A BIG and athletic Lithgow Lazers side will provide the Tamworth Thunderbolts their toughest challenge this year.
That was the assessment of Thunderbolts’ coach John Ireland heading into their knockout Waratah State League finals play-off in Lithgow tonight.
“These guys are a lot bigger and more-skilled than anyone we’ve played this year,” Ireland said.
“They’re quite big and quite athletic.
The Lazers finished top of the Southern pool ahead of the likes of Wagga, Canberra and Queanbeyan and will take some beating.
“It’ll be a matter of who gets the little things right,” Ireland said.
The Thunderbolts have a pretty good idea about what is in front of them.
They played the Lazers two years ago, and Ireland understands they will be fielding a similar side.
“We’ve got a fair idea of who their main scorers are and what to expect,” he said.
The Lazers got the win last time but the Thunderbolts were right in it.
“We jumped them early and led quite comfortably at quarter-time,” he recalled.
“They came back and we ended up going down by six or seven.”
They have been doing a fair bit of shooting work this week. Mainly looking for better accuracy from the free-throw and three-point lines. Both were pretty poor last week against the Hawkesbury Jets Orange.
They probably shot at about 35 per cent from the free-throw line.
It’s probably the lowest they’ve shot in three or four years, Ireland said, and helped keep the Jets in the game.
One of the Thunderbolts strengths is their running game, and it’ll be a key tool in countering the Lazers’ size.
“We need to make sure we run, use our speed and use our athleticism,” Ireland said.
“Make them run and wear them down.”
“And defensively making life difficult, forcing them to shoot long range and late on the shot clock.”
o The women meanwhile finished up their season in Newcastle last weekend.
It was the central venue round and saw the Greg Irwin-coached side bow out of this year’s competition.
They’d headed in to the weekend in fifth but couldn’t advance their position, losing both games.
“We played Ryde (on Saturday) and lost by 18 after being down by 14 at quarter-time and 18 at half-time,” Irwin said.
It was a similar story against fourth-placed Wagga on Sunday.
“We weren’t that out of it at quarter-time,” he said.
“They just got on a roll in the second quarter.”
They were out-scored by 21 points and ended up going down by 34.