Thunder end play-off hopes

Leopards’ season ended in disappointment as they exited the Division One play-offs with a 107-85 loss at Worthing Thunder.
With a depleted side missing American forward Asante Sandiford and Andre Lavinier, and with coach Thomas Baker forced to kit up so they had the minimum eight players, the Big Cats found the high-scoring Thunder side too hot to handle.
In the absence of Asante Sandiford, Rory Winter stepped up to finish with a season-high 27 points and three rebounds. Sam Newman went agonisingly close to a triple double, draining five treys on the way to 19 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds. Lee Hodges had nine rebounds to go with his 17 points, Findlay Wood finished with 13 points and six assists, while Chuck Duru completed the scoring with nine points.
But the Big Cats had no answer to veteran American duo Zaire Taylor and Alex Owumni. Taylor finished with 34 points, ten rebounds and seven assists, while Owumni had 23 points and seven boards.
Hodges opened the visitors’ scoring before a Wood trey gave Leopards the lead with his first three-pointer, and Hodges dunked to for their final lead of the game.
But the hosts replied with an 11-2 run capped by a fast-break by former Leopard Ish Fontaine and the British guard sent his side into the first break with a 33-19 lead.
Triples from Wood and Newman saw the Big Cats cut the deficit to eight midway through the second period, but that was as close as they came as Thunder went into the locker room with a 58-45 lead.
Winter and Newman kept Leopards in touch during the first three minutes of the second half, but Thunder took control after that and Taylor closed out a 23-10 run to send his side into the final break with a commanding 87-62 lead.
Hodges, who was double-teamed all night in the absence of Sandiford, carved open the home defence three time in the early minutes of the fourth period, and Duru hit a triple to cut the lead to 19.
But despite eight points from Winter and a couple of decent jump shots from Wood, that was as good as it got as Leopards’ season came to a close.