With DJ Dave O'Hara controlling the decks the atmosphere at Sir Neville Howse Stadium for the Orange Eagles' first home Basketball NSW Spalding Waratah League clash in three decades was electric but, sadly for the home side, things didn't go quite to plan on the court.
While the inexperienced Eagles showed plenty of grit they were outclassed by their Canberra Gunners Academy counterparts who, led by a stunning 37-point showing from Will Mayfield, celebrated their first victory of the season, winning 88-57.
Mayfield rained down 15 of those points from outside the arc and they all came from beautiful looks, the visitors' ball movement throughout the four quarters was exceptional and was just one of the key facets of the game they outshone the Eagles in.
In fact, as Eagles skipper Mitch Selwood admitted post-game, the home side was all but beaten across the floor and he wasn't too proud to simply give credit where it was due.
"They're a young, well-drilled team and you can definitely tell they've been together for some time," Selwood said.
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"They were setting some hard screens and their offensive was very tough, very physical, it's the most physical game we've had in the first three rounds and that's good in a way because we know where we need to lift to.
"It's definitely disappointing to not win our first home game but they played well, they were too good [ on Saturday]. All but one of us are new to this level and we did have a short pre-season but we can't keep using that as an excuse, so we'll just have to keep working hard and improving."
Akech Mayom gave the Gunners the lead with the opening field goal of the night and, in a go to woah effort, the Canberra side held that lead until the final hooter.
In an opening quarter that was punctuated by a handful of monstrous blocks - mainly from Canberra's Alex Archer and Selwood - the visitors shot to a 10-6 lead and built that 21-14 by the opening break.
Their work in the paint on the attacking end was a major factor in that quarter-time lead, with offensive boards leading to a swag of second-chance points.
Although, Canberra were good all-round, through physical defence they gave the Eagles very few decent looks and that forced to hosts to try and manufacture shots through the opening quarter.
Despite getting to the charity stripe reasonably often as a result, the hosts couldn't convert and that played a big role in the eight-point quarter-time deficit they faced as well.
The Gunners' defensive effort played a major role for the remaining three quarters as well and the pressure translated to turnovers too, allowing the visitors to blow their quarter-time lead from eight points to 20 at the main break, 27 at the last and then 31 at full-time.
"Absolutely," Selwood said, when asked if the Gunners had forced his Eagles' hand offensively.
HT | Archer’s last won’t go, but the Gunners lead the #OrangeEagles at the main break 47-27. Excuse the pun, but they’ve just outgunned the hosts in every facet so far. Eagles need a HUGE effort to turn this around, largely down to execution - @BasketballNSW#WaratahLeaguepic.twitter.com/mPpo5K9wtu— Matt Findlay (@MRFindlay24) March 23, 2019
"They got us out of a lot of our offence and we did try to look at our wrinkles to try and put our plays together a different way but their aggressive defence got us into a lot of one-out and standing stuff, and we didn't execute.
"We are getting better in terms of our offence, but to keep getting better we just need to keep working hard and hopefully we start nailing that, and executing."
Canberra coach Sam Adams lauded that defensive effort and Mayfield's too, also heaping praise on skipper Declan Pratt.
"It was our best team performance this year, the guys really played great defence and that created our offence," Adams said, adding he was stoked for his side to pick up their first win after losses to the Bankstown Bruins and Shoalhaven Tigers in the opening two rounds.
"That was a really important one for us, it was a really good team effort but Will Mayfield really led us in offence and was great, Declan kept us level-headed out there too and that provided good balance."
Both Selwood and Adams went on laud the Sir Neville Howse Stadium crowd and, identically, said the atmosphere was "unreal".
"It really was," Selwood said.
"It was such a good experience to play in front of that kind of crowd in our home town, personally to play in that kind of atmosphere at this level in front of my kids is just great.
"With the DJ pumping and the crowd getting into it, it really was just like an NBL game and to be able to do that by driving five minutes from home, it's incredible.
"Definitely it was great, unreal. It's great to be able to come to Orange now, we haven't' seen them at this level for a while and having that kind of atmosphere and hospitality, every team will enjoy the trip here that's for sure," Adams added.
"Hopefully we keep getting this kind of crowd, we'll be looking forward to next week's game against (the Illawarra) Hawks now. Hopefully we'll get Zak Simons back for that one too, he'll make a big difference," Selwood finished.
In Saturday night's other division one, pool A games Queanbeyan defeated Wagga Wagga 89-58, Sutherland took down Lithgow 109-97, Shoalhaven hammered Dubbo 121-39 and Illawarra defeated Bankstown 87-84 in a thriller.
The defeat pushes the Eagles, with a 1-2 record, down to eighth on the ladder.
- CANBERRA GUNNERS ACADEMY 88 (Will Mayfield 37, John Mapiou 11, Alex Archer 10, Akech Mayom 8, Bradley Pateman 7, Ronan Busing 4, Jack Muston 4, Declan Pratt 3, Zac McDermott 2, Mikus Everson 2) def ORANGE EAGLES 57 (Mitch Selwood 16, Kobe Mansell 13, Murray Robotham 11, Ben Gundry 5, Harry Betts 4, Justin Parish 4, Clary Annis-Brown 2, Mathew Chapman 2)
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