The Sandringham Sabres’ desperation to keep their playoff hopes alive saw them defeat the GMHBA Ballarat Miners in Sandringham on Saturday, 89-76.
The first quarter saw some impressive offense from the Sabres, executing well to draw a shooting foul in the first 20 seconds of the game, as well as two offensive rebounds that led to two scores within the first 90 seconds. However, the early hot hands of Nathan Sobey and Ken Horton were able to keep the Miners alive, and even with the Sabres putting out their best offensive effort on their home court, the Miners would only trail by five baskets heading into the first break.
With two Sobey free throws and a field goal from captain Liam Gibcus to start the second quarter, the Miners looked poised to make a run to get themselves back into the game, however, imports Junior Hairston and Rayshawn Goins worked hard to make sure that run stayed minimal. With Goins seemingly unstoppable on the offensive boards, and Hairston as much as a defensive threat as he was a threat on offence, the Miners struggled to close the gap, going into the main break still trailing by 10, 40-50.
Although the shooting from both sides was not at its best, the Miners would struggle to find an offensive rhythm coming out of the main break. Despite getting to the free throw line an impressive 12 times in the third quarter itself, an 18% field goal percentage plagued the Miners and allowed the Sabres to get up by as much as 17. With Gibcus sidelined due to foul trouble, Chris Smith was left to shoulder a lot of the work inside, holding his own amongst Goins, while Sobey, Horton, and Anthony Fisher continued to attack the Sabres defense and set the team up for a final fourth quarter push to take control of the game. They would head into the final term still fighting, but down to the Sabres by 12, 56-68.
A Sean Massey three-pointer, followed by a Chris Smith jumper—both assisted by Fisher—ignited a spark in the Miners offence. The defence picked up to an intensity that saw two steals from Horton, as well as an apparent focus to rid the Sabres of their second-chance attempts, as the Miners looked to be well in control of the defensive rebounds. Two technical fouls, one by Sobey, the other by Sandringham’s Alister McDonald, was indicative of the tension the fourth quarter produced. Although the Miners fought until the end, the Sabres, unfortunately, would prove too strong for the Miners, running away to win it 89-76.
Hairston and Goins both produced double-doubles and were a tough duo for the Miners to contain; Goins with 20 points and 11 rebounds, and Hairston, despite an off-shooting night, with 16 points and 16 rebounds. Ben Kelly came off the bench and played just over 20 minutes for an impressive 20 points and seven rebounds in the contest.
Horton was top-scorer for the Miners, with another double-double effort he recorded 24 points and 15 rebounds for the game. He received solid support from Sobey with 19 points.
The Miners will gear up for a double-header weekend as they travel to the State Basketball Centre to take on the Knox Raiders on Saturday, before returning home to the MARS® MINERDOME to face the Kilsyth Cobras on Sunday. Tip-off at the Minerdome is from 2pm, following the Ballarat Integra Rush taking on the Kilsyth Lady Cobras from midday.