BRAD COLE THE ADVOCATE There was no miracle return to form for the North-West Tall Timbers Thunder as they crashed out of the SEABL finals with a 96-74 loss to Geelong in Saturday night’s elimination final.
It was always going to be a difficult task for the Thunder after falling into the finals on a two-game losing streak, with the job made even more difficult by the withdrawal of forward Ben Richmond with an ankle injury after training on Thursday night.
However the visitors still managed to make a bright start against the hosts, with Mason Bragg’s nine points helping them to a 25-24 lead at quarter-time.
But the Supercats took control of the game at the start of the second quarter through a 14-3 run that saw them get easy baskets at one end and stopping the Thunder getting into their fast-paced brand of basketball.
A 51-40 half-time lead to Geelong blew out to 75-52 margin at three-quarter time as the Thunder were unable to get on any sort of run offensively, and from there the Supercats cruised home.
Lachlan Barker continued his good season to lead the Thunder with 24 points, including 5-7 three-pointers, with Bragg finishing with 13 points and four assists and Jeremiah Ingram with 12 points and eight rebounds.
“We got off to a god start, but once Geelong took control, they stopped us from doing what we’re good at and got away from us,” Thunder coach Sam Armstrong said.
“We know our best can match it with the top teams, but we haven’t been able to find that over the last few weeks and the gap between our best and worst has been too big.”
Armstrong had no issues with Richmond playing a full game for Somerset in Tuesday night’s NWBU grand final after hurting his ankle the previous Friday against Hobart, and while admitting he would have been handy to have, doubted he would have made a difference to the final result.
“Ben was pretty ginger on Thursday night at training – he could run in a straight line okay but struggled with going side to side,” Armstrong said.
“We backed his move to play for Somerset because we knew how much it meant to him and he nearly got the team over the line.
“But in reality it was probably a three-week injury when he done it, so even if he didn’t play on Tuesday night, he still would have struggled to be right for Geelong.”
After letting the loss sink in Armstrong said he will sit down and work out where the team needs to improve of it is to become a serious finals contender.
“We’ll assess what worked and what didn’t, and look at things like the possibility of a second import or an NBL player, but also keep in mind that our local contingent of players is very important to us,” he said.
“The club took steps to get our local players up to SEABL standard and I think we’ve done that.”
Tasmania’s other two SEABL sides enjoyed winning performances on the road, with league MVP Lauren Nicholson leading Launceston to a 84-77 upset over the previously undefeated Bendigo, while Hobart edged out Kilsyth 98-96.