By Oliver Lees
Crucial wins in the tail end of the season have helped elevate the Macedon Ranges Rockies into finals contention in the Country Basketball League north-west competition.
Going into a back-to-back fixture against Bacchus Marsh, Rockies coach Michael Ryan knew his team’s season was on the line.
“We treated it like a mini final series, we knew we had to win both of them [to play finals],” Ryan said.
Playing first in Bacchus Marsh and then at home, the Rockies prevailed in both contests, and launched themselves into fourth place with one match remaining in the season.
In both matches the Rockies’ team fitness came through as they overcame the Lions with near identical score lines, 87-73 and 86-72.
True to form, Billy Feben, an ex-Bacchus Marsh player, led the Rockies offence with an average of 25 points over the two games.
Feben was the league’s overall top scorer in round seven.
Matthew Quinn chipped in with 11 and 14 point games, as the Macedon Ranges had at least four players scoring in double digits in both matches.
Ryan also praised Mark Colverd’s 14 point performance on January 23, which included four three pointers.
Bacchus Marsh was significantly hamstrung coming into the matches due to its top scorer Blake Allison being unavailable due to COVID-19 protocol.
Allison posted four double digit performances before his season was put on hold.
While player unavailability was a factor for both clubs, Ryan said he was also ecstatic to see players coming off the bench and having an impact.
“We had to play whoever was in front of us, they were both really good games with lots of lead changes early on,” he said.
“It’s just a credit to those guys sitting on the bench, and shows we’ve got some really good depth.”
“But we pulled away in both games and got out to 20 point leads.”
Ryan conceded the Lions match at Woodend Buffalo Stadium was a physical contest, with three of his starters fouling out.
“We get better every time we go out there,” he said.
“We knew we had must-win games, but we just tried to stay in the moment and we knew if we did that, the result would go our way regardless.”
Echuca, Bendigo and Maryborough will stand in the way of the Rockies’ chances of a grand final win in their maiden season.
They each sat with seven wins and two losses after nine rounds.
Macedon Ranges lost its first match of the season to Maryborough 80-60, but only lost narrowly to Bendigo and Echuca.
Both of those contests were decided by three points.
The Rockies also celebrated Lachlan Scott’s 50th game late in the season.