Article by Ollie Nash
The Hotondo Homes Ballarat Miners begin their quest for their first championship since 1999 this Saturday night as they host the Kilsyth Cobras in the first Qualifying Final.
The Miners, who finished on top of the table with a 16-4 record, welcome former teammate Peter Hooley and the Cobras who held onto fourth position with a 12-8 record.
The teams meet after only one match-up this season which came in round six, the Miners winning on the road 87 to 71.
In that game it was the boys strong last quarter that tipped them over the edge, outscoring Kilsyth by 14 points for the term.
Four of the Miners starters scored in double figures, but it was the defensive end where the game was won, keeping four of Kilsyth’s starters to under 10 points and forcing the Cobras into a 35.3 percent field goal night.
This defensive effort has been such a cornerstone of the Miners game and it will be required again, with Kilsyth possessing some Melbourne United firepower in their arsenal.
Tohi Smith-Milner is one of those and has been a consistent contributor for them, averaging 15.7 points, eight rebounds and two assists a game. Peter Hooley has been solid also, the point guard putting up 15.8 points, four rebounds and five assists a game this season.
For the Miners to win through to a preliminary final the game plan is clear. Strong defence and offensive rebounds are going to be needed.
Kilsyth average just 85.8 points a game, in the bottom half of the league while the Miners have allowed only 76.2 points an outing this season.
They have the potential to catch fire on the offensive end however, scoring 90 or more on nine occasions and hitting 100 twice throughout the season.
If the Miners can bring the league leading defence that has been so strong for them this season, it makes the offensive end so much easier and gets the road teams confidence down quickly.
On the offensive end for the Miners, they have an array of weapons that can score the ball when called upon. The difference in the game though will be their offensive rebounds.
The boys sit in the top five in this category with 13.1 a game while Kilsyth are a middle of the road defensive rebounding team at 27.5 a game.
Hustle plays like pressuring the offensive glass and getting some extra possessions and easy second chance points is huge in a playoff game and can be the difference between a win and a loss.
Deng Acuoth (three), Jerry Evans Jr (two) and Josh Fox (four) have led the team in this facet, but it will need to be a team effort to put Kilsyth under pressure and continue to put on scoreboard pressure.
The game tips off at 7:30 pm this Saturday night at the Mars Minerdome.