Shepparton Gators out to keep their season alive

By Aydin Payne

The 2019 season all comes down to tonight at the Shepparton Sports Stadium for Leigh Bathman’s side. Having lost the opening game of the best-of-three semi-final series against Sunbury last weekend, the Gators must win game two tonight to remain alive. Failure to defeat the Jets will end what has been a magical season for the Gators in the Big V Division One season. If they square the ledger tonight, the Gators will play game three tomorrow afternoon in chance to progress through to grand final series. Speaking on Monday after Saturday night’s loss, Bathman said his side needed to bring the intensity across the whole four quarters.  ‘‘We need to bring the right intensity for the entire 40 minutes,’’ he said. ‘‘In game one we just had too many lapses again in key moments of the game. ‘‘But the guys know you get judged on how you can perform in finals matches. ‘‘I know they will grab their moment when it arises.’’

Versatile big man Atem Atem was one of Shepparton’s best in game one, along with star guard Carlin Dupree and utility Jaxson Macfarlane. Dupree and Atem will be hoping they can get through tonight’s match with no foul trouble, after playing limited minutes last weekend. Bathman’s troops will also need to wary of Sunbury’s talented guard, Ishmael Sanders, who dropped 33 points, as the Jets scored 57 points in a stunning second half comeback. Although, one thing on Shepparton’s side is its strong track record in double header weekends this season. From 12 matches played on the back-to-back schedule, the Gators have saluted 10 times. ‘‘We’ve been good in our back-to-back games this season,’’ Bathman said. ‘‘Looking back through the season we are 10-2 in double header weekends.’’

Being back at home in front of fans, Bathman is hoping for a big crowd to get behind them in game two and possibly three. The Gators mentor wanted the Shepparton crowd to match the effort from Sunbury’s fans in game one. ‘‘Sunbury had it’s home crowd behind them (last week), they were fairly vocal,’’ he said. ‘‘We want to try and replicate that and get a big crowd behind us next weekend. ‘‘We want to make the environment as hostile as possible for them.’’

Tip-off for tonight’s match is at 7.30 pm, while a Gators win tonight would bring about a 1 pm game three tomorrow afternoon.