THE Kennedy’s Tours Shoalhaven Tigers youth league men's side have drawn first blood in their 2019 campaign, by winning their season opener 71-68 at Newcastle.
Taking on last year's semi-finalists, the young Cubs had what coach Scott Balsar described as their 'worst start ever in his time with the team'.
“It was if they had put a lid on the basket," Balsar said.
"If the ring hula hoop, we still would have missed - at that stage, I thought we were in for a very long game, as we trailed 24-4 at the end of the first quarter."
Tigers skipper Riley O’Shannessy dressed the boys down in the short break and asked them to dig deep on the defensive end.
And that's just what the Cubs did, narrowing the margin to 16 points at the main break.
Coach Balsar addressed his troops in the change room at the half and the Tigers came out revamped and ready to go.
New recruit Lockie Armstrong, from Batemans Bay, stood up to the challenge and answered the coach's plea - setting the tone on the defensive end while finding his way offensively at the same time.
Armstrong was well backed by O’Shannessy, Kyle Leslie, Gavin Costain and Brayden Morris and by the end of the third period, the Cubs had clawed their way back to trail by just four points.
The final quarter saw coach Balsar mix up his defence, which rattled the Hunters, putting them under pressure, forcing turnovers and creating scoring opportunities at the other end.
With less than two minutes to play, the Tigers had levelled the score and the arm wrestle began, as the lead seesawed several times.
The scores were once again tied with 48 seconds on the clock, as Costain nailed a clutch three-pointer.
This combined with back-to-back strong defensive possessions gave the Tigers the chance to seal the game from the charity stripe - which Costain did calmly, to ice the match 71-68.
In the win, O'Shannessy led the way for the Tigers with 18 points, while Armstrong (13 points), Leslie (13) and Costain (12) also played well in the win.
"It was a good solid win considering our start to the game," Balsar said.
"Newcastle are a high quality team, that has great depth and experience.
"To get this win on the road is fantastic and has sent a message to remainder of the league that we are a legit contender in the division one competition."
Next up for Balsar's troops is a trip to the Hills Basketball Stadium on Saturday to face the Hills Hornets from 3.30pm.