The GMHBA Ballarat Miners are looking to secure their first finals entry since 2006 with a win against league powerhouse Northwest Tasmania Thunder this Sunday at the MARS® MINERDOME. The Miners were able to get the win by one point on the Thunder home-court after an incredible fourth quarter comeback, and are looking to repeat the success they saw against Northwest Tasmania in Round 7.
Just as with Round 7, a win for the Miners this weekend will be a tall task. Thunder imports Robert Jenkins and Tyrone Lee have had remarkable seasons insofar, and have had no problem carrying the bulk of the scoring load for Northwest Tasmania. Jenkins, a quick combination guard, is averaging 24 points, five rebounds, and four assists a game, and is shooting at an impressive 42% from behind the arc. In the post, Lee has demonstrated dominance and versatility, averaging a double-double of 19 points and 10 rebounds a game. Jenkins was unstoppable against Ballarat in Round 7, with 28 points, eight rebounds, and three steals for the game, while Lee secured a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds.
While Jenkins and Lee are the go-to players for the Thunder, the roster has undeniable talent in reserve post player Nathan Wilson and young guns Bradley Simpson and Mason Bragg. Wilson, with 15 points and nine rebounds a game, is a strong back-up for Lee, and makes sure the physicality in the post does not subside when Lee is not in the game. Simpson and Bragg are also strong role players for the Thunder; Simpson averaging 11 points and 7 rebounds a game, and Bragg with 10 points and three assists each game.
In their first meeting, the Thunder were able to jump out to a considerable double-digit lead before a Roy Booker scoring assault took place and brought the Miners within two. A Booker three-pointer at the buzzer sealed the deal, and the Miners came home with the win. Although Booker is out for the season, multiple players have stepped up in his absence, and will have to continue to step up in order to get the win this weekend.
Ken Horton is the main one to step up in lieu of Booker’s injury. Having received a third Player of the Week honour this past week, Horton’s numbers have only continued to improve as the season progresses. Averaging 21 points a game, and leading the league in rebounding at 13.4, Horton has been a shining light for the Miners this season. Although he struggled offensively in the first match-up against the Thunder, his form has improved immensely since Round 7, and is poised to produce a big game on Sunday.
The versatility of young local guard Anthony Fisher and Nathan Sobey has been invaluable for the Miners this season; Fisher with the ability to be a sharpshooter as well as the court general, Sobey also with the ability to shoot the ball with an impressive proficiency, but also get to the rim and deliver a massive dunk. Fisher was remarkable against the Thunder in Round 7, with 26 points on 73% shooting, and six rebounds to boot. While Sobey was not yet a Miner in Round 7, his capacity to be a scoring threat from anywhere on the court can potentially be troublesome for Northwest Tasmania.
Also look for dominance inside the paint from captain Liam Gibcus and big man Chris Smith. While they had quiet nights against the Thunder in the first contest, their form has improved over the weeks, and are both coming off of back-to-back dominant performances in Round 15 against Bendigo and Brisbane.
Northwest Tasmania will be coming into the game with something to prove, and will have not forgotten about their one-point loss to Ballarat earlier in the season, while Ballarat is still looking to solidify a playoffs spot. A win for each team could mean a lot to their respective seasons, which leads to expectations of a hard-fought battle for Sunday. Tip-off is at 2pm at the MARS® MINERDOME, following the Integra Ballarat Rush taking on the Launceston Tornadoes from 12pm.