INJURED American import Sai’Quon Stone will miss Warrnambool Seahawks’ Big V title tilt, in a major blow to the division one side’s play-off campaign.
Stone ruptured his Achilles tendon in the Seahawks’ win against Melbourne University City Angels on Saturday night, forcing him to watch their final qualifying game on Sunday from the bench.
The 198cm guard, the Seahawks’ second-highest point scorer this season, had a scan on Monday which showed a one-centimetre tear.
Stone could spend up to 12 months on the sidelines recovering from the serious injury setback.
His loss comes on the eve of Warrnambool’s first finals series in three years.
The Seahawks will play Chelsea Gulls in a cut-throat quarter-final at the Arc on Saturday night after finishing the regular season with a 13-6 record.
Warrnambool coach Bobby Cunningham said Stone had proven an invaluable addition to the Seahawks this season after arriving from Brooklyn.
The University of Southern Mississippi graduate leads the Seahawks in average steals (3.6) and is equal team leader in average assists (1.9), despite missing the first three games of the season due to immigration red tape.
“I am more disappointed for him,” Cunningham said of Stone’s season-ending injury. “He came out here with the mindset that he was going to lead us to finals and he’s done that and did that until the third quarter on Saturday.
“It was an innocuous play. All he did was plant his foot.
“He said ‘did someone kick me’ and as soon as he said that the ref next to me said ‘he’s done his Achilles’.
“We helped him off and he sat with his head in a towel for a while but after the initial shock he said it was about the team.
“He was great from the sidelines and on Sunday he was the same.”
Cunningham said Stone was “doing the right things off the court” and fits in well with Warrnambool’s team ethos. But he said he was unsure of what direction the playmaker’s long-term playing future would now take.
He left Stone’s short-term future up to him.
“I am sure the club and Sai’Quon will sit down and talk in the next couple of weeks,” he said.
“Does he stay and support the team, which I am sure the guys would love, or do we try and get him back to New York to start rehab?”
Stone’s injury paves the way for teenage guard Josh Dean to play more minutes on Saturday night and potentially deep into play-offs if the Seahawks progress.
Dean stood up when Stone went down on the weekend, playing 29 minutes for 12 points on Saturday night and dropping a season-high 19 points from 30 minutes in Warrnambool’s narrow win against Blackburn Vikings on Sunday.
Cunningham said he was confident Dean could replicate that form against the Gulls this weekend and play in tandem with fellow teenage guard Damian Gray.
“Throughout their junior basketball careers ‘Damo’ and Josh always played well together and it was evident on the weekend when that happened again,” he said.
“So there is a little silver lining there. It opens opportunities for other people to play more minutes and shoot more points.”
The quarter-final tips off at 7pm on Saturday.