The Nottingham Hoods have advanced to the Division 1 Playoff semi-finals for the first time in their history following a hard fought 88-79 home victory over Worthing Thunder.
A late night tip did not stop the vocal Nottingham Merry Men crowd coming out to support the Hoods in their first home playoff game since their promotion to Division 1 in 2019. They wouldn’t have been disappointed as they were treated to a great basketball game between two strong teams in a winner takes all match.
Mo Williams won the tip and Logan Bailey drove straight to the hoop for the first basket of the night, but Thunder responded immediately with back to back 3s in an ominous sign of shooting to take the lead. Johde Campbell hit a big 3 to show Hoods were more than capable of finding their range too, but turnovers followed missed shots as Thunder extended their lead to 6 midway through the quarter. Andrew Vickers and Bailey were doing what they could to keep Hoods in touch, but with Josh Guddemi ruled out through injury, Thunder were picking up offensive boards allowing them easy 2nd chance efforts.
Luke Mitchell entered the game with a little over 4 minutes left and hit a 15ft jumper to reduce the deficit to 3. Back to back buckets by Williams and the first of Mitchell’s 3s gave Hoods their first lead since the first minute and brought the crowd right back into it. Thunder hit straight back though and the 1st quarter was in the books, tied at 20-20.
The 2nd quarter was an even tighter affair with the teams trading buckets, until mid-way through when Thunder capitalised on three Hoods turnovers to take a 6 point lead again. Bailey, Victor Olarerin and a huge 3 from Campbell from one of Kyle Jimenez’s 13 assists brought the Hoods within 1, but Thunder hit came back again with a 3 of their own and finished the quarter in the ascendancy, leading 38-44.
The Hoods came out of half-time on fire, Vickers hitting back to back 3s, followed by buckets from Campbell and Williams and all of sudden Hoods had their biggest lead of the game, forcing Thunder to take a time-out. The experienced opposition came out of the time-out more composed and were soon back in touch, again capitalising on Hoods turnovers. The teams traded the lead several times throughout the period before 3s from Jimenez and Vickers stretched the Hoods lead to 6 again midway through. An and-1 play at the end of the quarter brought Thunder right back, but Hoods had the lead 64-61.
The 4th quarter belonged to the Hoods and to Luke Mitchell. Back to back 3s either side of a pair of made Williams free throws pushed the Hoods lead up to 9 and Thunder had no answer. Every time they came close, Hoods through Mitchell would hit a 3 to stop the run. With just under 2 minutes to play, Thunder had reduced the lead 2 and Vickers was on the line shooting 3. He made all 3 clutch free throws, before Jimenez nabbed a steal and Vickers found Mitchell for the last of his 6 3 pointers, as the lead hit 8 points with 55 seconds remaining. Thunder grabbed a 3 of their own before Vickers showed his defensive prowess with back to back blocks on the same play, effectively sealing the win. Thunder were forced to foul, but Jimenez was ice-cold and hit both free throws. A Mitchell steal led to a Jimenez assist to Campbell to seal the game and the crowd erupted. Final score 88-79.
This was a great result, against a strong and experienced Worthing team. It was a fun game to watch, a lot of lead changes, aggressive defence and some impressive shooting. Luke (Mitchell) was on fire, he always seems to bring his best for the play-offs but for me, Andrew (Vickers) hiting those clutch free throws and then coming down the other end to record two blocks and put the game to bed, just brilliant. It’s good to see the chemistry in this team and although they have a tough semi-final at Solent, they have the belief to go and get the win.
I also want to take the opportunity on behalf of Hoods to congratulate Worthing’s Zaire Taylor on an incredible career. Today was his last game before retiring and he has been a great player and fierce competitor in the leagues for many years, I’m sure he’ll be missed.Bruce Lauder, Hoods Club Captain
Game Stats (full stats available here):
Luke Mitchell – 20 points (6/11 3s); 6 rebounds; 2 assists; 2 steals
Kyle Jimenez – 12 points; 6 rebounds; 13 assists; 1 steal
Andrew Vickers – 17 points (3/5 3s); 4 rebounds; 1 assist; 2 blocks
Johde Campbell – 12 points; 5 rebounds; 3 assists; 1 steal
Mo Williams – 14 points; 4 rebounds; 2 assists; 2 blocks
Logan Bailey – 9 points; 7 rebounds; 3 assists
Victor Olarerin – 4 points; 6 rebounds; 3 steals
Hoods now move to an away semi-final against defending Play-off and 4-time League Champions, Solent Kestrels, next weekend. Keep an eye on our social media for details of the live stream.
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