WAGGA Heat coach Matt Bishop has urged his team to heed the lessons they're learning for the future after a late comeback fell just short in an 82-78 loss to Shoalhaven at Bolton Park on Saturday night.
Down by as many as ten with less then three minutes to go, skipper Zac Maloney had a chance to level scores with 28 seconds left but his three pointer didn't drop.
Heat import Matt Brunell scored 28 points, point guard Chaz Bishop racked up ten rebounds and close to ten assists and youngsters Eddie Merkel and Fletcher Petersen provided energy off the bench.
It was an improved performance against the fifth-placed Tigers, battling for a Waratah League division division one finals berth, after the Heat had dropped their last two games by a combined margin of 71 points.
"They showed a lot of character to get it back to a one shot game when they could have easily rolled over, I was quite proud of them in the end," Heat coach Matt Bishop said.
"We had an out of bounds play and Zac took one from the corner, it just didn't go down. Shots fall, shots don't, that's basketball, but if we can execute (we'll be happy)."
The Heat trailed by just two points at half-time, but a sluggish opening to the third quarter proved the difference.
"We said at half time we had to come out and be ready for them, but we didn't have all five on the court on the same page when we went out there and turnovers cost us," Bishop said.
"We spoke to the boys that this will build character in the team. The guys who have been training and putting in the hours are starting to click better, and it was a better showing than the last couple of weeks.
"We've been working hard to be competitive with these teams, that's a team in the top four and that's where we want to be.
"Eddie was great and came in and shot three or four from the field, he and Fletcher Petersen were outstanding lifting the team when our starters had a lull.
"They (Tigers) were big boys so for our young kids to go up against them and compete was good signs for us."