Grand final glory in reach
Horsham Hornets men’s and women’s teams will look to bring months of work to fruition on Saturday night when they vie for grand final glory on their home court.
The Lady Hornets will be out to claim backto-back Country Basketball League south-west conference titles, while the men will attempt to stop Mt Gambier reaching the same feat.
The Horsham men secured a grand final berth with a comfortable 25-point win over Terang Tornadoes in a semi-final showdown on Saturday, also at Horsham Basketball Stadium.
Hornets coach Cam Bruce was pleased with his team’s performance.
“It was our best game playing as a team for the season and we’re really positive going into this week’s final,” he said.
“We put a lot of pressure on them and forced a lot of turnovers. The way we played defensively set up our offence. Our aim is to back it up and play the same way.”
Mt Gambier has been the team to beat, finishing the regular season in top spot with 14 wins and two losses. The Hornets finished second with 12 wins and four losses but are yet to beat the Lakers this season despite two close encounters.
Bruce said he hoped capitalising on Mt Gambier’s mistakes would allow the Hornets to get their fast-break game going.
To win, they will need to account for the league’s leading point-scorer, Kane De Wit, who contributed an impressive 37 points in the Lakers’ comprehensive 30-point semi-final win over Corio Bay.
“He’s leading the scoring for all three conferences in the league, so we’ll need to shut him down,” Bruce said. “They’re similar to us in that their starting five are all experienced and capable of putting up some big numbers.
“Unlike Terang, which is new to finals and might have been rattled a bit by the crowd, Mt Gambier is experienced in finals. They won’t let the crowd affect them. It will be up to us to bring the intensity and force them to make mistakes.”
Bruce said he would look for another team effort against the Lakers.
“Everyone played really well against Terang. Tim Pickert was outstanding – he shot really well – but all the players stepped up. I was rapt,” he said.
Pickert shot 25 points, including five threepointers, in the semi-final, with Matt Lovel, 13, Damien Skurrie, 12, and Brett Goodgame, 12, also solid contributors.
Mt Gambier will be determined to win consecutive titles, but the Hornets – who last played in a grand final in 2015, losing to Colac by 16 points – will not want to let another opportunity slip.
The Lady Hornets snared a grand final berth with a thrilling win over Mt Gambier at Mt Gambier on Saturday night.
Horsham coach Gareth Hiscock said he was relieved to secure a win after such a close match.
“It was the game of the season as far as standard goes,” he said. Hiscock said his team’s game plan paid off. “They had three main scorers and we thought if we could keep two of them quiet it would go a long way towards winning,” he said. “Our guards were able to keep their guards quiet and score at the same time.”
Laker Brenna Mckay scored a game-high 25 points, but her performance was not enough to top the Hornets, who claimed the better spread of scorers. Competition standout Sophie Alexander dropped 14 points, with Ema Iredell, 13, and Caitlin Story, 12, also reaching double figures.
The Lady Hornets will adopt a similar approach for the grand final.
“Corio Bay also has two high-scoring guards, the Tatlock sisters, and we’ll have to see how the Hiscock sisters match up on them,” Hiscock said.
“They also have a very experienced centre player in Jess Mcdonald we’ll need to nullify.
“If we can curb the influence of two of those three players, we will win.”
Tahli Tatlock, 19 points, and her sister Teagan, 18, were key performers in Corio Bay’s upset four-point win over ladder leader Millicent.
Hiscock said the Stingrays and Hornets – who have met twice this season and won a game apiece – had similar playing styles.
“They have a reasonably fast, free-flowing, physical style,” he said. “There’s no doubt that at times in the match either side might be able to get out to a 10-point lead, but it won’t take the other side long to peg back the deficit.
“I’m confident we can win, but at the same time, I know it’s going to be another one of those games where whichever side takes advantage of the little things will come out on top.”
Hiscock said he was pleased to welcome captain and key tall Annie Brack back to the team after a stint on the sidelines due to injury. “It was great to have Annie back,” he said. “She came on in short, sharp bursts throughout the game and had an impact every time. Because of her size, the opposition has to double-team her, which opens up opportunities for our other players.
“Annie came on in the last minute and a half and made a pivotal block, which resulted in a steal. Then she went up the other end and scored. We were at a point where we needed something special to happen and Annie delivered it.”
Hiscock said he looked forward to a huge crowd filling Horsham Basketball Stadium on Saturday night.
“We have a loyal band of followers who come to our games and cheer us on – they certainly helped get us over the line in Mt Gambier last week,” he said. “It’s a nice reward for them too, to have a home final.”
The women will take to the court at 6pm, followed by the men’s grand final at 8pm.
STANDOUT: Tim Pickert was a key contributor in Horsham Hornets’ semi-final win over Terang and will play another major role in this weekend’s grand final.
Picture: PAUL CARRACHER