The GMHBA Ballarat Miners had a busy weekend as they travelled to Bendigo Stadium to gut out a hard-fought victory against the Bendigo Braves, 93-82, followed by a home game the next night at the MARS® MINERDOME, where they easily handled the Brisbane Spartans, 101-74. With these two massive wins on the weekend, the Miners have further distanced themselves from the other finals contenders, and are firmly holding on to their fourth place position.
After scoring seven unanswered points in the first 90 seconds of the game, and forcing the Bendigo Braves into a timeout only three minutes into the first quarter, it was apparent that the Ballarat Miners were the aggressors to start the game. Despite presenting a hard-hitting defensive effort in the early stages of the first quarter, the Miners could not connect on many shots, shooting 28%, and the Braves were able to fight their way back into the game by the end of the quarter to only trail by 1, 22-23.
The Braves came out of the first break to have a better overall quarter than the Miners; shooting 55% from the field, limiting Ballarat shots taken, and out-rebounding them. While Ballarat was able to force more turnovers in the quarter, they would only shoot the ball at 31%, and the Braves would enjoy a seven-point lead at the half, 49-42.
The Miners’ shooting percentage would improve significantly coming out of the main break, but more importantly, they did not let go of their tenacious defensive pressure on the Braves. Holding the Braves to 36% shooting, as well as stifling pressure on Bendigo star import Zach Atkinson, the Miners would regain the lead halfway into the third quarter, and showed no signs of relenting.
In a fourth quarter that saw six lead changes within a span of two minutes, the momentum would quickly shift from Braves to Miners with each possession. With three minutes remaining, a Liam Gibcus field goal, followed by a Dyricus Edwards steal that led to a Ken Horton score was just what the Miners needed to finally seize the momentum from their opponent and hold on to it for the rest of the match. The Miners would go on a 12-2 run in the last two minutes of the game, sealing their victory, 93-82.
Ballarat can attribute their determination on defence to what got them over the line against Bendigo. Atkinson, who is averaging a double-double for the Braves, was held to a mere six points and four rebounds, well below his averages. Kevin Probert came off the bench to top-score for the Braves with 19 points, five rebounds and five assists. Import Dustin Salisbery chipped in for 15 points and six rebounds.
Conversely, Ballarat used their effort on defence to propel their offence, shooting 58% in the second half (45% from behind the arc). Horton was outstanding, with 29 points and 14 rebounds, and was supported by Gibcus, a power in the post with 17 points. Edwards looked to be more comfortable within the Miners’ structure, adding 15 points and four assists to the total.
The Miners would continue their remarkable effort on both ends of the court as they hosted the Brisbane Spartans at the Minerdome. The Miners defence would force seven Spartan turnovers, alongside an unstoppable offensive charge that got them to the free throw line 11 times, all just in the first quarter. In a first quarter where everyone that stepped on the court scored, or assisted to a score, the Miners would cruise to a 32-12 first quarter lead.
The onslaught continued into the second quarter, as the Miners shot 60% from the field, while also forcing another seven Spartan turnovers and holding them to a 30% shooting percentage. The charge was led by local guard Nathan Sobey, who racked up four assists in the second quarter alone, threw down a massive dunk, and controlled the offensive output of Brisbane star import CJ Massingale.
The Spartans came out of the main break with very little fight left in them, most likely a result of the close game the night before in Albury where they lost on a buzzer-beater. Although their shooting percentage would significantly improve to over 67%, the Miners were clicking on all cylinders, getting the lead up to as high as 32 points, leaving the Spartans with no chance of a comeback. Although the Miners shooting percentage would drop in the final term, their defence would not, and they would go on to defeat the Spartans, 101-74.
With Scott Kenny and Massingale uncharacteristically quiet for the Spartans, it was hard for Brisbane to find an offensive rhythm in the contest. Jeff Morton was the Spartans’ top-scorer with 14 points and five rebounds, supported by 13 points and four assists from Brendan Teys; Kenny and Massingale with 10 and 11 points, respectively.
Horton continued his solid form for the weekend with his ninth consecutive double-double game (25 points, 16 rebounds), and assistance for Horton came from every outlet: Edwards with 18 points, five assists, Sobey with 16 points, eight assists, Gibcus with 16 points on 70% shooting, and Chris Smith playing just under 20 minutes to chip in 13 points and grab eight boards.
The Miners will have the week to prepare to host the Northwest Tasmania Thunder next Sunday at the MARS® MINERDOME in a matchup that is crucial to consolidating the Miners’ spot in finals. Tip-off is from 8pm, following the Integra Ballarat Rush taking on the Launceston Tornadoes from 6pm.