Three of the Goulburn Bears Youth League men's last four matches have been decided by a total of seven points.
In round eight, against the Inner West Bulls White, they lost by two. In round ten, against Moss Vale Magic, they went down by a single point.
Last night, against the second-ranked Shoalhaven Tigers, Goulburn finally came out on top of a nailbiter with a 77-73 win.
"For me, it was rewarding because the guys worked really hard during the week," Bears coach, Eddie Teague, said.
"They were upset last week [after a last-second three-pointer sealed defeat against Moss Vale], but that comes with basketball. You've got to take the good with the bad."
The match itself was a tale of two halves. After the Bears went into half time down 37-33, they took control in the third quarter and quickly built a ten-point lead at the final break.
The last quarter of the game saw that lead shrink and expand repeatedly, as the Tigers worked tirelessly to claw their way back into contention.
As Goulburn's lead shrunk, and the final seconds of the match ticked down, a three-pointer put the Bears four points up and effectively sealed victory.
However, Teague knew better than to write off a close match with time left on the board.
"We didn't finish it off last week, and you never give a team the chance to win," he said.
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"It was the same with Shoalhaven, they gave us a chance and we just got better and better over the second half. We started getting the ball inside to our big guys and things started happening for us."
While the victory itself was immensely satisfying to both coach and player, the most pleasing aspect of the result was the way in which Goulburn sealed it.
Throughout the back-and-forth affair, both sides had the run of play at times. However, in the early weeks of the season, the Bears would often go missing from entire periods of play and allow their lead to evaporate.
Last night, Goulburn played a much more sensible game and utilised the shot clock to the fullest extent, where such patience was rare in earlier matches.
"The maturity's starting to come into the team," Teague said.
"Instead of just flying down there and taking a shot, now they pulled it out and worked for it. That's maturity, that's saying the clock is in our favour, so we use that every time. And if they foul us, we'll go to the free throw line and make some free throws.
"We wouldn't have done that at the beginning of the year, and that was our problem."
Last night's result was just the Tigers' second loss of the year. They still sit at second on the ladder, while Goulburn is at seventh.
Despite the disparity between the top and bottom teams in terms of points, the competition is extremely close. With a match against the Orange Eagles at home this Saturday, July 3, the Bears have a chance to continue their climb back towards the top four.
The match between Goulburn and Orange will take place at the Goulburn Basketball Arena on Saturday from 6pm.
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