Few people would have tipped Ballarat Miners would play in two straight finals campaigns at the start of last season.
And Miners guard Anthony Fisher admits this year few will back his side to displace Nunawading, Dandenong or Geelong and make their second consecutive East conference finals series.
But the Miners still believe they can do it and the mathematics says they have a chance, even though they split their weekend this past round.
The Miners fell 96-88 to Albury-Wodonga, the top team in the East, on Saturday night but drove over to Frankston on Sunday and beat the Blues, 77-73.
“With the situation we are sitting in now, being outside the top four, this was a must-win game,” Fisher said.
“We did let Frankston back into it in the fourth quarter and they got it down to four points but for us to stay in front and get the win - a loss could have put our season on the line.”
With three rounds left there is still plenty to play for in the East and while the Miners have had an inconsistent, frustrating season - Fisher says there is still plenty for his side to achieve.
“There are a lot of must win games for us as we come up against Dandenong and Nunawading again,” Fisher said.
“They got us the first time but we will get the chance to get back at them plus most of those top four teams will play each other again so one of the teams will get a loss.”
Imports Roy Booker and Gregory Thondique have continued to put up big number for the Miners and Thondique has done a solid job since coming in mid-season as a replacement.
Signing veteran professional Everard Bartlett looked a masterstroke too for the Miners but Bartlett’s form proved so good he earned a recall to the New Zealand Tall Blacks.
As a result, he will miss the next few weeks as the national team tours Europe then plays in the FIBA Oceania series against Australia for a spot at the Rio Olympics.
Bartlett scored in double figures as the Tall Blacks beat Great Britain over the weekend and Fisher said he could not be mad despite the hole Bartlett had left in the side.
“We have had lots of ups-and-downs and really struggled to get a good rhythm going,” Fisher said.
“We would have a good patch of games and then drop a couple of games.
“Everard’s aim was to represent his country and you can’t stop him from doing that - we are all for him doing well.”
Fisher’s own season has had its struggles which he attributes to making a late decision to come home to Ballarat after originally planning to play with East Perth.
He spent last season as a development player with NBL club Perth Wildcats and remains hopeful either the Wildcats or another club will pick him up for next season.
“Coming back late threw me around a bit,” Fisher said.
“Being a development player you are only training so I had to get my game shape back and fit into the team as well.”
Fisher has still averaged 11 points per game and offered some solid rebounds and assists as well.
Like other SEABL players eligible for NBL development contracts, he is waiting to find out his future for the upcoming summer.
“A few coaches are away at NBA Summer League looking at imports so hopefully I will soon have an idea if I’m going anywhere,” Fisher said.
“If an opportunity comes you have to take it.”
The Miners are taking the same idea when it comes to snatching a finals spot.
“Last year I don’t think Ballarat had gone to the playoffs for eight seasons or something so if we can make it two years in a row that would be great,” Fisher said.
“A lot of teams will be thinking Ballarat won’t make it this year but if we do get into that top four then we could make a run for it.”
*Mt. Gambier took two wins from the weekend and in their big victory over Hobart, Brad Hill (27 points, 18 rebounds) dominated while Tyrone Lee (27 points, ten rebounds) again impressed.
*Brisbane Spartans were desperate for a win and Tim Coenraad came up big with 28 points and nine rebounds against Kilsyth.
*Geelong star Kimmani Barrett scored 26 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in his club’s loss to Dandenong Rangers.
*Bendigo star Tony Lewis had a big night with 31 points and 13 rebounds in the Braves’ win over Canberra.
*Albury-Wodonga Bandits duo Deba George and Donte Nicholas got hot against Ballarat with George making six three-pointers for 24 points while Nicholas scored 28 and had three steals.
*Ballarat imports Roy Booker (26 points, seven assists) and Gregory Thondique (25 points, 10 rebounds, five assists) led the Miners against the Bandits.
*Albury-Wodonga’s Cory Dixon dominated in his club’s win over Sandringham with 27 points, eight rebounds and five steals while George was again excellent with 16 points and ten assists.
*North-West Tasmania stars Garrett Jackson (21 points, 11 rebounds, five assists) and Nathan Wilson (21 points, 12 rebounds) had matching scoring totals in their sides’ close loss to Mt Gambier.
*Nunawading showed how strong they could be with Simon Conn back in the line-up as Conn notched 20 points and 11 rebounds in their win over Canberra while Matt O’Hea added 21 points and Shane McDonald 18 points.
*Frankston did not get the win they wanted over Ballarat but Brandon Polk stood tall with 11 points, 13 rebounds, five assists and three steals.
SEABL media links
*The Advocate’s Cameron Whiteley (@cwhiteley12) reports North-West Tasmania can’t wait for their upcoming rematch against Mt Gambier. Report: http://www.theadvocate.com.au/story/3237091/beaten-thunder-have-chance-for-redemption/?cs=88
*Whiteley also reports on NW Tasmania’s overtime loss to Mt Gambier this round. Report: http://www.theadvocate.com.au/story/3235788/thunder-fall-just-short-in-overtime-thriller/?cs=88
*The Advocate’s Adam Langenberg (@adamlangenberg) spoke with Mt Gambier’s Tyrone Lee about coming back to play against the Thunder. Story: http://www.theadvocate.com.au/story/3232776/pioneers-lee-eager-for-tough-road-trip/?cs=88
*The Courier’s Melanie Whelan (@melanie_whelan) reports on the Ballarat Miners’ weekend. Report: http://www.thecourier.com.au/story/3236728/miners-feel-pinch-in-play-offs-bid/?cs=63
*Border Mail’s Steve Smith (@stevesmithffx) filed his last Bandits’ preview for the paper before finishing his long tenure on Friday. Preview: http://www.bordermail.com.au/story/3230636/crucial-seabl-road-trip-looms-for-bandits/?cs=10#disqus_thread
*Bendigo Advertiser’s Nathan Dole reports on Tony Lewis and the Braves’ good weekend. Report: http://www.bendigoadvertiser.com.au/story/3236111/braves-win-duel-against-gunners/?cs=81
*Geelong Advertiser’s Wes Cusworth (@WesCusworth) reports on the Supercats’ loss to Dandenong. Report: http://www.geelongadvertiser.com.au/sport/local-sport/geelong-supercats-lose-after-dandenong-finds-range-in-last-quarter/story-fnjuhs0b-1227457559021
*The Examiner’s Rob Shaw reports on Adam Gibson’s pride in again being in the Boomers squad. Story: http://www.examiner.com.au/story/3235190/gibson-proud-to-help-fly-the-flag-for-the-nbl/?cs=96
*Sydney Morning Herald’s Tom Decent reports on Sydney Kings signing NBA draftee Marcus Thornton. Report: http://www.smh.com.au/sport/basketball/sydney-kings-sign-boston-celtics-rookie-marcus-thornton-20150722-gii7wb.html
*The Age reports the NBL is looking to play games five days a week next season. Report: http://www.theage.com.au/sport/basketball/andrew-gaze-gives-rejuvenated-nbl-his-tick-of-approval-20150724-gijuhg.html