Keilor Thunder is the surprise Easter leader in the Big V basketball men’s state championship.

The newly-promoted Thunder have proven a tough nut to crack for opposition offences in the opening two weeks of the season.

A first-up win over Corio Bay Stingrays and an upset victory against Eltham Wildcats has seen the Thunder move into top spot.

The common theme in both games was the Thunder’s hard-nosed defence.

The Thunder is the stingiest team in the competition so far, giving up just 68.5 points a game.

Thunder coach Liam Glascott reckons his outfit is “a great defensive team”.

“We focus on a lot of defensive stuff at training,” he said. “Tuesday and Thursday we make sure we’re doing defensive drills, but we also go over the opposition stuff to make sure that we know what they run offensively and how we’re going to defend them.

“Our guys really buy into it and that’s a huge advantage for our group.”

Glascott cites Joel Bellman as a prime example of the “energy and effort” that secured the Thunder its opening wins.

Bellman’s stats against Eltham do not jump out at you, but his enthusiasm to defend led to stops at important times in the game that were as pivotal as the 21 points provided by Jordan Coleman, the double-double from Hanner Mosquera-Perea and the match-wining three-pointer to Chuck Long.

The Thunder’s challenge is to keep that high intensity throughout the season.

Keilor’s win over Eltham is up there with the best victories in Glascott’s tenure with the club.

Glascott coached the Thunder to a 2-1 series win over Chelsea Gulls in the division 1 grand final series last year, but this league is on another level.

But the Thunder can take much confidence out of the Eltham result and a belief they can compete with the best teams in the top flight.

“Teams are now going to go, ‘Gee, we’ve got to make sure we show up against Keilor, they’ve not just come up to make up the numbers’,” Glascott said. “But we don’t get ahead of ourselves – we’ve still got things we’ve got to get better at and we know that.

“This competition is going to be a grind, so you can’t take your foot off the pedal. We’ve just got to continue to show up no matter who we play against.”

Keilor will return to the court on Sunday when it hosts the McKinnon Cougars at Keilor Basketball Stadium from 3pm.

A player to watch will be Thunder captain Long, who is coming off a stellar 17-point, 12-rebound game against Eltham.

“His leadership on the floor is handy for us,” Glascott said. “He stepped up really big in the Eltham game for us at both ends of the floor.

“He was good defensively, he made the three-point shot with 25 seconds to go to get us up and got a big block at the other end to get us a crucial stop.”

 

Lance Jenkinson