A clutch play by former Miner Eric Cooks’s son, whilst playing for the Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence, handed the GMHBA Ballarat Miners their first loss since April.
After their third consecutive double-header weekend, the Miners split their two games in Canberra, defeating the Canberra Gunners 82-69 on Saturday night but suffered a narrow loss to the Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence, 91-93.
The Miners’ first match against the Gunners was tight from the start, with a series of early lead changes occurring before the Gunners went on a 17-0 run to uphold a 14-point lead heading into the main break.
In the second half, the Gunners’ lead would get up to as much as 19 before the Miners would go on a 15-0 run of their own to get the score within four points. A three-pointer by Roy Booker to end the third quarter would see all scores tied up at 59 going into the final quarter.
Ballarat jumped out to a quick start in the fourth quarter and never looked back. With an intense focus and a collaborative effort on both the offensive and defensive ends of the court, the Miners would hold the Gunners to a 10-point fourth quarter, before eventually overrunning them 82-69.
In his first SEABL start, Nathan Sobey was a huge spark for the Miners. His production of 12 points, five rebounds, and three assists was just the boost needed for the team and prompted the third quarter scoring run. Ken Horton proved why he is leading the league in rebounds, grabbing a whopping 18 on the night, while also chipping in nine points. Booker, however, was the clear MVP on the court, scoring 40 points at 52% shooting, while dishing out nine assists and shooting a remarkable 12/13 from the free throw line.
Garlon Green led all Canberra scorers with 23 points to go alongside seven rebounds. Matt Staff was a power in the paint, racking up 22 points and 12 rebounds.
The next day the Miners took on the young guns from Basketball Australia’s Centre of Excellence (formerly the Australian Institute of Sport); a team that, although lacking in experience, was not lacking in heart.
A slow start saw Ballarat trail by as many as 16 early into the second quarter, however, the Miners were not phased by the adversity, and were able to fight back and possess a two-point lead at half time, 45-43.
The third quarter was all Miners, as the combined efforts of the starting five were able to stifle the CoE offense, as well as successfully execute their own offensive sets. With an eight-point lead heading into the final quarter, the Miners looked to have all the momentum against a fatigued CoE team.
Unfortunately, a three-pointer from CoE’s Tanner Krebs was just what the side needed to spark their energy. The fourth quarter became a back and forth, score-and-stop scenario, where the last three minutes of the game saw six lead changes. An offensive rebound from captain Liam Gibcus which led to a field goal for Sobey would give the Miners a two-point lead with 29 seconds left before CoE were forced into a time out.
CoE would work hard to get scores tied at 91 with 19 seconds left, giving the Miners the opportunity to take the last shot of the game. Unfortunately, a Booker turnover would set up CoE’s Xavier Cooks for an easy dunk at the other end, giving them a two-point advantage with five seconds remaining. Despite getting a decent look at the rim, Horton could not connect on a desperation three to win the game, and the CoE were able to break the Miners’ six-game winning streak, defeating them 93-91.
The Miners had all five of their started in double figures, despite the loss. Booker again led all scorers with 31 points. He also had six assists, and was 8/11 from the charity stripe. Equally as impressive was Anthony Fisher, who shot an outstanding 83% from the three (5/6) to take in 22 points and grab eight rebounds. Sobey continued his solid play on the weekend, getting 17 points and seven rebounds. Horton and Gibcus were strong in the paint and steadfast on the boards, getting 10 points and 11 rebounds apiece.
The CoE, with three of their starters scoring 20+ points, showed why they are a team not to be taken lightly in the competition. Xavier Cooks led the charge, shooting 80% from the field to end up with 24 points, 11 rebounds, and the dunk at the end of the game to seal the deal. Captain George Blagojevic was right behind him, with 23 points, seven rebounds and three assists. Tanner Krebs also had a solid shooting night, adding 21 points of his own to the final total for the CoE.
The Miners will finish off their hectic schedule for the month of May when they travel to Albury, where they take on the Albury-Wodonga Bandits on May 31 from 8pm at the Lauren Jackson Sports Centre.
Thank you to Thrifty Ballarat for providing all of our travel needs.