniel Hildreth said: “I’ve never been so proud of my team to get to a final.
“This team is one of the most deserving to reach a final and in this game against a talented team regardless of what division they play in, they put their bodies on the line and even though they gave up a big lead, they responded well and got the job done.
“We go into the final as underdogs against Manchester, who beat us on their court. But in a one-off game we can play to our abilities and, even though we are underdogs, we can use that to our advantage.”
Raheem May-Thompson led Loughborough Student Riders with 35 points and 17 rebounds.
The second division Student Riders got off to the better start, with May-Thompson inspiring the hosts to a 24-19 lead after the first quarter.
After trailing 38-31 in the early stages of the second, which forced Hildreth to call a time-out, the visitors responded well and managed to take a one-point lead into half-time.
Thunder then played some of their best defence of the season, limiting the Riders options on offence and they built a 73-59, which ballooned to 19 points towards the end of the third quarter.
The hosts narrowed the deficit in the fourth, which left Worthing to endure a nervy last three minutes, before sealing the game from the line.
Thunder had defeated Bradford Dragons 84-80 in the league on Saturday.
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