BRAD COLE THE ADVOCATE Just when the North-West Tall Timbers Thunder looked like they had developed into a consistent team capable of beating the SEABL big boys, problems of old appear to have resurfaced at a crucial time of the season.
That was the wash-up from the 92-78 loss to Ballarat on Saturday night in a game that encapsulated all that has been good and bad about Sam Armstrong’s team at the mid-way point of the roster.
The match started with a bang for the home side as they raced out to a 25-17 quarter-time lead behind great work from Mason Bragg, Ben Richmond and Tre Armstrong along with eight turnovers from the Miners.
But the scoring suddenly dried up in the second quarter for the hosts, aided by some easy misses under the basket and foul trouble to Bragg and Paul Campbell.
With the game still up for grabs and the Thunder only trailing by two points at the main break, Ballarat feasted on a poor start to the second half by their opponents, with Bragg and Campbell both picking up their fourth fouls.
The Thunder trimmed the margin to six points in the early stages of the final term, but Ballarat hit the accelerator again to seal the result, going a 13-4 run.
While the home side won the rebound count (including 21-10 offensive rebounds) and committed less turnovers, they shot the ball at 38.6 per cent overall, only finished with nine assists and lost a lop-sided foul count 21-7 which saw them only shoot three free-throws for the entire game, all of which came in the first quarter.
“I think the main problem across the course of the night was our decision making,” Armstrong said.
“We are a team that over the past few weeks has got ourselves into foul trouble too early in quarters and it has cost us.
“That’s about making the right decisions on the defensive end, and in offence tonight we couldn’t find any rhythm, guys over-committed on plays, we didn’t play the unselfish brand of basketball that we usually play and on top of all that we didn’t shoot the ball well.
“To take only three free-throws for the game – I don’t know whether it is a mix of not getting a few calls or making the wrong decisions on offence and not getting ourselves to the line.
“We spoke about trying to attack the rim tonight and the boys settled for shooting long and we didn’t get to the line enough.”
Compounding the Thunder’s woes on offence was a poor performance from captain Jeremiah Ingram, who didn’t register his first field goal until the final term.
“We showed good signs early but then too many guys had mental lapses throughout the game and were quiet in too many patches,” Armstrong said.
“Jeremiah was one of those players and we need him to be switched on for 40 minutes because our group can’t rely on anyone playing just a half or a quarter of basketball.”
Richmond and Tre Armstrong led the Thunder with 16 points each, while Peter Hooley was efficient all night for the Miners and finished with a game-high 23 points.