Blasters blow away Wodonga

Seymour Telegraph - - FRONT PAGE - By Gus McCub­bing

The Sey­mour Blasters have made it three in a row af­ter de­feat­ing Wodonga on their home court by nine points.

Be­com­ing just the sec­ond team in Coun­try Bas­ket­ball League’s North East di­vi­sion to com­plete a three-peat.

Fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of the Shep­par­ton Ga­tors, which took out the 2011/12, 2012/13, and 2013/14 ti­tles.

Down four points at quar­ter time, the Blasters chipped away at the mar­gin be­fore build­ing a six­point lead go­ing into the fi­nal quar­ter and run­ning away with a 61-53 win.

Jor­dan Hockley top-scored with 14 points as well as get­ting the MVP award for the game.

Blasters coach Craig Hockley val­ued the over­all suc­cess but in­sisted the chance to make his­tory wasn’t on the team’s mind at the tip-off as Chris­tian Brock, now 45, would be play­ing his swan­song af­ter start­ing with Sey­mour in the 1980s.

‘‘We touched on it at train­ing, but on game day we didn’t men­tion it — we were work­ing on play­ing for Chris­tian, be­cause we knew it was go­ing to be his last game,’’ he said.

‘‘So that was prob­a­bly our fo­cus — we needed to per­form well for him rather than wor­ry­ing about the three-peat.’’

Hockley said while the talls got the job done for Sey­mour in the semi-fi­nal against Wal­lan, the grand fi­nal was a dif­fer­ent story, with Sey­mour cen­tre Liam Kil­ley (10 points) and his di­rect op­po­nent, Josh McKay (eight points) es­sen­tially negat­ing each other.

Adding to this, Hockley said Blasters cap­tain Rob­bie Sar­tori was shut down by Wodonga’s star player Mitchell Dono­van, mean­ing Jack Mur­phy and Jor­dan Hockley were left to take con­trol of the game af­ter the Wolves looked threat­en­ing in the first half.

‘‘They got about eight points and were mak­ing bas­kets both in­side and out, hit­ting a cou­ple of threes and crash­ing the boards . . . so they were pretty dan­ger­ous in the sec­ond quar­ter,’’ he said.

‘‘Their num­ber six (Mitchell Dono­van) was caus­ing us a fair bit of con­cern, so we had to switch Jor­dan on to him, be­cause he had about 14 points by half-time.

‘‘But Jor­dan man­aged to shut him down and he only had four points in the sec­ond half — so that was our main tac­ti­cal change, as he was keep­ing them in the game pretty well.

‘‘They also re­ally tried to shut down our in­side game by col­laps­ing de­fen­sively . . . so we ended up shoot­ing about seven threes . . . and that al­lowed the out­side game to open up.

‘‘We knew they were go­ing to work hard in­side and hit the boards, but that was an­other change to make at half-time — mak­ing sure we boxed out and tried to limit their of­fen­sive re­bounds and sec­ond chance points.’’

But Hockley said the game wasn’t won through de­fence alone, with the mer­cu­rial Leo Vi­itala, who top-scored for the Blasters with 24 points, clearly an­other key player to im­pact the game.

‘‘Leo came out shoot­ing the ball re­ally well in the first half,’’ he said.

‘‘He’s prob­a­bly been a lit­tle bit in­con­sis­tent this year . . . but when he’s hot he can score at will — he’s had a few games where he scored high dou­ble fig­ures.

‘‘In last year’s fi­nal he was also our top-scorer and took out the MVP for the game.’’

With the game largely in the bal­ance the whole time, Hockley said he didn’t feel like the vic­tory was sewn up un­til the Blasters were nine points clear with two min­utes to spare.

‘‘I thought we had the ex­pe­ri­ence at the end to make sure we hung on to the game,’’ he said.

‘‘Liam Kil­ley got fouled out with six min­utes to go so Chris­tian Brock, in his last game, had to play out the game . . . and while he didn’t score, he cer­tainly did a great job in de­fence.

‘‘We were all pretty ex­cited to get the three-peat and also to see Chris­tian Brock off af­ter 30 years of play­ing with a win — that was pretty spe­cial for ev­ery­one.’’

Pic­tures: Tony Long

Top year: De­spite be­ing well­held in the Grand Fi­nal, Sey­mour cap­tain Rob­bie Sar­tori capped off a great sea­son by be­ing se­lected in the North East Di­vi­sion’s All Star Five.

All smiles: The Sey­mour Blasters af­ter beat­ing Wodonga 61-53 to claim the 2017/18 Coun­try Bas­ket­ball League north east con­fer­ence ti­tle.

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