WHAT a difference 0.4 seconds can make.

The Country Basketball League came to a dramatic conclusion at the weekend, as the Moe Meteors denied Traralgon T-Birds of winning back-to-back-to-back Gippsland Men’s titles in an epic finale.

The final scoreboard read 91-89, however, the full story is indeed a scarcely believable tale.

Cardinia Life Aquatic and Recreation Centre, Pakenham was the venue for the all-Latrobe Valley Grand Final, which would literally go down to the last second.

Moe had survived a whole season without suffering defeat, while Traralgon constantly remained in close quarters with the league leaders, only losing twice throughout the home-and-away campaign.

The undefeated favourites set the tone in a mammoth first-quarter effort, more than doubling the T-Birds’ score to take a 27-13 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Many teams have even struggled to get back into the game from this point on throughout the season against the Meteors, so for Traralgon to even get marginally close as they did was impressive.

The T-Birds began their quest of a comeback straight away, taking it to the Meteors in the second quarter, outscoring them 28-21, cutting the lead to seven points at the halftime break.

Everyone’s energy had combined into an orb in the third quarter, as both sides went toe-to-toe, with nothing separating the two sides in the term.

Thus, Moe remained firmly in the box seat to disrupt Traralgon’s run of premierships, but nothing is ever over until it’s over.

It was the T-Birds who were once again the agitators, and as the final 10 minutes was underway, Traralgon began to dig in.

Within the first minute of the last quarter, the seven-point lead was cut to two points, following a Bradley Watson layup and a Ben Waller three.

Following a frantic couple of minutes, and several turnovers later, Traralgon suddenly had the lead for the first time through Kody Tibballs.

Suddenly, everything was going right for the T-Birds, scoring 15 points in the final term before Moe could even register a point themselves. The script was flipped, and Traralgon had all control – eight points ahead.

Moe’s Austin Shelley finally scored for the Meteors, but that was swiftly responded by a Ben Barlow three at the other end to give Traralgon their biggest lead of the day – nine points.

With five minutes remaining, Moe had nothing to do but start their comeback.

And that they did, as with a little over two minutes remaining in the Grand Final, Moe was back within a single shot, much to the regard of Shelley.

A minute remained on the clock, and Traralgon had the lead back out to seven points.

Surely Moe couldn’t possibly win from here?

But they could, and this is how it played out.

Moe’s Ben van Dyk made a put-back layup, Traralgon led by five points with 36 seconds remaining.

Moe’s Rohan Demczuk then sent Zac Bezzina to the line, fouling himself out in the process, but both free throws were crucially missed.

Stephen O’Brien makes a deep corner two for Moe and Traralgon lead by three points, 19 seconds remain.

O’Brien fouls Watson, he misses both free throws and 19 seconds are still sitting on the clock.

Moe transition up the court through Shelley, who pulls up from the arc and makes it, scores tied 89-all with 11 seconds left.

The Moe bench erupts, and there is hope once again.

Traralgon had possession again though, and they can win it from here … nope turnover. Moe timeout, 1.2 seconds left.

Simon Vannapraseuth with the inbound, O’Brien finds space, he runs toward an open basket, shoots a lay-up.

He makes it, and Moe win a thriller at the buzzer to break Traralgon hearts.

In the words of Anthony Hudson – “I see it, but I don’t believe it”.

Players stormed the court at the conclusion of the last play, with the ball thrown high in the air in celebration.

Coach Josh Whittaker needed a moment to comprehend what had happened, while team manager Boun Vannapraseuth was literally on his knees in disbelief.

Shelley capped off a superb season with another 28 points, complimented by Thomas Portbury who scored 25.

Traralgon had many contributors but couldn’t find the winning formula. Waller scored 26 points, Barlow (21) and Tibballs (19).

The Meteors have enjoyed recent success in CBL, winning back-to-back flags in 2017/18 and 2018/19, making them possibly Moe’s most successful sporting team of the modern era.

Moe Meteors Championship Team:

Ben van Dyk, Rohan Demczuk, Jayden van Dyk, Riley Tolley, Simon Vannapraseuth, Austin Shelley, Ryan Griggs, Jacob Puddy, Callum Ross, Tom Portbury, Stephen O’Brien, Josh Whittaker (coach).


GIPPSLAND Women’s was taken out by Korumburra Wildcats in quite comfortable fashion, dispatching Wonthaggi Coasters by 24 points, 86-62.