By Simon McEvoy for The Herald Sun
The long wait was worth it for the Frankston Blues, who made a stunning start to the NBL1 finals on Saturday night.
There’s a basketball revival going on in Frankston — and the Blues are leading it.
The Frankston Blues are only one win away from the NBL1 grand final after beating Nunawading 107-97 in a qualifying final at a jam-packed Frankston stadium on Saturday night.
The line of people queuing to get in before the game wrapped around the venue for 400m as finals fever gripped Frankston on a cold July night.
Some supporters had to be turned away when the full house sign went up.
The atmosphere inside the stadium was electric as the brilliant Blues motored to their first win in a home final in over 10 years.
Frankston exploded from the gates, pouring in 37 points in the opening quarter to lead by 19. They led by 17 at half-time before Nunawading made a late charge.
The visitors cut Frankston’s lead to two points in the last quarter — the Spectres Jack Saunders nailed a couple of huge three-pointers — and the game was up for grabs with a minute to go.
The Blues’ Igor Hadziomerovic was fouled while shooting a three-pointer and he made two at the free-throw line to give the Blues breathing space.
Frankston star Damon Bozeman capped a great game — the crowd was chanting “MVP’’ each time he was at the free-throw line — with a no-look pass to Najeal Young, who slam dunked to bring the euphoric crowd to its feet.
Bozeman top scored for the match with 28 points and six rebounds while teammate Young finished with 21 points. Tom Wright recorded 21 points for Nunawading while Jack Saunders had 15 points off the bench.
Before the game, the Blues honored champion former player Grant Dennis by retiring his No. 12 singlet. Past Blues players and ex-coach Bill Runchey were in attendance.
Blues coach Andrew Harms said it was a “great night’’.
“It was good for the new generation and the old generation to come together and celebrate Grant and all of his achievements and also to play the way we did with some real pride and resilience,’’ he said.
Harms said the dynamic 37-point opening quarter set up victory.
“They played with real composure in the first quarter and executed and that really set us up for the rest of the game and forced Nunawading to chase us,’’ he said.
Frankston will have a week off before tackling a preliminary final for a spot in the big dance.
Harms said the Blues would play a full-scale intra-club game on Saturday as part of its preparation.