Thunder battle bravely in home loss

Tom Ward in action against Manchester Magic on Saturday

Tom Ward in action against Manchester Magic on Saturday

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Worthing Thunder Basketball Club were unable to exact revenge for January’s National Cup final loss when they bravely fell 75-67 to Manchester Magic in National League Division 1 on Saturday.

Despite defeat, Thunder could take a great deal of pride as they pushed the leaders to the limit, shooting 14 out of 15 from the foul line in what was a vast improvement on the previous games but in the end Manchester just about had enough to see the game out.

James Cambronne led Worthing with 20 points, 16 rebounds, five steals and five blocks, which won him the MVP award and Brendan Okoronkwo added 16 points.

Thunder coach Daniel Hildreth explained afterwards that his opposite number Paul Middleton congratulated him on a fantastic performance, saying that it was the toughest game that they had been involved in this season.

Regardless though, Worthing fall to 6-13 in the league standings, while Manchester stay top with just one loss this season.

Hildreth said: “We competed hard tonight and were unfortunate but I’m proud of how we played against a team that are favourites to win it all this year.

“We worked on our free throws this week and it paid dividends, our long range shooting was a little off but otherwise, I was proud of how we performed. Credit to Manchester, though, they have a deep team, loaded with talent and they showed their worth tonight.”

Thunder led 21-18 at the end of the first quarter but they struggled to get into any rhythm in the second period. Manchester raced clear with a 14-0 run, with nine of those points coming from Ellis Cooper. Louis Allen halted the run with a three-pointer but the visitors maintained their lead at 43-36 at half-time.

Three-pointers from Okoronkwo and Tom Ward to start the third narrowed the gap to 43-42 and after Magic were only able to add another point to their tally, Cambronne responded to tie the scores at 44-44.

Manchester, thanks to Cooper and Lizaur Alacom, managed to steer the visitors back into the ascendency but Worthing kept their interest going into the fourth quarter, trailing 56-55.

Foul shots to start the quarter by Ward tied the game at 57-57 but as the period progressed, Manchester gradually built a six-point lead thanks to a basket from Simon Anumba. Ward answered with back-to-back scores but the visitors maintained their lead in the final minutes and held on for their 16th league win of the season.

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