The Tamworth Thunderbolts men overcame a shaky second quarter to tip-off a tricky three week away run with a 74-65 win over the Coffs Harbour Suns in Coffs Harbour on Saturday night.
The John Ireland-coached side came out firing, scoring the first nine points of the match as they raced out to a eight point lead at the first break.
That was whittled back to one point by half-time after the Thunderbolts had trailed by as many as seven points in the second quarter.
They kicked away again in the third to take a 60-45 advantage into the final quarter.
Missing the likes of Chris Skilton, Justin Leehy and Matt Monckton, Ireland said it was a really good test of character for his side and was “proud of the way they stepped up under a bit of adversity”.
That said, it wasn’t as consistent a performance as he would have liked with their defensive intensity really dropping off in the second and fourth quarters.
“We gave up transition lay-ups and offensive rebounds,” Ireland said.
The Suns subsequently scored 29 points in the second quarter and 20 in the fourth.
By contrast the Thunderbolts held them to only 10 in the first quarter and a miserly six in the third.
“The challenge for us is we’ve got to play defensive basketball like that for four quarters,” he said.
Stepping into a starting role Jayden Pryer grabbed his opportunity with both hands, shooting a game high 19 points including four three-pointers.
“He was outstanding,” Ireland said.
“He knocked down shots and did an outstanding job defensively on Matt Cook who is a former NBL development player.”
“Young Scotty McGann played really well again. He’s carrying a bit of a rib cartilage injury.”
“And Rashanti (Harris) was excellent on the defensive glass.”
He finished with 14 points while McGann scored 13.
The win keeps the Thunderbolts in second.
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