The Tamworth Thunderbolts recovered from a sluggish start against the Central Coast Crusaders to keep their unbeaten record in tact with a gritty 58-51 win at the Dome.
Tamworth now lead the competition as the only undefeated side after three rounds.
While Thunderbolts coach John Ireland was obviously happy to get the win over a strong side, he lamented Tamworth’s wobbly start. The Crusaders led 18-4 early in the second quarter.
Ireland said: “It was a pretty good test of character for our young fellas. We were very slow out of the gate. I think all in ourselves we were pretty disappointed with the effort we played with in the first quarter.
“Our decision-making was poor, we made too many turnovers and we allowed too many offensive rebounds. Most importantly, our execution in defence really let us down.”
On the plus side, Ireland is pleased his young side stuck to the pre-match game plan. He said the side, vastly altered from the team that made last season’s grand final, believed in themselves and their “system”.
“To hold a side like the Crusaders to, I think, 22 points in the first half is still a pretty solid effort defensively,” he said. “We just have to find out a way offensively and play to our system.”
The Crusaders led 22-21 at halftime, with the Thunderbolts leading 39-32 heading into the final quarter.
Rhys Chillingworth top-scored for Tamworth with 17 points, but was fouled out early in the final quarter. Ireland criticised Chillingworth for “losing his cool a little bit”.
He said: “We needed his experience and his size down the stretch.”
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