Launceston Tornadoes have orchestrated a stunning comeback late to keep their precarious season alive.
Coach Derek Washington did not mince his words last week on the back of a sinking 1-and-4 record, assuring fans victory against the reigning SEABL titleholders at home.
Geelong Supercats looked the goods for most of Friday night until the Tornadoes wooshed home to deliver a 73-70 win in the dying seconds.
The rookie coach would have been cringing entering the last term 11 points down.
But Launceston stepped up a gear with its greatest resolve of the SEABL campaign.
“We know what we can do,” Washington said.
“We know that we have the firepower to come back in that game, especially in that last minute.
“I told them you have got to have some grit and make a couple of stops – and that’s what we did. Like Lauren Nicholson with that great steal.”
The Tornadoes had hit the front for the first time since the first half when Nicholson intercepted a half-court pass, drove towards the basket under double-teaming pressure to score a vital two points inside the final 30 seconds.
The side’s leading scorer this year also put a little bit of breathing space on the visitors with seven seconds left.
Geelong were forced into two quick fouls, sending Nicholson to the line for two.
Nicholson then stopped a potential leveller, knocking the ball out of play with only 3.4 seconds on the clock.
Supercat Isabella Brancatisano, who scored 19 points, missed a buzzer-beater to send the game into overtime.
While Nicholson with a game-high 30 points can accept the accolades for her final-seconds heroics, teammates could well have easily carried Ellie Collins off the court in triumph.
Collins had nailed two big three-pointers in a minute as part of a final 12-0 Tornadoes run to square the scores up.
The 19-year-old pulled down six defensive rebounds in the last quarter – including three in the final 90 seconds – to finish with 15 at both ends and a further 12 points.
But the job of putting the hold on mercurial American centre Chelsea Poppens (six points and six rebounds) had saved the side from defeat.
The Seattle Storm star – the No.18 pick in the 2013 WNBA draft – had minimal impact during the tense finish.
“I think she actually just flew in the other day or something,” Washington said.
“She is a very good player coming into a team that is playing well and has to gel.
“That was kind of to our advantage – I just know she will be ready for whoever she plays next week. But, oh man, Ellie played a great game.”
Washington felt the side showed a lot more urgency than the 28-point loss seven days earlier that had ballooned out to 37 points.
He said there was no sign of panic this week.
“I just told them we have to make stops and get out shots, and we were able to execute that,” Washington said.