Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Gators bounce back with return of Bartlett

With the return of captain Matt Bartlett, Shepparton Gators have bounced back from a shock loss with a strong away victory against Mornington Breakers.

DAMEN FRANCIS May 27, 2014 3:05am

Shepparton Gators captain Matt Bartlett returned to the court and put up 31 points to lead his side to a bounce-back win against Mornington Breakers.

Shepparton Gators responded to last week’s shock loss to Keilor Thunder with an assured 17-point win on the road against Mornington Breakers on Saturday night.

The visitors won every quarter at Mornington Basketball Stadium and shot the ball extremely well to maintain top spot on the Big V division two men’s ladder.

The Gators hit 43.8 per cent of their field attempts — including nine of 22 from three-point range — and 82.6 per cent at the free-throw line.

Despite giving up 16 offensive boards, the Gators won the total rebound count 41-38.

‘‘It was a big trip and we just wanted to get a win,’’ Gators coach Russell Parker said.

‘‘We shot the ball well and were a bit stiff in that we should have had 10 to 15 more points from stuff that was relatively easy, we just have to finish our work better.

‘‘They’re renowned as a strong rebounding team. They’re not big, but very aggressive hard at it and they have a few older guys with thickset bodies that like to get after rebounds, but most occasions we didn’t let them put it back and forced them outside, which was pleasing.’’

Captain Matt Bartlett returned to the court and picked up where he left off, with a game-high 31 points.

Bartlett’s leadership and scoring punch was missed against the Thunder last week and he knocked down five treys, taking his season tally to a staggering 42 in 11 games — 15 more than any other player in the competition.

Import centre JL Lewis, the league’s pre-eminent shot blocker, also found some rhythm on the offensive end, recording a season-high 24 points.

‘‘He just seemed more confident,’’ Parker said.

‘‘He’s been doing a lot of extra work on his shooting and some one-on-one work with (assistant coach) Leigh (Bathman) and it’s good to see it paying off.’’

The Gators hit the court running on Saturday night, cruising to a six-point quarter-time lead.

Their efficiency dried up in the second term, as the home side upped the pressure, without being able to reflect that on the scoreboard.

The Gators controlled the second half, shooting beyond 50 per cent from the field and 80-plus from the charity stripe.

Gun guard trio Bartlett, Matt Waight and Dylan Wayman facilitated the offence effectively, combining for 14 assists, even if Bartlett was uncharacteristically careless handling the ball, with nine turnovers for the night.

John Woodcock fouled out midway through the third quarter, as the Gators continued their ongoing struggle with referees.

‘‘The refs have been poor all season,’’ Parker said.

‘‘I don’t know if the league is going to do anything about it, but the referees have a duty of care to protect players out on the court and I’m not seeing much of that for either side.’’

The Gators were without suspended forward Ian Wright and injured pair Shannon Ralph (hamstring) and Bailey Michel (suspected osteitis pubis).

Sam Beks made his first appearance of the season, with three minutes off the bench.

The Gators host Pakenham Warriors at Shepparton Sports Stadium on Saturday night.

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