WARRNAMBOOL Seahawks are back on the winners list ahead of their double-header against top sides Sunbury Jets and Western Port Steelers, in part thanks to their evergreen playing-coach Tim Gainey.
Now seventh on the Big V men's division one basketball table with eight wins and 11 losses from 19 games, the Seahawks have a golden opportunity to leapfrog Bellarine Storm into the top six.
Gainey's side has two games in hand over Bellarine as well as a healthy percentage advantage of 4.95, meaning it could climb the ladder with a split round.
But none of this would have been possible without a crucial 81-75 home win over the Whittlesea Pacers on Saturday that snapped a five-game losing streak.
The Seahawks were led on court by import Xavier Johnson-Blount, Alex Gynes and Gainey, who all played the full 40 minutes.
Johnson-Blount, recently awarded division one's player of the month, finished with 28 points, five assists, four rebounds and two steals, while Gynes registered 15 points, eight rebounds, four assists and three steals.
Meanwhile, Gainey turned back the clock to finish with 20 points and seven rebounds while his side again played without Josh Dean (hamstring), James Mitchell (knee), Oliver Bidmade and Matt Rea (ankle).
The 36-year-old said he loved spending more time on court and would potentially consider stepping back from coaching next year to free himself up with increased minutes.
"I'm feeling great," Gainey told The Standard.
"I just love playing. My assistant coach (Barry Brooks) is more than capable of holding down the sideline while I focus on court.
"I think going to the 24/7 Gym has made my condition really strong - I get sore, but I don't find myself tired at all.
"The elevation room just does wonders for you. And to be honest I feel better physically than I have in the last four years."
Warrnambool did well to curb the influence of Whittlesea stars Hakeem Simon and Emmerson Potts-Broughton at Arc Stadium.
But Gainey said the Seahawks would face a tougher ask in the form of Jets import Ishmael Sanders, who has averaged 27.5 points, 5.39 rebounds and 3.61 assists for the number one side this season.
"Sanders is like the Steph Curry of this league," he said.
"He can consistently shoot the ball from anywhere while a few other guys all play their role.
"And with 11 wins in a row it's a formula that's obviously working for them."
Meanwhile, second-placed Western Port Steelers also boast some heavy-hitters in ex-NBL star Daryl Corletto and import Tanner Samson.
"I'm happy with our win over the Pacers," Gainey said.
"But we still need to control the tempo of the game better.
"All those one-percenters like defence rotations, boxing out and making sure we're taking quick shots - we need to sustain those things for longer in the game."
Gainey said Dean, who played for "roughly 30 seconds" against Whittlesea, would face a fitness test on Thursday.
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