THE south-west's men's Country Basketball League sides have had mixed results heading into the Christmas break. The Standard sports journalist JUSTINE McCULLAGH-BEASY looks at how Warrnambool Seahawks, Terang Tornadoes and Portland Coasters have fared.
Ladder: First (six wins, two losses).
Points for: 694 (average 86.75).
Points against: 563 (average 70.37).
Leading scorers: James Mitchell, 150 points (average 18.75).
What we think:
Warrnambool is well-placed to make a play for the CBL south-west conference title. The Seahawks' balance of attack and defence has served them well with their only losses against a Liam McInerney-inspired Colac Kookas. Warrnambool, which uses the competition as a development springboard for its Big V season, is averaging 86.75 points a game - the second best in the seven-team competition. Tall duo James Mitchell (150 points) and Liam Killey (119 points) have teamed well in the paint. The Seahawks' defence is ranked third behind ladder leader Horsham Hornets and third-placed Mount Gambier Lakers. Guards Damian Gray and Josh Dean have played important roles for the Seahawks, while Fletcher Steere, Jake O'Flynn and Adam Lawson have all benefited from more game time.
What coach Barry Brooks thinks:
"A positive is the way the team is developing its own identity. They are less relient on me to tell them what to do and are making decisions themselves which is big step to make it to Big V. The fact we've won more than we've lost as a young team is a positive. Negative are lapses in a level of skill that is right there (with the best). It cost them the two games we have lost and in a couple of games it's cost momentum and could have cost the game but they were good enough to get back into it. James Mitchell has been consistent and has finished a lot of plays for us and is getting rebounds. Josh Dean has stepped up since Damian Gray and Leigh Saffin have been away so that's pleasing. Liam Killey has been the standout but in patches. He is the youngest in the team. He's had outstanding performances but been let down by stamina. The top four is a really solid competition. Colac has two or three SEABL players and Mount Gambier players play SEABL as well so they're solid players."
Ladder: Fifth (two wins, six losses).
Points for: 499 (average 62.37).
Points against: 619 (average 77.37).
Leading scorer: Justin Wallace, 154 points (average 19.25).
What we think:
Terang has found its return from a season on the sidelines difficult. The Tornadoes' two wins have come against bottom-placed Stawell Warriors. The second of those two wins was a fight to the finish, with Terang coach Justin Wallace sealing a three-point win with a visit to the foul line in the dying stages. Wallace has led by example and is averaging over 19 points a game, while Scott Judd also has been impressive. The fleet-footed point guard is averaging 15 points a game and is fifth in the CBL overall for three points made. He's made 23 from down town, 13 shy of league leader Billy Hughes who plays for Sale Sonics in the Gippsland conference. But from there the Tornadoes' scoring power dries up and is highlighted by the fact they're averaging a tick over 62 points a game. Terang's best chance for a win in the run home is against Portland on January 11.
What coach Justin Wallace says:
"We started off pretty bad (but) we have improved so that's a positive. Our goal was to make finals but that'll be hard to do after Christmas so I suppose that would be a negative. Everyone has improved individually as well as as a team, so that's always handy. The young kids - Ben Reid, Dylan Payne and Luke Tebble - are coming along nicely. They are all pretty short so they play as guards in either the one or two positions. Ben is a good shooter and Dylan plays defence, the same as Luke. If we can hold teams to 60 to 65 and we average 70-odd we'd have a good chance of winning at the end of the game."
Ladder: Sixth (two wins, six losses).
Points for: 560 (average 70).
Points against: 657 (average 82.12).
Leading scorer: Aaron Caldow, 86 points (average 10.75).
What we think:
Portland has notched wins against fellow strugglers Terang and Stawell. The Coasters have shown glimpses but haven't been able to string four quarters together consistently. Their two comprehensive losses to Warrnambool - a 29-point defeat in round three and a 45-point drubbing in round 10 - were forgettable. Teenager Aaron Caldow is capable of producing play fit for the highlights' reel and is the side's leading points scorer with 86. He is still young and raw. Experienced forward Dave Groten is averaging more than 12 points a game. Portland could pinch two more wins on the run home - it plays Terang on January 11 and Stawell on January 25.
What coach Rebel Noter says:
"I have implemented a lot of new things this season so I have been happy with the way they have taken it on. The last game against Warrnambool I wasn't there and they fell away a little bit and away from what we've been practising. Other than that, the guys are improving. Joel Mirtschin has been a rock for the team and our most consistent player and Dave Groten (has been good) but it's great to see some young under 18s step up as well. Daniel Jackson has been good for us and Nathan Valori as well. We play Colac on the 4th and Terang on the 11th (of January) and our aim is to try and win those two games and then we have a double-header. We really pushed Horsham last time we played them and they will play a hard game on the Saturday night against Warrnambool before we play them on the Sunday."