MILDURA Heat’s two imports proved Warrnambool Seahawks’ stumbling block for the second time this Big V season on Saturday night.
Reginald Fuller (33 points) and Calvin Henry (23) combined to score all but 25 of the Heat’s 81 points in their narrow two-point win over the Seahawks at the Arc.
Warrnambool’s own American import Sai’Quon Stone inspired a Seahawks’ fightback after they found themselves 12 points down in the second quarter.
Stone, who finished with a team-high 24 points, led Warrnambool to a five-point three-quarter-time lead.
But the Heat finished on top after Henry made a difficult shot with 10 seconds to play in the final term to put the visitors back in front.
Warrnambool coach Bobby Cunningham said Seahawks forward Tim Gainey was unfortunate not to earn a foul for a three-point attempt in the dying stages.
“We thought he should have been shooting three from the line,” he said.
“We didn’t get the call. I didn’t agree with the decision but those are the breaks we have to live with.”
Cunningham rated the 81-79 loss — their first at the Arc this season — among the in-form Seahawks’ best efforts.
He said their willingness to fight their way back into the contest and learn from their 20-point road loss to the same team earlier in the season highlighted the team’s character.
“I thought we changed things up from last time we played them,” he said. “We made their shooters who don’t normally shoot take difficult shots, but credit to them, their two imports were really good and our import was really good.
“They skipped away in the first period and early in the second ... and it looked like our heads were ready to drop and then offensively Sai’Quon took over the ball game and I was really, really thrilled with him and Joel Mirtschin who started last night.”
Cunningham said the Seahawks’ support almost tipped the game in his side’s favour on Saturday night.
“When he had big plays the home crowd erupted,” he said.
“Our crowd is definitely our sixth man. Melton and Mildura have loud crowds but they don’t come close to ours.”
The Seahawks, sitting comfortably with a 10-4 win/loss record, play four of their last five regular season games on the road. They will host Southern Peninsula Sharks on July 17 in their final home game before finals.
Guard Damian Gray, who was injured at training on Thursday, is expected to miss up to three more games with a calf complaint, paving the way for Mirtschin and Josh Dean to get more court time in the lead-up to play-offs.