By Oliver Lees
Macedon Ranges Rockies coach Michael Ryan has been pleased with his side’s ability to gel in its first season in the Country Basketball League north-west competition.
After seven matches, the Rockies sit in fifth spot on the ladder, with four wins and three losses.
On top of the challenge of getting used to playing in the CBL, Ryan said the Rockies, like many community sporting clubs across Victoria, had in recent weeks had players unavailable due to COVID-19 protocol.
The team had four players in isolation who were unable to train earlier in the month.
“We were really starting to hit our stride just before Christmas, we were in that sweet spot,” Ryan said.
“Then we had a couple weeks off and the world changed a fair bit.”
The Rockies have been impressive in the matches where they have come out on top, winning by a combined total of 153 points in their first three wins of the year.
But the season has also been trademarked by an inability to finish strongly in close games.
Macedon Ranges lost both its round three contest against Bendigo and its round five match against Echuca by three points, despite leading late in both matches.
In the round three match up, the Rockies and the Braves went into overtime before Bendigo pulled away.
Ryan said he recognised that it would take some time for his players to learn how to close out tight games.
“Playing in those kinds of situations is a really good learning opportunity for us,” he said.
“We’re still trying to learn how to come together in those critical moments. I know the longer we are together the better we’ll be.
“Right now we’re still working out who’s who in those situations, but there’s still plenty of positive to take out of it.”
Billy Feben has proven to be a consistent force for the Rockies on offence. The guard has featured in the league’s weekly top five scorers for four weeks straight.
Ryan said it was a pleasure to coach Feben, who he described as a player with a high basketball IQ.
“Bill’s a volume scorer, he can create his own shot, which is at this level is pretty advantageous,” Ryan said.
“I think our best games are when he’s played well, not just from a points perspective, but [with his passing] he offers so much to us as a team.”
The Rockies will play one more home game this regular season against top of the table Bacchus Marsh on Sunday, January 23.
“We’re really grateful to all the supporters who have been coming to our home games so far,” he said.
“We’d love to see a big crowd [against Bacchus Marsh]. We’ve been tough to beat at home, the noise echoes throughout the stadium pretty well, the crowd has been like our sixth man.”