NWBL Round 2 Wrap

NWBL Round 2 Wrap

It’s only round two, and only one match up but it might very well have produced two contenders for game of the season. 

Darwin’s first game against the Wollongong Roller Hawks turned into an epic double-overtime battle in which both sides refused to back down.

The Salties raced to an early 17-10 quarter-time lead but the Roller Hawks pegged them back in the second quarter to trail by one at half time.

Powered by a Tristan Knowles triple double (28 points, 13 rebounds, 14 assists) the Roller Hawks led by four with 27 seconds left in the game. Darwin came out of a timeout with Tom O’Neill-Thorne sinking a three to close the gap to one before Tristan Knowles sank two free throws. 

Trailing by three with 15 seconds left in regulation, Darwin’s CJ McCarthy-Grogan hit a three-pointer with five seconds on the clock to send the game into overtime. He then hit a two point shot with nine seconds to go to send the game into a second period of extra time. But needing another three with six seconds to go in the second overtime, McCarthy-Grogan couldn’t come up with the salvation play a third time and the Roller Hawks held on to win 90-87. 

The second game was equally competitive but Wollongong came away with a 74-64 win leaving the third game on Sunday for Darwin to try and avoid a clean sweep.

Wollongong looked in control, leading by 15 late in the third quarter before the Salties went on a 16-0 assault. Japanese import Reo Fujimoto, who was well contained on his first day with the Salties reminded everyone why he’s a five time Paralympian, scoring 10 of his 23 points in the final quarter to help the Salties to their first win of the season 79-73.

“Feels great to not get swept for starters. Coming down here we knew it was going to be three tough games,” said McCarthy-Grogan following the win.

McCarthy-Grogan was quick to praise the impact of their new import.

“Everyone knows what Reo Fujimoto is all about and it’s just great to have him in the league. Not only great for our club but great for the league because it will only help all our Australian players prepare as best as they can leading into Paris but also for the younger generation coming into the league in setting a standard.”

Roller Hawks captain Brett Stibners was pleased to emerge with two out of three wins for the weekend.

“Coming into the weekend, didn’t know what to expect, actually I knew exactly what to expect but I didn’t know if we’d win or not, that’s what I was thinking coming in and I was surprised we did really well in those first two games and we played really well today, it just didn’t go our way,” said Stibners.

“We can take away a lot from this weekend. When we played our best, they struggled to keep up with us and it looks really good and feels really good on court but when we don’t play our best it looks horrible so that’s the consistency thing that we want to get better.”

In Perth, the Wheelcats were able to withstand a Manly side coming ever closer to their first win in the NWBL.

Manly led Perth at quarter time in two of the three games but the depth and patience of Perth made it hard for Manly to stay with the homeside, especially missing Kylie Gauci and Victoria Simpson who accumulated major minutes in Round 1 but were on WNWBL duty this weekend.

Perth’s ability to control the one percenters was reflected in the stat sheet, winning the rebound count, points in the paint and conceding less turnovers to win 71-64, 76-47 and 74-63.

Tom McHugh averaged 28.3 points per game while Shaun Norris averaged 15 points and 12 assists per game.

“The focus was always to put a gap on them which is three stops in a row and three makes for us. We always want to win in a slow burn,” said Perth high pointer Ben Moncreiff.

“We got pushed really hard the whole weekend and it forced us to produce the best product we have made all season. Everyone on the roster contributed extremely well which resulted in a huge three wins for us. Next week will be a big round going up to Darwin so we will need to pull in and get to another level.”

The three wins sends Perth to the top of the ladder, while for Manly it keeps them waiting for their inaugural win in the national league.

“Perth are always a strong opponent, and they played really well,” said Manly low pointer Rhys Baxter.

“Despite the results though, it has been fantastic seeing our on-court chemistry develop after every game, which always takes time with a newly formed team. We have some incredibly experienced players, along with some new faces, and yet we’ve already had a few close games. I’m excited to see what we can do as the season progresses and we continue to get stronger after every game.”

In Brisbane, the Southern Districts Spartans enjoyed three wins over the Adelaide Thunder. 

Already missing Kaitlin Gunn and Lucinda Bueti to WNWBL duties with the Sydney Blues, the Thunder were only able to field six players, putting them in a similar situation to the one the Spartans were in last week.

“I’m thankful to Tim and his team, they themselves were down to 6 like us the week before, but they went at us,” said Spartans coach Thomas Kyle.

“Darren Peters challenged us inside, teaching a few of the young guys to always be focused in defense and Soraj Habib was firing from deep in game two. Our group got a good chance to test their mental resolve before we embark on a couple of tough trips over the next two rounds.”

Kyle was able to rotate his entire twelve man roster giving his younger players valuable minutes.

“Our younger guys enjoyed their first step up into the league. It’s tough trying to maintain their composure through every possession but it’s key for them to see our senior group behind them when they themselves know what it takes to work their way from the bench to playing regularly.”

Next week the Salties host their first home round against Perth, Wollongong travel to Adelaide and Red Dust host the Spartans.