A 23 point effort from new recruit James Hunter was not enough to propel the Ballarat Miners over arch-rivals Bendigo, with the Braves digging in during the final quarter to take the points.
(min cost $8)
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With co-captain Ash Constable out with a sore knee, the Miners fielded a taller than usual line-up which included the re-acquired Craig Moller.
Hunter got busy early on in the piece, shooting eight points for the quarter as the Miners held a two point buffer at the first break in front of a hostile Bendigo crowd.
The clash between the east conference’s top two sides continued to ebb and flow in the second period of play, with the Miners establishing a five point break mid way through the term which would be cut by two by the main change.
However Bendigo dangerman Jeremy Kendle proved to be a headache for the Miners en route to a game high 34 points, with the point guard hitting a three pointer with two seconds left in the term to take the lead.
While Moller and Earnest Ross both worked hard to turn the tide in the final quarter, a big effort from Bendigo’s Damian Johnson ensured the margin was always beyond the visitor’s reach.
Miners coach Eric Hayes said his men had struggled to shut down Kendle, who led from the front for the Braves who have dropped just three games for the season.
“Once he got a good start they played off him well,” Hayes said. “If a good player gets a good look they’ll probably make the shot, and he got a fair few looks.”
The Braves were also successful in shutting down the Miners’ key scorer Roy Booker. The league’s leading scorer managed 17 points for the evening, but made just seven of his 23 attempted field goals.
Despite the loss, Hayes said he was pleased with patches of play from his new-look side, which included four players who didn’t face Bendigo in their round one encounter.
“There were some patches where it worked really well and it’s something we’ll have a look at...,” he said. “There was some match ups which were really in our favour.”
The Ballarat side will now look ahead to another tough assignment when they face the Nunawading Spectres on the road.
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