Banchory Stags have reached the final of the Chairman’s Cup, which will provide a fitting finale to their 25th season as a basketball club.
Ten years after winning it, the Stags will face Aberdeen club BC Lituanica in the final, provisionally arranged for Saturday, March 23.
Both semi-finals were close affairs, with the Stags seeing off Portlethen Panthers in overtime after a last-gasp effort to level the match, while Lituanica edged it 79-78 against Renfrew Rocks.
The Panthers entered the court at Banchory Academy to loud music, a big home support, a full bench of quality players, the committee proudly wearing team apparel and a huge 25th year anniversary banner.
The Stags, who had beaten Dundee Phantoms 73-71 away in the quarter-finals, came out with all guns blazing and got off to a great start with their 3-2 zone defensive press.
The offence rained in threes and then the Stags brought on 6ft 9in forward Duncan Rae, who drove from Newcastle for the game but still had the energy to drop-step an easy eight points to help the Stags lead 26-17 at the end of the first quarter.
In the second quarter the Stags were dominant, but the Panthers hung in there and just as seemed as if the Stags would have an 11-point lead, the Panthers hit a buzzer-beating three-pointer and clawed their way back into the game, only eight points down at 41-33 at half-time.
The Stags had a horrendous third quarter as the Panthers went on a 19-0 run, taking the Stags 3-2 zone defence apart, and coach Scott Williams switched to man-to-man defence in an effort to get back into the game.
This helped to stem the tide with Adam Lindsey and Tim Garry bringing some confidence back into their team and Adam, Damian Kus and Euan Mullin hit a succession of threes to keep the Stags in the game at 52-60 down at the end of the third quarter.
As the fourth quarter progressed both teams traded baskets but the Stags began to look the more likely as the Panthers began to tire.
Despite this, the Panthers looked like they were going to hold on to win, when with only seconds to go the Stags were awarded two free throws – both had to be made to take the game into overtime.
Damian Kus, who must have ice in his blood, had scored two free throws in Dundee to beat the Phantoms and did it again, as both shots were made and an overtime five minutes were required to separate the teams.
The Stags came straight out of the blocks and with some outstanding defence they nullified the Panthers offence; at the other end the forwards scored regularly and the result was never in doubt with the Stags winning the overtime period by 12-3.
Man of the match was point guard Damian Kus with a brilliant 32 points.
The Stags heroes were: Damian Kus, Tim Garry, Erik Babcock, Ryan Mackay, Adam Lindsay, Euan Mullin, Duncan Rae, Matt Halliwell, Dave Rendall, George Knox and Luke McCann. Coach: Scott Williams. Support staff: Mike Reilly, Raymond Thompson, Nathan Edwardson and Ben Murphy.
A special thanks from the Stags goes to all their noisy supporters.
Earlier this month, the Stags lost 80-75 away to Aberdeen Titans in the Grampian Cup quarter-final.
The Stags face the Titans in the Division 1 play-off quarter-final first leg at the Beach Leisure Centre on Sunday (4.30pm), with the return to be played at Banchory Academy next Wednesday (7.15pm).
Banchory Bucks won both legs of their Division 2 play-off quarter-final against LT-Team but Alford Bears lost out to Pumas, who now take on Bucks in the semis later this month.