COLAC Kookas were left rueing a missed opportunity after falling one game short of the Country Basketball League south-west conference grand final.
The Corio Bay Stingrays will contest their third grand final in as many years after claiming a 75-64 semi-final victory against the Kookas.
Colac looked in charge early in front of a packed house at Bluewater Fitness Centre, scoring 12 of the first 14 points.
But the reigning state champions hit back led by coach Paul Hutchison, 21 points, and Stefan Osborne, 24.
Russell Whiteford, 15, and young tall Nathan Lemke, 13, provided options for the Kookas inside the key to keep their team in the hunt.
But the home team found it difficult to break down Corio Bay’s defence after the Stingrays switched to a zone and – true to Hutchison’s pre-match predication – the team that played the best defence won the game.
“I think it was still a pretty close game, we were able to pick apart their man-on-man to start with and score pretty easily,” Kookas co-coach Matt Lucas said.
“But once they went into the zone it changed our game up a bit, we were getting some really good shots and executing some offences but the shots just weren’t dropping,” he said.
Stingrays Matt Ogle and Jack Hobbs added a spark for their side, but it was Hutchison and Osborne that proved the difference, netting nine three-pointers between them.
Corio Bay will meet conference powerhouse Mount Gambier in this weekend’s grand final at Hamilton, while the Kookas will turn their attention to next season.
“We’ve really come together by the end of the season, we’ve been training well and I think everybody knows each other’s game now,” Lucas said.
“The crowd was brilliant tonight with the amount of momentum it brought so hopefully it will encourage a few more kids to get involved next year,” he said.