Launceston Tornadoes came home twice at the death to almost pull off a remarkable comeback win against Hobart Chargers.
Dramatic last shots in both regular time and overtime could not produce the home side’s opening victory of the SEABL women’s season at Elphin Sports Centre.
The arch-rivals went on to seek revenge 85-84 over the Tornadoes in shades of last season’s thrilling elimination final between the two sides.
Lauren Nicholson had put up the ball wedged between crunching Hobart defenders in the dying seconds on Saturday night to steal the win, but the shot didn’t drop.
Sharna Thompson, who starred for the Chargers with 33 points, had just missed both free throws at the line that would have put the lead out to three points with 18 seconds left on the clock.
The overtime heartbreak for the Tornadoes had been repeated five minutes after newcomer Zoe Mitchell missed a three-pointer with scores level in regular time.
But coach Derrick Washington had no complaints.
“As I have said before in basketball, you’ve got to put the ball in the hole,” he said.
“The shots will drop – it’s still early in the season. We’re still juggling the side.
“I am very proud of the legacy they’re leaving.
“They fought real hard and I can’t ask for any more from them.”
The Torns looked entirely out of the derby, having not led since the opening three minutes of the first quarter.
Down by 19 points midway through the third, Launceston mounted a courageous fightback to narrow the margin to six points at the final change.
That was compounded by knee soreness that ensured Ally Wilson was a late withdrawal from the game.
“We just wanted to rest her – there was no need to push it this early in the season,” Washington said.
That left the side without not only Wilson, but Lauren Mansfield and Mikaela Ruef who were still on European finals’ commitments.
That void was filled with a whirlwind game from Nicholson, who had all but nearly single-handedly won it from a Herculean 39 points and 12 rebounds.
Nicholson had proven instrumental during the third-quarter revival with 14 points, but Washington felt everyone lifted their intensity when the chips were down.
“It was a step up again from last week,” he said.
“We showed some fight on the back of adversity – they went out but came back.
“We’ll have some ups and downs, but we’re going to better for all of that looking into the future.”
Ellie Collins again stepped up for the second week in a row, proving a good replacement for Tayla Roberts in the power forward position.
The 19-year-old nailed key shots including three-point bombs late in the game to finish with 16 points and 13 rebounds.
The 158cm Paige French was also on song against the Chargers, the Latrobe guard shooting out 12 points.
The 0-2 win/loss start is not ideal, but Washington remained philosophical.
“We’re getting better, no doubt,” the American said.
“I’m still happy with that.”