ROUND 6 REVIEW
With only two rounds remaining in the regular season, the Queensland Spinning Bullets have moved into the top four while the Kilsyth Cobras have maintained a gap in second place and the Wollongong Rollerhawks have all but sewn up top spot.
Queensland showed their resolve with two gallant victories over Red Dust Heelers, winning two games by an average of just six points.
On Saturday night, Queensland owned a double-digit lead in the first quarter but Red Dust fought back with a 19-10 second term courtesy of Rob Pike’s production off the bench to take the momentum into the main break.
Pike finished with 14 points and ten rebounds as one of four Heelers’ players to reach double-figure scoring but Tom O’Neill-Thorne, with a triple-double, led the comeback for the Spinning Bullets.
Trailing by four early in the last term, O’Neill-Thorne scored two quick baskets before Steven Elliott put Queensland back ahead with six minutes to go.
Dylan Child (six points, six assists) and Lachlin Dalton (eight points) also contributed but Ryan Morich (ten points, eight boards) had an answer for Red Dust and with a minute to go, Queensland’s lead was just two points.
Morich then had a steal on the Heelers’ following possession but Adam Deans (ten points, 14 rebounds, nine assists) missed a chance for the Heelers to go ahead and O’Neill-Thorne (19 points, 16 rebounds, ten assists) clinched the game from the free-throw line.
The following day, O’Neill-Thorne was inspirational again with his second straight triple-double as he tallied 21 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists.
His side set up the victory with a 36-24 first half before going on to win by 11 as Deans (18 points, eight boards, six assists), Morich (19 points) and Jannik Blair (13 points) did their best to cut into the deficit.
Jake Fulwood played a critical role for the Spinning Bullets as well, combining 14 points with five offensive rebounds to help Queensland move into fourth place on the ladder with five games still left in their season.
Wollongong were the other team to sweep the weekend, handing last year’s silver medallists in the Perth Wheelcats three consecutive defeats.
On Friday night, Perth trailed by nine at the last change but made things interesting as they got within four points with four minutes remaining.
Shaun Norris (33 points, nine rebounds, nine assists) led the comeback with help from Kim Robins (20 points) and nine points off the bench from Amber Merritt but the deficit proved too great to overcome.
Brett Stibners top-scored for the Rollerhawks in their six-point win with 23 while Michael Auprince (19 points, 17 rebounds including seven offensive boards) dominated the glass.
Perth were unable to get close to Wollongong in the following two meetings, losing by an average margin of 25 points.
Stibners had a triple-double on Saturday night with 23 points, 13 boards, 11 assists while Luke Pople recorded his own on Sunday with 12 points, 12 rebounds and ten assists.
Auprince was arguably the most impressive though, finishing the weekend with an average of 23.3 points and 18.3 rebounds while shooting 58% and Nick Taylor also got in on the act, averaging 20.3 points and 7.3 assists.
For Perth, Norris fell just short of another triple-double in the second meeting as he recorded 30 points, nine boards and 13 assists but sitting fifth on the ladder at the end of Round 6, the Wheelcats are in serious danger of missing the playoffs.
Second placed Kilsyth visited third placed Sydney Metro in the other games in Round 6.
The Blues took the chocolates in the first clash, hitting the century mark in a 12-point win as Joe Chambers, in a move back to the bench, tallied 50 points, 15 rebounds and two steals.
He shot a ridiculous 20-23 from the field and with CJ McCarthy-Grogan (33 points, seven rebounds, seven assists) also shooting over 50%, Sydney Metro were too efficient as they knocked down 59% of their shots as a team.
Tristan Knowles (36 points, seven boards, 12 assists) did his best to match the Blues on the scoreboard alongside Shaun Groenewegen (21 points) and they helped Kilsyth score 19 points off turnovers but giving up 76 in the paint proved their downfall.
Desperate to keep a six-point edge from the Blues on the ladder, Kilsyth came out firing on Sunday as they held their opposition to just four points in the opening term.
At the other end of the floor, Groenewegen (35 points, ten rebounds, seven assists) had 12 points by the first break and was joined on the scoreboard by Jeremy Tyndall (ten points) and Daniel Del Toso (14 points).
Chambers was damaging again for the Blues, recording 35 points and ten boards off the bench but it was not enough as Kilsyth extended their advantage at every change to run out convincing 97-64 victors with Knowles adding another 22 points and 15 assists.
Find all the LiveStats for Round 6 here.