Ballarat Miners outdone by the Bendigo Braves in the 2016 season opener.

By Kasey Cornwell

The Ballarat Miners did not have the start to the season we all hoped for, with the Bendigo Braves notching the win, 68 – 93. Import Ollie Bailey starred with 25 points and 10 rebounds and Utility Earnest Ross contributed 14 points, 4 assists.

Former Miner Kevin White opened the scoring for the Bendigo Braves and offensively the Miners took a while to get going, with a number of missed opportunities early on. The ball movement around the key was a bit stagnant, and when this got going the Miners looked smoother. The Miners let the Bendigo Braves take a 10-point lead into the first break, with Bendigo being able to penetrate the home teams defence too easily. Chris Smith was strong under the basket however, grabbing 5 defensive rebounds in the first term.

Into the second term, the Miners moved the ball around well and quickly cut and held the lead to 7 for almost half the term. Despite this, our big guys all notched up a dangerous number of fouls during the second quarter, with Earnest Ross on 3 and Ollie Bailey and Chris on 2. While the Braves quickly extended their lead to 24 points late in the second period, co-captain Ash Constable’s leadership on court was impressive, with strong communication and determination evident. And at the main break the Miners trailed by 23 points.

Constable opened the third quarter scoring with a long range 3 and with back up from Ollie and Earnest behind the arc, Ballarat were able to cut the lead to 14 mid way through the period. Unfortunately, the Miners were not able to maintain the momentum and the Braves extended the lead back out to 21 at the 3 quarter time break.

Entering the fourth quarter 21 points down Casey Marshall stepped it up, with two long-range 3pt bombs. Bendigo Braves Import Damian Johnson was pushed to 4 personal fouls, and it was helpful to put that pressure on the other side so early in fourth period. With help from Bailey and Dyson King-Hawea on the offensive end, the Miners were able to shorten Bendigo’s lead to 12, with 6 minutes left. However Ballarat’s defence was broken down by Bendigo and they made 2 easy dunks, and within a short 60 seconds the lead blew out to 20 points.

At the final buzzer, the Bendigo Braves took the win over the Ballarat Miners 68 – 95.

Head Coach Eric Hayes, stressed the little things that all add up to make a big difference on the court, and he and the team will now regroup and focus on improving before next week. Hayes stressed there are a number fundamental things they need to work on to help the ball movement, like setting screens and ball fakes.  He was positive on how the team was able to regroup for the second half and thought all players came out and played a little bit more together, and competed a bit harder. Hayes believed Casey Marshall brought a great energy to the side and Chris Smith did some solid things around the basket. But he also noted he could say good things about everybody at some point.

When the Miners cut the lead to 12-points in the final quarter on the back of an impressive offensive run, Hayes thought the reason the team could not keep pushing, was due to not being entirely cohesive and allowing Bendigo to push back. Breakdowns in their game plan lead to Bendigo being able to stop Ballarat’s run and Eric called these little daggers to his heart, after working so hard to get the run and a small minor detail unraveled by Bendigo, stopped the Miners flow.

When asked about missing Roy Booker tonight, Eric emphasised having someone who can put an average of 25 points on the board is certainly helpful to the team. When only scoring 68 points for the game, he thinks it is pretty tough to win any game with under 70 points, so it will be good to get Roy back hopefully for next week.

Despite Bendigo scoring 23 of their points from turnovers, Eric was upbeat about the team having only 12 turnovers, and while some of these turnovers were at crucial times, he doesn’t think his team did too bad of a job on turnovers. Eric’s main concern was rebounding, with Bendigo out-rebounding us by 19 boards.

Coach Hayes and his team will get back on the court, and focus on improving those little details and spend some more time together as a team and inflict a few more stops and pull down more rebounds.