Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Gators aim to make impact at country championship

Fresh from their third-straight Country Basketball League north-east title win, Shepparton Gators are looking to add the overall country championship to their trophy cabinet.

DAMEN FRANCIS February 11, 2014 4:47am

Shepparton Gators made it three straight Country Basketball League north east conference titles with a 84-69 win against Albury Cougars on Saturday night.

Shepparton Gators have set their sights on the overall Country Basketball League championship after completing an historic three-peat of north-east conference titles.

The Gators downed highly-fancied Albury Cougars 84-69 at YMCA Wodonga Sports and Leisure Centre on Saturday night to secure its third title in a row.

The win means they will return to the all-conference finals in Bendigo next weekend, but with a renewed sense of purpose.

‘‘If we wanted to we could take it easy, but we talked about it and the boys felt they haven’t shown the best of themselves in other years,’’ Gators coach Russell Parker said.

‘‘The first year they were still in party mode and last year the loss to Warragul in the first game knocked them about a bit.

‘‘This time it’s an opportunity to put a real stamp on who and what we are.’’

While renowned for their defence, it was the Gators’ offensive display that caught the eye against the Cougars.

The Gators dropped 29 points in a free-flowing first quarter and raced to a 19-point lead midway through the second.

However, given the shooting prowess of the Cougars, they were playing a dangerous game and the margin was cut to just three at the main break.

After giving up 42 points to half-time, Parker challenged his charges to keep the Cougars to 30 or less for the remainder of the game.

They won the third term 23-7 and held the minor premier to 27 for the half.

‘‘The first half was open and right from the start we were running good offence, but we felt we let ourselves down on our defensive rebounding,’’ Parker said. ‘‘We let them get eight to 10 points off second shots, but in the second half we didn’t let them get any.

‘‘We had a hand up on their shooters all the time and we got shots out of our offence and that makes a real difference when you’re not turning the ball over with rebounds and having to run the floor to defend.’’

Gators captain Matt Bartlett made five three-pointers and finished with a game-high 24 points to be named the grand final’s most valuable player.

Athletic big John Woodcock worked tirelessly inside and had 20 points, including eight from the charity stripe.

Shooting guards Dylan Wayman and Matt Waight grabbed 12 points each, Tom Frame and Jack Threlfall put up six apiece and Dave Woodcock provided important relief minutes for his brother and chipped in with four points.

Parker, who returned as coach from Steve Nioa ahead of this campaign, said the group was still realising its potential and the magnitude of its recent achievements was yet to sink in.

After making their comeback campaign in Big V last year, the Gators will use the all conference finals as part of their Big V pre-season preparation.

They face Gippsland champion Churchill Blue Devils on Saturday morning and south west powerhouse Mount Gambier Lakers on Saturday night, with the top two to meet in the decider on Sunday.

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