It took double overtime, but Team Orange claimed the first Sharks Summer League title at ILT Stadium Southland last night, pulling away in the second period of extra time for a ten-point victory over Team Blue, after a corner three from Sam Lindsay in the dying seconds tied the game at the end of regulation.
Earlier, the inaugural Summer League's final looked heading for blow-out. After an even first half, which Orange led by four, they exploded in the third quarter, upping the tempo and distancing a frustrated Blue team, to lead by as many as 16.
But Blue regrouped at the final break, coach Dan Peck switched their offence to run through Paratene McLeod, who responded with 10 of his game high 24 points in the final ten minutes, to haul his side back in to the contest.
"Our offence was just getting stuck in the second and third quarters. We ran some quick hitter plays for Para to see if he could get us going and he did. He made some shots , got to the rim and created for others," Peck said.
"Orange has guys who can score the ball and Rhys (Smolenski), Tom (Cowie) and Lydon (Aoake) did that again. When they get going and get into rhythm that hurts the opposition and they were able to get some clean looks."
The final moments were a tense affair. Two pressure free throws from Andrew Wheeler brought Blue within three, with Hoani MacDonald laying one in to make it a one-point game. Blue then fouled Lydon Aoake to send him to the line with just 9 seconds to play. He was up to the task, hitting both free throws to push Orange out to a three-point lead, before Lindsay's late game heroics sent the game into extras.
Ultimately though, Blue's foul trouble cost it a chance at the win, with three of their starters fouling-out late, Orange took advantage of some mismatches to pull away and take the win and the League title 84-74.
For the winners, Aoake finished with 21, Rhys Smolenski 17, Lawson Wiseman 15, Tom Cowie 14 and Jordan Murphy 12. Blue complemented McLeod's 24 with 18 from Wheeler, 13 from MacDonald and 10 out of Sam Whittaker.
Earlier in the evening, Team Black provided a comeback of its own. After trailing Team White by nine points with a little over four minutes to play, Black came within a last-second missed field goal from sending the game to overtime, with White taking the win 74-72.
Peck was pleased with the intensity last night.
"I thought the defence tonight in both games was a lot better than it had been over the last four nights. Obviously with the lift in intensity, guys dig in a little bit harder so it was nice to see both sides playing defence," he said.
"We want to create these kinds of environments for these guys to practice in . This is a Summer League, not a world championships, but we want to simulate what some of these big games feel like. I said to some of our younger guys, that's what Nationals feels like, when it's close, it's intense, there's people watching and its getting chippy."
"The big challenge down here has been able to simulate that environment, being so isolated and being a smaller region. That was a good test tonight and a good experience," Peck said.
A local Sharks pre-season training squad of approximately 15 will be announced next week, to start training in February and push for final roster spots ahead of the 2018 National Basketball League season, which starts in late April.
Season tickets for the 2018 NBL go on sale from Monday (December 11) from ILT Stadium Southland with full details available by clicking here.