Vikings look to big men rotation in must-win clash
BASKETBALL: Jacaranda Hotel Grafton Vikings head into a must-win clash against Lismore Storm tomorrow night as the side aims to cement their spot at the top of the Frigid Air Sunshine Conference heading into semi-finals next week.
The last round clash is a catch-up match from a rained out second round, and with Grafton tied at the top of the table with Byron Bay Beez they need to defeat Lismore tonight to hold on to their home court semi-final advantage next week.
But before the Vikings can start thinking about finals basketball they have a tough test in Lismore, who took the Grafton side to the wire earlier in the season.
On that occasion it was a buzzer-beating three-point shot from captain Sam Wicks that helped the Vikings scrape away with the competition points, but the point guard said it cannot be the same tonight.
"We certainly learnt a lot of lessons from that game,” he said. "We have been trying to keep that intensity up for the full four quaters, not just the first and the last.
"We have managed to get it out of our game the last two clashes, so hopefully we can keep that consistency running into the finals.”
A key reason for the recent consistency has been the inclusion of fiery forward Nathan Earp, who turned a couple of cameo appearances earlier in the year into a return to the courts.
Earp brings a wealth of experience to the Vikings bench, and provides an extra set of legs in the power forward position in a rotation with season-best find Mitch Wicks.
"It is excellent to have Nath's experience coming off the bench,” Wicks said. "Having another bigger guy who can play inside that well is great to have.
"We have a couple of really good bigs in the team that can rotate and come on and have a big impact each time.”
While the last meeting between the two arch-rivals came down to a last ditch perimetre effort, Wicks said he expected tonight's clash to be played a lot tighter with the big men likely to prove the difference.
The two sides will be playing for the Leonard-Harkin Memorial Shield named after Grafton Vikings stalwart Bruce Leonard and the late Scott Harkin who was a key member of the Storm basketball community.