Gators win premier one

March 15, 2017

American Justin Patton starred for the Shepparton Gators.

Shepparton Gators have tuned up for the start of the Big V Basketball season in style.

Leigh Bathman’s side travelled to Ballarat at the weekend and conquered the Premier Open event.

What made the victory impressive was the Gators overcame a shock loss on Sunday before rebounding to win the final against Big V Division One rival Melton Thoroughbreds 64-54.

Bathman said his side’s response against Melton was pleasing considering the lacklustre display a day earlier.

‘‘We were much better (on Monday), our two best performances were on days when we only had one game and we were fresh,’’ Bathman said.

American Justin Patton was a standout for the Gators, despite hurting his ankle in the seven-point opening round win against Keysborough.

He returned for the final two games, including posting 25 points in the decider against the Thoroughbreds and kept his opposition import Ivan Harris in check.

‘‘He (Patton) played under duress, so to do what he did in the final game was really great,’’ Bathman said.

‘‘Brady Neill also had a corked calf early in the grand final, but played out the game with great grit and determination to ensure we got home.

‘‘Nick Dodd also did a fantastic job in the final game, but hats off to players from both teams who were undermanned to push through fatigue on the final day and ensure it was a high standard affair.’’

After solid wins against Keysborough and Division Two team Collingwood, Shepparton was shown up by a veterans team on Sunday.

‘‘Keysborough entered a veterans team with guys that had played Big V before and they gave us a real touch-up,’’ Bathman said.

‘‘They knocked down plenty of threes and our guys just didn’t come to work, but we licked our wounds and were able to play far better going forward.’’

Young gun Bailey Michel played the first three games, but had to leave on Monday because of university commitments.

Fellow youngster Gabe Evans also had to miss the later matches, heading back to Shepparton to study for exams.

Captain Rob Sartori took no part in the tournament as he races the clock to be fit in time to play in the Gators’ first Big V game away to Geelong Supercats on Sunday.

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