With their playoff dreams well and truly on the line, Wagga Heat stepped up to claim a gutsy victory over Queanbeyan on the weekend.
Wagga downed the Yowies 73-57 at Bolton Park Stadium.
Captain Zac Maloney led the way for the local side, running the point and distributing the ball all over the court in the first-half, before catching fire beyond the arc after the main break to finish with 21 points.
Towering centre Scott Hare also found his groove on the offensive end, consistently rolling to the rim and bullying the Yowies’ smaller defenders to finish with 21 points of his own.
The contest got off to an agonisingly slow start for both sides, the Heat unable to put the ball in the basket until shortly before the 6:00 mark in the opening term.
It was a similar story for the rest of the half as Wagga fell into Queanbeyan’s grinding, half-court style of play, with the scoreboard inconceivably reading 27-27 at half-time.
Heat import Matt Pebole banks one in at the quarter time buzzer. Wagga leads Queanbeyan 16-14 at Bolton Park Stadium. pic.twitter.com/dFf7uctgpU— The Daily Advertiser (@DailyAdvertiser) July 15, 2017
But the Heat returned to their free-flowing offensive ways after the half-time interval, visibly ratcheting up their intensity at both ends and placing an emphasis on pushing for transition baskets.
The dramatic shift in Wagga’s mentality paid instant dividends as they notched up 22 points in the third quarter and 24 points in the fourth.
Wagga coach Colin Reed said the Heat returning to their running game in the second half marked the game’s defining turning point.
“We need to play our brand of basketball and not let that ‘stop-start’ stuff creep into our game, that’s not our style,” he said.
“We want to be running the floor and scoring in transition.”
The Heat must now topple third-placed Canberra and cellar-dwellers Illawarra in a brutal weekend road double to qualify for the playoffs.
Embracing a ‘must-win’ mentality is nothing new for coach Reed and his men, who have been locked in a battle for eighth spot with Newcastle for weeks.
“As far as we’re concerned, last Saturday was our first finals game,” Reed said.