ROUND 3 NWBL REVIEW

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The West Adelaide Thunder have raced into the top four on the ladder following a three-game sweep of the Red Dust Heelers in Round 3.

In other results, Wollongong Rollerhawks stayed undefeated on top with two hard fought wins over Kilsyth Cobras while the Queensland Spinning Bullets and Perth Wheelcats split their weekend.

Playing in neutral territory over the weekend, the Thunder proved too strong for Red Dust with three victories by an average margin of 32 points.

Their defence was exceptional, restricting Red Dust to single-digits in six quarters across their first two meetings and giving up 42 less field goal attempts overall for the three contests.

Beau Buckley paced them on the scoreboard with 17.7 points while Adam Roocke (16.3 points, 11 rebounds) and Eamon Wood (15.7 points, 5.3 assists) impressed.

In addition, West Adelaide’s bench will give them confidence heading into the rest of the season after all four players scored in their first meeting and Phil Stephens averaged 5.7 points with Luke McDowall adding 4.7 points per game.

Red Dust did improve as the weekend progressed but were unable to get on the winners list despite the efforts of Rob Pike (10.7 points) and Ryan Morich (nine points, 5.3 rebounds) who made their 2019 debuts.

Thanks to Perth’s split of the weekend, Wollongong have moved further in front on top of the ladder after two straight road wins against Kilsyth.

They did not have things easy on Saturday, leading by only two points at half-time before pulling away for an 86-78 victory.

Jontee Brown’s 29 points countered Brett Stibners’ game-high 31 and Tristan Knowles had 20 points with 14 assists to almost cause the upset but Wollongong were aided by double-digit scoring performances from Shawn Russell (19 points, nine assists) and 16 points, eight assists each from Nick Taylor and Luke Pople.

The following day, it was another close one at half-time with the Rollerhawks owning a one-point edge but a dominant 17-4 third term set up a comfortable 19-point win in the end.

Their team defence proved the difference in the third quarter, forcing Kilsyth to take several mid-range shots and they hit just 2-17 overall for the period.

Stibners finished with a triple-double of 31 points, 11 rebounds, ten assists to out-gut Tristan Knowles’ 30 points, eight boards and nine assists while Russell (20 points, nine rebounds) and Taylor (18 points) capped off another solid round.

In the third series for the weekend, the 1-6 Spinning Bullets hosted the 6-1 Wheelcats and caused an upset with a 20-point win on Saturday night.

Kurt Thomson (14 points) was instrumental in the decisive third term, helping them out-score the visitors 27-12 with six points while Jake Fulwood (eight points) and Steven Elliott (five points) had big plays off the bench to complement the game of Tom O’Neill-Thorne (23 points, six assists, four steals).

On Sunday, Perth owned a double-digit edge just before three-quarter time but Queensland made them earn a 66-61 victory, cutting the deficit to five points twice in the final quarter.

O’Neill-Thorne notched a double-double with 12 points and 11 boards while Matt McShane had 11 points and eight assists but they could not match Michael Auprince’s presence in the paint as he averaged 25 points, 14 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.5 steals for the weekend.

Shaun Norris averaged only ten points as Queensland helped restrict him to just 9-26 shooting overall but Amber Merritt recorded 14.5 points per game and Phillip Evans had eight points in the first contest before earning a starting role on Sunday and collecting six points, four assists and two steals.

The NWBL returns for Round 4 in a fortnight’s time with ten games scheduled as the Sydney Metro Blues come back from their bye and Kilsyth earns a rest.

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