HORSHAM Basketball Stadium was pumping in the closing minutes of the men’s north-west conference grand final as a raucous home crowd prepared to celebrate its team as champions.
The Horsham Hornets have come close to championships so many times over the past decade but the final buzzer on Saturday evening gave them their first taste of glory since 2008.
The 74-63 victory over the Bendigo Braves came on the back of a strong second half after the game started at a frenetic pace.
Coach Cam Bruce said grand finals were all about which side settled first and this time around it was the Hornets.
“We’ve worked hard all year for this,” he said.
“We came together as a team at the start of October and to play like that on Saturday was fantastic.
“We weathered the storm when they were on top in the first quarter and we came back all guns blazing.”
Scoring opportunities were coming thick and fast for both teams during the first period with neither side able to gain a decisive upper hand.
After trailing by two points at the first break the Hornets started to build momentum.
James Hallet, Cam Bruce, Damien Kilpatrick and Tim Pickert all made big shots in an 8-2 run to start the quarter as the Hornets built a six-point buffer.
Five points from Mitch Martin in the eighth minute of the quarter gave the young star some confidence and by half-time the score was 32-25 in favour of the home side.
“It was then all about keeping that momentum going through the second half,” Bruce said.
A seven-point margin extended to 14 points in the opening minutes of the third period before the Braves started to work their way back late.
Bendigo big-man Matthew Andronicos scored seven of his 15 points during the quarter as his side fought back to within five point with just the final 10-minute quarter to play.
Hallett and Picket picked up the opening buckets for Horsham in the final period.
Pickert then tacked on one more from a Ben Dalton technical foul before Matt Lovel made the score 58-46 with eight minutes to play.
With the stadium beginning to get louder and louder in support of the home team the Hornets held their nerve as Bendigo through everything at them.
Two late three-pointers to Tanner Rayner only reduced the final deficit as Horsham clinched the north-west conference title.
Pickert finished with a game-high 22 points and was named most valuable player on the night.
It was the the first time the men’s team had claimed a championship since winning the division three Big V title in 2008.
“It’s been a long time coming so we’re really going to enjoy it,” Bruce said.