North-West Thunder meet Geelong in SEABL elimination final

BRAD COLE   THE ADVOCATE  North-West Tall Timbers Thunder captain Jeremiah Ingram is confident his spluttering team can get rolling again in preparation for Saturday night’s SEABL elimination final.

The eighth-placed Thunder, who finished the season losing three out their last four games, head interstate to face Geelong, a team that stormed home with seven wins from its last eight games to end the regular season in fifth.

Despite serving up two of its worst defensive performances in the past two weeks against   Hobart and Diamond Valley, Ingram and his teammates know that recapturing their best form can put them firmly in the hunt to cause an upset.

“We’re in pretty good shape, but we know we have to put together two pretty good practices to get us back in some kind of form for Saturday night,” Ingram said

“On defence we know there are small mental areas that we need to sharpen up on. 

“But we’ll pick each other up at training and we’ve done a good job of bouncing back so we’ll try to keep that momentum going. 

“We understand the severity of the situation and the desperation we need to play at.

“Any team is beatable on any given night and usually the better team comes out on top – we plan to be the better team on Saturday night.”

Helping build the Thunder’s belief that they can get the job done is a commanding 96-78 victory over the Supercats on May 5 in Devonport where Ingram, Lachie Barker and Mason Bragg combined for 67 points in the absence of Ben Richmond and Tre Armstrong.

After a slow start, the home side outscored the visitors 81-57 over the final three quarters, highlighted by a strong defensive intensity that forced 19 turnovers and resulted in easy shots.

While Ingram said that performance was one of the team’s best for the season, they know they will be facing a Geelong side who are proven in big games, having not missed the finals since 1997.

“We know that they are a different team to the one we beat – it was early in the year and we’re not the same team either,” Ingram said. 

“We expect a real dogfight on the night because they’ve got some experienced guys that know how to win games. 

“Our guys just need to put themselves in the best position to win.”

On a personal level, Ingram is keen to atone for the disappointment in last season’s SEABL finals where the Thunder were knocked out in the corresponding game against eventual runners-up Dandenong.

Ingram missed a lay-up in the dying seconds that would have put his team ahead, and said being appointed team captain this season has required him to lead from the front and lift his standard of play.

“The result last year built a little fire in me and I understand the level of play I have to play at in order to put us into good shape,” he said. 

“I know if I lead the guys will follow, so I’ve got to be on top of my game to ensure we play well.

“This year has had its ups and downs but it’s always a learning process and I’m still growing as an individual.”

After playing in the NWBU grand final on Tuesday night, forward Ben Richmond is expected to suit up for the Thunder with an ankle injury he sustained against Hobart, while guards Tre Armstrong and Kobe Jackson return after a camp in Canberra.

“That will be big for us because we will need all the help we can get,” Ingram said. 

“We always play our best basketball as a group and we need every piece to be on board.”

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