Worthing Thunder snatch National Trophy glory with late game heroics

Worthing Thunder managed to sneak past Loughborough Riders, claiming a narrow 84-80 win and the title of NBL National Trophy champions.

A see-saw encounter that Loughborough controlled for the most part, Worthing came on strong as the game wore on, eventually grabbing a lead in the 4th quarter. The reigning NBL Division One Playoff Champions wouldn’t let that position slip, hanging on for the win despite a late charge from the Riders.

The Final’s MVP Award went to Worthing’s Jorge Ebanks who really was a difference maker. He made numerous tough baskets at key moments, playing all 40 minutes to pad the stat sheet. He finished with 20 points, five

Despite the lofty position of both these sides in the current NBL Division One standings, the Trophy Final got off to a somewhat scrappy start. Loughborough would be the ones to click into gear first with guard Alex Roberts (16 points, six assists) contributing 11 of his team’s 27 points in the early going. Zaire Taylor (19 points, eight rebounds, five assists) got his day’s work underway in reply but Loughborough led 23-15 and then 27-20 by the end of 1.

The second quarter belonged to Loughborough’s Kyle Jimenez (21 points, three rebounds, two assists) as the talented guard scored 11 points, including a pair of triples, to spark an early 8-0 run. That pushed the Riders lead into double digits and only a last gasp shot on the buzzer from Thunder captain Brendan Okoronkwo (11 points, eight rebounds and three assists) would bring the difference below 10 to 44-35 by half time.

The interval brought about a change in fortunes for the South coast club as the contest slowly began to turn their way. Ebanks would continually find ways to score points, utilising his speed off the dribble and ability around the rim to score 12 in the quarter. That output reduced Loughborough’s lead from double digits to a single score, which is where the difference sat for most of the 3rd quarter.

That simply set the game up for a thrilling finish as Worthing finally managed to claw their way back level before moving into a winning position. Zaire Taylor showcased his ability with multiple baskets down the stretch, guard Kevin Mayo (11 points) adding a couple of timely triples and despite Loughborough’s resistance, the weight of offence finally told. Although Worthing held the lead for less than four minutes across the entire Final, they’d managed to get themselves ahead when it mattered most, right as the final buzzer sounded. It was a tough result for Loughborough to take but despite their early advantages, they were outscored in the 2nd half 49-36.

Worthing Thunder MVP Jorge Ebanks said: “It feels great to be named MVP. It wasn't my goal coming in, I just wanted to win. I was fortunate that I played really well and I'm happy with that. We have a lot of firepower on offence, it’s too many people and too many weapons to guard at one time. So long as we stuck together, it was always going to be tough to beat us.”

Loughborough Riders Head Coach Mark Jarram said: “Credit to Worthing, they were able in that 2nd half to get some stops and hurt us in transition, which was a key to the game. They were disruptive to our offence and did a better job of reducing our shot quality in the 2nd half to. I told the players after the game that these types of moments humble us, and we have to learn from it.”