Coach Scott Roth has predicted basketball could soon be the biggest sport in Tasmania after his club’s extraordinary debut season in the NBL and a gritty last game from his depleted side.
The Australian sporting feelgood story of 2022, the JackJumpers didn’t get a fairytale ending as they were swept 3-0 by Sydney in the best-of-five grand final series on Wednesday.
But they still demonstrated their trademark grit and determination right to the end in the clash with the Kings in Sydney.
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Despite starters Jack McVeigh and Fabijan Krslovic being sidelined by flu and star big man Will Magnay injured since early February, Tasmania led at the end of each quarter and by as much as eight in the second.
They were up by five early in the final quarter, but an 11-point burst in two and a half minutes from NBA championship winner Ian Clark denied them a second grand final series match in front of their adoring fans.
“We were down a few bodies,” Roth said.
“Someone like Jock Perry, who was sick for six days and hasn’t been able to practice and to come in and play today, we felt we’d give him two or three minutes and just try and buy some time, was impactful.
“Jarred Bairstow was running around on one leg with a sprained ankle and just trying to fight through it.
“Guys to step in and fight and battle and scrap and thats all we asked of them.
“Matt Kenyon had no business really being on the floor and we just tried to squeeze a couple of minutes from him with his sickness.
“A tremendous effort across the board, one hell of a fight by us.”
Putting the emphasis on building a team-first philosophy with no ego and a ‘we not me’ culture, the JackJumpers provided the most uplifting storyline of the 21-22 NBL season.
Rallying after a 2-6 start to finish fourth on the ladder, they drew large and passionate home crowds.
They proved a Tasmanian team could thrive in a national sporting competition and enjoy success against the more established mainland clubs.
“The impact we’ve had in an entire state by what they were able to accomplish in a short amount of time and the culture that’s been built, it’s a fairytale, it’s Cinderella, it’s everything great about sports,” said Roth, the NBL coach of the Year.
“It snowballed during the course of the season and people resonated with our play and how we approached it and appreciated the professionalism of our players and our organization.
“I don’t see any reason why basketball can’t be the number one sport in Tasmania in the next year or so and the growth should be off the charts I’m hoping.”