Loss of captain big blow

THE Goldfields Giants have suffered a major blow ahead of their do-or-die State Basketball League semi-final, with captain Shamus Ballantyne ruled out of tonight’s clash with Perry Lakes.

With the Giants’ dream of a hat-trick of titles on a knife’s edge, Goldfields coach Stephen Charlton yesterday confirmed Ballantyne would not play through illness.

The 2007 grand final MVP and match-winning point guard in the past two play-offs series played just one minute in last Saturday’s 94-91 away loss and is still unfit to play.

According to Charlton, the 265-game veteran was ruled out on Wednesday, which at least gave the Giants time to prepare for his absence at Thursday night’s training session.

Charlton said the Giants still believe they can win game two tonight and game three, tomorrow at midday if required, to qualify for a fourth successive SBL grand final.

“We’re still confident we can win if we play well,” Charlton said.

“Shamus won’t play this weekend at all – he’s no chance.

“We’ve always said we’ve had good depth and we should be able to cover anybody.

“No player should be irreplaceable.

“We’ve basically had all week to plan. We prepared on Tuesday as if he wouldn’t be playing and then on Thursday we knew he wouldn’t be there.”

Goldfields are in uncharted territory under Charlton, having swept through the semi-finals 2-0 in each of his previous three seasons.

Charlton said the focus at training this week had been on running the Giants’ plays rather than combating Perry Lakes, who were brilliantly led by former Perth Wildcats forward Tom Garlepp (28 points) and guard Martin Vahala (26 points) in game one.

“We’ve not reinvented the wheel, but we’ve changed a couple of things,” he said.

“We made sure we are prepared as much as possible to run our stuff better offensively. I thought we were a step slower than normal last week.”

Former Giants coach Geoff Hobba’s 2004 line-up is the only team in club history to recover from a 1-0 deficit in the semi-finals.

That season, the Giants came from behind to defeat the Willetton Tigers 2-1 before losing the grand final 104-97 to Perry Lakes.

The Giants have made the final four nine times since 1990, winning five semi-finals series and losing three.

The major factor in the Giants’ favour is their home court advantage at Kalgoorlie’s Niels Hansen Basketball Stadium, where they have won 12 of 14 games this season.

“We are always a tough team to beat at home,” Charlton said.

“It’s a three-game series and anything can happen.” Meanwhile, Charlton predicted Lakeside, who are 1-0 up in their semi-finals series with Geraldton, would advance to the grand final.

Article by Jarrod Lucas (Kalgoorlie Miner)




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