You know a pre-training meeting on Thursday rarely involves good news.
When Hobart Chargers sat down with coach Ben Rush and import Kyle Hunt before training on Thursday ahead of a Canberra road trip, they didn’t know what was about to hit them.
It turns out from last Monday onwards Rush and Hunt were working quietly to find a way for him to sort of out a personal family problem in the US without having him go home.
The pair communicated all week but by midnight Thursday, Rush all but knew Hunt would be reluctantly flying home and taking his 17 points and 10 rebounds a game with him.
“On Thursday morning we were still looking at options and ways to make things happen for Kyle but we couldn’t find a way,” Rush said.
“We tried to deal with it internally so it didn’t affect the group so we first told our leaders and then the group and while devastated is too strong a word, the guys were really shocked and didn’t want to see Kyle go because we have been really happy with him.
“We brought Kyle in and he had the chance to say his last goodbye to the group so it was a pretty emotional meeting and we started practice a bit slowly.
“But within half an hour we were back on the ball and that is how this group is - they are very strong mentally.”
While the end to Thursday practice was positive, the Chargers entered the weekend with a 3-7 record and desperately needed to beat the BA Centre of Excellence on Friday night as well as the Canberra Gunners on Saturday night.
No matter how tough the rest of the side played, Hunt had left a substantial hole and while their first game was against a COE side featuring just six players due to the absence of several Australian Under-19 Emus, Rush knew it was a danger game.
“I spent a couple of years at the AIS [development coach 2006-2007] so I knew they would be shorthanded but that made it a danger game,” Rush said.
“I told the guys from the start we can’t go in there and think we can turn up, play and get the win.
“It was the game I was most nervous about because those guys had nothing to lose.”
The Chargers made a good start and had a 20-point lead at half time. However, the COE fought back in the second half as forward Harry Froling, fresh from just missing Under-19 selection, took his frustrations out on the Chargers with 34 points and 15 rebounds.
The COE made some big moves in the second half but the Chargers held on for an 84-77 win with six Chargers scoring in double figures led by Tom Wright’s 28 points.
“I’m sure Froling was disappointed in not making the Emus - he stepped up, he had a bit to prove and he did that,” Rush said.
“We would have liked to hold that 20-point lead and rest some players in the second half but we couldn’t do that.
“They fought their butts off and made us work but our guys got the win.”
Canberra Gunners have had some unusual results, especially some sizeable road losses which don’t match up with their level of talent.
The Gunners game needed to be a low-scoring dogfight for the Chargers to have a chance but with the Gunners up six early in the third term and already closing on 50 points, things looked bad.
Just as they had done all weekend though, the Chargers locked down on defence and brought back the margin, setting up a knife-edge finish.
In an unusual statistic, the Gunners shot no free throws for the night but made 11 of 25 three-point shots while the Chargers made 18 of their 22 free throws but only five of their 21 threes.
With 18 seconds left, the Gunners had the ball and after a strong defensive display the Chargers broke down at the end of the shot-clock allowing Ben Allen to get free for a three-pointer which he drained to tie scores at 73-73.
After the clock wasn’t stopped quick enough, it was reset to 1.5 seconds giving the Chargers time for a final fling.
Rush admitted their set play broke down but Sydney Kings guard Kevin White get himself open at the top, catching, taking a dribble and shooting a one-footed runner which went in on the buzzer.
“Kevin did what you have to do - he got a shot off and then we had some luck and it went in,” Rush said.
“It was a bit of a Matthew Dellavedova type of shot.
“It’s a tough way to lose and a great way to win.”
With the Chargers record now up to 5-7, they remain right in the race for a top four finish in the South conference with third place through seventh all owning similar records.
Rush said the search would begin for a replacement for Hunt and either way he still believed his club could find a way to make the finals.
“Since we released our import early and bought in White we have been 3-3 with three very close losses,” Rush said.
“So we feel like in the second half of the year we are a good chance to make the playoffs.
“Those two wins are massive - we’ve been through a lot this season but this group keeps battling.”
*BA Centre of Excellence forward Harry Froling had a career night against Hobart Chargers with 34 points and 15 rebounds in COE’s loss.
*Chargers scorer Tom Wright had a big weekend with 28 points and six assists against COE and 22 points against Canberra Gunners as his club won both games.
*Sandringham’s Junior Hairston stood tall for the Sabres in their two wins with 20 points on Saturday and 27 points on Sunday.
*North-West Tasmania’s Fred Hunter collected 25 points and pulled in nine rebounds in his club’s loss to Brisbane Spartans.
*Two of SEABL’s most potent scorers clashed on Saturday night with Bendigo’s Tony Lewis scoring 34 points and grabbing 16 rebounds while Ballarat’s Roy Booker had 28 points as the Braves took the win.
*Gunners star Nnaebuka Anyaorah had another big night with 25 points and 12 rebounds against Hobart.
*Frankston’s Brandon Polk was in good touch against Dandenong Rangers as he scored 25 points and grabbed 17 boards.
*Nunawading’s Simon Conn shot 13 of 17 field goal attempts for 28 points as his club fell to Sandringham.
*NW Tasmania’s new signing Garrett Jackson scored 24 points and took in 12 rebounds against Sandringham but he made just 10 of 27 attempts.
*Thunder teammate Nathan Wilson’s 29 points and 10 rebounds also stood out.
SEABL media links
*Bendigo Advertiser’s Luke West (@lukewestaddy) reports on former Opals, WNBL and SEABL star Kristi Harrower’s newborn baby. Picture, story:
*Bendigo Advertiser’s Nathan Dole reports on the Braves clash with Ballarat. There is also a great picture gallery. Story, pictures:
*The Border Mail’s Steve Smith (@Stevesmithffx) on the Bandits big crowd and big win. Report: http://www.bordermail.com.au/story/3146404/bandits-in-top-gear-as-big-al-spurs-lift/?cs=10
*The Border Mail previewed the Allen McCowen tribute game which was played on the weekend. Story: http://www.bordermail.com.au/story/3142126/bandits-its-time-to-fire-for-your-legend/?cs=10
*Geelong Advertiser’s Wes Cusworth (@wescusworth) reports on the Supercats’ weekend. Report: http://www.geelongadvertiser.com.au/sport/local-sport/seabl-geelong-supercats-strike-strife-at-the-stripe-against-bandits/story-fnjuhs0b-1227397483361
*The Advocate’ Cameron Whiteley reports on NW Tasmania’s loss to Brisbane. Report: http://www.theadvocate.com.au/story/3144190/thunder-fall-to-third-consecutive-loss/?cs=88
*Leader’s Megan Hustwaite (@MeganHustwaite) reports on Kilsyth’s bad run of form. Report, picture: http://www.heraldsun.com.au/leader/sport/kilsyths-form-slump-continues-with-seabl-loss-to-mount-gambier/story-fnglemo4-1227397062804