HORSHAM Hornets have given themselves the best chance of scoring a home Country Basketball League semi-final after claiming a thrilling two-point win over Portland yesterday.
The Hornets were last night waiting on results of other South West conference games, but are almost a certainty to play on their home turf at the weekend.
They needed to win one of their two remaining matches of the season to secure a home semi-final.
The Hornets had a tough start to the weekend, going down to Warrnambool Seahawks by 17 points, 55-72, on Saturday night.
Co-coach Steve Bruce praised the efforts of his team, which went into the double-header without star guard trio Cam Bruce, Tim Pickert and Darcy Tucker.
"We went away with a bare group of eight players to play two games in two days," he said.
"It was always going to be a test."
Bruce said the Hornets worked hard to curb the impact of Seahawks' standouts Liam Killey and Jacob Sobey.
"Between them they scored 50 points last time. This time Killey hadn't scored a point until the third quarter," he said.
Bruce said the Hornets struggled to score at times due to Warrnambool's defensive pressure.
"They'd score about 20 points a quarter to our 13," he said.
"At three-quarter time we were down by 21. Our goal was to outscore them in the last quarter, which we did."
It was a different story yesterday, with the Hornets leading from the start.
"We were up by as much as nine points throughout and then they'd peg us back," he said.
"We led for 90 per cent of the game, but within two minutes to go they were up by three points.
"There were a couple of times we went up and down the court without any calls.
"We managed a basket to Jono Lovel and a three-pointer to Tim Friend to win by two points, 64-62."
Although it was the Hornets' game to lose, Bruce was pleased with the way they fought out the match.
"It would have been easy for the players to drop their heads," he said.
"They'd played a tough game the night before, they were tired, but they kept plugging away.
"They showed a lot of spirit."
Bruce said Jay Gasparini, Ben Lakin and Lachie Coller would be better for the additional game time.
"Ben and Jay were on the court at the end so they got the experience of playing in that pressure-cooker environment for the last couple of minutes," he said.
Bruce said the Hornets women had a tough weekend, going down to both Warrnambool and Portland.
"They should finish third overall, which means they'll play away next week," he said.
The Stawell Wildcats men and women's teams came close to victory at the weekend.
The men's team got within three points of scoring their first win of the season on Saturday night.
The Wildcats were down by 21 points at three-quarter time, but piled on 24 points to Portland Coasters' 14 in the last quarter.
The Coasters managed to hold on for the win, 66-63.
Stawell's Jarrod Ohayon top-scored with 23 points.
On Sunday, the Wildcats were outclassed by a strong Warrnambool outfit, falling short by 59 points.
The women's team went down to the Portland Coasters 38-76 on Saturday night, but enjoyed a stronger performance against Warrnambool Mermaids yesterday, getting within six points.
The Wildcats women will contest the semi-finals at the weekend.