A second consecutive Country Basketball League season has ended in semi-final heartbreak for the Horsham Hornets.
The Hornets fell to South West Men minor premiers Geelong United on Saturday night in an intense and thrilling contest in Geelong.
A last-second basket from Geelong United extended the final margin to eight points, 99-91, the biggest margin of the match since early in the second quarter.
Hornets coach Tim Pickert said he was disappointed to lose, but "couldn't be prouder" of his team's efforts.
"The game was probably one of the best games I've been involved with in my whole career," he said.
"It was really physical, really quick, both teams went on runs, and the final margin of eight points was just about the biggest margin of the game.
"Both teams played their hearts out and left nothing on the court. Unfortunately, we were just on the wrong end of the result."
The final moments of the Hornets' season however came with some controversy.
Neither side was able to gain firm ascendancy across the full four quarters, and after an intense 37 minutes of basketball, the two sides found themselves level.
Sam Breuer scored his 11th point of the match with just three minutes remaining to tie the scores 88-88.
United then scored on back-to-back possessions to gain a five point lead, before Tim Pickert hit a clutch three-pointer to cut the margin back to two.
With just 40 seconds remaining, Pickert drove toward the basket and received what appeared to be a clear foul.
The referee however stayed silent, and after Pickert remonstrated, the Hornets veteran was instead given a technical foul, allowing Geelong to extend the margin to four points with the clock ticking down.
The Hornets were then forced to intentionally foul and shoot threes, but could not find the target.
Pickert's three pointer with 1:53 left on the clock proved to be the final basket of the Hornets' season, as the game finished 99-91.
"That's just sport for you," Pickert said.
"I drove to the basket and everyone in the crowd thought I got fouled, and it was goaltending, but the referee didn't call it.
"It's a shame, but that's how it goes sometimes.
"Even Geelong's coach said to me after, 'That's not how you decide a final'."
Pickert led the way in his final game with 33 points, but praised the entire team for a brave performance.
"It stings for sure, but it's not like we played bad or anything," he said. "All the guys played their hearts out for 40 minutes and left nothing out there."
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