By SAM DARROCH
LATROBE City Energy’s ambition for an undefeated title defence fell flat one round into the BigV division one men’s season, with a narrow 84-87 loss to Chelsea at home on Saturday night.
Energy went into the contest on the back foot, with United States signing Terrance Beasley’s clearance not finalised in time for the match and big men Cal Rees and Mem Bektas also unavailable.
Stand-in tall Liam Fitzpatrick then fouled out early in the piece, before key man Vashon Weaver succumbed to a hamstring injury in the third quarter leaving Jordan Canovan the tallest Energy player left standing at about 6’2.
Despite the personnel problems and lack of big bodies, Energy managed to fight back from 10 points adrift late to draw scores level with about 30 seconds left on the clock.
Execution errors plagued the home team in the final throes, with a missed layup and two turnovers allowing Chelsea to come away with a three-point win.
Energy coach Les Stothard said his side showed spirit to rally back in the face of adversity.
“To the guys’ credit, to even have a chance to win the game probably says something about their character and where they are at,” Stothard said.
“We just didn’t execute when we needed to when we actually gave ourselves a chance to win the game.”
Billy Hughes fired off five three-pointers to top score for Energy with 21, while Nick Sedley, who also drained five threes, and Jarryd Moss both posted 15. Moss also managed eight rebounds and six assists.
The Energy women got off to a winning start, edging out Mildura in a nail-biter. Latrobe City mounted a final term onslaught to win the fourth quarter 33-23 and the match 87-85, closing a six-point gap in the final two minutes.
Laura Pickering saved the day with seconds remaining on the clock, hitting a clutch three-pointer to send Energy into the lead.
In the absence of US import player Hannah Weedman, Carly Mullen-Bianconi stood tall with a double-double 20 points and 17 rebounds. Carmen Weaver also made an impact with 11 points and 12 rebounds.