THIS was one of Ballarat Miners’ biggest matches, one they were never supposed to win.
Twenty-five years ago, the Miners defeated National Basketball League heavyweight Melbourne Tigers for Victorian Basketball Association title glory.
The Miners’ then-president Dennis Foley can still remember the deafening chorus of booing when the Tigers stepped on court at Albert Park.
There were more than 800 Miners fans packed into the small stadium, and anyone not wearing Tigers colours wanted to see them defeated.
The Miners – led by coach Al Westover, captain Glenn White and arguably their greatest-ever import, prolific scorer Eric Cooks – finished the 1989 VBA season with a 19-6 record, but was marked a clear outside chance against the star-studded Tigers, led by Andrew Gaze and coached by his father Lindsay in the final.
But the Miners secured a five-point victory, earning national notoriety.
“When we started, we were all so new, so raw, but we had much success early,” Foley said.
“The Miners wanted to prove themselves. We had great coaches – Brian Goorjian, Westover, (Brendan) Joyce – and good local content with nothing to lose.
“And we had Eric Cooks – the first American to walk into our stadium and he would throw down 35 points every time.”
At the time, the Miners played in both the mid-week VBA – pitted against NBL teams Melbourne Tigers, Geelong Supercats, Nunawading Spectres and St Kilda Saints – then the weekend South East Australian Basketball League competition, some weeks notching up three of four games in a seven-day period.
Success against the Tigers was only the beginning for the Miners in 1989.
They continued on to capture the SEABL and Victorian Country Basketball Championships crown as well. This feat has never been repeated.
The Miners will mark the anniversary of their unlikely title win on July 19 with a reunion dinner deep in Miners’ territory, on court one at the Minerdome.
They will relive every moment, with the match played on big screens courtside, with live player interviews as the match pans out.
Tickets will go on sale shortly at the Minerdome.
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