Vikings struck down by Storm in semi-final thriller
BASKETBALL: Crown Hotel Grafton Vikings coach Nathan Martin has raised concerns with the Frigid Air Sunshine Conference schedule after his side was ousted from the finals by Lismore Storm on Saturday night.
Without key big man Mitch Wicks and junior talents Zac Clark and Kyle Brunker, the Vikings were unable to close down the fast shooting ability of the Storm, losing the major semi-final 88-83 at Grafton Sports Centre.
"It was a bit of a tough one,” Martin said. "We have had a disrupted month, with no basketball in three weeks, and straight into semi-finals it was always going to be hard.
"We also lost Mitch on Tuesday before the game, along with a couple of other key outs, everything was going against us. It was a disappointing way to end the season but I am proud of the effort of the guys who did play.”
The Vikings started the game at a relentless pace and soon had the Storm on the ropes but, when playmaker Jack Roberts-Field went down with an ankle injury midway through the first quarter, the tide changed for the home side.
Roberts-Field returned to the court in the second quarter, but was not at 100 per cent and, with the lack of depth on the bench, the Storm capitalised to put in a 21-point second quarter to run away with the game.
"I really thought we could have executed a few things better,” Martin said. "Their best shooter Jacob (Leu) put up seven three-pointers. We should never have let him get those kind of opportunities.
"At each break we spoke about how to shut down their shooters, but we just couldn't manage to do it.”
The Vikings managed to peg back the Storm in see-sawing third quarter, and were level midway through the last, but a valiant final quarter from the visitors was enough to seal the win.
Vikings big man Hamish Denshire was the home side's best scoring 20 points, while Roy Allen was tough as nails under the basket as he stepped up to the starting five.
Lismore will play against Byron Bay in next week's final.
Women earn decider berth
WHILE the men might not have been able to get the result over their fierce rivals, the Grafton Vikings women had no such troubles earning their way through to the Frigid Air Sunshine Conference final at Lismore next week.
The Vikings women, led by captain Nat Ballard, had to fight back from a three-quarter deficit to run away with a 12-point win against the Storm.
They will face off against Ballina Breakers in next weekend's final.