BRAD COLE – THE ADVOCATE A stunning second-half turnaround has seen the North-West Tall Timbers Thunder open its 2018 SEABL season in thrilling style with a 72-70 win over Kilsyth at Ulverstone on Saturday night.
Down by 18 points in the early stages of the third quarter, the Thunder looked set for a heavy loss as their offence spluttered and the Cobras scored at will in the paint.
But consecutive triples to Darcy Malone and Tre Armstrong suddenly kick-started the home side, who went on a 18-10 run to close out the term and cut the deficit to a more manageable 10 points at the final break.
The two sides traded baskets to start the fourth quarter before the Thunder hit top gear and went on a 13-2 scoring streak that gave them the lead with 3:52 remaining.
A pair of Ben Richmond free throws extended the lead to four points with two minutes left, but Kilsyth made sure the game would go down to the wire when Isaac Turner drained a three-pointer from a Jeremiah Ingram turnover with 46 seconds left on the clock.
Ingram’s attempt to ice the game fell short on the next play, but the Cobras couldn’t capitalise, with Turner’s three-point attempt wide and Owen Odigie’s jump shot from the offensive rebound also missing.
Malone grabbed the all-important rebound and was fouled; making one of two free throws before Odigie’s last-second heave fell well short, leaving the healthy home crowd jubilant.
After shooting at just 27 per cent and allowing the visitors a 28-6 advantage in points in the paint in the first half, Thunder coach Sam Armstrong said the basis of the turnaround simply came down to a better implementation of the game plan, which saw them outscore Kilsyth 44-28.
“The half-time break was all about trusting the process,” he said.
“There were some things that we talked about pre-game that we simply weren’t executing.
“The second half we were able execute and that was the difference in the game.
“One of our key points was showing a level of physicality inside and outside, and it lacked in the first half but we definitely improved as the game went on.
“That started on the defensive end where we needed to get consecutive stops and we were able to do that, and our offence went from there.”
With starting point guard Mason Bragg unavailable, Armstrong praised the job of Lachie Barker, who finished with 14 points, including 4-6 three-pointers.
“I thought Barker’s game was sensational considering he isn’t a true point guard,” Armstrong said.
“We had a few guys out of position tonight at various times but I thought we masked it well.”
Malone led the Thunder’s scoring with 15 points, with Ingram and Armstrong adding 11 points each.
Turner top-scored for Kilsyth with 15 points, while centre Chris Patton had 14 points, all of which came in the first half.