Classic grand final awaits

CLASS EFFORT: Toby deWit will need to use all his experience and ability when the Lakers take on Horsham Hornets in the Country Basketball League grand final on Saturday. Pictures: FILE

By Trevor Jackson

THE Country Basketball League has reached the pointy end of the season, with the Mount Gambier Lakers set to face the Horsham Hornets in the grand final at Horsham on Saturday night.

The two sides were separated by less than one percentage point after the minor rounds were completed, with the Lakers on top of the ladder.

During the minor round the ledger sits at one win apiece.

Back in Round 5 the Hornets were successful, with a six-point victory, set up by a strong opening term at the Icehouse.

Round 10 saw the Lakers head over to Horsham and claim an eight-point victory.

Both sides sat with a 13/3 win/loss record, clear of Portland and Warrnambool.

Mount Gambier advanced to the grand final after a solid 20-point win over Warrnambool, while the Hornets were pushed by Portland and claimed the win by just seven points.

It sets up an exciting grand final clash, with neither side starting as favourite.

Coach Matt Berkefeld was rightly pleased with the semi-final result and the grand final opportunity “I was really happy with our performance in the semi-final, considering we lost to Warrnambool pretty comfortably last time we played them,” he said.

“We were challenged early in the game and the way the boys responded, particularly in the second quarter, I was really pleased with it.”

Now the Lakers face Horsham on their own court in the final game of the season, the stakes are even higher.

“We have beaten them once this year and they have beaten us.

“Both games were close and neither team was at full strength.

“I think it will be the first time both teams can get a look at each other at full strength.”

Berkefeld noted the experience of Tom Daly and Simon Berkefeld, who he said had been good players for a long time, but also noted the improvement in the younger players in the roster.

“This year I have noticed we have had the next group step up,” he said.

“Toby deWit has had an outstanding season, Duncan Reid and Shaun Lock have had big seasons as well and Ben Young is another one who has improved.

“They are contributing at both ends of the floor, which is good.”

Berkefeld also noted the importance of Braiden Ousey to the roster.

“He is a real barometer for our side,” he said.

“He has missed half the season and generally a lot of our poorer performances have been when he is not there.

“He has good size, he is really physical and gives us an element to our team we don’t really have.”

To win the grand final will certainly be a tough battle and Berkefeld said there were a couple of areas his players needed to concentrate on.

“They have two of the leading scorers in the league which we need to keep an eye on,” he said.

“I thin how well we defend and how well we rebound the ball will probably dictate whether we win or lose.

“I will back our guys in to win their match-ups, but they will have their work cut out for them.”

As for the experience of Daly and Simon Berkefeld, Matt Berkefeld said it was invaluable to the grand final.

“We are expecting several hundred people there,” he said.

“It will be loud and there will be quite a lot of pressure on in a grand final.

“But it gives me confidence as a coach because we have guys who have been in that situation in the past.”

At the end of the day the season is on the line and the championship honours could certainly go either way.

“From playing against Horsham in the minor round, we always felt they were the team to beat,,” Berkefeld said.

“They deserve to be there and they are in good form at the moment.

“It is the two best teams going at it.

“We are confident, but we are also aware nothing short of our best will be good enough.”