BY BRAD COLE THE ADVOCATE The North-West Tall Timbers Thunder may still be firmly in finals calculations, but a pronounced lift in standards is needed if it wants to mix with the SEABL elite according to coach Sam Armstrong.
The frank assessment came after the Thunder fumbled its way to an unconvincing 93-84 win over lowly Canberra at Ulverstone on Saturday night.
Despite leading for the majority of the game, the home team continually kept Canberra in the hunt either through porous defence or sloppy offence.
“We’ll take the win but there is plenty to work on in a short amount of time,” Armstrong said post-match.
“We were riddled with mental errors and we have to iron them out our game really quickly.
“We have to find ways to execute better down the stretch and we had too many lapses on the defensive end.”
Leading 80-70 after three made free-throws by Joe Chilcott, the Thunder finally broke away through former Gunner Brad Simpson, who scored the next seven points for his team to see them get out to a 87-72 advantage with 2:51 remaining.
They had to survive one last comeback from the Gunners by Daniel Joyce and Glenn Morison, but two clutch baskets from Ahmad Starks sealed the result in the final minute.
Starks finished with 21 points and seven assists, with Jeremiah Ingram adding 19 points and 14 rebounds despite a stiff back.
Canberra centre Ben Allen was a handful all night and ended with 29 points, while Morison had 24 points.
The result leaves the Thunder in fourth place on the south conference table with a road trip to Bendigo (fifth) and Ballarat (third) next weekend followed by a visit to first-placed Dandenong for their final game.
“We’ll be playing far better teams down the stretch starting next week and if we want to call ourselves a finals team, we have to play finals basketball,” Armstrong said.
“We go into Bendigo with Chudier Pal who is going home for a wedding, but he’s back for Ballarat.
“It will be the biggest two games of our lives starting on Saturday night.”