Drought-breaking win for Hornets
Horsham basketball leader Owen Hughan has attributed Horsham Hornets’ drought-breaking title win to a stellar defensive effort fuelled by disappointment.
The Hornets men have played in four losing grand finals since winning the Big V division-three championship in 2008.
On Saturday night, they clinched the men’s 2017-18 Country Basketball League north-west conference title in the first season of the revamped competition.
The Hornets defeated Bendigo Braves 74-63 in front of a full house at Horsham Basketball Stadium.
“It’s been 10 years since we won a major title and it was defence that won us the game,” Mr Hughan said.
“They were just outstanding. I honestly thought some players were too old to play that type of defence – the likes of Cam Bruce, Damien Skurrie and Tim Pickert have been around for a long time – but they did it and they were fantastic.
“The young kids did it too. That was the most pleasing thing for me – other than the win, of course – to see how well the kids played.”
Mr Hughan said he believed the Hornets were physically outmatched by a bigger Braves’ outfit.
“I’ve always said everyone can play defence, it’s a matter of if they want to – because it hurts,” he said.
“Sometimes you do all that work and nothing comes of it, but this time they got their just reward.”
Playing coach Cam Bruce, who was also a member of the club’s 2008 premiership team, echoed Mr Hughan’s sentiment.
“Several players have played in four losing grand finals since 2008 and a lot of us have stuck together,” he said.
“It is a huge effort to keep pushing and this is a reward for all that work.
“It has given the young ones something to strive for and hopefully they stick together for a long time.”
The Hornets men finished the home-and-away season on top of the ladder, with only one loss – to Bendigo.
The Braves were firing in the first quarter of the grand final.
Bruce said the opening term was a real battle.
“They came out and hit a few big shots,” he said.
“We just hung around and then got on top in the second quarter and held on from there.”
Pickert, 22 points, and Matt Lovel, 16, led the scoring, but Bruce was particularly pleased with his side’s defence.
“James Hallett was fantastic, keeping their most dangerous scorer Tanner Rayner to pretty much no impact,” he said.
“Our three talls, Damien Skurrie, Damien Kilpatrick and Jake Hobbs, made sure Bendigo’s star player Matt Andronicos also had little impact.
“All in all it was our best team effort for the year.
“Everyone looked out for each other – if someone was getting beaten, someone stepped in and helped them out.
“We’ve shown glimpses and patches throughout the season, but this is the first time we’ve done it for four quarters.
“I’m really proud of everyone for their efforts.”
Mr Hughan, Horsham Amateur Basketball Association president, said spectators were treated to a great night of basketball despite mixed results for the home club.
The Lady Hornets, the standout team of the women’s competition this season, fell short of the Lady Braves, 56-34.
Mr Hughan said the Lady Hornets were competitive but were outplayed on the night.
“I thought the girls played well, but their shooting let them down,” he said.
“They had as good an amount of shots as the other girls, but at the end of the day if you can’t get the ball through the hoop, you’re behind the eight ball.
“They competed to the line though – they didn’t give up.”
Coach Gareth Hiscock agreed.
“You couldn’t fault their effort, everyone tried their guts out – it was their execution that let them down,” he said.
“They picked a hell of a night not to shoot well, but they gave it a crack from the first tip off to the end.
“Bendigo also applied some great defensive pressure so all credit to them.
“The girls will look for some redemption next season and they’ll put a reasonably good side together again.
“It’s a shame we couldn’t get a double header with the boys, but that’s the way it goes.”
Pickert received extra recognition for his standout season during Saturday night’s presentation ceremony.
Pickert was named league MVP and was also the northwest conference leading point-scorer.
Pickert, Lovel and Georgia Hiscock received special jerseys after winning all-star five selection for the conference.
PREMIERS: 2017-18 Country Basketball League north-west conference premiers, Horsham Hornets, celebrate defeating Bendigo in Saturday night’s grand final.