INJURED Miners star Ken Horton wanted on the floor.
Ballarat Miners were playing both young and underdone in Geelong on Saturday night.
At the end of a tough second half, Horton asked to be unleashed.
The transformation in the GMHBA Miners’ game with Horton was remarkable and almost caught out the Supercats, a fellow east conference finals outfit in the South East Australian Basketball League. Only the Supercats, led by captain Nathan Herbert’s trademark three-pointers, steadied late for an 11-point win.
The Miners had not planned to play Horton – Miners coach David Flint rang him up and had asked him to bring his gear to the game and warm-up with the team, in a similar fashion to how the injured Kris Blicavs had sat though this season.
Flint said it was great for the group that Horton had wanted to get out there and play.
Game time allowed Horton a chance to shake off some cobwebs after a month sidelined with a fractured thumb and, importantly, sharpen his game for finals next week.
The Miners will play Dandenong in the Rangers’ stadium this Saturday, not Geelong again as expected, after the Rangers’ final round loss to Nunawading.
Miners coach David Flint said if Horton had not played in Geelong, it was likely the Miners would have struggled to win the first final.
Now Horton had the touch, anything could happen.
“We’ve already won on (Dandenong’s) home floor this year and they won the next 13 games in a row,” Flint said.
“I don’t care who we play next week, but playing Dandenong means we have one more day’s rest than we would have playing Geelong in a final (on a Friday night).”
The extra day will be invaluable for the Miners, who had a disruptive week in training.
Point guard Anthony Fisher was away training with NBL club Perth Wildcats – he arrives back on Wednesday afternoon – while guard Ash Constable had a heavy training load with NBL club Melbourne United for the week in Ballarat.
Horton, Nathan Sobey and Sean Massey could not train for the week and Dane Sisic (work) and captain Liam Gibcus (ill) were missing from the Tuesday session.
The Miners still served up a great effort against the experienced Supercats, who pushed the margin out to 15 points with two minutes, 30 seconds to half-time, when Horton asked Flint to play.
Horton’s game was far from his usual standards and his long-range shooting was off, but his presence changed the Miners’ game plays and offered a renewed belief and drive.
They were faster, more determined and pulled within two points of the Supercats early in the fourth quarter, and were three points down with two minutes to play.
Dyricus Edwards (28 points), Sobey (19 points, 14 rebounds) and Gibcus (nine points, 12 rebounds) lifted their impact.
The game has set the tone for the week. Flint has scheduled Tuesday, Thursday and Friday team training sessions to ensure his team is ready.