With 1 round to play in the National Wheelchair Basketball League, the top three teams for finals were set, Wollongong, Perth and Kilsyth. The first two teams involved in the final round were in fact battling for the fourth and last finals position. The Qld Spinning Bullets traveled to Sydney to face the Blues and entered the final round with a record of 7-9, the Blue a record of 6-10. The Spinning Bullets needing just one victory to secure their place in the finals. They won both games, with the second requiring a come from behind victory being 16 points down at the half.
Entering the finals weekend held at the Clem Jones Complex Brisbane the Qld Spinning Bullets would face the Kilsyth Cobras in the 3rd v 4th knockout semi final. The victor earning a spot in the preliminary final and chance to play in the Championship game, the loser relegated directly to the Bronze medal game. Kilysth being the only team the Spinning Bullets did not own a win over, with Kilsyth taking all three victories in round 2 albeit by the smallest of margins 1 point and 3 points.
The semi final was a back and forth affair. Locked at 34 all at half time it set the scene for another close game between the two competitive sides. the second half proved no different with the Spinning Bullets behind by three points with mere seconds to play. Tom O’Neil-Thorne hitting a massive 3 point shot as the clock expired to send the game to overtime. Overtime again proved no different with the teams trading baskets, and the Spinning Bullets again found themselves down by a single point with under 10 seconds to play. O’Neil-Thorne missed the go ahead bucket but secured the offensive rebound, passing the ball to Matt McShane and sebsequantly found the hot hand of Jordan Bartley who nailed a deep 3 pointer as the clock expired giving the Spinning Bullets a 2 point victory. The team would progress to the preliminary final.
The Spinning Bullets’ opponent in the preliminary final would be the Perth Wheelcats (14-4), who were defeated in their semifinal by the league leading and defending champion Wollonong Rollerhawks (17-1). Perth’s regular season record against the Spinning Bullets was 2-1. Boasting a lineup of some of Australia’s best players and developing players the Wheelcats were hungry for a spot in the Championship game. The Wheelcats had not featured in finals for two years.
The Spinning Bullets are known for their ‘in your face’ defensive style of play and that was well and truly on display in this game defeating the Wheelcats 78-69. The Spinning Bullets caused 23 turnovers and grabbed 11 steals whilst only turning the ball over 7 times.
The Spinning Bullets would face the Wollongong Rollerhawks in the Championship game for the second time in two years. The Rollerhawks were chasing a unprecedented third championship in three years, and with a starting lineup all boasting international experience they were well placed to do so. The Rollerhawks finished the regular season with 17 wins and 1 loss……but that loss was to the Spinning Bullets.
The Championship game was what the crowd expected. A high paced, physical display of the countries best wheelchair basketball talent. Half time and the scores were locked at 37 all. Unfortunately this is as close as the Spinning Bullets would get to lifting the Championship trophy, as the Rollerhawks went on the claim the victory 71-62 in one of the closest, competitive finals in years.
Queensland’s smothering defence forced the Rollerhawks into deep shots with an expiring shot clock…….which they managed to hit four times throughout the second half. Queensland were not able to answer back and that was the difference in the game.
Make no mistake however, the Queensland Spinning Bullets are a team on the rise. With an average age of 24 years this team has the potential to play together for another decade…….the Championship is coming.
QSB 2019 Top Performers
Tom O’Neil-Thorne – 17.7 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 6 apg
Kurt Thomson – 10.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 1.6 apg
Matt McShane – 8.6 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 5.6 apg
Jordan Bartley – 8.7 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 2.2 apg