HEAVILY depleted, Ballarat Miners produced a gutsy effort to secure a 38-point win against North West Tasmania yesterday.
Star forward Tim Coenraad suited up with a broken nose, sporting a homemade mask of baked clay and sports tape, to help bolster his team at the Minerdome.
The Ballarat Holden Miners had no choice but to win to keep their finals hopes alive in the South East Australian Basketball League south conference.
Coenraad sustained his injury with an elbow to the face from Geelong Supercats big man Seb Loader on Saturday night.
Determined to play out the season, Coenraad hopes to be fitted with a proper protective mask this week.
The fiery 11-point loss to the Supercats in Geelong left Cam McCallum benched yesterday with a badly corked thigh, also a knock from Loader.
Miners point guard Shaun Bruce took to the court yesterday despite landing heavily on his back when flipped over a Supercat in a blocking attempt.
The injury toll follows season-ending knee surgery early last week to forward Jared Scoines.
A limited roster allowed the Miners to put solid minutes into developing youngsters Lindsay Cole and Anthony Fisher against an equally depleted Thunder.
Miners coach Guy Molloy said he could not recall a season quite as dramatic as this one has been for his team, but he was pleased with how his players continued to step their games up.
The Miners rattled east conference heavyweight Geelong to sit five points up at the first break and one up by half-time, matching the Supercats for all but a short lapse in the third quarter.
Guards Dan Joyce and Kevin White were in dominant form across the weekend with pace and precision, proving dangerous from the perimetre.
Each put up 17 points against the Supercats – White nailed three three-pointers in the first quarter – while White topped scoring against Thunder on 20 (four three-pointers) and Joyce notched up 19.
Their effort, combined with the reliable defensive work of captain Ryan Barnes, built a big lead against Thunder early and allowed the Miners to use Coenraad sparingly (he played six minutes in the second half).
With Coenraad restricted, the Miners called on import Reggie Larry to help take control.
Larry, well-held by the Supercats, completed a double-double against Thunder (18 points, 10 rebounds) and carved up play, particularly early.
Molloy said the Miners and Larry took a gamble in bringing him out to Australia so late in the season, a tough situation, but Larry continued to adjust his game well and was focused on improving.
The Miners face a struggling Canberra on the road next week, and Molloy said his team would continue to battle along, aware of the importance of momentum in their final five home-and-away matches.