THE belief that they can be conference champions will be the driving force behind the North-West Thunder players when they tackle the Kilsyth Cobras tomorrow night, according to coach Phil Thomas.
The Thunder will play Kilsyth in the SEABL South Conference second semi-final at the Ulverstone stadium, with the winner earning the right to take on Mount Gambier for the title next week.
‘‘There is a real belief amongst the group that they are capable of beating Mount Gambier, but they are fully aware that their first challenge is getting over Kilsyth,’’ Thomas said.
The Thunder was gallant in defeat last week, going down to Mount Gambier by eight points after leading for the majority of the night.
It is 10 years since the Thunder last won the conference title, with appearances in the 2007 semi-finals and the 2008 preliminary final the closest it has come since.
Two convincing wins during the roster season and the prospect of a sellout crowd tomorrow night are two other factors that Thomas believes are working in the Thunder’s favour.
‘‘I anticipate it will be a maximum crowd and they’ll close the doors,’’ he said.
‘‘To have a preliminary final at home is a reward for everyone, and that includes the playing group and all those people behind the scenes who have worked so hard during the year.’’
Thomas said his team had recovered well from the Mount Gambier trip last week and had trained impressively over the past few days.
He is looking forward to another all-round performance from his team and is predicting an improved output from national junior Kyle Clark.
Clark shot nine points and spent 22 minutes on the court last week and was showing the effects of playing in the world under 17 championships only a few days earlier.
Thomas said that if the Thunder could counter the Kilsyth trio of Tim Lang, Joel Naburgs and Kyle Adnam, it would go a long way to setting up a rematch with Mount Gambier.
‘‘Lang is a good player for them, Naburgs is a dangerous shooter from the perimeter and Adnam provides penetration, so it will be important for us to control those three,’’ he said.
Kilsyth went down to the Thunder 90-72 at Ulverstone in April and 88-81 at Kilsyth in May.