Worthing Thunder made it five wins in a row with an 80-75 victory away at PAWS London Capital.
Vinnie Darpino led Thunder with 24 points and led Worthing throughout the game, Hank Rivers put in another double-double performance of 21 points and 11 rebounds. London’s Kaleston Wood led all scorers with 28 points
Thunder hand Capital their sixth defeat out of six games played. But the team that has lost every game by an average of 19 points made the game difficult for Thunder, especially in the closing stages.
Worthing though scored the last five points in the last minute, which included a big block from Francesco Amato, who denied Santa Ataha a clear lay-up with 15 seconds left with the score at 79-75.
Amato, who was a major doubt for this game after suffering all week with an illness then, split a pair of free-throws to ensure victory at Capital City Academy.
“He (Amato) sealed the deal at the end, great defender, made a smart play, he got himself in the right position, blocked the shot, kept it in, got fouled, game over,” James Brame, Thunder’s stand-in coach said.
“Frankie came off literally his death bed today, he has been feeling horrible recently, but he came through and showed real toughness when we needed it.”
Worthing was slow off the mark to start, Capital raced to a quick 4-0 lead thanks to back-to-back scores from Kaleston Wood. Marcus Tullis got Thunder off the mark and Rivers tipped in Courtney Small’s miss to trim the lead to one (4-3) early doors.
A 6-0 run mid-way through the first gave Thunder their first lead, Small scored in transition and an open two-handed dunk from Rivers off the feed from Tullis gave the visitors a 9-6 advantage. Darpino extended it to 11-7 after Wood hit one of his two foul shots at the other end.
It was a scrappy first period though, Thunder held on to lead 17-16 headed to the second quarter.
Thunder looked to build that lead in the second, as Rivers scored and Darpino hit a three-point to give Worthing a 22-16 lead. But the hosts went on a quick-fire 6-0 run led by Ibrahim Gariba to tie the game at 22.
Buckets were traded for the majority of the quarter, as both teams were trading buckets and trading some attitude at each end as well. Capital would gain the advantage as Santa Ataha scored six points in an 8-0 London run to give them a 36-29 lead with three minutes of the half left.
With Worthing on the ropes, Darpino stepped-up to maintain order for the visitors – he scored Thunder last seven points of the half, including a buzzer-beating three to trim Capital’s lead to just two points at the half (40-38) with Darpino leading all scorers with 18 at this point.
Darpino then carried on his good form, by stealing London’s inbound play to start the third and giving it up to Courtney Small, who converted the open lay-up to tie the game at 40. Gariba answered back with a hook shot over Tullis, who replied with a thunderous two-hand dunk to tie it again at 42.
The game would again resort to a very physical and scrappy style, both team turned it over and missed shots close-in. With the game tied at 46, Thunder regrouped and went on a 7-0 run, led by six points from Small to give Thunder a 51-46 lead with four minutes of the third to play.
Kaleston Wood then hit back for Capital with a triple from the baseline and after a baseline jumper from Darpino scored again, but had his feet on the three-point line, so it was given as a two-pointer.
Darpino was feeling it as he scored again to extend Thunder’s lead to 61-54, as we entered the last quarter.
Small opened the final period with a three-pointer, as Thunder enjoyed the biggest lead of the game at 64-54, and looked to build on that lead to see the game out.
Capital though had other ideas, and hit back. Wood hit another three to narrow the gap to 64-62. Thunder was holding on again.
Tullis though, again restored order, hitting back-to-back buckets to give Worthing a 68-62 lead. Unfortunately for Tullis, he then picked up his fourth foul and sat down.
Worthing again built the lead to three late on, as Tullis and Rivers combined excellently, and the latter finished off inside to give the visitors a 75-72 lead. Capital made it a nervous last few minutes, but Thunder held on for the win.
“I’ll take an ugly win any day and any time,” Brame stated. “It doesn’t matter if we play the worst basketball and look terrible. If we win every game, I’m happy.”