Ballarat Miners will host the South East Australian Basketball League south conference final after triumphing in a four-point thriller over Hobart Chargers on Saturday night.
It will be Ballarat GMHBA Miners’ first conference final appearance since 2001.
In front of a vocal home crowd at the Mars Minerdome, Sam Short made a clutch shot to give the Miners the lead in the semi final with just 27 seconds left.
Forward Craig Moller ensured the victory with 10 seconds on the clock, making three of four free throw attempts to stretch the margin out to four points.
The second half turnaround came after a slow start from the Miners, with the team trailing Hobart for most of the first half and shooting at just 31 per cent in the opening quarter.
Imports Marvin King-Davis and Davon Usher stepped up in the second quarter to cut down the margin, while a huge third quarter effort from King-Davis – nine points and five rebounds – helped the Miners gain the lead.
The team struggled to quell the influence of Thomas Garlepp, who collected a game-high 22 points and 16 rebounds for the Chargers, while Christopher Whitehead also made an impact.
But Miners coach Eric Hayes said it was a credit to his players for stepping up defensively, cleaning up their game, and going on to make some big plays in the final moments.
“It was just a great team effort… they all just stepped up when we needed them to, mainly on the defensive side,” he said.
Short said the key to the turnaround had been locking down on defence.
“The intensity was so much crazier than a regular season (game), but we stood up well, they fought us for a little bit but we managed to get on top, which was great,” he said.
Short said it was incredible to play in front of a home crowd and could not wait to do it all again in two weeks’ time.
“The moment we stood on court we could just feel the energy... it’s unbelievable,” he said.
All five starters for Ballarat hit double figures. King-Davis finished the game with a double double of 19 points and 14 rebounds, while Moller and Leon Henry both had 11 rebounds.
The south conference final will be played at the Mars Minerdome against the winner of next week’s game between Hobart and Dandenong.
Dandenong defeated North West Tasmania by a point, 92-91, on Saturday night.