IN THE END it was emphatic.
Ballarat Rush buried Hobart by 25 points last night to seal a spot in the South East Australian Basketball League south conference title match.
The manner in which Auslec Rush pulled away from the Lady Chargers is certain to perplex the team that awaits next week - powerhouse Knox.
Rush coach Peter Cunningham said the win felt a little surreal for his players immediately post-match - and Hobart players seemed to be left shaking their heads too.
"We just keep defying predictions," Cunningham said.
"We're very, very happy but we'll keep our feet on the ground.
"We've still got one, hopefully two more to go.
"We'll enjoy the win and we'll start planning again for the next one Sunday night."
There is an impressive belief in the Rush camp this finals series.
Twice now, Rush has pulled off wins on the road when most thought they would stumble.
Rush already knows it can beat Knox - Rush was the first team to beat the Raiders this season, and the Raiders have only dropped three games.
Hobart did not make it easy for Rush in a south preliminary final before a Chargers' home crowd.
In the start, the Chargers jumped early and surged to a 12 point lead with less than three minutes left in the first quarter.
Sophie Alexander and Abbey Wehrung came off the bench and injected spark back into the Rush game.
By the break Rush had clawed the deficit back to four points.
Alice Kunek piled on five points within the opening minute of the second quarter to briefly snatch the lead but it was an Abbey Wehrung three-pointer with less than three minutes to half-time that put Rush in front again - and it stayed that way.
Rush planned well for Hobart. Smashed on the boards by the Lady Chargers twice this season, Rush was only two short of the Lady Chargers this time.
Dangerous scorer Kathleen Scheer, who scored 38 points against Rush when they last met, only chalked up 12 points - two after half-time.
Kunek and Kate Willey tag-teamed to smother her.
Cunningham said all the targets his team wanted to meet, Rush achieved and shut the Lady Chargers down.
The Lady Chargers started to tire.
Chargers coach Dan Krebs took his starting five off and put his second five on, 16 points down with three minutes to play.
It was like the Chargers had given up.
The strong finish allowed Rush to rotate players a little, and they stayed strong to the end.
Importantly, each Rush player contributed in a balanced team effort to claim what they wanted most - a title match.
SOUTH CONFERENCE PRELIMINARY FINAL
BALLARAT 19 42 63 84
HOBART 23 37 51 59
POINTS - Kunek 20 (2 three-pointers), Willey 16, Mason 16, Rinaldi 15 (1), Wehrung 8 (2), Alexander 6, McMahon 3. Hobart: Chilcott 18, Roberts 14, Scheer 12, Eaton 5 (1), Laur 4, Lennox 3 (1), Morgan 2, Finlayson 1.
REBOUNDS - Ballarat 32 (Kunek 6, Rinaldi 6, Wehrung 5, Alexander 5), Hobart 34 (Laur 9, Scheer 8, Chilcott 7)
ASSISTS - Ballarat 18 (Willey 5), Hobart 17 (Laur 5, Scheer 5)
STEALS - Ballarat 7, Hobart 7
BLOCKS - Ballarat 0, Hobart 4
TURNOVERS - Ballarat 14, Hobart 18
FOULS - Ballarat 13, Hobart 19
SHOOTING - field goals, Ballarat 33/66 (50%), Hobart 26/62 (42%); three-pointers, Ballarat 6/12 (50%), Hobart 2/9 (22%); free throws, Ballarat 12/15 (80%), Hobart 5/10 (50%).
OTHER SEABL FINALS THIS WEEKEND
East conference preliminary final: Sandringham v Dandenong.
South conference preliminary final: Nunawading v Hobart
East conference preliminary final: Geelong v Dandenong