Herbert retirement fuels Supercats’ surge

2 Jul 2018 | Geelong Advertiser | NICK WADE

GEELONG coach Leon O’Neill admits he felt sorry for his opposition after the Supercats stole a last-gasp win in what was described as one of the best SEABL matches ever played at The Arena.

The Supercats hit the lead for the first time on Saturday night with 30 seconds to go, only for the Melbourne Tigers to hit back instantly, prompting O’Neill to call a time-out.

Retiring superstar Nathan Herbert then came up with the match winning basket under pressure after some smart play from Liam McInerney, sending the loyal crowd into raptures.

The Supercats then hung on in the dying seconds to record a valuable 78-76 win.

“People I’ve spoken to, even though it was a low scoring game and probably didn’t have the bangs and the highlights, said it was one of the better games they’ve seen at The Arena,” O’Neill said.

The Supercats have turned their season around in a fortnight of disciplined basketball, winning both double-headers to storm from 10th to fourth on the ladder.

Saturday’s two-point win followed the 88-75 win over Bendigo on Friday night at Bendigo Stadium.

“It was crazy,” O’Neill said of the win over the Tigers.

“I felt for Melbourne and their coach, to be honest, they were the better team for probably 95 per cent of the night and we were just able to hang on and grit and stay close enough. We just had to pull out all stops to get over the line.

“Until that moment, Herbie had a game he’d probably rather forget after the high standard he set the week before, but in that last minute he made some really, really tough shots and got us over the line for another win. We’re really happy with the outcome, especially after backing up from the night before in Bendigo and having to drive back.”

O’Neill said Herbert’s late heroics on Saturday were a fitting end to an emotional week when he confirmed he would be retiring at season’s end.

“It has got to be a weight off his shoulders, for sure,” he said.

“Typical of Herbie, he was probably hoping to slip out the back door with nothing said and done, but the way he plays and the way he goes about it requires us as a club to recognise the impact that he has had.

“I hope that people do appreciate how good he is and what he has been able to do, because he does it so many times — time and time again.

“He didn’t hang his head last night, he didn’t bemoan that he had a poor shooting night up until the end, and just came up with some massive baskets down the stretch and we trust him to do that for us.

“I’m really, really thankful I’ve had the opportunity to coach him and hopefully we can do the right thing by him and continue to win games and go out with a bang.”