Keilor Thunder players were left dejected after falling at the last hurdle in the Big V basketball women’s state championship.
The pain of grand final defeat was etched across the faces of Thunder imports Erin Bollmann and A’Lexus Hamilton, who were shattered not to get their team over the line after playing starring roles all season.
The Thunder went down 2-1 to newly promoted Werribee Devils in the best-of-three grand final series that ended at the Keilor Basketball Stadium on Sunday.
Trailing by a game to nil entering the weekend, a spirited Keilor fought back to take game two on Saturday night, winning 81-75.
The Thunder could not repeat the dose on Sunday though, facing a slender deficit most of the way in a 67-61 game three loss.
Thunder coach Tom Bandilovski conceded that Werribee deserved its game three win.
“Werribee, you’re such a good team, you played very well today and you deserved the win, so congratulations,” he said in his post-match speech.
“[Werribee coach] Reece [Potter], you’ve done a very great job with this team, so credit to you and the coaching staff and all the players.”
There is nothing Bandilovski could say to make it better for the Keilor players.
Losing a deciding game on your home court is as tough as it gets.
Bandilovski stood proud of how Keilor performed in 2019 and how it conducted itself in a sporting fashion throughout the season and a hard-fought grand final series.
“My team, I’m so proud of how they played the whole year,” Bandilovski said.
“The grand final didn’t go our way, but I’m so proud of how they played and what they have achieved this year, so well done.
“All the players, I have to really give them credit.”
With the series on the line, Keilor shot a disappointing 29 per cent from the field.
The Thunder missed a number of chances they would have drained on another day, but the pressure of the occasion might have got to them.
What kept the Thunder in game three was their trademark toughness in defence.
They applied a full court press for most of the series and made life difficult for Werribee.
The Thunder’s success on the defensive end was not matched on the offensive end and they paid the price for that.
Bollmann finished with 18 points, 11 rebounds and four assists in game three, but she shot at just 25 per cent.
Harrison was immense on the board, but only managed two points at 16 per cent.
Aneta Bandilovski scored 15 points, including three threes, and Stephanie Collins was effective inside the paint with nine points, which gave the Thunder some hope, but it was not enough.
The Keilor stadium was rocking all weekend.
Tom Bandilovski acknowledged the support of the Thunder fans.
“I’d like to thank the Keilor Thunder crowd. It was unbelievable [support],” he said.
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