ROUND 1 REVIEW
The Wollongong Rollerhawks’ title defence is off to the perfect start in 2018 after finishing Round 1 unbeaten but the Kilsyth Cobras have matched them with four victories while the Adelaide Thunder claimed their first win since re-entering the league.
Sending a message to the rest of the competition, Wollongong lost only one quarter for the entire weekend and finished their four victories with an average winning margin of 33 points.
They did all this in the absence of Michael Auprince as Brett Stibners averaged 24.8 points, ten rebounds, 7.8 assists and 1.5 steals while recording two triple-doubles that included 40 points, 15 boards and ten assists against the Perth Wheelcats.
Luke Pople also had a triple-double (12 points, ten rebounds, ten dimes) against the Red Dust Heelers and Shawn Russell (19 points per game) and Nick Taylor (14.3 points per game) both maintained Wollongong’s impressive offensive performance.
A team they did not face in Round 1 was the Cobras who sit equal on top after an average winning margin of 27 points.
They cruised through most of the weekend and looked to be comfortable against the Wheelcats on Saturday with a double-digit lead.
However, Perth put together a 12-4 run in the final term to move in front with 2:30 remaining. Tristan Knowles (36.3 points, 6.8 rebounds, 11.5 assists per game) had the answer though, scoring the next four points to help Kilsyth clinch a 78-75 victory.
Jontee Brown was an important presence in the paint for the Cobras as well, tallying four consecutive double-doubles including a monster 31-point, 20-rebound game against the Adelaide Thunder to record 18 points and 15.3 boards per game.
Michael D’Amelio also proved he can provide an offensive punch this season while Phillip Turner helped boost their play off the bench.
The Queensland Spinning Bullets were on track to match the Rollerhawks and Cobras with three wins from their opening three games but fell to Wollongong on Sunday despite the best efforts of Tom O’Neill-Thorne who had 20 points and seven steals while averaging 20 points and 7.5 steals overall.
That defence set the tone for the Spinning Bullets with the likes of Matt McShane and Daniel Anstey also helping them to finish with the lowest total against overall.
After a winless season in their return to the competition, Adelaide have already improved that mark as they took care of the Sydney Metro Blues with four players hitting double-figures led by Adam Roocke’s 20 points while Jay Dohnt also added eight points, 12 assists and two blocks.
A tough weekend for the Wheelcats saw them finish with a 1-3 record as they fell to the top three teams on the ladder but with Shaun Norris, Thomas McHugh and Andrew Dewberry all scoring over 15 points per game and McHugh averaging a double-double of 17.5 points and 10.8 rebounds, they will be confident of improving their record in the coming weeks.
Red Dust also finished with one victory, getting past Sydney Metro on Friday night as Rob Pike and Jake Kavanagh controlled the paint to combine for 35 points and 28 rebounds.
The only team unable to register a win were the Blues who were missing key personnel and struggled to put together competitive scores.
However, once those stars hit the court, last year’s Runners-Up will still have a lot to say in shaping the 2018 ladder.