WORTHING Thunder Basketball team advanced to the second round of the National Cup by beating local side Crawley United at Worthing Leisure Centre on Saturday.
With Brendan Okoronkwo, Jakub Bogusz and Selby Hind Wills unavailable, and Milton Chavis ineligible, due to Worthing only being allowed to field one American against lower league sides, the EBL Division 1 outfit were short-handed against the Division 4 Crawley outfit, mostly made up of Lithuanians.
After hanging on to a 20-17 lead at the end of the first quarter, Thunder began the second period on a 10-0 run, while holding Crawley to just two points in seven minutes in the meantime.
Worthing’s lead grew to 34-19, thanks to a bucket inside from Hank Rivers and from there, Crawley ran out of ideas at both ends of the court.
Rivers led all scorers with 34 points and also added 15 rebounds to his statline, but youngster Alex Barbary was awarded the game’s MVP as he amassed six points, nine rebounds, five assists and three steals.
Crawley had started the game off aggressively, racing out to an early 6-0 lead and playing great team basketball. Worthing’s own Lithuanian, Tomas Seduikis, got Thunder off the mark with a three-point play.
Thunder then took the lead late in the first period at 17-15, thanks to Rivers and from there, Worthing never looked back.
The hosts’ lead slowly ballooned to 15 points in the second quarter as they limited Crawley’s second chance point opportunities and hitting them with sublime transition basketball resulting in easy baskets.
Worthing enjoyed a 39-28 cushion at the break, and the lead rose even further after three quarters as the hosts held Crawley to just 10 points, resulting in a 66-38 lead. Thunder coach Daniel Hildreth said: “Defensively, I thought we were fantastic today.
“There was a number of 24 shot clock violations for them. We really got after it and our main focus was pushing the ball and obviously in the three games we have played, we felt pushing the ball, fast break opportunities, create easy opportunities to score is our focus. We want high-tempo basketball.”
Thunder are at Worthing Leisure Centre again next Saturday when they square off against Kent Crusaders. Tip-off will be at 6pm.