HE walked away positive after the performance, but Wagga Heat player-coach Zac Maloney admitted finishing the job would have been sweeter after his side was overrun late by St George Red at Bolton Park on Saturday.
The Heat clawed back from 16 points down in the third quarter to take a four-point lead with just under three minutes left.
But the defending Waratah League champions showed their class when it mattered, draining three straight three pointers as part of an 11-0 run to close out an 81-74 win.
It's the second game this year the Heat haven't quite been able to hold onto a lead in the dying stages, but Maloney rated it their standout performance of the season.
"There's a couple of mixed emotions about it. I thought it was our best game of the season personally and a step in the right direction," he said.
"I worked away very positive, especially given that team beat us last year by 58.
"It was the first time we had our full squad and were able to implement guys in the roles we want. But on the other hand we were right there.
"It's a bit of a weird feeling. I'm not going to be upset with the loss but it's one of those things where it would have been really good to pull that one out.
"To claw back showed a lot of fight but that's what the experienced teams do. We got up by four and they just hit some really big shots and executed their game plan down the stretch."
St George talisman and the Waratah's League's reinging MVP, Reece Craigie, dominated the first half in a 26-point display.
For the Heat, Cam McPherson contributed 19 points as well as a dogged defensive performance, while Jacob Edwards (14), Chaz Bishop (11), Maloney (11) and Eddie Merkel (10) all racked up double figures.
"It's a learning curve for the boys and that's a team I aspire our guys to be like. To see the way they play together and the culture they have, they've always been the benchmark for mine," Maloney said.
"Cam McPherson played outstanding for us. He comes off the bench and is an energy guy and we want him to play with some freedom, and he did that for us.
"He's an up and in defender who puts pressure on them, and one of our under-16 development players Loro Kuron gave us some good minutes as well.
"Craigie torched us a bit in the first half, but I think we did a pretty good job on him in the second."
The Heat have now fallen to 2-5 and have a bye this weekend.
Their draw doesn't get any easier when they travel to Hills Hornets next Saturday afternoon.
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