A feeling of elation and relief swept through the Ararat Fitness Centre on Saturday night as slowly smiles grew bigger and bigger.
The Ararat Redbacks' CBL team showed just how far they have come in 18 months as they defeated Warrnambool Seahawks to secure a place in the 2020-21 season grand final.
It wasn't all smooth sailing for the team and the fans.
In the opening five minutes of the match, there were some glimpses of the 'old' Redbacks - a team that could be competitive but was always slow off the mark.
When questioned, coach Marcus Jenkins said he knew his players had the determination to hold on to an early surge by the Seahawks and not let the lead blow out.
"I was nervous but I wasn't at the same time," he said.
"Warrnambool is a great outfit lead by their coach. I knew we could weather their storm - we just needed to get that into our heads.
"It's all about that mental toughness. No doubt, we've all seen it before, in the previous season we would have let that 10-12 point lead blow out to 30 and we would have been chasing our tail the whole game.
"I couldn't be happier as a coach to see how much these players have developed on the court, but off the court as well."
The Redbacks defeated the Seahawks 105-72 with once again Zac Dunmore and Ethan Fiegert combining as top scorers.
The team's attention will now turn to the grand final to be played in Colac against Portland.
The previous encounter between the two teams will see the Redbacks go into the game with the confidence of knowing the round one clash went their way by 12 points.
However, Jenkins said its finals, anything could happen and the team would prepare like any ordinary week.
"It's just another game and despite there being a big thing at the end of it training will be the same as it is every week," he said.
"We'll work out backsides off and we'll get it done.
"The game against Warrnambool has put us in a good position to know what to expect. They really pushed us."
Jenkins thanked the home crowds for coming out and supporting the team.
"It's been fantastic to see a larger crowd here this year and people should be really proud of these players who are representing their town," he said.
"I hope we can get some fans down in Colac next week and I'm sure the boys will put on a performance everyone will be proud of."
The grand final will be played at Bluewater Leisure Centre, Colac at 7pm on March 6.
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