In the dying seconds of the Country Championship League under 14 girls’ finals play off, the ball was flicking around the Reds basket.
In a maelstrom of noise – of cheering and shouting and calling – crowds surrounded two games taking place on adjacent courts at Minto’s Indoor Sports Centre.
The Reds were down 44-43 against the Taree Tornadoes on Court 4, while the grand final match was being played the court over, with the score close in the dying seconds the CCL decider as well.
Finally, as the clock hit zero on Court 4, West Wyalong Wildcats’ Bridie White threw the ball up towards the net, hitting the two points needed to seal the win for the Western Reds.
However, as the shot went up, the noise on Court 3 reached fever pitch, drowning out the buzzer and confusing referees.
After initially awarding the goal, the two umpires referred to the stadium manager before overruling the basket, leaving the score locked at 44-43 Taree’s way.
It was a shattering blow for the Reds, who had shot into the final series on the back of only two tight losses to Taree and eventual runners-up Newcastle, while also being the only side to take down winners Coffs Harbour, winning by 20 points in round two last month.
Orange-based Western Reds junior representative coordinator Craig Harvey, whose daughter Sam was the only Orange player in the side, said while he and former Orange coach Keiran Purvis both thought the team could have won the tournament, it was still a “great result”.
“(Kieran) felt it was up for grabs, felt the girls could have won it but that’s part of the parcel of the competition here,” Harvey said.
Harvey admitted he thought the ball had left White’s hands before the buzzer sounded, but said there was “that much noise we couldn’t hear it properly”.
“It’s fantastic from the Reds point of view and it’s good for the Waratah Junior League.”
Harvey said the players – from all over the Western Region – would take heart from the performances, especially considering the only times the side could train together was the Friday night before each round.
They lost their first semi-final by nine points to Newcastle Hunters before the dramatic third-placed play-off.