THE Shoalhaven Basketball Association hosted its first ever Indigenous round on Saturday night at the Tigers Den and it was a wonderful event.
The weeks of planning all came together in what was a premier professional showcase of the Indigenous heritage and 60 years of Shoalhaven Basketball.
It was a fitting way to kick start the NAIDOC week celebrations in the Shoalhaven.
The day tipped off at 2pm with local Aboriginal Elder and identity Uncle Willie Dixon giving the traditional Welcome to Country greeting.
Then local didgeridoo player, Jason Murray, performed in the centre of the main court before the grand final rematch from last season between the Kennedy's Tours Shoalhaven Tigers youth men and the Illawarra Hawks.
The rematch was a exciting and seesawing contest that went right to the wire.
In the end the young cubs prevailed stealing the victory from the sixth placed Hawks 78-71, which was the only local win of the day.
Skipper Riley O'Shannessy led the way for the Tigers with 26 points he was well supported by US Import Olu Sowunmi with 14 points, while Kyle Leslie had another consistent game also with 14 points and Gavin Costain finished with nine points.
Local Aboriginal artist Desley Stewart, at full-time, was presented with a cheque for winning the design the Tigers' uniform competition which was held prior to the Indigenous round.
Desley spoke about the meanings behind her winning design and of her Aboriginal culture and thanked the SBA for the opportunity to be a part of the day and the competition.
The Kennedy's Tours Tigers division one women, in the second match of the day, hit the hardwood with old arch-rivals Goulburn.
This game was another seesawing affair with the Tigers trading blows with their opponents in the first half to be locked at 25-all.
The Tigers, in the third quarter, made a slow start and the Bears capitalised, building a lead that the home team found hard to claw back.
The Bears, at the end of the third quarter, had a twenty point lead and the score was 57-37.
The final stanza was really a formality and even though the Tigers put up a gutsy fight the Bears ran out victors 69-52.
Best for the Tiger women were Mary Jane Toole (13 points), Georgia Joseph (10), Belinda Morris (nine) and Chelsea Hogg (seven).
The formalities really kicked in before the final match with former Shoalhaven Tiger now Illawarra Hawk Kieren Corbyn taking the microphone to talk about their team staff polos which were also designed by local Aboriginal artist Holly Sanders, who's art has been used on the Bundarra 2019 NAIDOC week clothing range.
This was followed by a didgeridoo performance that was just amazing by world renowned player Dale Wright.
Dale took the crowd on a journey that was memorising.
His performance was a fitting way to start the final game of the evening which was set to be a real crowd-pleaser between the Kennedy's Tours Tigers division one men and Illawarra.
With no love lost between both teams the game started at a blistering pace with both teams trading baskets and going toe-to-toe with each other. It was all tied up at 19 a piece before Andrew Grey hit a triple just before the buzzer to give the visitors a 22-19 lead.
The second stanza saw the lead change several times.
The pace of the game had increased with neither team gave an inch.
It was close until the Hawks got their noses slightly in front to take a slender four point buffer into the major break leading 40-36.
The Tigers came out in the third all fired up going on a six point run, taking the lead back. This was a quarter that just seesawed with the lead changing too many times to count.
However, the Hawks took a five point lead going into the final quarter 66-61.
The final quarter was a real arm wrestle with the crowd becoming quite vocal for both sides and with under one minute to go the Tigers had clawed their way back from a 10-point deficit to bring the margin to just two points.
Some accurate free throw shooting and good composure from the Hawks saw them steal a victory from the claws of the Tigers 89-83.
This was the Tigers fourth loss in a row and sees them drop to fifth spot on the ladder with a road trip to Wagga this week the men will be desperate to get a win on the road and get back into the winning circles.
Read More: Jets start NAIDOC Week with ceremony
The first ever Indigenous round was a huge success for the SBA.
"We had record numbers in attendance and I haven't see the Tigers Den this full since 2015 when our division one men were travelling extremely well," SBA committee member and youth men's coach Scott Balsar said.
"The atmosphere was electrifying and the showcase of Indigenous performers was world class.
"Everything just came together on the day all through our small team of highly dedicated volunteers that made it all happen. The SBA has a proud tradition of hosting premier events and this one I would say would be highly ranked on our list."
A figure is yet to be finalised on the amount the association raised on the day for the two local entities Nowra Youth Centre and Rose Mumbler Aboriginal Retirement Village.
"We are also going to set some money aside to offer local Aboriginal children an opportunity to play basketball for a season at no cost," Balsar said.
"Our online auction for the hand painted Indigenous basketballs was a huge success as well we raised a whopping $1300 from the three basketballs.
Balsar said $600 was for the youth men's ball, $400 for the division one men's ball and $300 for the division one women's ball.
"All three winning bidders will be pleased with what they have won," he added.
The Tigers have only a handful of games left before the playoffs commence this coming weekend all three teams are on the road.
The Division One Men's and Women's teams are heading down the Hume Highway to take on the Wagga Heat and Blaze, while the Youth Men will head to Penrith in a must win game to keep their playoff dreams alive.