Showdown set for Panthers and Blasters
Photo: Wayne Herring via Seymour Blasters – Men’s Team Facebook
By Colin MacGillivray
A MITCHELL Shire showdown is set for this weekend’s Country Basketball League semi-finals in the North East Division, with Seymour’s men to host Wallan in a rematch of the final regular season game this weekend.
The Blasters and Panthers met at Seymour’s home court on Saturday night, with the Blasters defeating the visitors 77-67.
Seymour played a nearly flawless first half to establish an 18-point lead, but the game was marred by a knee injury to Blasters star Keenan Gorski.
“Our first half was very good. It was one of the best halves of basketball we’ve played this season defensively and offensively,” said Blasters coach Craig Hockley.
“Unfortunately, we had an injury to Keenan Gorski right at the halftime buzzer. Looks like he did something to his knee. We are waiting for some results to come back, but unfortunately it looks like he will be out for the rest of the finals series.
“The second half was a little flat for our guys after that. We were a little off with our performance from the first half, but we had a good lead at half-time and that enabled us to still win.”
Forward Tyler Best carried the scoring load in Gorski’s absence, finishing with a game-high 27 points.
Best has scored 99 points in the past four games and Hockley said he will be key to the Blasters’ finals campaign.
“In the last month, Tyler has really stepped up. He shoots the ball well, whereas early in the season he was probably a little hesitant to shoot,” Hockley said.
“Now he’s really looking for his shot and has a scoring mentality rather than a passing mentality, which is good.”
Hockley said bench player Harry Stones and guard Abraham Solano will also be called upon to carry a bigger scoring load in the finals.
He said he expects both teams to make adjustments between the final game of the regular season and Saturday nights semifinal at Seymour Sports and Aquatic Center.
“We’ll be looking for the bench guys to step up and contribute a little bit more because Keenan averages about 20 [points] a game We will have to spread the load a bit,” he said.
“[Wallan has] looked at us and we looked at them, so both teams will probably make some adjustments and try some different things.”
Wallan’s hopes of an upset victory will rest on the shoulders of leading scorers Ryan Philippe and Luke Liesegang, who were kept relatively quiet this weekend and scored a combined 30 points.
Wallan and Seymour’s women will also play semi-finals this weekend, with Seymour hosting the Albury Cougars, while Wallan will be away to minor premiers Wodonga Lady Wolves. The two teams played a thrilling game on Saturday, with Seymour erasing a 19-point half-time deficit to win 72-66.
Big games from Ruby Pantisano, 14 points, Kaitlyn Bickerton, 13, and Carley Cranston, 11, looked to put the Panthers in a winning position, but another big game from Blaster Tayha Watkins – who scored for the fifth time this season season scored 30 points. – led a stirring comeback.
The Blasters outscored the visitors 23-6 in the final quarter to seal the victory and in the process took second place.
The win meant the Blasters avoided the powerful Lady Wolves, who have lost just one game this season, in the semi-finals.
Seymour’s women will host Albury at 5.30pm on Saturday, with the men taking on Wallan at 7.30pm.