Miners go down fighting

THERE are three big plays Miners coach David Flint had replaying in his mind all Sunday.

Ballarat Miners captain Liam Gibcus was a stalwart fighter for his team on Sunday.

Ballarat Miners captain Liam Gibcus was a stalwart fighter for his team on Sunday.

Three big Dandenong Rangers plays that kept an edge on the Ballarat Miners and led to a seven-point loss in this South East Australian Basketball League semi-final.

Flint said the first moment was when Miner Nathan Sobey had a good look at a three-pointer that bounced out – the Rangers pounced and Daequon Montreal hit a three on the buzzer to take a six-point lead into half-time and end a huge first half.

The second, when Ranger Tony Lewis made a shot on the buzzer for three-quarter time. Scores had been locked. Lewis was pumped and the Rangers crowd was roaring.

In a huge fourth quarter, both teams kept fighting. Then came moment number three. Lewis, not known as a three-point threat, nailed a three with one minute, 52 seconds on the clock, and pushed the margin to five.

“Great teams make the big shots – great players make the big shots,” Flint said.

“I can’t fault the way we played or the way we trained because it was the best week we’ve had together this year.

“The way we trained this week gave us a chance to play for the win.”

The Rangers, reigning SEABL men’s champion, were atop the east conference ladder until a loss to Nunawading last week knocked them to third and into an elimination bout.

Ballarat GMHBA Miners beat the Rangers by 10 points on the Rangers’ floor earlier this season – then the Rangers went on to win their next 13 games straight.

Montreal (39 points, including 21 to half-time) and Lewis (24 points, 21 rebounds) took charge for the Rangers from 

the outset.

The Miners workload was even across the starting five.

Miners’ star Ken Horton was back in his strong form with 27 points, 12 rebounds.

Guard Anthony Fisher (20 points, eight rebounds, four assists) was back looking fresh after a week’s training duty with NBL club Perth Wildcats.

Miners’ captain Liam Gibcus (15 points, seven rebounds) set the tone, doing all the tough things for his team.

Flint said the best team won on the night – but he loved the way his team played in such a high-standard game.

It was the Miners’ first SEABL appearance since 2006.

“Just to have a chance to be playing in one of the four games last night, to be back in the top four, was great,” Flint said.

“It is tough to get back into the top four and even tougher to stay there now.”

Flint hoped to keep the core group intact.

It has been an impressive season for the Miners, who called in American Dyricus Edwards with 11 games to play – the minimum to qualify for finals – to replace injured playmaker Roy Booker.

The Miners collected a string of six SEABL player-of-the-week awards, including three to Horton, two player of the month accolades – Booker in May, Horton in July.

Flint was SEABL coach of the month for May when the Miners won seven of eight games from four weeks on the road and three straight weeks of double-headers.

Two Miners, Anthony Fisher (Perth Wildcats) and Nathan Sobey (Cairns Taipans), were each recruited to NBL clubs.

melanie.whelan@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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