Thunder tame Tigers

BRAD COLE   THE ADVOCATE   North-West Thunder defeat Melbourne Tigers in SEABL match 

A stirring last-quarter comeback has given the North-West Tall Timbers Thunder a memorable 94-92 win over Melbourne in Saturday night’s SEABL game at Ulverstone.

After hanging tough with the hot-shooting Tigers and gaining a three-point advantage midway through the third quarter, the Thunder looked to have blown their opportunity when the visitors went on a 19-4 run to take a 72-60 lead into the final 10 minutes.

That margin grew to 14 points in the opening seconds of the final term before the home team started its surge.

A Mason Bragg three-pointer tied the scores with 3:47 remaining and the Thunder hit the lead for good one minute later through Bragg again.

As the game entered its final stages, Ben Richmond emerged to score the next five points but the talent of Tigers star Tom Wilson kept his side within one point with 45 seconds left.

Melbourne had the chance to take back the lead at the foul line after Bragg was called for a foul on a steal attempt, but Billy Hughes’ two free-throw attempts both missed, allowing Richmond to increase the gap to two points at the other end from the charity stripe.

Dominant Tigers centre Deng Acuoth tied the game up on the next possession, but from the ensuing inbounds pass, Bragg was inexplicably fouled by Benjamin Dixon, sending him to the foul line where he calmly slotted both attempts with five seconds still to play.

Melbourne advanced the ball up the court after its time out, but Acuoth’s long-range shot fell short and a lay-up came after time expired, much to the relief of Thunder coach Sam Armstrong who said he always believed his team could challenge in the final quarter.

“We never lost faith at three-quarter time, because we had a game plan and knew as the game wore on things would open us for us later on,” he said.

“It took until the last five minutes for that to actually happen but the team hung tough and made some big defensive plays.”

Richmond led the Thunder with a 22 points on an efficient 8-11 shooting, including 4-5 from three-point range, in his best performance during an injury-interrupted season.

We never lost faith at three-quarter time, because we had a game plan and knew as the game wore on things would open us for us later on.

North-West Thunder coach Sam Armstrong.

“Ben made some massive plays for us down the stretch and hit some big shots,” Armstrong said.

“He’s getting his legs back and will be an important piece of the puzzle for us.”

Bragg finished with 18 points and nine assists, while Jeremiah Ingram had 19 points and Tre Armstrong 14 points off the bench.

Wilson ended with 22 points for Melbourne, while Acuoth profited from the absence of Thunder big man Paul Campbell with an achilles injury to compile 28 points and 16 rebounds.

“Paul had been a bit ginger all week and pulled up sore after his NWBU game on Tuesday night,” Armstrong said.

“He didn’t train on Thursday so we gave him this game off in the hope we’ll have him for the road trip to Sandringham and Nunawading.”

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