Sport

Gators take 1-0 series lead against Keysborough

By Alex Mitchell

GATORS TAKE 1-0 SERIES LEAD

The Shepparton Gators lead Keysborough 1-0 in the best-of-three series after an 87-84 win.

The series heads to Keysborough's home court next weekend for the final two matches of the series.

GAME PREVIEW

Shepparton Gators earned a famous playoff win last weekend, but if they want to keep their Big V division one season alive, doing it all again this weekend is vital.

A best-of-three semi-final series with Keysborough is on deck, the local side hosting the series opener tonight at Shepparton Sports Stadium before a double-header next weekend on enemy territory.

Such is the excitement pulsing through the veins of the town, Gators officials have organised an extra stand to cater for an expected bumper crowd.

The Cougars might have the series’ theoretical home-court advantage, but Gators coach Leigh Bathman knows the potentially massive advantage of having game one on his side’s own floor.

‘‘The format is tricky for the higher-ranked side; the first game is at home and if we can hold serve, we have that advantage and our confidence just grows through the week,’’ Bathman said.

‘‘Doubt starts to creep in to the opposition then, it’s a tricky scenario.

‘‘Getting the first win would be massive; it will be tough to win if we don’t take this game, but not impossible, but all efforts are going toward winning the first game.’’

But at home or not, the dangerous Cougars bring plenty of challenges to the table, knocking off the Gators in both meetings this season.

They silenced the Shepparton crowd in round four, 79-75, before again winning a tight scrap, 72-70, in round 16.

Bathman acknowledged Keysborough was loaded with weapons, but saw room to improve from the season’s earlier meetings.

‘‘Keysborough is very talented, they’re athletic and well organised and we’ll need to be right on our game,’’ he said.

‘‘They’re pretty athletic across the board and can score in a variety of ways, so we need to be switched on defensively.

‘‘I felt both games we had opportunities and shot ourselves in the foot. We think we’re not far away, we made execution errors and didn’t shoot well.’’

Cougars import Gerrard Newby sticks out as a danger man averaging 18.6 points and 9.7 rebounds a game, as does gunner Calvin Enge, whose 19.8 points a game feature a crisp 42 per cent shooting from three-point land.

But the Gators have their own in-form duo, Spencer Coleman still smouldering from last weekend’s 32-point, 27-rebound firestorm with Cameron Vines also in good touch.

Bathman said ticket inquiries had been through the roof and those wanting to be part of a raucous crowd should get to the game 30 minutes before the 7.30pm tip-off.

‘‘The crowd was fantastic last week, the guys commented on it all week and we want to replicate that hostile environment and play well for our group of supporters,’’ he said.