IT was a case of no Tim Pickert, no Darcy Tucker, no worries as the Horsham Hornets started their Country Basketball League season with a bang on Saturday night.
The Hornets out-muscled defending champions Mt Gambier 75-58 at Horsham Amateur Basketball Stadium without two of their starting five players.
A 14-0 start to the final quarter was enough for Steve Bruce’s men to run away with the match in emphatic fashion.
Bruce, who took the reins in Pickert’s absence, said he was delighted with the Hornets’ even spread of contributors, with five players reaching double-figures.
“We gelled together pretty well considering we haven’t all trained together as a team,” he said.
“It was my intention to give all 10 players a crack, which worked out well for us as Mount Gambier ran out of legs.
“I think we’re going to have a good blend of players, especially with Tim Pickert, Darcy Tucker and Keegan Mason to come back.”
Forward Matt Lovel had a welcome return to the court after a two-year absence, scoring 18 points and eight rebounds.
Play-maker Cam Bruce was also impressive with 16 points, eight rebounds and five assists.
Jon Schwarz, 11 points, Jake Hobbs, 10, and Tim Friend, 10, all pitched in, with Friend notching up a double-double after collecting 12 rebounds.
Hobbs was the most efficient of all players on court, shooting at 71 per cent, while Stuart Robinson was the quiet achiever on his way to eight rebounds.
Lakers’ assistant coach Simon Berkefeld was gallant in defeat, scoring a game-high 24 points before fading late in the match as the Hornets took control.
Matthew Berkefeld, 12 points, was the only other Laker to make a worthy contribution on the scoreboard.
Mount Gambier finished the match with just seven players after Michael Stephens was fouled out in the second half.
It was a tight affair to start the match as the two sides traded blows to go eight-all midway through the first term.
Horsham were well serviced by Bruce and Hobbs, who each had six first-quarter points as their side went into quarter-time with a 21-17 advantage.
Jon Schwarz was on fire for the home side shortly after the break, sinking two consecutive baskets as the Hornets led 25-17.
Mt Gambier finished the half strongly thanks to key players Mitchell Mott and Berkefeld, with the latter scoring 15 first-half points to be the games’ most influential player.
Berkefeld was once again in the action early in the second half, sinking a clutch three-pointer to tie things up at 42 apiece midway through the third term.
But the likes of Lovel, Bruce and Friend all stepped up to make sure the Hornets went into the final change leading 51-48.
Any hopes of a Lakers come-back were quickly extinguished as the Hornets went on a final-quarter rampage, outscoring their opponents 24-10.
The Hornets’ next match is an away trip to Colac on October 26.