BY BRAD COLE THE ADVOCATE It might be the same opponent with the same players at the same venue, but North-West Tall Timbers coach Sam Armstrong is expecting a different-looking Dandenong when the two teams meet in their SEABL first semi-final on Saturday night.
The Thunder pulled off a memorable 108-97 win on the road last week, with the result dropping the Rangers from first to third in the south conference and into a do-or-die final with one of the league’s best travelling teams.
Armstrong said it would be foolish to expect a similar style of game which saw his team only give up three fouls in the final three quarters along with racking up 43 fourth-quarter points.
“Last week’s game really started flowing after quarter time,” Armstrong said.
“No doubt Dandenong will make some adjustments to try and slow us down, but we’ve still got to play our way.
“Dandenong weren’t on top of our conference for a large part of the season for nothing, and we’ll have to go up another level this week.
Armstrong will also have his team prepared for a far more hostile crowd after last week’s game got pushed back to 9pm due to the Thunder’s flight delays.
“There was only about 50 people left in the stadium last week after it got rescheduled, but we’re expecting there to be 1000-1500 people there this time with the Rangers women’s team playing before us,” Armstrong said.
“But that’s the challenge of finals basketball – you have to be ready mentally as well as physically.
“We’re not looking any further than trying to beat these guys again on their home floor under really tough circumstances.”
The Thunder will take nine players on the trip, with Joe Chilcott re-joining the team after a family bereavement last weekend.
Armstrong said a similar production from Ahmad Starks (31 points and 11 assists last week) will go a long way to winning.
“That was one of the best point guard games from anyone this season, and while he’s been a heavy scorer for us, the 11 assists were more pleasing and we’ll need that again on Saturday,” he said.