Thunder See-off Plymouth Marjon
Worthing Thunder made it two wins from two games for this weekend, as they defeated lower league Plymouth Marjon 87-76 to advance to the third round of the National Cup.
In an overall scrappy encounter, played at the University of Chichester’s Bishop Otter Campus, American Marcus Tullis led all scorers for the second night running with 27 points and nine rebounds. Courtney Small, who had only been back in England for four hours got 18 points and captain James Brame secured a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Tullis admits not knowing too much about the opposition beforehand but praised the Plymouth side for making life difficult for Worthing.
“(Plymouth) were kind of an unknown team so we had to get used to that defensively and guarding someone with discipline,” Tullis said. “Overall though it was a good game, we played hard, we fought the whole game and we came out with the win.”
It took nearly two minutes for either team to get the ball rolling, as a floater in traffic from Brame gave Worthing the early lead and it was Thunder’s leader who tied the game at four, following back-to-back buckets from the Marjon.
Buckets were traded as both teams seemed to be sizing each other up, but Thunder eventually took some form of initiative as Adam Martin scored inside to give Thunder a 10-6 lead at the mid-way point.
Worthing extended their lead to six thanks to a bucket from Small, and they managed to keep it at six for the remainder of the first quarter – and it was made more comforting when Small connected inside to give Thunder a 22-14 lead at the end of the first ten minutes.
Thunder looked to be pulling away as Small scored again to give Worthing its first double-digit advantage at 29-19, but Plymouth responded, as Adam Hitchell connected from three-point land to cut the deficit to 29-24. Martin scored off his own miss to make it 31-24, but Thunder was looking a bit edgy as Plymouth played excellent team basketball throughout.
Vinnie Darpino, who won the game the night before against Westminster connected from the top of the key to give Thunder a 33-24 cushion, but the visitors stayed in touch and despite a Liam Mitchell triple in the final minute of the half scored with 27 seconds remaining as Daniel Taylor connected for two. Thunder kept the lead at the half at 38-32.
The third period saw Tullis open the scoring to give Thunder an eight-point lead, but the visitors fought back, determined not to fall back any further, as Matt Peard tipped in off his own miss.
Tullis was a man possessed though, scoring eight points in a 12-2 surge that gave Thunder a 54-41 lead. A run that also saw two dunks from Mitchell from the baseline as Thunder finally looked to of broken the
Plymouth Marjon resistance, but the Devon outfit came back as Shane Hennessy attacked and finished with a devastating one-hand slam in traffic that seemed to lift their spirits as Thunder looked shell-shocked.
The introduction of youngster Jack Sunderland though was a welcome one, as he drove inside beautifully and finished calmly off the glass to restore Thunder’s 12-point lead. Hennessy though had other plans, as his two-pointer with a second remaining brought it back to single-digits heading to the final ten minutes (62-53).
Both teams opened the fourth with three-pointers, Brame drew first blood and Hennessy responded. Thunder though struggled from the line as Tullis scored plus the foul, but missed the resulting foul shot, their sixth miss in six attempts. Thunder had the lead at 70-60, but Marjon would score five unanswered to narrow the gap to 70-65.
The visitors even forced Thunder into an eight second violation, as Worthing struggled to get the ball out of their own half. Darpino though steadied the ship, and brought Thunder home, as he hit five points unanswered with over a minute remaining to give the hosts an 82-69 lead and confirm Plymouth’s exit from the National Cup.
“It was a good win but make no mistake, we are still learning but we a lot of good things,” Thunder coach Gary Smith said afterwards. “Defensively it was nice especially in the second half to get some stops down the stretch and at the same time execute on the offensive end.
“Our free throw shooting wasn’t good enough and it is most definitely something to work on but overall, we’re getting there and I’m happy that we’ve come away with two wins and we can take a lot out these two performances.”