BRAD COLE THE ADVOCATE The North-West Tall Timbers Thunder have put aside a first-quarter horror show to keep their SEABL finals chances alive with an 84-73 victory over Dandenong at Ulverstone on Saturday night.
Needing a win to keep to get their season back on track and potentially return to the top eight with the right results from other games, the Thunder achieved both to improve their record to 9-7 and their overall position from 10th to eighth.
But such a scenario looked highly unlikely in an opening ten minutes that coach Sam Armstrong described as “just horrible”.
From the outset the home side threw bad pass after bad pass, and when the defence did force a turnover off the Rangers, the ball somehow was fumbled out of bounds.
Luckily for Armstrong, the visitors were unable to capitalise on the scoreboard and only held a 17-12 lead at the first break.
“We had 10 turnovers in the first quarter – that’s 10 less opportunities to score and we were lucky to be only five points down at quarter-time,” Armstrong said.
“Guys were trying to make passes that weren’t there or just fumbling the ball.
“We probably overused our energy – we tried to play with intensity but it was in all the wrong areas.
“We just needed to strip that back, play a little bit calmer and make better decisions.”
Fortunately for the coach’s health and temper, along with the the large crowd in attendance, the Thunder improved their ball security in the second quarter as they chipped away at the margin, which had briefly grown to 10 points.
The lead finally swung back to the hosts favour midway through the term before finishing the half with a 40-36 advantage.
Dandenong made a charge at the start of the second half through veteran centre Tim Lang to get in front again, but a dunk by Jeremiah Ingram sparked the Thunder back into action as they took a 61-56 advantage into three-quarter time.
The final quarter saw a great cameo performance from Joe Chilcott (10 points, 4-4 field goals) to keep his side in control and extend the buffer to 11, and despite a few shaky moments with more turnovers, the Rangers could only get as close as five points before the Thunder iced the game.
Ingram led all scorers with 24 points at an efficient 10-11 field goal shooting, with Tre Armstrong hitting some timely three-pointer to finish with 16 points while Mason Bragg finished with 10 assists to go with nine points in a good battle with Lucas Barker (13 points, seven assists).
NBL-listed player Rhys Vague paced Dandenong with 17 points, followed by Lang’s 16 points.
“To have 21 turnovers but still win by 11 points means you are doing something else really well,” Armstrong said.
“We got smashed on the rebounds last weekend, so to address that and win the rebound count by 10 is pleasing.”
The Thunder are back on the road next week for a pair of crucial games against sixth-placed Bendigo (Saturday) and ninth-placed Melbourne (Sunday).