Worthing Thunder 67 v 57 Hemel Storm
NBL Division One Men Playoff Final
Worthing Thunder took home the spoils in the NBL Division One Men Playoff Final, denying Hemel the opportunity to add more silverware to their season after January’s National Cup success. Worthing edged ahead early on and would never look back; despite Hemel mounting numerous challenges throughout.
Worthing were helped by an MVP performance from forward Marquis Mathis, who led all scorers with 26 points; while adding six rebounds. Hemel’s AJ Roberts was kept quiet early, but nearly finished with a triple-double as he had 10 points, nine rebounds and eight assists in the loss. Hemel were led in scoring by Michael Darlow who chipped in a 12 point, eight rebound performance.
In a team game made up of individual contests, Worthing generally had the best of the key exchanges. As Worthing’s Zaire Taylor (15 points, eight rebounds, three assists) matched up with Roberts and Mathis took on the height of Hemel’s Lee Greenan (six points, two boards) and Tom Adorian (six points, nine rebounds), the Thunder duo not only made timely plays on offence but also kept their opposite number under wraps when required.
“Zaire (Taylor) absolutely proved his worth today,” said Worthing Coach Daniel Gayle. “He showed quite a few times that he can play defence, he’s really good at getting stops and containing his man. It really does show the talent that he has.”
Both Taylor and Mathis were important to the Worthing offence in the first half, contributing 22 points to the Thunder’s total of 37. That allowed the South coast side to build a nine-point lead by the main change, but more importantly Taylor was keeping National Cup MVP Roberts quiet. Storm’s American talisman went 1/9 from the field in the first half.
“I thought early we had good tempo, getting the ball inside. They’re a small team so we wanted to guard the three-point line and make them put the ball on the floor,” said Hemel’s Coach Youngblood. “We wanted them to have to match up with us, with the height from Lee (Greenan) and Tom (Adorian). But we just couldn’t stay with their speed and we shot the ball horrendously today.”
Some silky ball movement from Worthing helped them open up a double digit advantage as the third quarter began, best highlighted by a behind the back drop pass from Thunder Captain Brendan Okoronkwo which led to a Taylor three pointer. Worthing enjoyed their biggest lead of the game as the quarter wore on, moving 18 points ahead, but Hemel finished the frame with a 9-0 run to reduce their arrears late on. Mathis popped up with a momentum halting three to end the quarter though, taking the score to 54-42 at the final break.
Hemel refused to let the interval slow them down, going on a 10-2 run over the first five minutes of the final quarter to pull within just four points. That spurred the Thunder into a 9-2 run of their own though and with less than 90 seconds to go, the result was effectively sealed. All that was left was for Mathis to thrill the crowd with a huge alley oop in the closing moments, an emphatic way to end Worthing’s 12 year wait for some NBL silverware.
“We went out to start the fourth and I told the team ‘Every game today has had a big comeback. Stay composed and do what you need to do,” laughed Coach Gayle. “Then the lid went on the basket and they just kept chipping away! But we did what was needed, stayed composed and finished strong.”