TAMWORTH Thunderbolts guaranteed a Waratah State League finals berth with Saturday night’s 92-46 win over the Central Coast Waves at home on the Tamworth Sports Dome Show Court.
While the Thunderbolt women had their biggest loss of a struggling SL season to the Newcastle Hunters, going down 108-61, the John Ireland-coached men struck early to lead 46-14 at half time.
Phil Sobieszuk had a brilliant debut, the former Brisbane State League player from South West Pirates hitting his first four three-point shots to finish with 15 for the match.
“It’s just a shame he can’t qualify for the finals,” said Ireland.
“But he will be here next year and we can build a good young team around him and young Rhys Chill, Justin (Leehy), Cody Miller and some outstanding Under 18s we’ve got coming through.”
Saturday night’s game though was a pleasure for Ireland right from the start.
“We played some of our best basketball of the year in the first half,” Ireland said.
“Defensively, to hold a good side like that to 14 points in the first half was exciting.
“Then we got a little complacent in the second half and relaxed a little.
“But Phil was quite impressive, dropping those four three-pointers first up. A great start to his Thunderbolt career.”
Justin Leehy finished the game with 28 points and Tevin Hurd 20 to spearhead a side where Sobieszuk (15) and Darren Manoharan (10) were also in double figures.
Ireland will find out today just who his side plays in the first round of the playoffs.
“It depends on how the metros finish,” he said.
“It could be either Hawkesbury Jets Orange or St George Saints though.”
Yesterday the Thunderbolts started on fire again and had a 50-29 lead at half time against the Coffs Harbour Suns before relaxing in the second half for an 80-64 win.
“We made it harder work than it should have been,” Ireland said after the 16-point success.
“We played very well in the first half and did a very good job defensively in the the second and third quarters. We got a little complacent again in the final quarter which Coffs won 23-15.”
The shooting form of Darren Manoharan was a highlight.
He finished with 16 points.
“He had a good game last night but that was probably his best game of the season.
“He would have gone close to topscoring for us without looking at the scoresheet.”
Manoharan and Rhys Chillingworth both finished with 16 points while US import Tevin Hurd hit 20.