Thunder’s game with old rivals Essex Leopards looked, on paper, to be potentially a very tough match up. The first half proved to be as expected as the Big Cats put the Thunder under continuous pressure from the start. At the centre of Thunder’s problems was ex-Hemel Storm, 7ft forward Lee Hodges, who caused no end of problems in the first twenty minutes. In a messy first period, the scores went back and forth as the teams sized each other up trading baskets. At the first break it was the home side who led by 4 points (24-20).
The Leopards began to press their size advantage home in the second quarter as Thunder began to turn the ball over more often. A combination of Hodges being influential and calls from the officials saw Thunder struggle. Thunder’s prolific player, Jorge Ebanks, had picked up three fouls by the halfway stage. Coming into the break, Leopards had a lead of 14 points; a late 2-pointer by Zaire Taylor still left Thunder down by 54-42 and the deficit was beginning to look worrying!
Thunder started the third period knowing something needed to be done. Within the first five minutes, Thunder had cut the Leopards’ lead to just 4 as the experienced duo of Zaire Taylor and Alex Owumi began to control things. Alex found his range from beyond the arc; hitting four threes and, along with Brendan outstanding in defence, things were looking better for the team from the South Coast. A big third quarter from Thunder saw the gap drop to just 2 points (74-72) at the final break as things were now definitely brighter for the title challengers.
Five early points from Alex saw Thunder into a lead as they began to apply the pressure on the Leopards. Alex, Zaire, Brendan, Tom and Jorge were now playing the team basketball that we know they can and with good support from Kevin (Moyo), Ishmael (Fontaine) and Josh (Goddard) the win was on the way. Zaire, as always, was influential and he had impressive stats to become the undoubted MVP, but it was a great team effort to dig Thunder out of the hole which had been dug earlier. The win saw Thunder consolidate top spot in the league, and with Solent Kestrels losing later in the evening, this gave greater hope of obtaining the league title.
SCORERS- Zaire – 27 points (8 rebounds, 9 assists, 4 steals), Alex – 24 points, Tom – 18 points (7 assists), Jorge – 9 points, Brendan – 7 points (8 rebounds, 3 assists), Kevin – 7 points and Josh – 2 points.
|23rd February 2019||6:00 pm||Division One Mens||League 2018/2019||Away|
|University of Essex Sports Centre|
|Unnamed Road, Colchester CO4 3WA, UK|