Big V 2015: Pacers making up for slow start to season

After a slow start to the Big V State Championship men season, Whittlesea has come rocketing back into finals contention as the midway point of the season fast approaches.

After a 2014 season that was derailed by injuries to key personnel – none bigger than star import Jermaine Williams – the Pacers had almost become the forgotten side ahead of the 2015 season.

Before injuries hit last year, Whittlesea was playing some very good basketball and was well and truly entrenched in the finals race.

When Williams went down with a season-ending Achilles injury, so did his side, as the Pacers limped to the finish line with fewer and fewer players as the weeks went by.

Despite the return of Williams and co. to the line-up, their 2015 campaign started in similar fashion to how their 2014 one had ended – in defeat after defeat.

It started with a very poor home loss against Werribee, who are now second last with a 2-10 record, and soon enough the Pacers were 0-5 and languishing at the bottom of the table.

The ensuing losses were not nearly as bad, with a six point defeat against Ringwood, a one-point heartbreak at the hands of Hume City, and an eight-point loss at league-leading Corio Bay amongst them.

After a Good Friday thrashing by Diamond Valley in round four, something changed.

Credit: Big V Media

The Pacers have since won five of their last six and are now just half a game out of the coveted top six.

With wins coming against Melbourne (2-9 and on a six-game losing streak), Hawthorn (5-8, four-game losing streak), Werribee (2-10, ten-game losing streak) and Sherbrooke (3-9), it would have been easy to take their run of form with a grain of salt.

However, on the weekend the Pacers did what no other side had been able to do for seven weeks – beat McKinnon.

The game was scrappy and low-scoring, but the Pacers found a way to snap the Cougars’ nine-game winning streak and, in the process, announced themselves as a major finals threat.

Williams was superb, going off for 21 points, nine boards and seven assists in a typical performance from the man who recorded a triple-double earlier in the season against Hawthorn.

There is no question that his form has been a big reason for Whittlesea’s impressive recent run, with the American averaging 17.6ppg, 9.9rpg and 4.4apg whilst shooting 51% over the course of the season.

While Williams creates plenty of offense and is the star of the show, his teammates have a lot to be credited for as well.

Michael Petridis is averaging 15.7ppg in 28 minutes this season, Jason Dirkx is averaging 15.6ppg and shooting 50% from the floor, and Chris Petroro chimed in with 12 points and six boards against the Cougars to play a vital role in the big win.

Dirkx held what was left of the team together late last season through their adversity and had continued to look strong this season before going down with a season-ending ACL injury prior to the matchup with the Cougars.

The sizeable hole he leaves in the Pacers’ starting five only made their win over the Cougars all the more impressive, and perhaps even shows the extent to how far Whittlesea has come since their 0-5 start and dispels any notion that they will simply roll over when the going gets too tough.

Petridis also looks to be over his injury concerns and is putting up the solid numbers that many have come to expect, which can only mean good things for his side.

Another tough matchup looms for the Pacers this week when they host Bulleen – the only side who has beaten them in the past six games and one of their finals rivals.

The Boomers (5th) currently sit a game and a half clear of Whittlesea (8th) and a win for the Pacers would bring them right into the mix and could even have them inside the top six after round ten if results go their way.

A stretch of good results doesn’t always guarantee success in the long run, with Hawthorn’s recent drop in form after a blistering start the perfect example.

On the other hand, McKinnon have showed that getting on a roll can set up your season and make you one of the top sides in the league.

Only time will tell which way Whittlesea will go in 2015, but with Williams at the helm and his supporting cast stepping up and playing well, a debut finals appearance in State Championship may well be on the cards for the Pacers.

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