Team Solent Kestrels marked their first ever trip to the NBL Division 1 Playoff Final with a resounding 100-81 victory over Worthing Thunder.
With every player on Solent’s eight-man roster getting at least one basket, it was a great team performance by the Kestrels in a high tempo and occasionally chippy Final. That edge didn’t hinder the D1 regular season champs though as they won all four quarters to seal a historic win for their programme.
The Final’s MVP award went to Solent’s Travis Charles after the powerful forward scored a game high 25 points, tacking on 10 rebounds for the double-double.
The Final was everything that fans would have expected from a clash between local rivals and the top two D1M sides from the regular season, with high intensity and physicality from the get go. Herm Senor II (22 points, eight rebounds, 12 assists, two steals) flashed his quickness as he and MVP Charles both went to work attacking the Worthing rim. A pair of triples from Worthing’s Alex Owumi (12 points, four rebounds, two assists) helped keep Thunder in touch but it was Solent who led 25-21 after 1.
The intense pace continued into the 2nd quarter as the score line remained even, with both teams looking for a way to push ahead. National Trophy Final MVP Jorge Ebanks (20 points, eight rebounds, 10 assists, three steals) was trying to control the game from the point for Worthing, but the Kestrels wouldn’t budge. A 9-0 run in the half’s final few minutes did help Solent enjoy a small advantage before the break, leading 49-43 after a high-octane half.
S E N I O R F I N A L S.🏆— NBL (@NBLengland) April 28, 2019
Travis Charles knocks one down for @SolentKestrels as they lead @WorthingThunder by 10!
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Despite the chance to rest and regroup, the break left Worthing’s offence out of sync. That meant Solent could push ahead further, enjoying their first double digit lead of the Final midway through the 3rd quarter. Sensing that they might be falling into a hole they couldn’t climb out of, the Thunder finally found a way to click into gear behind six points from Ebanks and six more from captain Brendan Okoronkwo (17 points, three rebounds) reducing the deficit to leave the score balanced at 69-62 Solent after 3.
With Worthing on the charge, fans were desperate for a blockbuster finish to wrap up the NBL season. Unfortunately, they’d be disappointed as Thunder’s roster simply ran out of steam. Ebanks, Zaire Taylor (20 points, 10 rebounds, three assists) and Owumi all played north of 39 minutes and that took a toll against the speed of Senor, the power of Charles and Solent’s relentless effort on the glass (winning that battle 55-34). Taking the final frame 31-19 provided Solent with a comfortable margin of victory as they enjoyed themselves in the game’s closing minutes. Even a late game spat between Owumi and Charles couldn’t halt the Kestrels’ party as they put the finishing touches on a historic double winning season.
Team Solent Kestrels MVP Travis Charles: “It’s been a long road, coming from the States and being recruited to come here, it’s all a blur. This feels so good, man. It’s not just me though, I got Playoff Final MVP but it was really a team effort.”
Worthing Thunder player/coach Josh Goddard: “I feel like our shots weren’t falling and our game plan, we didn’t stick to it as well as we could have. I think if you combine those two and that’s where the game was lost. As a game of basketball, someone has to lose but unfortunately that was us today.”