ALTONA Gators got a bit of stage fright down the stretch and faded out in a 71-60 loss to undefeated ladder leader Mildura Heat in the Victorian Basketball League Big V men's division1 at the Altona Sports Centre on Sunday.
The Gators stuck their chest out, taking the challenge right up to the visiting Heat until the last quarter -but everyone knows a basketball game is defined by what happens in the final few minutes.
Gators coach Kyle Slack was left to lament his team's lack of a calming influence late in the game, which cost his side a chance of becoming the first team to beat the Heat this season.
"We had some really good runs and we played well for 3? quarters of the game," he said.
"In the last couple of minutes, we didn't step up and they certainly did.
"I put it down to two things: we're inexperienced, which can hurt down the stretch, and we didn't remain composed.
"We went away from what we were doing and tried to rush things and force things a little more.
"They made us pay."
The Heat outscored the hosts 22-11 in the last quarter, the run coming after scores were deadlocked at the start of the period.
The Heat, backing up for the second game of a double-header weekend, were desperate to maintain their stranglehold on the competition.
"Mildura are really good," Slack said.
"They've got two imports, a really deep team with seven or eight really solid guys with a lot of experience and that makes it tough."
The Gators have shown they can match it with the best team in the division.
Point guard Daniel Martin led the Gators around the court with 18 points, six rebounds and three assists.
Centre James Guljas was a monster inside with a double-double of 16 points and 10 rebounds.
"We've now pushed the top two sides in McKinnon and Mildura," Slack said.
"We're not getting blown out; we're right there or thereabouts.
"It's just a matter of putting a couple of wins on the board and rewarding the guys because they're playing tough, they're playing hard and deserve a couple of wins."
The Altona Gators' winning streak extended to six in the Big V women's division1 with a runaway 77-59 win over Mildura Heat at the Altona Sports Centre on Sunday.
The Gators got massive contributions from Nicole McMahon (13 points and 17 rebounds), Louise Johnston (16 points and 11 rebounds), Brigitte Ardossi (11 points and 10 rebounds) and player-coach Sharon Grieve (15 points, seven rebounds, four steals and four assists).
The league leaders have a week's rest this weekend.
- Lance Jenkinson
BIG V SCOREBOARD
Men's division 1: Altona Gators 60 lt
Mildura Heat 71.
Women's division 1: Altona Gators 77 d
Mildura Heat 59.