ECHUCA Pirates stunned country basketball at the weekend – coming from 14 points down in the third quarter to a sensational 10-point overtime victory to complete the club’s incredible Cinderella season.
After winning just three games in the previous two seasons the rejuvenated Pirates finished the regular 2018/19 season on top of the ladder before outlasting the Mildura Heat in Bendigo on Saturday afternoon to win 85-75.
It left the large Echuca crowd that had made the trip stamping their feet and screaming support as the seconds ticked down towards the club’s first championship.
And while it was a team effort that got the Pirates to the finals and then into overtime it was the Luke Rosendale show that tore the heart out of Mildura in those last five minutes.
He opened overtime with a three-point bomb that was all net and on a turnover swept back down the court to land another devastating long shot.
With 3.09 left on the clock he was fouled and swished both free throws.
At 2.49 he was back on the stripe and swished another double.
Then repeated it at 1.49.
Incredibly Rosendale had scored the first 12 points of the overtime period and Mildura could do nothing to stop him after double teaming him for much of the regulation time.
He was fouled again at 54.7 seconds and finally missed his first shot for the period before sinking the second throw.
Rosendale scored one more point at 37.7 to finish overtime with 14 points – and 34 to clinch the championship MVP.
It was the perfect result for such a fantastic season – and a result an emotionally overcome coach Leo Tenace said he never doubted even when his side was falling apart in the third quarter.
“The third term was awful, we were suddenly being played by Mildura instead of playing our game, but this team has so much determination, so much spirit and they stuck together and that’s what counted in the end,” Tenace said, not knowing who to hug next.