By SAMUEL DARROCH
THE orange army marched into the BigV division one men’s grand final series with a resounding 42-point victory over Warrnambool Seahawks in Traralgon on Saturday night.
In its deepest playoff run under the Energy moniker, Latrobe City rose to the occasion in front of a packed house and bolted to a 22-point lead at the first change, giving the Seahawks no room to breathe on the offensive end.
The Energy defence continued to smother the visitor in the second term, winning the quarter 26-22 despite putting up seven fewer shots from the field.
Vashon Weaver shadowed Seahawks star Tim Gainey at every turn, contesting the former import’s shots to restrict the visitor’s avenues to the hoop.
With the pressure thrust upon Gainey’s support staff, Energy thwarted their shot making throughout the contest.
While Energy’s own scoring staggered in the third quarter, its relentless pressure ensured the Seahawks fared no better at 17 apiece, and by the time the final siren sounded the visitor had hit just 17 of 71 field goal attempts and three of 20 from the perimeter.
Energy coach Les Stothard said the 101 to 59 victory was a testament to regimental defence and a rock solid game plan.
“We played really well on the defensive end, we had them really well scouted and had a game plan prepared… and we really executed it. We contested every jump shot they took, they didn’t get anything easy,” he said.
“We certainly picked the right time of year to put probably our best four quarter performance together.”
United States import Ashton Pitts stacked up another instrumental game high personal haul of 22 points and eight rebounds, with great support from Billy Hughes (20 points) and Jarryd Moss (14).
Stothard had the luxury of running through the full rotation, with 12 players shuffled on through the evening to cover foul trouble for Cal Rees, Liam Fitzpatrick and Pitts.
Latrobe City will now face off in a best of three grand finals series against Southern Peninsula Sharks for the first time under the Energy brand, the last being about 15 years ago as the Pacers.
Stothard said a three game series would present a huge challenge both for himself as a coach and the playing group, but that he would tinker little with the winning formula.
“We’re not going to change a whole lot, last time we played Southern Peninsula we prepared really well and we got a really good result, so it will be a lot of the same,” he said.
“I think the positive thing is we’ve been building toward this for some time… over two or three years. The guys are ready to go and I think they’re really looking forward to the opportunity.”
Game one will be an away fixture, followed by a potential double header at home with games on Saturday and Sunday if required next weekend. If Energy can win on the road, only a brave punter would bet against it to seal the series at home given its near flawless record in Traralgon this year.
“We’re going to put a lot of emphasis on trying to get the win this week because our record at home is fantastic,” Stothard said.
The Energy women were unable to keep their finals dream alive, losing a second match in their three-game series against Mildura Heat.