Shepparton captain Matt Bartlett led from the front on the weekend, scoring 76 points in two wins for the Gators.By Damen Francis
Matt Bartlett drained 76 points in two games to lead Shepparton Gators to back-to-back wins in round one of the Country Basketball League north-east season.
The star guard opened the campaign with a monster 47 points in the 78-64 defeat of Wangaratta Warriors on Saturday night, before backing it up with 29 against Echuca Pirates on Sunday.
Jack Threlfall added 26 and Matt Waight 15, as the Gators claimed a routine 101-49 win against the Pirates.
The Shepparton Sports Stadium double-header proved a tough hit-out so early in the season, with several Gators unavailable and others not yet match-fit, but coach Russell Parker was pleased with the effort.
‘‘We got through it,’’ Parker said.
‘‘We’re playing a very up-tempo game and some have still got quite a lot of work to do.
‘‘Wangaratta was missing a couple, as were we, and their bigs gave us the most trouble, because we didn’t match up size-wise, but we knew about that going in.
‘‘Echuca are back in the league after two or three years, so they’re just getting started again.
‘‘Do we know where we’re at after the weekend? We know we’ll be very competitive and we could end up being a good side, but that’s about all.’’
Parker took the opportunity to give minutes to his young players and for the closing stages of Sunday’s game, Bartlett was the only senior player on the court.
Developing guard Bailey Michel and budding big Nick Dodd showed a bit, but Parker said all six benefited from the experience.
‘‘Any time you get on the court it’s just good exposure,’’ he said.
‘‘Some got better minutes than others, but (Sunday’s) game was better for them.
‘‘It was just as well Matt Bartlett scored the way he did on Saturday night, because the rest weren’t shooting well.
‘‘It’s all very well to rely on Matt to do that, but we need a better balance of scorers and (Sunday) we got a more even performance.’’
The Gators are on the road next week, when they take on Seymour on Saturday night.
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