Shepparton Gators punch ticket to finals

By Liam Nash

Finals basketball is again on the cards for Shepparton Gators, with Saturday’s 71-56 home win against Wangaratta Warriors booking a ticket in the semi-finals of the Country Basketball League.

Always looking the dominant side in the fixture, a blend of experience and youth proved to the be the right mix for Brett Bathman’s charges, who was elated by his side’s performance.

“Our shooting was great, I think Nathan Grace hit about four three-pointers and Nick Dodd hit three, so that helped out a lot,” Bathman said.

“Nick was originally unavailable before the game with work commitments, but he managed to get along and gave us about 21 points.

“I think we needed the win to secure a finals spot and the boys are keen to head into that. We are in third now, Seymour are below us, but have a game in hand, so if Wodonga can do us a favour and beat them we will stay where we are.”

Surging to a 10-point lead in the first quarter, the Gators weren’t pulling any punches as Wangaratta felt the brunt of the side’s offence.

The Warriors managed to shave the deficit to seven points at the midway mark, but Shepparton’s finest kept plugging away to extend the lead out of Wangaratta’s reach as the clock ticked down.

Dodd brought The Swamp to life with a rocking performance to keep the Gators in the box seat in such a crucial game, while contributions from Grace (16), Josh Evans (12) and Jordan Michel (11) proved to be subsidiary in the win.

With a week’s break before the competition reaches its boiling point, Bathman hopes to use the time to refine the side and make the most of the opportunity.

“We are really looking forward to playing finals,” Bathman said.

“It will just be about working on playing a four-quarter game; if we can play four quarters, we can beat anyone.”