Rhys Chillingworth and Chris Skilton shone at both ends of the court as the Tamworth Thunderbolt Men completed their State League Division 1 regular season home assignments in emphatic fashion on Saturday night.
The Thunderbolts were at the peak of their defensive powers in scorching the Springwood Scorchers 86-47, and setting up a final round clash with Bankstown for top spot.
The Bruins just sit ahead of them on win percentage.
Whatever happens the Thunderbolts are assured of finishing first, second or third. Saturday’s win ensured that.
Max Chillingworth got them on the board just over 30 seconds in, and from there they were never headed, their defence setting the tone as they skipped out to a 16-point lead at the first break
“Defensively we started reasonably well, we held them to three points in the first quarter,” Ireland said.
Offensively they didn’t find the same fluency early the have in recent games.
That was in part credit to the Scorchers defence.
Recognising that they weren’t going to be able to match the Thunderbolts’ floor speed, they reverted to a zone defence.
“It makes the game quite difficult when you’re used to playing man on man,” Ireland said.
It took them a little while to adjust.
They still had some “good open looks” but “weren’t knocking down the shots”.
Defensively, Ireland couldn’t have been happier.
“Our rebounding was very good against a bigger side,” he said.
“That’s going to be important going into Bankstown.
“They are probably one of the bigger sides in the competition.”
Leading 44-18 at half-time, Ireland had the luxury of giving a few of their key players a bit of respite.
Kyle Gupton only played 19 minutes and Skilton 20.
Both still averaged around a point a minute with Skilton scoring 21 points and Gupton 16. Rhys Chillingworth also netted double figures (14 points) and was outstanding both offensively and defensively, Ireland said.
“He pulled in 15 boards (rebounds) to go with his 14 points,” he said.
“Skilts also had about 10 or 11 rebounds.”
“They both did a good job on the glass.”
He expects to take a full strength side down to Bankstown for what will be a big challenge.
“They’ve got a lot of depth and they’ve got a couple of former NBL guys,” Ireland said.
In saying that they are ‘older guys’, and if the Thunderbolts can utilise their speed and athleticism, Ireland is confident they can match them.