Vikings lift in second half surge to clinch conference title
BASKETBALL: With the memories of last year's crushing two-point loss in the Sunshine Conference final nestled firmly in the back of their minds, Grafton Vikings were not about to let lightning strike them twice at Grafton Sports Centre.
Defying a much-improved Ballina Breakers outfit - who almost shocked the home side when they jumped out to a double digit lead in the first five minutes - Grafton fought back in the second half to convincingly clinch the crown 78-57 in front of a raucous crowd.
Emergent junior Jack Boorman lifted the roof off his home stadium as he notched back-to-back three pointers in the third quarter cementing Grafton's lead and his Conference final MVP award with 21 points.
While Ballina fought back in the final quarter they were no match for a defiant Vikings defensive effort as the scoreboard pressure took its toll on the visitors frustration levels.
For Vikings captain Sam Wicks, who was named in the all-Conference starting five, the championship win came as a major relief.
"We had a slow start but it was just good to keep up that intensity and put a good three quarters in there at the end,” he said.
"Once we put that defensive intensity on them, it stopped their shooters from getting free reign and dried them up a bit which made all the difference.”
"This is great. After last year losing the final in that fashion was pretty tough, so to come back this year and play the way we have through the season, it really showed the character of Grafton basketball.”
Wicks was a catalyst for the Vikings charge to the Conference crown but the final was a team effort, with Hamish Denshire playing plenty of minutes despite still feeling the effects of a long term illness, and Mitch Wicks putting in plenty of effort to get 20 plus boards.
But it was the impressive fight shown by the Vikings junior brigrade in Boorman, Lane Delaforce and Brayden Predo who lifted the pace of the game late in the second quarter that made all the difference for the home side.
"We struggled with transition in the first quarter so it was good just to get out and get running in the second, I think that is what we do best,” Wicks said. "Having Jack and the other young fellas come on and inject their pace really made that easier.
"Jack really brought us back with his points in the middle stages there, but he also played some really consitent defence which was even more of a highlight than the points he scored. He certainly lifted our team there.”
Vikings veteran Dan Boorman said it was a proud moment as he lifted the Sunshine Conference champions banner flanked by his son Jack.
"Having him alongside me was honestly the highlight of this all. He top scored with 21 points, and I think he was MVP of the final so it was a massive moment for our family,” he said.