BRAD COLE THE ADVOCATE A Mason Bragg-led late show has guided the North-West Tall Timbers Thunder to a dramatic 87-76 over Frankston in Friday night’s SEABL match at Ulverstone.
After leading for the majority of the first three quarter, the Thunder’s offence spluttered to a halt in the opening stages of the last term, handing the Blues a 72-67 lead with 6:03 remaining.
But two free throws from Tre Armstrong, which gave the Thunder the lead again, kick-started a miraculous two minutes of play for the home side.
Frankston’s next offensive set saw Bragg steal the ball and make the lay-up, then another turnover from the visitors resulted in a Jeremiah Ingram put-back slam off a missed shot by Armstrong.
“Mason done some great things defensively and when he gets us going at that end we seem to be better on offence.” NW Thunder coach Sam Armstrong
With ice running through his veins, Armstrong all but sealed the result with a long three-pointer to push the score line out to 83-74 with 59 seconds left before two made free throws by Bragg and a dunk by Lachie Barker from an assist by Bragg capped off a remarkable turnaround.
A relieved Thunder coach Sam Armstrong said his team’s stunning finish was a result of excellent play at both ends of the court.
“We were doing enough during the game, we just needed to click into gear, and sometimes it comes down to the final minutes of the game before that happens,” he said.
“To our credit we made some big plays at both ends of the floor – we needed to lock in defensively, which we did and was able to convert at the right time.
“Mason done some great things defensively and when he gets us going at that end we seem to be better on offence.
“We got stagnant at the start of the last quarter, but we made plays and guys made big shots when we needed to.”
Led by eight points from Barker, the Thunder started the game like a house on fire, continuing their excellent shooting percentage from last week against Geelong with an accurate first quarter that saw them lead 26-19 on 71 per cent shooting from the field.
The Blues started the second quarter strongly as new signing Daniel Trist started to show his authority in the paint, but the Thunder continued to have the answers and led 47-40 at the main break.
The third quarter started in similar fashion, before long-bombs from Armstrong and Barker pushed the lead out to 10 points and what looked to be some sort of safe lead.
But within minutes Frankston evaporated the deficit to level the scores and only trailed by three points at the final change.
The visitors hit the lead early in the final term as the Thunder couldn’t buy a basket and were on track to cause the upset before Bragg and Armstrong went to work.
Bragg and Armstrong led another even spread of scorers for the Thunder with 17 points each, with Barker adding 15 points and Ingram 11 points.
Trist paced the Blues with 22 points, with help from Samuel Muldrow’s 19 points and Bennie Lewis’ 15 points.
Armstrong said the win will give the team a good confidence boost before flying to Melbourne on Saturday to face Dandenong.
“This weekend is like a two game road trip – you go out and hunt the first game and we were able to do that,” he said.
The Thunder received a setback on the eve of the match with Joe Chilcott pulling out with an illness, forcing Armstrong to alter his plans and use Ben Richmond.
Richmond will now miss Saturday night’s trip to Dandenong along with Chilcott.