Bendigo Basket


Experience Conquers Youth

Patrick F. Whalen

Correspondent, Overseas Basketball Services


Pick any two players from the Australian Institute of Sportís team and thereís a good chance their combined ages would only just equal to Hobartís star Dave Biwerís 35 years. Hobart was playing in the Australian Basketball Associationís National Championship for the second time in three years. Last yearís championship was cancelled due to the collapse of Ansett Airlines. They made it to the Grand Final on the strength of Biwerís 30 points and 30 rebounds in a come from behind semi final victory over South Australiaís Sturt Central.

  When the teams lined up for the opening jump, it was obvious that the AIS had a significant height advantage at every position. Both teams started slowly with the AIS demonstrating some questionable shot selection. They settled down and started to pound the ball into the paint and met with more success. The largest lead any team had in the opening quarter was 5 with AIS leading at the first break 30 to 28.

  The second quarter was one that Hobart would like to forget. Hitting only 8 out of 21 attempts, they still were able to keep pace with the AIS for the first ten minutes. Only at the end of the quarter was the younger team able to string together some baskets to hold an 11-point lead at halftime, 55 to 44.

  In the third quarter the AIS was unable to put the older team away, but at the same time Hobart seemed unable to make a dent in the point difference. Hobartís shots from Biwer and the other old timer, 35-year-old Willie Joseph seemed to be falling short. That was a sure sign of fatigue rather than good defence. It was time for some of Hobartís lesser lights to put their hands up. The shortest player in the game, ironically named Robert Inches, came off the bench to spark a revival. He combined with the second shortest player in the game, point guard Mark Banovic to put on a 7-0 run and then another 5-0 run to bring Hobart to within 5, 78 to 73 at the end of the third quarter.

  The older legs of the Hobart Chargers, playing in the last quarter of their third game in as many days, seemed to have found a fountain of youth during the quarter break. Dave Biwer opened the quarter with a three and a two. Two minutes into the final term, Hobart had the lead for the first time since midway through the first quarter. In all there were nine lead changes during the final term. The captain of the AIS, Rhys Carter, whop is destined to be team-mate of Dave Biwer with the NBLís Victoria Giants next month, had the sort of quarter that nightmares are made of. Fouled while taking a long shot, he was only able to convert one of the three from the charity stripe. His next two field goals also only found rim. With two minutes left, trailing by two points, 91 to 93, the AIS was unable to get a shot off and lost the ball on a 24 second violation. Not be outdone, Hobart obliged by also turning the ball over twice in the last two minutes. Iím not sure what was going through the minds of the AIS coaching staff, but instead of getting the ball into the paint, which proved effective earlier in the game, the youngsters kept throwing up rainbows, which did not often find the net. Hobart fans, and there were surprisingly several that the Bendigo stadium, started chanting ďBack to backĒ. A tribute to the fact that Hobart has won the last two National Championships that have been held by the ABA.

Next month Australiaís premier basketball competition, the National Basketball League starts. While it may be easy to dismiss the ABA Championship as a lesser achievement, we should to put it into perspective. In the NBL three teams are moving into smaller venues. At least eight of Australianís top drawcards have left their NBL teams to take up contracts in Europe. The NBL is still without a naming rights sponsor and no free-to-air TV coverage. The ABA, although not at the same standard as the NBL, is the largest team based sporting competition in Australia. It boasts 130 men and womenís teams from Victoria, South Australia, New South Wales, Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory. So Hobart, which was dropped from the NBL after the 1996 season, can be very proud of this Championship. It is a credit to their administration, their coaching staff, and the sporting fans of Hobart to have met success after a time in basketball wilderness.