It was a weekend of both heartbreak and heroics for the Frankston RSL Blues in NBL1 round 8.
After dropping a double-overtime thriller on Saturday night at home to the Hobart Huskies, the Blues dug deep on Sunday to get over the Ringwood Hawks on the road to come away with a 1-1 record on the weekend.
Hosting the Hobart Huskies on Saturday, the Blues fans were treated to one of the best games of the season that had everyone on the edge of their seat. The game had everything; brilliant shot-making, tech foul controversy, a fan ejection, and two huge three-pointers that forced both extra time and then double overtime.
Little separated either team in the first term, with the sides trading baskets. It was Jason Richards that got going for the visitors first, pouring in 7 quick points before the high-flyers kicked into action. Najeal Young threw down a big dunk, but the Huskies answered with dunks to Zac White and Jalen Adams and the intensity lifted a level, with the scores locked at 22-all at the end of the first quarter.
The Blues defense started to leak in the second term as the Huskies offense heated up. Tad Dufelmeier was threatening, Richards continued to hit shots as the lead ballooned to as many as 13. However then Damon Bozeman happened.
Taking over the game, the explosive guard would almost single-handedly get the Blues back in front. He drained four three-pointers and converted a three-point play without missing, as he amassed 15 points across the final 4 minutes of the half to power the Blues to a suprising 45-44 lead at half time and have the packed home crowd on their feet.
Not to be outdone, Jalen Adams elevated for a thunderous dunk to open the second half and have his team retake the lead. Yet Bozeman’s hand remained hot, as he connected on two straight triples to keep the home side ahead by 3. With Igor Hadziomerovic getting nore involved, it was the Blues who took control of the game and opened up a 7 point margin which was extended to 9 at the buzzer courtesy of Tom Garrett’s late bucket.
After a quiet first three quarters, Lachlan Barker found his shooting touch. However the Huskies kept coming with Dufelmeier, Richards and Adams continuing to find ways to score, tying the game up with 3 minutes to play. Dufelmeier would give his team the lead from the free throw line with a little over a minute to play, before Bozeman scored inside to tie the game up on the next play. Then it got messy for Frankston, with Bozeman called for a soft foul inside on White, and then called for a technical when he expressed his emotions in what was a tense finish, forcing him to the bench with 5 fouls. White duly made all four free throws to put the Huskies up by 4 with just 41 seconds remaining and seemingly destined for the win.
The Blues stole the ball on the inbounds pass, resulting in a quick score to Barker to close the margin to just 2. The Blues fouled sending Adams to the free throw line at the other end. He missed the first, but made the second, giving the Blues a glimmer of hope. But then Young threw the ball out of bounds and all seemed lost. Alistair Macdonald came up with the steal, and with the clock winding down and trailing by 3, he passed the ball to Hadziomerovic who dribbled back out to the wing to put up a prayer as he fell away to tie the game. It went in to send the crowd and the Blues into raptures, with Adams missing a potential game-winner at the other end, the Blues had forced overtime.
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After almost 2 minutes in overtime, it was Adams who scored first inside. When he scored again moments later with a three-point play, the Blues had their backs to the wall yet again. With free throws traded, it was Macdonald who came up with a big triple from the corner to keep the Blues within touch. Down by 4 points, Dan Trist hit his first trey of the night with just 16 seconds left to get to within 1 point. But Dufelmeier continued to make his free throws, putting the Huskies up by 3 with just 12 seconds left. Then Hadziomerovic did it again. He hit a fall-away triple to tie the the game up with 7 seconds left to have everyone up on their feet in sheer amazement. Richard’s potential game-winner off target, a second overtime would be required.
OH NO HE DIDN'T
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In the second extra period, it was just as close as ever. Hadziomerovic would come up with yet another clutch triple to tie the game up at 100 with 57 seconds left. Unfortunately for the Blues, Hadziomerovic’s heroics would not be enough on the night, with Dufelmeier (30 points, 13-14 FT) seemingly having ice in his veins, as he calmly continued to hit his free throws to ensure a thrilling 104-100 win to the Huskies.
Bozeman poured in a game-high 32 points including 7-12 three-pointers and 5 rebounds for the Blues despite not seeing the court in either of the extra periods. Hadziomerovic amassed 25 points (4-7 3PT), 13 rebounds and 7 assists on one of the most clutch shooting performances who will ever see in NBL1. While Dufelmeier was best for the Huskies, both Richards and Adams piled on 26 points each in the thrilling win [Box Score].
Required to put aside the disappointing loss to the Huskies the night earlier, the Blues opened in aggressive fashion against the Hawks, going on a 16-0 run before ending the first team 32-19 ahead. The home side then got going in the second to pile on 30 points of their own as the Blues defence started to show some cracks. The Blues managed to stem the tide in the third term, but the Hawks kept coming.
With the Blues starting to run out of legs, the Hawks continued to make a run at the Blues. The Hawks took the lead late on a big three to Jacob Gibson (32 points) three-pointer with 25 seconds to play. It would require more heroics if the Blues were to avoid two straight thrilling losses, and this time it was Bozeman to step up to the plate.
Bozeman was fouled with just 6 seconds left, making both at the line to put the Blues up by 1. The Hawks had one last chance that rimmed out, resulting in a much-needed 101-100 win.
Bozeman finished with 28 points (5-8 3PT), 9 rebounds and 7 assists in another dominant performance. Young added 19 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals, while Majok Majok posted 17 points, 12 rebounds and 2 blocked shots. Barker also chimed in with 16 points and Garrett 11 points off the bench, as the Blues got the win despite Trist not suiting up.
Best for the Hawks were Gibson who had 32 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists and 3 steals, while matt Fennell gathered 24 points and 5 rebounds.
With a 6-5 record, the Blues are now in eight place and firmly in playoff contention, and while they will rue the missed opportunity against the Huskies, there is much to get excited about the Blues play ahead of games against Diamond Valley on the road next week, before returning home on Sunday to host the red-hot Ballarat Miners.