Thunder’s season ends away to Derby

Hank Rivers sank 23 points in Thunder's defeat to Derby on Saturday
Hank Rivers sank 23 points in Thunder's defeat to Derby on Saturday

WORTHING Thunder Basketball Club’s season came to a close when they lost 92-83 at Derby Trailblazers in the quarter-finals of the National League Division 1 play-offs on Saturday.

The tip-off was delayed by 15 minutes owing to a road traffic accident on the M25, which resulted in Thunder’s players and travelling fans getting to the venue late.

Once the contest got going, Thunder started solidly, but again fell victim to a third quarter collapse. As a result, Worthing trailed by 16 points early in the fourth. Although they were able to narrow the gap to single digits late on, Thunder found themselves with too much to do.

Hank Rivers led Thunder with 23 points and 20 rebounds, Louis Allen added 21 points and Milton Chavis’s first season overseas concluded with 19 points.

Afterwards, coach Daniel Hildreth reflected on what has been a solid season, where Thunder reached the National Cup semi-finals, National Trophy quarter-finals and returned to the play-offs after missing out last season.

He said: “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.

“It was a league where any team could beat anyone, proof of that was that we did the double over the league champions, while bottom side Newham beat Manchester and Reading, so it has been really interesting.

“For us, looking back, there were games that we 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 play-offs 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.”

Allen was on fire to begin proceedings as he hit three straight three-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 a 11-6 advantage.

Derby soon found their grove and, inspired by Chris Shelvoy, led 14-13. Thunder finished the first period strongly 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 Raheem Thompson-May and Shelvoy helped Derby tie the game up at 24-24 as Thunder struggled to recreate 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.

Thompson-May handed Derby a 39-36 lead at half-time and Derby then 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 could not find any daylight as Tomas Seduikis was fed the ball inside by Okoronkwo for a bucket inside.

Late in the stanza, 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 ten 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 7min 28sec left to play.

Worthing resorted to a full-court press, which worked on the whole, but they had left themselves too much to do.

Derby will meet Manchester Magic in the play-off semi-finals in Sheffield on Saturday, while Kent Crusaders will face Essex Leopards. The final then takes place on Sunday.