Emerging star Matthew Johns was named ‘Player of the Match’ as the Geelong Supercats romped to a comfortable 20-point win, 96-76, over SEABL newcomer Diamond Valley on Saturday night. The host was largely untroubled bursting from the blocks with a 31-15 first term that set the precedent for the evening, Johns finishing with 12 points in a match that showcased his enormous athleticism.
“It was really a follow on from last Sunday, we were very good against Hobart and while we didn’t get the points I was confident that if we played like that, especially at home we’d be tough to beat,” O’Neill said.
“The boys were very focused on the game, we were up and about and we had contributions across the board.
“DeMarcus Gatlin was very good to begin with, John Davis was a handful inside and Herby (Nathan Herbert) was able to get going.”
Geelong continued to attack in the second quarter, taking a 25-point buffer into the back half, 53-28, before holding the Eagles at arms-length throughout the second half.
O’Neill also singled out Ma’alo Hicks for a special mention.
“Even though the stats sheet might not show it, that was as good a game as I’ve seen from him,” the Supercats’ mentor said.
“His defence was outstanding, it really held the team together and he was a huge reason why were able to lead at half time.
“It’s probably no coincidence that he didn’t play the second half and Diamond Valley was able to make a bit of a run.
“When he wasn’t able to come back on in the second half it meant we were missing a huge part of what we need to be able to do defensively.”
As always there were a spread of contributors with Gatlin (20), Davis (16) and Jamie Medved (15) most prominent on the scoresheet.
“That’s what we do, we have 11 guys suiting up at the moment and all of them contribute and all of them need to be given an opportunity to do so,” O’Neill said.
“We were very hard to guard and we’re so versatile defensively with guys like Kristian Rocci, Kris Blicavs and DeMarcus being able to guard four positions on the court, anything but centre.
“If we can maintain that sort of balance across coming weeks, we’ll be very good.”
The evolution of Liam McInerney’s game took another step forward with big minutes for the towering centre.
“We’re expecting big things from Liam this year,” O’Neill said.
“He’s had Eric Gaff to lean on for the last few years, but now we expect he and Ma’alo to hold down the centre spot for us.
“He’s matured a lot and is making the most of his opportunities.
“He doesn’t get the recognition that he deserves, but he’s a huge part of what we do.”
While O’Neill reserved a final point of praise for veteran combination Herbert and Medved.
“They keep on keeping on those two, they shoot the ball so well, but equally importantly it’s what they bring in terms of work ethic and culture,” he said.
“They demonstrate to all what it means to be a Supercat.”