IN A BATTLE of the big men, Ballarat Miners lost by the small margin of two points, 78-80.
Dandenong’s American import Tony Lewis was lethal with 31 points and 13 rebounds (he had 21 points, six rebounds to half-time), but had his match in Miner Tim Coenraad, who had 32 points, 12 rebounds.
But it became about more than the duel in this South East Australian Basketball League clash.
The match came down to final, precise plays after the Miners clawed their way back from a nine-point deficit in the final term against the Rangers at the Minerdome on Saturday.
The possessions count was in the Rangers’ favour.
A Miners turnover and missed rebound from a Rangers free-throw attempt helped the east conference heavyweight to claim a winning edge within 25 seconds left on the clock.
Ballarat Holden Miners acting coach Grant Spencer said his players were disappointed after once more falling so close.
Spencer said there were a lot of positives from the game the team could build on.
“I was happy with the way the guys performed last night — our effort was good and we stuck together well,” Spencer said.
“When Dandenong put pressure on us, we were able to respond easily and probably deserved to come away with the win.
“...No team can guard us man-to-man at the moment and we’ve worked really hard on our zone defence, which Dandenong had trouble working through at times.
“We’re positive we’re moving forward and can only get better.”
In a tight game, the Rangers could not manage to find a run from mid-way into the third quarter.
The Miners called on their big men — Coenraad, Jared Scoines, Cam McCallum and captain Ryan Barnes — on court at once to work back into contention.
McCallum made a big impact inside, putting up eight of his 10 points and nabbing two crucial rebounds in the final term.
In a high-standard game, all Miners lifted.
Coenraad relished the intensity and showcased his skill before the Minerdome crowd.
Spencer — familiar with Coenraad’s work in the NBL — ensured Coenraad worked to his strengths.
“He’s a strong player with his inside and outside games and a fantastic shooter,” Spencer said.
“We let him be the focal man of our zone...let him go to work.”
Scoines was also dominant at both ends of the court, chalking up 18 points and seven rebounds.
He impressed by coming up with big points when his team needed them most.
American imports Lewis and Daequon Montreal, well-schooled in big games, led the Rangers’charge and put up 51 of their team’s 80 points.
Spencer was proud of the Miners’ full-team effort in matching them — now they have to keep stepping up in a trip to Brisbane next week.