North-West Thunder qualify for 2018 SEABL finals

BRAD COLE   THE ADVOCATE  A season that looked set to finish on a sour note for the North-West Tall Timbers Thunder has been given a lifeline to see them claim the last spot in the SEABL finals.

Sandringham’s 85-71 win over Mount Gambier on Saturday night, which saw the Sabres produce a stunning 26-10 last quarter, knocked the Pioneers out of contention.

The result brought plenty of relief to Thunder coach Sam Armstrong and his players who had gathered in Ulverstone for the club’s best and fairest count, with preparations now beginning for an elimination final on the road against Geelong this Saturday night.

Armstrong believes his team can give a good account of themselves despite having to pick up the pieces from a 41-point thrashing from Hobart on Friday night.

“We’ve beaten half the teams in the top eight so we know we can challenge them when we play our best basketball,” he said.

“I always say with finals that they are a season within a season and this will be game one. 

“We’ve got to go in with a clean slate and brush the Hobart game off us before we play Geelong.

“It will be a challenge for us because we have to get better in a few areas, especially in defence, in a real short space of time.

We’ve beaten half the teams in the top eight so we know we can challenge them when we play our best basketball.

NW Thunder coach Sam Armstrong

“I think the best and fairest function was exactly what we needed – we weren’t sitting at home and dwelling on the Hobart game – although I wasn’t sure whether to do a wind-up speech or try to keep it open-ended and see what happened.

“But then we found out the result, everyone had a spring in their step and I know after Friday night the boys are keen to make amends.”

The best and fairest count saw point guard Mason Bragg win on 53 votes, 10 clear of team captain Jeremiah Ingram with Lachie Barker a further two votes back.

Barker took out the coaches award for his work on both ends of the court, Australian representative Tre Armstrong received the rising star award and Ben Richmond’s strong training ethic saw him was rewarded with the physio’s award for demanding excellence.

Bragg was also in attendance at Sunday’s SEABL awards event, where he won a spot in the all-SEABL second team after averaging 16.5 points, 5.7 assists and 5 rebounds per game.

Melbourne’s Tom Wilson won the men’s MVP award, while Launceston and Devonport star Lauren Nicholson received the women’s MVP thanks to her league-leading 25 points per game.

Thunder MVP final standings: Mason Bragg 53, Jeremiah Ingram 43, Lachie Barker 41, Ben Richmond 26, Tre Armstrong 23, Paul Campbell 21, Darcy Malone 10, Joe Chilcott 9, Brady Armstrong 2.