North-West Thunder host Ballarat Miners in SEABL clash on Saturday night

BRAD COLE   THE ADVOCATE   It will be all hands on deck for the North-West Tall Timbers Thunder at Ulverstone on Saturday night as they face their hardest test of the year against Ballarat.

Currently sitting in ninth place on the SEABL ladder with a 5-4 record, Thunder coach Sam Armstong knows his team can’t afford too many slip-ups with several highly-regarded teams primed to make a run in the second half of the roster.

He believes another defensive performance to that of what his team produced last week against Mount Gambier will be needed to combat the talent-laden Miners side, who possess six players averaging over 10 points per game.

“This will be our toughest test to date, I have no illusions about that,” Armstrong said. 

“We played them earlier in the season and lost by four points, but I think that scoreline flattered us – they were definitely the better team.

“I think they have the best-balanced team on paper in the league with guards who are quite quick and can shoot and a strong inside presence as well with a couple of big bodies – it will be a real test for us across all five positions on the floor.

“We set a standard with our defence from last week that we can’t go below now and if we don’t match that intensity we’ll find ourselves losing.”

Plenty will be asked of the Thunder to combat a Ballarat side who only have one player under 190 centimetres.

This will be our toughest test to date, I have no illusions about that.

NW Thunder coach Sam Armstrong

Armstrong said all of his players will have to be prepared for some body contact with their opponents.

“We will need to raise the physicality a notch, but do it smartly,” Armstrong said.

“There are going to be times where our guys are undersized, but they have to show some heart and compete.

“We have to be able to stay in front of the ball and make them shoot over the top of us and if we can win the rebound count again like we did against Mount Gambier, or at least compete, that will go a long way towards the result.”

One player Armstrong is looking towards to help the likes of Darcy Malone, Paul Campbell and Jeremiah Ingram is Ben Richmond, who is close to full health again following a foot injury.

“It’s been a bit of a process with Ben and we’ve had to manage him through the situation to ensure we have him for the rest of the season,” Armstrong said. 

“His minutes will increase and he gives us that blend of being a guard but he can also go inside and scrap for a rebound.”

Saturday night’s game at the Ulverstone Sports and Leisure Centre starts at 7.30pm.

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