All Wimmera teams make finals
All three of the Wimmera’s elite basketball teams will feature in post-season action as Country Basketball League’s south-west conference finals start.
The conference will feature a new finals format in the men’s section this season.
Instead of the top four teams playing semi-finals, the top eight teams have qualified.
First-placed Horsham Hornets will host seventh-placed Terang Tornadoes at Horsham Basketball Stadium on Saturday night.
Ararat Redbacks scraped into the finals with a five-point win against Hamilton Hurricanes on Sunday and will play third-placed Bellarine Storm in a road quarter-final on Friday night.
Other men’s finals feature fourthplaced Bacchus Marsh taking on sixth-placed Portland and second-placed Mount Gambier hosting fifth-placed Geelong.
In the women’s competition, the top-four finals structure will remain.
Horsham Lady Hornets moved up to second place on the ladder with two wins at the weekend and are likely to host a final against Millicent Magic on Saturday, February 2.
Ararat coach Marcus Jenkins said his team was excited to qualify for a finals berth after downing Hamilton at the weekend.
He said the tough, physical encounter had left a few players sore, but was good preparation for finals.
“We’ve got nothing to lose in the finals,” he said.
“We finished below every other team and were beaten by every other team during the season, so they will probably be looking at us as an easy win.
“We didn’t have Zac Dunmore or Jayden Wright the last time we played Bellarine and we are much closer as a team than we were at the start of the season.”
Jenkins thanked the people of Ararat for supporting the Redbacks throughout the season. He also congratulated both Horsham teams on their finals berths and said it was good to see all three Wimmera teams playing in finals.
The Hornets will continue their quest for another Country Basketball League conference championship after putting the finishing touches on a minor premiership at the weekend.
The Hornets dispatched Colac Kookas and Warrnambool Seahawks with ease to seal top spot on the ladder.
The team had a balanced scoring attack against Colac on Saturday night, with Tim Pickert, Jeremiah Mckenzie, Mitch Martin and Matty Lloyd all netting double figures on the way to an 86-59 win.
The score was even more lopsided on Sunday as forward Ben Lakin produced his best scoring game for the season with 21 points.
Mckenzie, Pickert and Martin also scored double figures, while Jordyn Burke was solid with nine points.
The Hornets will start hot favourites against the Tornadoes, who they beat by 18 points on the road in their only meeting this season.
The solid late-season form of Martin and Lloyd gives Horsham an added dimension in the finals.
The youngsters have augmented an offence that relied heavily on Mckenzie and veterans Pickert and Matt Lovel at the start of the season.
Horsham Lady Hornets will have a week off to prepare for their finals campaign after two important wins at the weekend.
The team produced a stirring come-from-behind win against Colac on Saturday night.
Trailing by two points with just over five minutes remaining in the game, the Lady Hornets went on a 12-3 run to win 64-57.
Ema Iredell led the team in scoring with 21 points and made some key baskets in the final minutes, while Faith Mckenzie, 18 points, and Maddie Iredell, eight, both played important roles.
Country Basketball League is yet to finalise the women’s finals draws, but according to its 2018-19 operations manual, the second-placed Lady Hornets should host thirdplaced Millicent Magic on February 2, with the winner advancing to the grand final.