A dejected Seymour Blasters side was left licking its wounds and wondering what could have been after suffering a 12-point grand final fade-out to Wallan Panthers on Saturday night.
The effects of the loss could stay with the Blasters well into the off-season, although if some trends are to be trusted, the stinging loss could mean big things for the team in the 2020-21 season.
The past two seasons have seen the losing grand finalist in the CBL North East competition the year before go on to the win the flag.
For the Panthers, the weekend's victory was redemption after losing last year's grand final to Wodonga Wolves, who were runners-up the previous year.
After leading the grand final at every turn on Saturday, Seymour was in the prime position to unseat the undefeated Panthers in the final match of the season.
Four points up with four minutes on the clock, the dream was well and truly alive for the Blasters.
But in brutal fashion it was quickly extinguished as the Panthers stepped up, took the lead and cemented a 12-point victory in the final minutes.
After failing to get within 20 points of the Panthers throughout the regular season, the margin was Seymour’s best effort against a side considered the team to beat.
Despite the final margin standing at 12, it had really been a single-digit game, with the Panthers sinking eight points in the final minute to blow out the score.
Seymour coach Craig Hockley said his players were naturally disappointed after the match, but added there were plenty of positives to take away from the game.
“They were pretty disappointed, especially after they’d done a lot of hard work and to have it come down to three minutes then have the game slip away was disappointing,” Hockley said.
“The positive side to it though was we were able to take it up to them (Wallan) and made them earn the win.
“We can hold our heads high. Our players gave it their best.”
In a position to win the whole thing with mere minutes remaining, Hockley said it had been small mistakes which meant the Blasters came unstuck, while the loss of big Tom O’Connor to foul trouble didn’t help the cause.
“We made some mistakes and errors with our match-ups and also having Tommy fouled out didn’t help out with those match-ups,” Hockley said.
“And we were missing lay-ups and our foul shots. Foul shooting adds to the scoreboard pressure,” he said, referencing the fact Wallan shot 28-10 from free throws alone.
However, impressing was a young Tyler Best, who scored a team-high 21 points, while mainstays Jack Murphy and Robbie Sartori were once again solid.
Coming into the game, the Blasters were on high alert of Panthers Max and Leo Viiitala, while Luke Liesegang earned MVP honours with his 23 points.
“We were able to keep them (Viitala brothers) well in check, but Luke was our main difficulty,” Hockley said.
With another season behind them, Hockley said his men would now look to the 2020-21 season, where they will attempt to go one better.
“As a group we stuck to the task and to get to a grand final is a great effort. It’s a credit to them,” Hockley said.
“We also had the opportunity to play some of the young guys, which put us in good stead.
“We’ll come back for next season and hopefully add some players.”
A major boost to their list looms in the return of Jordan Hockley, who has missed two seasons with an ACL injury.
Named MVP in the Blasters’ last winning grand final in 2017-18, Jordan will add another layer to a team on the rise.
“Jordan contributes fairly heavily to the team,” Hockley said.
“And we’ll also be looking for our young ones to take another step up.”
Seymour Blasters 65
Wallan Panthers 77
Top scorers: Tyler Best 21, Jack Murphy 15