Shepparton Gators enter the league-wide break with all options open to them.
Sitting on top of the ladder with a 13-1 start to the season, a win against Western Port Steelers has allowed the club to bank wins to ensure it can stave off any challenges that could arise during the second half of the season.
The winning start to the Big V season allowed coach Leigh Bathman to afford Jake Cowling the recommended time to recover from his ankle injury, a luxury Matt Bartlett could not be afforded.
Having also injured his ankle during the summer season, the Gators needed Bartlett’s experience early in the year.
And the star guard has gradually returned to his best, sinking 28 points on Saturday night at Shepparton Sports Stadium.
‘‘Matt shot the ball really well, he was starting to shoot the ball really well again last week (against Latrobe City Energy) and this week was even better,’’ Bathman said.
‘‘It’s important to win going into the bye or else it’s a horrible feeling for two weeks if you do lose because you replay it in your mind.
‘‘But to be 13-1 at the halfway stage of the season takes a bit of the pressure off.’’
On the scoreboard Bartlett was aided by 26 points from Cameron Vines and Spencer Coleman contributed 22.
Nick Dodd hit the final three points with the foursome responsible for all of the Gators’ scoring.
Shepparton led at every change, but the margin varied drastically as they again struggled to push out the buffer.
A stirling third quarter had the home team lead 65-52 at the final change before a difficult fourth quarter against one of the in-form sides of the competition dwindled it back to nine at the buzzer.
While just four players hit the scoreboard, Bathman could not have had anything more positive to say about his defence.
‘‘Our team defence was terrific, it led to some easy transition baskets (in the third quarter) and we did a lot of work during the week about shutting down their offence and how to defend their individual players,’’ he said.
Doing an impressive job was Nathan Grace with the rising star earning praise for his efforts after missing early rounds with a broken thumb.
After the bye, the Gators will return to competition when they host Chelsea Gulls on June 16.