By Kasey Cornwell

The Ballarat Miners fell agonizingly short against the Albury Wodonga Bandits, 87 – 88.

The Miners’ Roy Booker starred with 30 points and 6 assists and Ollie Bailey made 25 points and 5 rebounds look easy. The tall Craig Moller was outstanding with 16 points, 13 rebounds and 3 steals.

Greg Mays hurt the Miners with 25 points and 10 boards and Claybrin McMath made 20 points and 10 rebounds for the Albury Wodonga Bandits.

The first term saw the scoring spread evenly between the Miners and 7 of 8 players contributed to the scoreboard, and at the first break the teams were tied with 25 points a piece.

Into the second quarter was a similar story, it was score for score, with Roy Booker putting in the hard yards to get to the basket and Craig Moller and Chris Smith working hard on defence.

At the main break the Miners had a 1 point lead, 47 – 46 and Ollie Bailey was leading the scorers with 15 points.

In the third quarter the Miners really showed how good they can play offensively, they played faster and more athletic and really gelled well together as a team. The defence was solid in the third and they were benefited from Moller’s quick transition out of defence. Ballarat were able to push out a 7 point lead over Albury Wodonga heading into the last term.

Entering the last quarter ahead the Miners, let the Bandits back in the game on the scoreboard within a few minutes and by the 8 minute mark had their lead cut to only 2 points. After a few missed opportunities offensively Albury Wodonga were able to make the Miners pay, and took the lead at the 5 minute mark. Ballarat equalized with a jump shot from Ollie Bailey, off a great pass from the big James Hunter with just over 3 minutes to go. The game was tense from this point on, with the Miners only able to maintain a small lead, only 1 point for the most part. With 10 seconds left on the clock the Bandit’s Ben Kearins made an easy jump shot after pulling down a great offensive rebound, to take the lead. With the ball in Roy Bookers hands in the dying seconds, unfortunately he could not convert and the Miners suffered defeat. 87 – 88 at the final siren

Unfortunately the loss, has seen the Miners move out of the top four, and a win against Frankston on Sunday is important to keep within striking distance of the playoffs.

Head Coach Eric Hayes was pretty pleased with the game played by his side on Saturday night, despite the loss. He especially liked the movement of the ball, the ability to get up and down the court well and the cohesion within the team.

Having a few taller players cemented in the side now, gives Hayes more flexibility. Craig Moller and James Hunter bring not only good size to the front court, but also great athleticism. Chris Smith also played a fantastic game, on and off the ball, with 8 rebounds, Hayes thought he rebounded really well and did a solid job off the ball, “he did some really good things Saturday night” and that was testament to his week of training, said Hayes.

Hayes thought that that the side played well and went about their offences really well. “I know we lost and its hard to be happy with a loss, but I felt really good about the way we played … I was really pleased with what happened but am very disappointed with the loss, but pleased with how the guys played together”. Hayes also noted that he thought the Miners were the most consistent they have been in a long time on the back court.

Hayes will take the guys into Sunday’s game against Frankston with only a few minor tweaks and with a plan to build on what they did well against Albury Wodonga. The side plans to take a bit more care of the ball and share it around a bit more offensively. He thinks if the side can do this, and keep their defence as consistent as it has been, that they can have a really good game against Frankston.

The Ballarat GMHBA Miners return to the Mars Minerdome on Sunday July 31 to take on Melbourne. Tip off at 2:00pm, with the Ballarat Rush taking on Dandenong at 12:00pm.