BRAD COLE THE ADVOCATE A vastly improved effort on defence has helped the North-West Thunder retain the title of Tasmania’s best NBL1 team in a 75-54 victory over Hobart at Ulverstone on Saturday night.
Led by centre Paul Campbell, the Thunder made it two from two against their new-look southern rivals in 2019 and snapped a three-game losing streak to keep alive their finals hopes as they improved to 6-7 for the season.
Not only did Campbell control the airways when Hobart had the ball, recording 13 rebounds on defence and swatting away six shots, he also kept the Huskies from getting out and running with a further eight offensive rebounds, the majority of which led to his game-high total of 21 points.
The Thunder’s cause was helped by their entire frontcourt trio of Campbell, Nick Banyard and Simon Lokan only recording four fouls between them on the night, allowing coach Sam Armstrong to stick with a more traditional line-up for most of the night.
But it was Campbell who caused the most issues for the Huskies, particularly in the first three quarters as they struggled to put up a scoring percentage that was going to cause the home side any issues.
“Paul was sensational tonight and he dictates his own effectiveness on games when he stays out of foul trouble and plays more minutes for us,” Armstrong said.
“To finish with 21 points, 21 rebounds and six blocks along with only one foul is a huge game.
“But it was good for the whole team to reward themselves with some good effort and get a good result.
“Tonight we probably defended better for longer periods of time and that was the key.”
The big crowd on hand wasn’t sure what to expect after a dour first quarter that saw both teams shoot poorly and finish with the score at 13-9 in favour of the home team.
The Thunder started to show who the better team was in the second term as their defence continued to shine, led by the job on Huskies leading scorer Jalen Adams, who was held scoreless in the first half.
“We knew Adams was going to try and get his volume of shots up, so we had to try and negate that and did a really good job of in the first half,” Armstrong said.
The Huskies showed some fight in the final term to get the margin back to 14 points with just under three minutes left, but the Thunder extinguished any hope of a miracle comeback with a 11-4 run to end the game.
Jordan Bowling and Banyard added 19 and 11 points respectively for the Thunder, while Adams found his range in the second half to lead the visitors with 16 points.
The Thunder head to Geelong on Friday night for a tough road game against the Supercats before being back at home on Saturday night against Knox.