Lions look for momentum

Jordan Kirk is back for the Kyneton Tigers. Picture Shawn Smits

Tara Murray

Bacchus Marsh Lions are hoping to hit their straps in the back end of the Country Basketball League men’s north-west season.

After losing their first three matches, the Lions opened their account last weekend against the Kyneton Tigers.

Lions coach Grant McMillian said the win was just what they needed in a shortened season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We only play seven games and we may have already played the top three teams in the first three weeks,” he said.

“We thought we had a chance of getting the win against Kyneton and shot really well and finished things off.

“It was also a lot better defensive effort.”

McMillan, who has stepped up from being assistant coach the past two seasons, said the first few games they were hurt by poor execution.

He said the last quarter against Echuca, when they went two from 16 from the field, was a clear example of that.

“We’re playing well in the system and getting shots, but we’re not being rewarded with the execution.”

As well as adjusting to a new coach, there has been a number of changes to the playing squad.

Star guard Billy Feben and young star Max Beaumont are not playing.

The loss of Sam Byron, Patrick Craig and Jake Ryaner also hurts the Lions in the height department.

McMillian said despite the departures he is happy with how the squad has shaped up. The Lions have made finals in their two previous seasons.

“Not having Billy means that 25 to 30 points a night we have to find,” McMillian said.

“So we’ve had to come up with other scoring avenues. We’ve recruited a few guys.

“And with [Jordan Kirk] Kirky, Jason Christian and Daniel Jackson back, we’ve got some experience.

“It’s a good mix of youth and experience.”

McMillian said Cooper McIntosh and Justin Runge were among the youngsters who are getting more opportunity this season.

They’ve also got two players from their under-21 side as development players, as they continue to bring young players into the side.

“My assistant coach is the under-21 coach, so it’s good to get some uniformity,” he said. “The guys are learning and there is good information being exchanged.”

The Lions made it two in a row winning a thriller against Mildura on Sunday, 54-53.

“Hopefully we can get a bit of momentum going,” McMillian said last week.

“If we win the last four games, anything can happen and we might even make finals.”

The fifth-placed Kyneton side, which won two of its first five matches, faced the Bendigo Braves on Saturday night, as did the Tigers women’s side which sits second on ladder. The women’s side was 3-1 after four rounds.