A PERFECT season or third time lucky?
The 2012 Liquorland club basketball grand final between unbeaten Bullrush and a powerful SE Systems tomorrow is shaping up as a classic clash of styles and personnel.
“We like to run so a fast pace suits us,” says Bullrush captain Jimmy Wilson. “As long as we play as we have been, it’s going to be a good game.”
The starting five for Bullrush — Wilson, Kit Maile, Leityn Swann, Aubrey Yates and Ryan Walters — are full of running.
Scott Muncaster, Leigh Watene, Daniel Beets will come off the bench.
Bullrush have dominated the league with 11 wins in a row. Should they win they would become the first Gisborne Basketball Association club team to record a perfect season since the Tom Brodie-coached ladies champions Boiler Gym in 1991.
They have already beaten SE Systems twice in round-robin play — 59-41 and 39-35 — and are averaging 57 points for and 40 against to SE Systems’ 47 and 41.
Wilson, Yates and Walters must take defensive rebounds against three of the league’s most experienced strongmen in Ray Noble, Reggie Namana and club captain Adrian Sparks.
Wilson was the hero of the 2011 final. He sank a three-pointer with just 0.3 seconds left to give Purp and Yellow a 50-48 win over Blades.
His strength and all-round ability makes him a hugely important player while Walters will have to work hard at both ends and muscle up to what is likely to be a pounding inside the key.
Walters opened the scoring with a three-pointer the last time the teams met, then sealed the win with another three-pointer 8.2 seconds from fulltime.
But as Bullrush’s tallest player, he must be wary of fouling out against an SES unit who — as they did last week — may go straight at the opposition’s centre early in the game.
“Bullrush have lethal ability at the three-point line and depth on the bench,” says veteran Sparks: “We have to play well as a team, click on the night offensively and defend against their penetration.”
Sparks, Namana and Noble will be joined in the starting five by teenagers Damian Tilley and Liam Greening, who Noble rates highly.
“Their decison-making has improved,” said Noble. “Liam’s learning to play a team game with experienced players he can trust. Damian’s an athlete. He’s got speed, he can jump and now he can play slow as well as fast in relation to what the game needs.”
Both are tearaways in the open court and take the ball fearlessly to the basket.
However, the key to SE Systems’ 50-36 semifinal win over second-seeded Gisborne Boys’ High was their ability to break the students’ pressure defence, minimise turnovers and use the full 24 seconds to find a quality shot.
Substitute players for SE Systems are Angi Te Hau-Hedge, Bronson Hedge and Tom Zwinnen, all of whom will run hard on attack and defence.
SE Systems, who have won six from eleven games, cannot afford to give Maile room. This superb guard hit 23 points against them in the first round.
Rebouding will also be crucial. If they can prevent easy shots and deny Bullrush second-shot opportunities then they can control the tempo.
SE Systems have inside and outside scoring options but while Greening and Tilley can finish the fast break, as a team they must still be selective about pushing passes in the open court.
Tip-off in the grand final is at 7.30pm, at the John McFarlane Memorial Sports Centre at Gisborne Boys’ High School.
Former national first division referee Cliff Blumfield and Irish national league referee Catherine Douglas will be in charge.
A busy night starts at 5.30pm with the playoff for fifth between Gizzy Electrical and Blades, followed at 6.30pm by the playoff for third between GBHS and Rolling Players.