Originally written by DEAN MILLARD
PORTLAND made an inglorious start to its debut season in the Country Basketball League’s South West Conference, getting comprehensively thrashed in front of around 150 spectators by last year’s North East conference winner Corio Bay Stingrays at Portland yesterday.
The Coasters were simply not in the same class as the dominant Stingrays side, who looked slick from the moment they walked out to warm up to the sound of the final siren.
Despite going into the match without two of their key inside players the Stingrays still proved too strong on the inside for the Coasters, with centre Jason Reardon using his strength, spring and nous to dominate both on offence and defence.
Starting guard Stefan Osborne was lively around the perimeter early on, scoring five early points, with the Stingrays having nine on the board before Dave Groten finally hit the bottom of the net for the Coasters to get on the board.
The Coasters came back after that initial slow start to be trailing 13 to seven when the first time out of the game was called, however the final part of the quarter saw Corio dominate to score 10 points to three, with Reardon dominating on the boards and around the basket to have 14 points to his name at quarter time as the Stingrays led 23 to 10.
Reardon started the second quarter on the bench but the Stingrays hardly missed a beat, with Paul Hutchison being spotted up outside the arc for three of four three pointers to finish with 10 points for the half as the game quickly slipped away from the home side.
Dave Groten and Peter Roberts both did some strong work in the key for the Coasters, with Groten rebounding hard and driving with force the basket, but with the rest of the side tending to bomb away from deep with no success at all the Coasters found themselves trailing by 28 points at half time, 48 to 20.
Roberts had nine points and Groten seven at half time for the Coasters, however the Stingrays were collectively putting up much better numbers.
Reardon did not add to his tally in the second quarter to have 14 at the break, while Osborne had nine points and Hutchinson 10.
The big difference between the two sides in the opening half was the organisation of the two sides and how well the Stingrays players knew their roles.
The Coasters tended to stick with plan A on offence, finding it hard to change or reset if the defence was well set for them, where as the Stingrays players who were not directly involved in the play continued to work to put themselves in great positions to receive the ball should the ball carrier run into trouble.
Defensively too the Stingrays were impressive, with guards Osborne and Jack Hobbs pressuring every inbound pass and Reardon and Mark Trevaskis looking to pick off the at times forced passes that resulted.
This defensive pressure was lifted to another level in the third term, pressing the ball all over the court to try and force the turnover.
The Coasters seemed to have shaken off some of their early nerves going into the second half, with Peter Roberts and Ayden Skaer finally knocking down a long range bomb each in the third term,
The Coasters also started to play some more aggressive defence, picking up a handful of steals as a side to produce their best quarter for the match, however with Stefan Osborne and Luke Osborn both shooting at 100 per cent from down town for the quarter the Stingrays still managed to edge away, taking their lead out to 39 points at the final change, 77 to 38.
Roberts continued to play some solid basketball in the final quarter for the Coasters, having grown in confidence as the game wore on, while defensively the Coasters started to consistently come up with some stops after tightening up some of the holes that had existed in their defensive structures early in the game.
Stefan Osborne continued to make shots for the Stingrays however as the visiting side raced away to win 101 to 54.
Osborne finished with an impressive 33 points for the match, 24 after half time, to be the game high scorer, while Reardon shot 16, Hutchison 12, Matt Ogle 11 and Osborn 12 for the Stingrays, while for the Coasters Roberts led the way with 21 points, Groten 16 and Skaer eight.
Portland Coasters coach Graeme Pickert said his side had learned a lot about the flaws in their own game from the tough first up challenge.
“We learned that we have probably got to go back to the basics a bit and work on some fundamentals, things like our footwork, and we also learned it is going to be a tough season,” Pickert said.
He said he and his players had received some good feedback from the Stingrays’ coach following the game, which was encouraging in their debut season against such an experienced team.
“They were pretty well drilled, they are a pretty good side.
“Last year they played in the North East Conference and won it and from what their coach has said to us a lot of the sides would get down a bit and give up but at least we didn’t do that, we tried to fight it out and we were pretty happy with that side of it.
“At the moment I am only looking at all of the positives you can take out of the game.
“It might be getting back to fundemantals.
“If we had of played a Colac or somebody and had a win we might not have learned those things.
“We can prepare a bit differently now, we know what we have got to do and we will work on that at our training this week.”
He said his side had learned a lot about how to work hard on defence from the Stingrays, saying it had been a wakeup call to his side about exactly where they were at as a defensive unit.
“There are certain parts of the game we really have to focus on and it really means getting back to the basics.
“We probably thought we were better defensively than what we showed so that will be a real focus this week for us.
“Defensively we have a lot of work to do.
“We weren’t getting our hands in the passing lane like they did.
“We turned the ball over a lot with some bad passes and they were able to get their hands in there and we weren’t doing that.
“We weren’t hedging to help in defence and if you can get it to a big bloke like that who can move it makes it very hard.
“We have got to start getting to some spots in defence and make it hard for them to penetrate.”
He said while a more competitive start would have been good in front of their home crowd it was pleasing to see so many people come to the game to support them and he believed they would learn and improve from the loss.
“You are never happy when you get thumped but we had to start somewhere so we have just got to move forward and improve on today.”