Ballarat Miners have lost the South East Australian Basketball League south conference title in heartbreaking fashion, an eight-point loss in overtime to Dandenong.
The Saturday night game started as an arm-wrestle, with the Rangers just getting the better of the home team at the packed out Minerdome.
But a huge third quarter effort from the Ballarat GMHBA Miners ignited the crowd and raised the stakes for Dandenong.
The Miners took the biggest lead of the game, 10 points, into the final term.
But, despite spending most of the second half in front, missed layups, free throws and turnovers were costly, killing momentum and allowing the Rangers to close the gap to one point in the final two minutes.
With just 16 seconds on the clock, Miners captain Peter Hooley made two free throws to push the lead back out to three.
But a big three from Dandenong’s Jorden Page with 10 seconds left forced overtime.
The Rangers fired when it counted most, scoring 17 points to nine in the additional five minutes to be crowned south conference champions.
Hooley collected 24 points in the second half to finish on 32, but more importantly scored in crucial moments.
Meanwhile, Chris Smith, in his final game for the Miners, said it was “pretty devastating” to be ejected in the third quarter and spend the remainder of the match in the locker room.
After finishing the season third in south conference, Dandenong has had a gallant finals campaign.
The Rangers defeated Hobart interstate last weekend before backing up in Ballarat.
The team now travels to Kilsyth to contest the SEABL championship game against Mt Gambier Pioneers.
A late defensive lapse and momentum shift were costly in the Ballarat Miners’ pursuit of a South East Australian Basketball League south conference title, according to coach Eric Hayes.
Ballarat GMHBA Miners impressed defensively in the third quarter of the south conference final against Dandenong, holding the visitors to 11 points while creating a double digit lead.
But Dandenong changed tactics in the fourth quarter in a last-ditch effort to get in front and after sinking a match-saving three in the final seconds, carried the momentum into overtime.
“Offensively they came out with a nothing-to-lose attitude (in the fourth), and they just started letting them go from everywhere… we just couldn’t find anything to stem the flow,” Hayes said.
The coach said even successfully fouling out Dandenong’s big men had not been enough to get the win.
“The idea was for us to utilise our big guys, because they didn’t really have anybody who could really stop them,” Hayes said.
“We created a situation that was what we thought was in our favour, but their confidence was up and they stayed on a roll.
“It was just a culmination of things that we didn’t capitalise on but they certainly did.”
Hayes said the group spoke after the game about what it could take away from the loss to avoid that feeling of disappointment and better prepare for next time.
He emphasised the team had done a fantastic job this season and should be proud of what it had achieved.
“It is a shame that a lot of times we just focus on what happened at the end,” Hayes said.
“The year has been an awesome year and it is important that we don’t lose sight of the positives.”
Ballarat Miner Ash Constable is already looking ahead to the next South East Australian Basketball League season after a hard-to-swallow loss to Dandenong in the south conference final.
“It is tough to go down, especially a loss at home in front of an outstanding crowd,” Constable said.
“A credit to Dandenong at the same time, they hit some big shots at the right time.”
Constable was adamant the Miners would bounce back and hinted he would like to stay on at the club.
“Right now we have unfinished business for next year, so to have that on our shoulder is going to be pretty crucial for us,” he said.
“I think it is really going to be a test for us next year - I’m looking forward to next year already.”
Constable said he was proud of the group after what had been a “great ride” this season and hoped the players would stick together.
“It’s time for the club to try and keep as many of the core players as it can for as long as it can,” he said.