Shepparton Gators may officially be out of the race for finals, but coach Leigh Bathman still liked elements of what he saw on Saturday night.
The Gators lost to Keysborough Cougars by 11 points at Shepparton Sports Stadium, competing with a severely undermanned line-up.
With South Australian Kyle Howe-Tipene and Echuca’s Staci Richardson unavailable, Bathman looked to the next generation to step up.
And the coach said despite the loss, there were plenty of positives to take from the match.
‘‘I thought for the squad we fielded we did a really good job, they were too big and too strong early in the game and built a nice lead,’’ he said.
‘‘The effort from the kids was really good to see, they stuck to their task and did some good things, they made some blues, but they’ll grown and learn.’’
Gabe Evans showed some spark as did Bailey Michel and Brady Neill, although much of the scoring was left to American import Justin Patton.
He scored 36 points, clearly the Gators’ top scorer, with Neill next having added 11 points to his tally.
But Shepparton lacked enough defensive output to keep its opponents in check as Calvin Enge (31 points) ran rampant for Keysborough with Bathman unable to find a suitable match-up on him.
Knowing the opposition would be a towering force, the Gators’ coach encouraged his team to play quick, knowing they would have to contend with increased mistakes.
‘‘When you want to play quick, decision-making becomes a bit rushed and we paid for that a bit,’’ he said.
In a recent trend, Shepparton again let its opposition slip out to an early lead, with the Cougars moving ahead by 14 points in the first quarter.
But despite the Gators working their way to be within six points late in the final quarter, Keysborough showed its experience and held onto the match.
Just one game remains in the Gators’ Big V division one season, with a tough road trip to Warrnambool to come on Saturday night.
Bathman said it was a chance for the emerging talents to again prove they could mix it with the seniors.
‘‘We need to see how many of the young guys can play the level before the recruitment stage,’’ he said.
‘‘For the young guys there’s a six to eight week break before the CBL (Country Basketball League) season so it’s an important period for those guys.’’