The OneFortyOne Mount Gambier Pioneers defended home turf, but only just in a round 10 NBL1 South contest that went down to the dying moments at the Icehouse on Saturday night.
The Pioneers faced off against a spirited Eltham team, which defied its ladder position of 14th and gave the hosts an almighty scare.
It was all action from tip off when Hailey Leidel put the Wildcats on the board, but less than a minute later star shooter Cassandra Brown sunk her first three of the night to put Mount Gambier into the lead.
This set the tone for an opening quarter where the momentum changed hands multiple times.
Elthan was looking good enjoying a five-point lead with three and a half minutes to go as Leidel was running hot.
However, three successive three-pointers put the Pioneers back into the ascendancy by quarter time albeit by just four points.
The defensive pressure of both teams stepped up after the break and a neck and neck passage of play was the result.
The difference on the scoreboard never exceeded a single shot across the tight second term, but the Pioneers found an extra gear in the final minute.
Some big plays from Hannah Young and Shakera Reilly created a much-needed four-point margin into the main break.
With no clear winner insight the Wildcats got their claws out in the second half with Leidel continuing her golden run, showing her teammates how to find gaps through Mount Gambier’s’ defence, particularly under the basket.
Her moves helped the visitors open up a game-high lead with a huge third term where the Pioneers were outscored by seven points.
Suddenly the Pioneers needed to respond with Eltham up by six and enjoying all of the momentum.
Fortunately, the likes of Brown and Haliegh Reinoehl cut Eltham’s defence apart and made them pay, while a long range three from an unlikely avenue in Reilly brought the game back onto level terms.
After playing catchup for the best part of a quarter, the Pioneers were finally able to get the game back on the own terms and made a big push for victory.
The fans were feeling good when Mount Gambier not only hit the lead, but increased it to four points in the blink of an eye thanks to some fine work from Reinoehl, Sherrie Calleia and Reilly.
After some free throws were made by both teams the Pioneers looked to be slightly safe enjoying a four point lead with only 50 seconds to go.
But after missing some chances they failed to put the game away which left a door open for Eltham.
A personal foul for Calleia gave Leidel a pair of free throws which was a invitation too good to pass on and she halved the deficit.
Despite only holding onto a two-point lead with 27 seconds left, Mount Gambier was still in the box seat in possession and had the chance to kill the clock and the game.
However, a huge steal from Korinne Campbell sent chills through the Icehouse as she bolted for the basket.
To the relief of Pioneers fans, Reinoehl and Calleia arrived on the scene just in time to stop Campbell from shooting, but the clock stopped fractions of a second before the buzzer.
Confusion reigned across the Icehouse until the referees decided one second was left with Eltham in possession reentering from the baseline.
The entire game now hinged on one play with the visitors hoping for a miracle to force proceedings into extra time and Mount Gambier looking to hold on for dear life with the clock on its side.
Lana Hollingsworth passed the ball in the direction of Campbell, but once again Reinoehl stepped up for the Pioneers, stealing the ball on the buzzer and securing a gritty two-point triumph.