BY BRAD COLE THE ADVOCATE Travel woes can’t stop Thunder
The North-West Tall Timbers Thunder have recorded one of the most memorable victories in the club’s history after defeating Dandenong 108-97 on Saturday night.
While coming up against the south conference leaders was always going to be a test, the Thunder’s problem’s started far earlier than that with a nightmare travel experience out of Tasmania.
After their original flight out of Devonport was cancelled due to mechanical issues, the team drove up to Launceston, only to have their next flight to Melbourne also canned.
The SEABL pushed the start time of the match back 90 minutes to 9pm to accommodate the Thunder, but told them they would forfeit the match if they didn’t arrive by the tip-off time.
Sam Armstrong’s side finally flew out of Launceston at 6.15pm and landed in Melbourne at 7.20pm, but still had to sort out their transport and then make the 50 minute drive across the city to reach the stadium.
They arrived with only 10 minutes to spare, and despite the lack of a proper warm-up they managed to outscore the Rangers 27-20 in the opening term.
The home team, who had former Thunder import Garrett Jackson in its line-up, hit back in the second term to lead by one point at the main break, and looked like running away with the win after establishing a 61-53 lead at the midway point of the third quarter.
But the Thunder, who were without Joe Chilcott and had centre Chudier Pal in foul trouble, hit back in the latter stages to tie the scores at 65-65 by the end of the term.
With Dandenong needing the win to secure a top-two finish, it was the visitors who made all the running to start the fourth quarter, going on an amazing 15-3 run thanks to some hot shooting from Ahmad Starks.
The lead stretched out to 91-75 with 4:37 left and the game was all but over from there as the Rangers press was easily negotiated by the Thunder and they were able to rack up a score through simple lay-up’s.
Starks finished the night with a game-high 31 points, 11 assists and four steals, with Ben Richmond adding 19 points, Jeremiah Ingram 18 points and Daniel Sepokas 15 points.
Brad Simpson came off the bench to add a valuable 12 points and 10 rebounds.
The two teams will now meet again in Dandenong in the south conference elimination final next weekend after Hobart won it’s last two games to move up to second and book a date with Ballarat.
FULL REPORT IN MONDAY’S EDITION OF THE ADVOCATE.