Orange Eagles' rebirth after more than 30 years out of the Waratah League began in the best way possible on the court on Saturday night as the side claimed a 79-58 victory over the Dubbo Rams.
The side had aimed to pride itself on competitiveness, and after a first-half tussle leaving scores level the Eagles blew the competition away, taking a 14-point lead into the final quarter and running out 22-point winners.
The Eagles had a massive boost after the Rams' two imports American Charles Baines and towering Canadian Rob Dewar were both unable to play following the news their transfers hadn't been processed properly for round one, leaving Dubbo without two of their star players.
Eagles Coach Jamahl Zegzula said the news "boosted our confidence" heading into their first match, which left a few younger players with excited nerves.
The two sides were neck-and-neck for the first two quarters, with neither side leading by more than a couple of shots, with Zegula hailing the work of his side's defence.
"We played defence really well, and made sure it went point for point," he said.
"Our transitions went well, but in the third we went from man-on-man to to a zone and helped get their scoring down.
"Once we did that, the boys played really well and got defensive rebounds and clawed that back."
Once the buzzer sounded to start the second half the momentum shifted, heavily: towards the Eagles' end.
The way Mitch spoke to them and talked it up and said there was something special about our first game there was a bit of pride in it.Orange Eagles coach James Zegzula
Zegzula said it was "hard to put a finger on one thing" which switched, but the combination of younger players picking up the pace of the game in their first match at state level, the team gelling, and players starring off the bench all contributed.
"We had a bench of seven and they helped us get going. When they had the opportunity they played well, they shot a few threes and added pizzazz," he said.
Murray Robethaum, Shaun Kirby, Clarry Annis-Brown, Matt Chapman, Justin Parish all played "really well" off the bench and were really strong for the side, but Zegzula said one man stood above the rest: captain Mitch Selwood.
"Our NBL prodigy played really well," Zegzula said laughing.
"He probably didn't score as many points as he would have liked but he defended really well and led the side out on the field."
He said Selwood's leadership couldn't be overstated in the side's first successful outing.
"The way Mitch spoke to them and talked it up and said there was something special about our first game there was a bit of pride in it," Zegzula said.
"It's probably the best thing we could have hoped for to come out of round one."
That's both on and off the field, with the Eagles obviously buoyed by the news and Zegzula saying it was "huge" for the players, he also said the club was still on the hunt for sponsors and winning was the best way to put their name forward as a club that will fight well on the court.
"We're hoping a few wins early will show we mean what we say," he said.
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