THE Bathurst Goldminers must overcome the absence of Youth League men’s division two rookie of the year Matt Gray if they are to taste premiership success.
The Andrew Osborn coached outfit will head to the Maitland hosted finals weekend without Gray, a talented centre who averages 35.56 points per game.
Gray will certainly be missed, but Osborn feels his side is still good enough to get past Ilawarra Hawks in Saturday’s semi-final and advance to Sunday’s decider against either Newcastle or Sydney Comets.
If the Goldminers make the grand final, they will lose another of their leading players as well.
“Matt Gray, he’ll be in Canberra for the Australian All Schools and then if we beat Illawarra, we won’t have Will [Cranston-Lown] either on the Sunday,” Osborn said.
“But that’s okay, we’ve played a lot of the season without those two guys.
“Even without Matt it’s still winnable because Zak [Simons] is playing out of his skin. Blake [Schaefer] is back and I only used him very sparingly last weekend because I didn’t want him to injure that jaw again, but he’s brimming with confidence and really ready to play.
“Those two will certainly make up for the loss of Matt. I am still quitely confident we can get around them.”
The Goldminers advanced to the semi-final on the back of an impressive 100-79 win over St George in last Sunday’s elimination final.
That match up was good preparation for the showdown with Illawarra given some of their offensive similarities.
“I know the offence that they play, it’s very similar to what St George ran. In other words, it’s either screens on the baseline or screens up higher to free up their outside shooters,” Osborn said.
“We did a really good job on St George getting through their screens, so we will refresh that and adapt that to the players that Illawarra run. If we can shut down their outside guys and take the pass away from the guys inside, then they are going to struggle.”
The Goldminers have already met Illawarra twice this season, with the head-to-head at one win apiece.
The Bathust outfit won 96-72 on its home court, but went down 98-87 in the rematch at Beaton Park. Still, that point guard Cranston-Lown will be available gives his coach confidence.
“The fact that I’ve got Will for that game, the first time we played Illawarra and I had Will, he shut down their main offensive player and we beat them by 24,” he said.
“If we can get there on Sunday I’ll be happy and I guess we will just see what happens.”
Saturday’s semi-final starts at 9am.