Blues’ hot shooting silences the Thunder
The Frankston RSL Blues shot the ball at a red-hot clip in round 5 of NBL1 to silence North West Tasmania Thunder 103-90.
Shooting the ball at an impressive 59% from the field, Frankston had five players score in double figures as they led from start to finish to register their third win of the season.
Import Najeal Young continues to emerge as an important piece of the jigsaw for head coach Andrew Harms. The athletic forward amassed a team-best 21 points (8-14 FG) with 7 rebounds, 3 assists, yet his impact on the defensive end was arguably just as, if not more important. He was well supported by 19 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists from centre Majok Majok, while Damon Bozeman added 18 points and Igor Hadziomerovic 16 points and 7 rebounds in the big win.
Just as they have done throughout the season, the Blues jumped out of the blocks early, with Young and Majok combining for 8 points. While Nick Banyard threw down a monstrous dunk for the visitors, Majok returned the favour at the other end not long after to have the fans up on their feet. A 5-0 mini-run by the Blues extended their lead to 9, before Banyard effortlessly flushed home another dunk at the other end. Alistair Macdonald provided an offensive spark of the bench, allowing the Blues to finish off the quarter strongly as they opened up a commanding 13 point lead.
Tre Armstrong threatened to get going offensively for North West Tasmania, and when Jordan Bowling scored on back-to-back possessions, the lead was cut to just 7 forcing Harms to call a timeout. The Blues immediately went back inside to their big men, with Young and Majok scoring inside. The battle in the paint between Majok and Banyard was heating up, and it was the Blues who were able to stay in control thanks to Young’s ability to find the bottom of the basket. Bozeman put the Blues back ahead by 12 with a tough turnaround jumper as the half wound down, but a desperation heave from the free throw line at the far end of the court by Joel Beveridge banked home to beat the buzzer and shock the home crowd.
Reinforcing their game plan to play inside out, the Blues went back to the well that was Majok, who scored the first 5 points of the second half to have the Thunder on the back foot. However the Thunder responded with a 6-0 run of their own Banyard and Bowling to reduce the lead to single digits. Bozeman and then Barker hit triples to keep the pressure on their opponents, and then Young delivered one of the highlights of the night.
Hadziomerovic fed the high-flying young for a highlight reel monster slam over a hapless Paul Campbell to have the crowd in raptures. Yet while the Blues continually threatened to blow open the game, the Thunder continued to show fight by not allowing the Blues to get away, trailing 64-74 at the last break.
While Young continued to fire for the Blues, the final term belonged to Hadziomerovic. With the Blues having struggled to close out games so far in 2019, the captain took charge to guide his team home with 7 points and a big blocked shot on Bowling. Tom Garrett came off the bench to provide some scoring punch, and when little used reserve guard Jarryd Moss came off the bench to the crowd chants of “Mossy, Mossy” led by Steph Reid in the stands, Moss responded by making his way to the free throw line where he made 2-2 much to the delight of the fans. The crowd kept humming as the Blues ran out 13 point winners.
Lachlan Barker did a tremendous job of limited the scoring output of Armstrong, holding the explosive scoring guard to just 12 points for the game. Baynard was exceptional for the Thunder, piling on 26 points and 6 rebounds. Bowling finished with 17 points, but no other Thunder player scored in double figures.
It was a pivotal win for the Blues, allowing them to stay within reach of the top 8 and with star forward Dan Trist set to return next week against the Eltham Wildcats. A victory against the Wildcats would make it three wins in a row, and some long-awaited momentum for a highly talented and entertaining team.
The Frankston RSL Blues host the Eltham Wildcats on Saturday, 11 May, with tip-off at 7:30pm.