Cougars in touching distance of glory

IT all comes down to 40 minutes of basketball when the Albury Cougars take on Shepparton for the Country Basketball League’s North East Conference Championship at Wodonga Leisure Centre tonight.

The Gators will be looking to win their third title in a row, with Albury looking to complete a dream return to the competition and win its first championship since 2007-08.

Both teams are coming off stirring semi-final victories — the Cougars in overtime against Wodonga and the Gators with a solid away win against Seymour.

The Cougars have the upper hand so far this season, winning both encounters, but this is a totally different ball game.

Albury will have to pay special attention to the Gators’ general, Matt Bartlett, with the former SEABL player in stellar form.

Not only is he scoring for himself, but also ensuring his teammates get wide open looks.

Albury will look to its “three Musketeers”, Darcy Harding, Jack Duck and Sawyer Dearborn, to lead its offensive charge, while bigs MacGregor Cameron and Ben Appleford will hope to lock down on defence and dominate the rebound count.

Dearborn felt his team would carry good momentum into the game.

“We played some good basketball and some silly basketball, but we showed a lot of ticker to dig ourselves out of the holes,” he said.

“That helps in the future when you’ve got your back against the wall.

“Against these guys we could be in that exact situation again, so we will at least have confidence in our abilities to overcome it.”

The game should be a real firecracker, with either team capable of coming up trumps.

Both enter the final with a win-loss record of 11-3 for the season.

The Cougars are averaging 83 points per game to the Gators’ 70.

However, Shepparton has the edge on the other end of the floor, conceding just 58 points per game.

Albury, on average, gives up 65.

Tonight’s final tips off at 8pm.