By Jonty Ralphsmith
Pakenham’s men’s side will enter finals with confidence having recorded a 32-point win over Surf Coast to round out the Big V home and away season.
A 26-14 opening quarter set up the win, with the Warriors up by 20 at half-time and extending the lead at every break.
Eleven players got court time for Rob Roberts’ men, as bench players got some minutes and confidence under their belts heading into finals.
Consistent performers Joe Davis (14 points, seven rebounds), Alistair Parker (22 points) Ned Weideman (12 points) and Joshua Dow (20 points, seven rebounds) continued their strong form.
Parker is the best sixth-man in the league according to his coach, given his ability to quickly hit the scoreboard and impact defensively when he comes on court, and veteran Jake Spruhan has long been seen as Pakenham’s ‘Mr Fix It’.
In a boost to Pakenham’s premiership hopes, Sherbrooke was upset by lowly Melton on the weekend, meaning Pakenham will finish second and have this weekend off
Coach Roberts says his side is ready to embrace the finals challenge and the club has plans in place to keep the players connected.
“We’re going to get together to help our team manager on Saturday,” Roberts explained.
“He’s moving house so we’re all going to pack boxes and help him move – that’s what we’ll do to keep us together.
“Everything just seems to be getting together now, the players are up and about and the overall camaraderie of the team has improved so we want to maintain that.”
With Roberts in his first season as coach and Davis and Weideman playing their first season with Pakenham, cohesion was inevitably going to take some time for the Warriors, but Roberts is confident they are peaking at the right time.
“We had a really affected three quarters of the season with illness and injury,” Roberts said.
“In the first 15 games I think there was only one game where we had a full squad.
“We’ve beaten Gippsland and Sherbrooke once, and we lost both the first games and won the second games against them, so we feel we have made the adjustments for teams as needed and put it all together in the right way when it counted.
“If we can do it in a couple of weeks, the first round of finals should hopefully go our way.”
The youth league men also got a good win in the run in to finals, beating Albury Wodonga by seven points.
Down by five points at half-time, the third quarter was closely fought but Pakenham was unable to make any inroads before exploding in the final quarter.
The hosts put 24 points on themselves in that stanza and kept the opponents to 12 points.
Jared Small was typically important on the scoreboard, with 18 points.
The senior women, meanwhile, were able to take it up to Sunbury for a quarter before running out of puff.
Up by two-points at the first change, Sunbury kept the hosts to just eight points in the second quarter, before eventually winning by 33 points.
Just seven players took to the court, with Canadian-import Haille Nickerson scoring 27 points to finish off her strong season.
The youth league women were knocked out of the semi-finals, going down by 52 points to Frankston.
It was always going to be tough with Frankston having lost just one game for the season and the hosts did not let up, asserting dominance from the outset.
The 24-8 quarter-time scoreline reflected the difficulty Pakenham had getting into the contest, and the lead continued to blow out as the game went on with Pakenham unable to halt the charge.
In a positive, emerging players that look likely to play a major part in Pakenham’s seniors in future years such as Rhiannon Gallagher, Ebony Sans, Chloe Zielinski, Alahna Arnason and Chelsea Schreuder were all exposed to the pressure and intensity of finals basketball.
Those players have all shown glimpses throughout the season and with the Pakenham women looking to build the core of their team around young players, having a competitive youth league team will continue to be important to the club’s overall success.