Storm rain on vikings' parade in season opener
THE Grafton Vikings produced an uncharacteristic performance to drop their opening NSW State Basketball League game to the Lismore Storm in Grafton on Saturday night.
A more committed Lismore squad ran out 91-86 winners over the Vikings, who looked every bit a team without any pre-season games under their belts.
Despite Grafton's sub-par performance, it was a tight match throughout, with the lead changing hands several times.
Grafton trailed 30-28 at quarter-time, with neither side showing a great deal of interest in playing defence.
The second quarter followed a similar pattern to the first, with the home team going to the main break with a four-ponit lead.
Mitch Cole was outstanding for the Vikings with 17 first half points, while centre Shaun Murphy had 10. Both players were dominating the rebounds.
However, it was the Storm who came out to play in the third quarter, setting up their victory with a 28-19 stanza.
Grafton went basket for basket with Lismore in the final quarter, but when Cole fouled out with three minutes to go, the Vikings' fate was effectively sealed.
Cole added just seven points in the second half, but was still Grafton's best, while Murphy was unstoppable at times in close to finish with 18 points. Matt Moran was his usual reliable self with 14 points, although he missed chunks of the match with a back injury, while Cameron Fishburn's effort would have pleased coach Craig Howe.
Nathan Ainsworth and Jamie Hagan performed below expectations, but will be better for the run.
Vikings coach Craig Howe said he would have liked his squad to have had a few games together as a team prior to the season starting.
“The more this team (Vikings) play together the better they will become,” he said.
A few of the new players are still trying to find their feet in the team and when this happens we will be a tough team to beat.”
Howe said the Vikings were a tad unlucky to come up against the very strong Lismore first-up, who have now beaten Grafton and Tamworth already this season and must now be favourites to finish first in the north. But Howe was not making excuses for the loss.
“They played well, but for us it's simple - we have to now beat them twice to ensure we are placed higher on the ladder,” Howe said.
Grafton now plays Armidale on Saturday night.
“A few of the new players are still trying to find their feet ... and when this happens we will be a tough team to beat”