TEAM Solent Kestrels booked their L Lynch Trophy finals ticket as they came through a dramatic semi-final against Worthing Thunder, snatching victory on the buzzer as Andre Arissol got his pull up to go, writes Jack O'Keeffe.

The 82-80 victory sees Kestrels match up with Thames Valley Cavaliers in the final, after they narrowly edged to victory against Loughborough Riders in the other semi-final.

An energised Worthing started the better of the sides as they raced out to a 0-7 lead with Max Richardson scoring on back-to-back possessions.

Brendan Okoronkwo would stroke a corner three to get the hosts off the mark but it was Richardson who continued to pour in the offensive production for the visitors, to give them a 3-12 lead early on.

Travis Charles and Arissol would trim the gap to six but Worthing’s American duo of Howard Crawford and Zaire Taylor had other ideas, increasing the deficit to 10.

A 9-0 to follow for TSK, behind an Ian Smith triple and Johnathan Lashley score off the bench, brought them to within just a point.

The quarter closed with both sides going back and forth and Chris Scarlett knocked down three free throws to trim the visitors’ lead to 21-24 after one.

A 7-0 run to kickstart the second quarter looked to have been the impetus that Kestrels needed, capped off with a trademark Scarlett three.

However Ishmael Fontaine had other ideas as he knocked down a triple off the bench for Worthing and that put the lead back at just a point for TSK.

Lashley and Richardson exchanged scores and then an uncharacteristic scoring drought for both sides saw neither side score for just under three minutes of the quarter.

Jack Sunderland broke that for Thunder as he knocked down a jump shot to push his side out in front by four, sparking a coach O’Keeffe timeout with three minutes to play in the half.

Smith and Sunderland would hit threes on consecutive possession post timeout and that would be it for the half in a low-scoring 10 minutes, Thunder were ahead at the break 33-37.

The second half started in the same fashion as the second quarter with TSK going on a quickfire scoring run, this time to the tune of 8-0 behind some much-improved defensive intensity, resulting in a pair of lay-ups a piece for Okoronkwo and Orlan Jackman.

Thunder used their first timeout of the half with the hosts now up 41-37 but again the lead would be short-lived, as Sunderland and Richardson edged their side back in front.

The lead would change hands several times throughout the third as neither team were able to seize control of the ball game, Smith found his scoring rhythm for Kestrels whilst Zaire Taylor got his eye in from beyond the arc.

A late Dom Ives three, though, would be the difference and restored Worthing’s four-point advantage they held at the break, 57-61 with 10 minutes to play.

An 8-2 run to start the final stanza edged the home side back in front 65-63 after Smith hit his third triple of the contest, though it wasn’t enough to put TSK in the driving seat as Tom Ward eventually tied things back up at 69 when he hit a tough contested three.

Kestrels threatened again as Lashley and Smith knocked down a pair of jumpers to restore a four-point lead but it was Richardson again and this time Crawford who put the visitors back ahead 73-74.

Ward pushed the gap to three after the timeout for Thunder, however a number of defensive stops from the hosts, followed by 6/7 at the foul line gave them a two-point lead with just under two minutes to play.

Richardson scored on back-to-back possessions for Worthing to give them a 78-80 lead with a little over a minute left in regulation but Jackman would respond at the line for TSK tying the game up at 80-80.

With 39 seconds left Okoronkwo forced Taylor into a costly turnover, sparking a timeout for the Kestrels.

Post-timeout, Charles would miss a turnaround jump shot, followed by an Arissol three falling short however some savvy work on the backboard from Jackman allowed TSK to have the last shot.

Arissol took two dribbles to his right and pulled up from just inside the key to ice the game as time expired, Kestrels snatching the victory 82-80.

TSK interim O’Keeffe said: “Unbelievable finish to a really tough ball game, I’m sure for the neutral it was a great spectacle and made for a tense semi final.

“Sometimes that’s what knockout basketball can be though and full credit to Worthing’s players I thought they were excellent.

“That said, our guys showed real poise and great resilience to come through in tough circumstances. It’s exciting for our guys to now be able to compete for some silverware in the final.”

Kestrels now shift their focus to another match up with Hemel Storm, who they faced just two weeks ago, as they welcome the Hertfordshire outfit to the SSC on Saturday afternoon (3.30pm) in NBL Division One.