Kookas advance to grand final

Colac’s Rhys Lemke gets past Ararat’s Logan Spark on his way to the basket.

Colac Kookas coach Keith Harrison says he is happy to be labelled underdogs heading into this weekend’s Country Basketball League grand final against powerhouse Mount Gambier.

The Lakers have won four of the past five CBL south-west conference championships, and enter this weekend’s decider at Colac’s Bluewater stadium undefeated.

But Harrison says his team was hitting its straps at the right time of the season, booking a spot in its second grand final in three years after a dominant 89-64 semi-final win in front of a massive home crowd on Saturday night.

“That was our best performance of the season,” Harrison said post-match.

“Six to eight weeks ago I challenged the team to become a defensive unit, and become a side that prides itself on defence,” he said.

“At that point we were an offence-only side, I changed the line-up and challenged everyone, we put the work in and now we’re a handful on defence and that’s what we want.”

The Kooks’ defence had the game all but won in the first half, restricting the Redbacks to just 22 points while piling on 67 of their own.

Star centre Jacob Pupavac was instrumental with a game-high 22 points, and 10 rebounds but it was the Kookas’ even spread of contributors that made them difficult to contain.

Sam Barrow netted 16 points, Lewie Varley had 13, while Jack Barrow netted 11 in his best game of the season.

Harrison said his team would take plenty of confidence into this weekend’s decider, but would need to be at its best to stop Mount Gambier.

The Lakers booked their spot in the grand final with a hard-fought 90-79 semi-final win over Millicent.

“We probably have a mountain to climb against last year’s champs, undefeated this season, and they’ve won four of the past five championships,” Harrison said.

For the full story see today’s Colac Herald.

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