The challenge does not get tougher than the top team in hostile territory in finals, but Ballarat Miners are feeling well placed against Nunawading on Saturday night.
Ballarat GMHBA Miners head coach Nathan Cooper-Brown said having defeated the Spectres twice already in the South East Australian Basketball League regular season, his players would need to find the right balance between having confidence and not being complacent.
“Part of being a high-performance athlete is having the ability to create the right mindset going into a big game like this one,” he said.
“Having that history with them can work two ways, we just want to make sure it’s going to be a positive one.”
Both teams have lost key imports due to injury.
While the Miners have missed the energy and flair of Davon Usher, Nunawading is without Dain Swetalla, who has also returned to the United States for surgery.
While Cooper-Brown believed these absences would change the dynamics of the game, he was wary of the Spectres’ big three – 2017 SEABL most valuable player Simon Conn, one of the league’s best point guards Shane McDonald returning from injury, and Nunawading top scorer Tom Wright.
“We feel like we are in a pretty good place in terms of how we want to defend, but with their style of play and with their system they don’t run anything tricky,” Cooper-Brown said.
“It’s more about playing to their strengths, they’ve got a lot of talented players that have been together a long time.”
Miner Sam Short has put his hand up for a defensive role on Wright.
“He has asked for that match-up, he wants to take on that challenge and help shut him (Wright) down,” Cooper-Brown said.
“We think he is an elite defender, and we’ve got some other tricks up our sleeve to be disruptive against what they like to do.”
Meanwhile, import Josh Fox has played an influential role in both the Miners’ victories over Nunawading – making double-doubles of 32 points and 17 rebounds in round nine and 18 points and 19 rebounds in round 13.
“What we have found with Josh is his productivity has been a huge reason for our success,” Cooper-Brown said.
“When he plays well, we play well, and when he has gone missing, we have not gotten the results.”
There will be no changes to the Miners’ squad despite centre Cam McCallum missing out of the second half of training with a corked thigh.
The teams will meet at Nunawading Stadium for SEABL’s qualifying final one with tipoff at 7.30pm.