By RUSSELL BENNETT
THE Pakenham Warriors Big V Basketball Youth League Two men’s side has well and truly kept its playoff hopes alive with a win over their namesakes, the Maccabi Warriors, at Bialik Stadium in Hawthorn East on Sunday afternoon.
Coach Simo Pajdic’s Pakenham side jumped out to a 10-point lead, 21-11 at quarter-time thanks in no small part to its superb defensive pressure, which forced Maccabi into a series of ill-advised shot attempts.
On the other end, Pakenham’s outside shooters continued to find good looks on the perimeter.
But costly turnovers from the visitors kept Maccabi within reach.
Pakenham led 44-28 at half-time but Maccabi – coached by former Melbourne Tigers NBL head coach Al Westover – refused to lie down and got the margin back to within single digits late in the game before ultimately coming up short 69-59.
For the visitors, Lee Belton was a constant offensive threat both in the paint through his dribble penetration and from the three-point lane with his pull-up jumper. He finished with a game-high 16 points on 6-13 shooting including two treys. Tobie Dean also shone with 15 points on 5-12 from the field.
After the game Pajdic said he was happy with how his side controlled the contest given a host of regular first-choice players were rested for the clash.
“This was a crucial win for us,” he said.
“The next month will tell us if we’ll play finals or not.”
Pakenham has a crucial double-header this weekend – first on Saturday afternoon against Chelsea, and then on Sunday afternoon away to Corio Bay in Geelong.
“We’ve been winning ugly lately, and our bigs have been our strength – despite two of them never playing rep (representative) ball before and the other one only a minimal amount,” Pajdic said.
“We had a really hard look at ourselves after the Craigieburn game (an 83-81 loss in Round 6) and a few home truths were said throughout the group.
“They (Maccabi) came back at us in this game and if that happened a month or so ago we might’ve folded or panicked, but we weathered the storm.
“We’ve got a lot of things in practice we’re looking to improve on, and then take into games.
“This is a huge month coming up for us and we need to do well to keep ourselves in the frame for the finals.
“If we get the chance, we need to put the foot down against teams and not let them back in.”
In other Warriors news from across the weekend, Jeff Reid’s Division 2 men’s side crushed the North East 97-73 off the back of outstanding performances by Hayden Davey (25 points, 11 boards, 5 steals and 4 assists), Ben Gaze (21 points), and import Kenneth Hall (11 points, 9 boards, 3 steals and 3 blocks). The Warriors trailed by 12 points at quarter-time but turned that around to lead by two, 52-50, at the main break. They then put the foot down in the second half, while impressively restricting the North East to just 23 points.
Darren Thomas’ Division 2 Warriors women, meanwhile, can hold their heads up high after a gallant showing against the high-powered Coburg offence. Pakenham led by eight points after the first quarter and by six at half-time but faded over the final two quarters to go down 83-61.
They’ll host Keysborough this Saturday from 7pm at Cardinia Life, while Reid’s men’s team heads to Hillview Stadium in Rosebud to battle the Western Port Steelers from 7.30pm.