TAMWORTH Thunderbolts saw red in the final quarter to come back from the dead and beat Hawkesbury Jets Orange 76-70 in their Waratah State League finals playoff on the Tamworth Sports Dome’s show court Saturday night.
Down 60-47 at three quarter time after the visiting Jets had zoomed to a 13-point lead thanks to a 15-nil scoring run. The John Ireland-coached Thunderbolts found a spark and ignited in the final five minutes to score an emotion-charged win in front of a big home crowd.
Jets Orange guard Keegan Naidoo had overseen the visitors early domination draining three big three-point bombs in the third quarter.
Naidoo and Josh Stevenson (10pts) and big centre Grant Stevens (8) had combined to leave the Thunderbolts floundering.
However, teenage brothers Max, 16, and Rhys Chillingworth, 18, then sparked the Thunderbolts.
A three point bomb and steal by Max early in the final quarter got the home side to within 10 points.
Luke Krug followed with another three pointer inside the five minute mark to make the deficit seven points , not long after Justin Leehy, popped in another basket and then young centre Rhys Chillingowrth produced the play of the night – an “ally oop” worked to perfection with Tevin Hurd brought the house down and put the Thunderbolts within three points .
“It’s something we muck around with at training,” Chillingworth told The Leader of the “ally oop” play.
“Max’s big three was massive too, everyone put in though, the crowd was massive. I couldn’t have done it without them, it was a great feeling.”
Rhys followed that with a block and Tevin Hurd then drained a huge three-pointer to give the Thunderbolts a one point lead.
The roar from the adoring fans was immense.
Justin Leehy followed it up with another spring-heeled basket and Hurd landed a jumper for a 73-67 lead that was roped in when Blake Bratby dumped a long-range stunner for three.
The Thunderbolts were unstoppable though and finished off solidly to earn a finals playofff against either Bankstown or Lithgow this weekend, said coach John Ireland.
“It was a good test of character,” Ireland said.
“We didn’t do the little things right in the first three quarters. Once we got a bit of ball movement we started to make some shots.
“Rhys was outstanding.
“And the crowd was great, massive part of tonight.