Smith setting sights on chasing down Thunder

Sussex Bears coach Gary Smith is targeting league matches with neighbours Worthing Thunder in the future. Picture by Andre Nichols
Sussex Bears coach Gary Smith is targeting league matches with neighbours Worthing Thunder in the future. Picture by Andre Nichols

Sussex Bears coach Gary Smith believes that future games at Sir Robert Woodard Academy against neighbours Worthing Thunder could become a reality after a solid start to life in the National League Division 2.

Bears currently sit third in the Division 2 standings with a 4-2 record, in what is their first-ever season at this particular standard.

The top-two teams will go up and, while it’s too early to talk about promotion, Bears coach Smith wants Division 1 basketball at the Academy - which could bring with it league matches against the well-established Thunder.

He said: “We are a growing club and for me, I want to make sure we have the foundations laid out. We have 15 teams here, 12 of which are junior teams.

“It was important to be promoted to Division 2 and I don’t want to jump the gun because we are getting a feel for this league but if we had that scenario, it would be great for Sussex basketball. It’s what a lot of Bears fans and Thunder fans want and it’s what I want naturally.

“But for now, our goal is to compete in Division 2 and be in with a shot of promotion. There are a lot of great teams here. But if we stay in the top half and work hard then games against Worthing could be real.”

The focus for Smith and Bears at present is mounting a Division 2 promotion push.

A hard-fought home 79-70 win over Derbyshire Arrows on Saturday moved them in to the top-three.

Smith was ejected after committing two technical fouls but was pleased Bears saw things out.

He added: “Basketball is all about runs and we had ours, which put us up by as many as 17, but then they had their run which made it a close game.

“After I went, the guys showed tremendous heart and got some stops and yes they were fired up after that and it played a factor.”

n Worthing Thunder’s away woes continued as they went down 91-89 in a thrilling National League Division 1 clash at Hemel Storm on Sunday.

Thunder went on an 18-0 run from the end of the third quarter leading in to the force and final, as they opened up a 79-69 advantage.

With Worthing seemingly on their way to victory, Hemel head coach Robert Youngblood called a time out, which changed the game.

The match was finely poised at 89-89 when Wayne Yeboah got the winning basket with just 15.1 seconds left on the clock.

Thunder head coach Daniel Gayle felt the last-gasp defeat was tough to take.

He said: “It was tough, we had the lead but fatigue due to Hemel’s physical nature played a part.

“Scoring-wise it seemed that we had no-one else to relive Zaire (Taylor), Brendan (Okoronkwo) and Jorge (Ebanks). Some of the stuff they did was outstanding. The others played their part but couldn’t seem to put the points on the board.

“However, we had our lapses as well which played a factor in our loss.

“We played a Hemel side that look like they will be up there this season, coming within seconds of beating them.”