Shepparton Gators remain in the finals race, despite a seven-point loss to Chelsea on Saturday night.
A slow start hindered the Gators in the Big V clash at Shepparton Sports Stadium, with the Gulls flying away to a 17-point lead at quarter-time.
That lead got out to as much as 21 points before Leigh Bathman’s side kicked into gear.
The visitors maintained that buffer going into the final quarter before the Gators produced a stunning term of basketball.
Shepparton reeled in the deficit to only two points with a minute to play when Kyle Howe-Tipene sunk a terrific three-point shot.
But the Gulls, who are third on the ladder with nine wins, responded and scored eight of the last nine points of the game.
Bathman said the run was left far too late to peg back the classy Chelsea side, led by American import Corey Standerfer.
‘‘The effort was lacking early in the game and we were able to cut the margin back to two, but some poor decision-making and execution in the last couple of plays on offence cost us,’’ Bathman said.
‘‘We didn’t rebound and we let them score too easily and it was frustrating because we did a really good job in getting back into the game.’’
The Gators’ American import Justin Patton had a sensational night, finishing with 35 points and 10 rebounds.
Howe-Tipene was industrious with 19 points, while teenager Gabe Evans continues his outstanding development as a senior basketballer to finish with 10 points and four assists.
‘‘Gabe and Josh Labatlus came on and defended really well, with much more intensity and did a good job on their guard Matt Brasser, who was making some big shots early on,’’ Bathman said.
‘‘We changed our defence up at half-time, Aaron Frost was proving difficult for us (as) he was sneaking in the back of the zone.’’
Bailey Michel had eight points, but proved to be important in a different way than usual by grabbing seven rebounds.
Nick Dodd also made his presence felt with seven rebounds.
It is not impossible for the Gators to play finals from here, but they will have to win the final two games against Keysborough and Warrnambool and rely on Geelong and Sunbury to lose.
Shepparton will host the Cougars at home on Saturday night, with tip-off at 7.30pm.