Article by Ollie Nash
The Hotondo Homes Ballarat Miners and Selkirk Ballarat Rush came away from Albury Wodonga with mixed results on Saturday night.
The Miners continued their unbeaten start to the year with a dominate 63-point win over the Bandits as the Rush led all the way but fell at the final hurdle.
The girls had their best game of the season so far, leading by four at three-quarter time, but ultimately fell 76-68.
The big three of Georgia Amoore (15 points), Olivia Hackmann (22 points and seven rebounds) and Joy Burke (12 points and eight rebounds) led the way strongly again giving the Rush every chance of getting their first win.
The first three-quarters were a series of runs by both teams, but neither could get away to a strong lead at any point.
Thanks to a quick nine points from Amoore in the first quarter the Rush found themselves up six, but the Bandits bought it back to even at 18 come quarter-time.
The second-quarter was where their run stuck, but it was never a comfortable lead, as they went into the half-time break with a four-point buffer.
Burke and Hackmann were quick to make sure the lead continued to grow and the crowd was taken out of the game as they combined for six quick points at the start of the third.
The lead had grown to 10 and the Bandits were forced to use a timeout as the Rush looked energised and full of run.
Lucy Cochrane was active defensively to keep Albury Wodonga at bay, with two quick blocks to keep the Rush on top. A back and forth affair ended the third but the Bandits edged closer, pulling it back to a four-point lead for the Rush.
Lauren Jackson got her troops fired up at the break as they answered Burke’s first score of the quarter with a 7-0 run to take a one-point lead.
A technical foul on Cherise Daniel helped the Rush feel like they had the mental edge going into the last seven minutes, but the Bandits answered with a 10-0 run to take an eight-point lead with four minutes to play.
Hackmann and young gun Laura Taylor replied with seven quick points between them to cut the lead to three with a minute to play, but a Natalie Hurst three put the game out of reach, the girls falling by eight.
The Miners followed and came out looking to take one win back to Ballarat and push their record to 5-0 to start the year.
They did that and then some, dominating from start to finish to record the biggest win in the NBL1 this season, 126-63.
It was hard to pick a best on court, with every player adding their little bit to lead to the big win. Deng Acuoth had his best game of the year though, with a big triple double, 21 points on 72% shooting, 15 rebounds and a season high 11 blocks, eight of which came in the first half.
After a 5-5 start, the Miners went on a 10-0 run and followed it with an 8-0 run late in the quarter to take a commanding 31-17 lead at quarter time.
Sam Short and Kuany Kuany led the way with six and seven points respectively in the first term.
The second quarter was no different, with an even start to the term but the Miners going on a 15-2 run to take a huge 26-point lead midway through the second.
Jerry Evans Jr. slammed in a big put-back dunk off a missed three by Short to silence the crowd as the boys continued to press.
Marqueze Coleman continued his strong return to the team with 8 points in the term as the lead grew to 31, 66-35.
The third term saw the Bandits come out with more energy, but each run was met with a Miners score to keep the lead at 30. It wasn’t until bench threesome Zac Dunmore (12 points), Tristan Fisher (10 points) and Jordan Lingard (4 points) put on a 13-0 run to balloon the lead out to 41.
With a 45-point lead at the final break it would have been easy for the boys to taper off, but they put the foot down to start the fourth, going on an 8-0 run to take the lead over 50-points.
The huge win takes the Miners to the top of the ladder with a league best percentage of 1.28% and only 377 total opponent points allowed, 88 less than the next best side.
This defence was evident on the night, keeping league leading scorer Ken-Jah Bosley to just seven points on 3-10 shooting, which went a long way to keeping the Bandits out of the game.
The boys and the Rush now turn their sights towards a two-game weekend next week, travelling to Kilsyth on Saturday before a Sunday afternoon battle at Eltham.