By Russell Bennett

The Pakenham Warriors’ Big V Division 2 men’s basketballers are closing in on top spot on the ladder after a commanding 23-point win over the Giants in Coburg on Saturday night, 83-60.
The home side led by nine points, 23-14, after the first term with the shorthanded Warriors looking somewhat sluggish on defense at the outset.
The Giants were up and about in front of their home crowd – getting the looks they wanted while, by contrast, the Warriors seemed to settle for outside jumpers.
But in the second period the visitors were sparked to life thanks to some outstanding plays on both ends of the floor from tough-minded guards Mike Godfrey (10 points, 3 boards, 2 steals) and Craig Drew (2 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists).
Putting their bodies on the line, the pair had far more of an impact than the box score would suggest with Drew’s activity around the offensive glass and Godfrey’s willingness to continually put his body on the line to draw charges.
The Warriors roared back into the contest thanks to big man Brad Bridgewater, who made the Giants’ front line seem anything but giant; captain Ben Gaze (14 points, 6 assists, 3 steals); and Nick Ross (16 points).
Brad Szalek, Cody Fredrickson (13 points), and Trent Lee were also instrumental but Bridgewater was virtually unstoppable down low – finishing with 22 points on 11 of 14 shooting and 10 boards – six of those on the offensive end.
Pakenham turned its slow start around to lead by three, 36-33, at the half and the championship mentality that coach Brent Russell had been preaching all season had clearly come to the fore once again.
At the break he warned about the fake hand-offs and backdoor layups that Coburg’s George Drakopoulos (10 points on 50 per cent shooting, 4 boards, and 4 steals) had been benefiting from but was encouraged by Pakenham’s tighter defensive effort.
The Warriors had their noses in front in the rebounding and turnover numbers and continued in the third where they’d left off.
After Coburg recaptured the lead at 37-36, the Warriors went on a tear – finishing the term with a 12-point lead, 58-46.
An emphatic effort through the opening minutes of the fourth ensured the Warriors came away with a crucial away win from a stadium where they’ve got a mixed recent record.
The win was ignited by its defence and the brand of basketball it displayed is one that will hold it in good stead come playoff time.
On Sunday, in a double-header at ‘The Colosseum’ at Cardinia Life, the Warriors’ Division 2 Youth League Men trounced Warrnambool by 35 points, 86-51, off the back of 17 points from Tyrone Tonkin, 12 points and 7 boards from Lee Belton, and 14 boards from Matt Berkec; while Darren Thomas’ Youth League women came away with a narrow four-point win, 59-55, thanks to another near triple-double from Ellie Coutts (7 points, 7 boards, and 10 steals), 12 points apiece from Emily Patterson and Sarah Thomson, and a perfect performance from the field by Tiarni Fallon (11 points).

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