Our 2001 SEABL Champions
Self belief put Bandits back on top
By Steve Smith, The Border Mail, 2011
From the brink of basketball oblivion to ABA East Conference champions, today marks 10 years since the biggest moment in Albury-Wodonga Bandits history as STEVE SMITH reports.LEIGH Gooding still isn’t sure how it happened.
Trailing a rampant Frankston Blues, 79-73, with a tick over seven minutes remaining in the 2001 Australian Basketball Association East Conference grand final, the Albury-Wodonga Bandits coach was fast running out of options.
The Bandits had played sluggishly for much of the match and now, on the biggest stage, the league’s perennial strugglers were on the brink of yet more heartbreak.
Pacing the sidelines of the Albury Sports Stadium, Gooding shouted a play to his charges as they huddled up during a break in play, hoping against hope they could find a spark to retrieve what was looking perilously close to an unwinnable situation.
What Gooding didn’t know, was that in that huddle, the Bandits players — Allen McCowan, Matt Sheehan, Russell Hinder, Nick Grylewicz and Nick Payne — could barely hear each other, let alone their coach, such was the noise of a 1500-strong crowd that was cheering itself hoarse trying to rally their beloved team.
No one involved can remember exactly what was said but the consensus is that there was an almost absurd level of confidence and positivity; that regardless of the scoreline or how tired they were, they would not lose this game.
And they didn’t.
Starting with a putback from a pumped-up Hinder and an energising three from a blond-tipped Payne, the Bandits went on a 27-8 scoring blitz over the next seven minutes, while at the other end they were racking up defensive stops against an increasingly frustrated Frankston team whose momentum had ground to a halt.