ALBURY-WODONGA BANDITS: Heartbreaker as Bandits fail by 1

THE Albury-Wodonga Bandits’ heartbreaking overtime defeat to the Hobart Chargers at the weekend can be summed up neatly in two words.

Deba George.

The former Cairns Taipans guard scorched his hosts for 42 points, including a phenomenal seven baskets from beyond the three-point arc, as the Chargers put a week of turmoil behind them to record a gutsy 101-100 win at the Lauren Jackson Sports Centre on Saturday night.

Hobart arrived on the Border as rank underdogs after sacking import Zac White and coach Paul Davie on Wednesday, with assistant coach Chris Symons also resigning.

But the Chargers banded together under interim coach Willie Joseph to notch the eighth win of their SEABL campaign.

A see-sawing contest in front of a crowd of nearly 700 saw seven lead changes as the Bandits fought back from an 11-point deficit to force overtime on Nick Payne’s game-tying layup with 31 seconds remaining in regulation.

But despite scoring the opening two baskets of the extra session, offensive execution was again a problem for Albury-Wodonga, as the Border club would not score again until a spectacular Lamar Mallory dunk with 44 seconds left.

Matt de Koeyer tried valiantly to repeat his late-game heroics from a week ago, nailing a triple with 1.5 seconds remaining to bring the Bandits to within one point.

But the Chargers missed their final two free throws, letting the clock run out and preventing their hosts from setting up a potential game-winning basket.

Mallory’s 22 points and 15 rebounds paced the Bandits, with Alex Opacic chiming in with 20 points and point guard Jamar Briscoe adding 14 points and six assists.

Coach Brad Chalmers, while disappointed with the defeat, was more perturbed with the Bandits’ lack of defensive awareness in the opening quarter.

“Late game situations, they’re tough, they can go either way,” Chalmers said.

“Our inability to contain the ball earlier in the game was probably the difference.

“We chalked up some early fouls and Hobart made a living at the free throw line in the first quarter.

“Deba (George) played really well but our help defence wasn’t quite there at the start.

“We talked about their guards being the key to the game and we just didn’t get it done.

“It’s a disappointing loss but full credit to Hobart, they were fantastic tonight.”

Earlier, a scrappy start saw both teams struggle offensively with the visitors easing to a 12-8 lead before a late surge from the Bandits tied it up at 21-apiece at the first interval.

The Bandits found themselves on the end of a fire-breathing George explosion in the second-quarter, the pumped-up Chargers guard pouring in 17 points for the quarter as Hobart took a handy 54-47 lead at half-time.

Nothing went right for Albury-Wodonga in the early going of the second half, multiple shots rimming out as the Hobart extended its advantage to 60-49 amid worrying signs for the home team.

Hobart continued to ride George’s hot shooting throughout the final period, resisting Albury-Wodonga’s repeated efforts to take the lead.