THE final day of Ayr Storm's U16's girls season was one of mixed emotions.
On a day when they were officially crowned SLBA League Champions, they were going in search of their third consecutive league and cup double as they took on South Lanarkshire Colliers in Paisley, but it was to be heartbreak for the Ayr team as they lost out in a thrilling final.
The Lagoon Centre saw its biggest crowd of the Finals Weekend for the U16 girls game, and the noise throughout the game was deafening.
Storm started the better and edged ahead thanks to points from Petra Kurcikova and Abbie Middleton, but Colliers hit back thanks to two quick baskets from Katie Burn. It was clear nerves were affecting both sides, and although plenty of shots were being taken, not many were finding the basket. Ayr edged the first quarter 12-10.
U14 guard Niamh Keenan, got Ayr off and running in the second period with an early basket, but Colliers hit back, with Abigail Paterson finishing off a couple of fast breaks to keep parity in the scoreline. However, again defences were proving difficult to break down and the South Lanarkshire team, coached by Chris Curle, took the narrowest of leads 22-21 into the interval.
Storm started the second half slowly and were soon to find themselves 10 points down, the largest gap there was between the sides during the game. However, they gradually began to work their way back into the contest. Strong rebounding from Melissa Graham ( 10 rebounds) and 8 steals from Freya MacDonald, helped the recovery behind Middleton and Kurcikova's point scoring. Storm trailed 37-33 heading into the final quarter.
With the sporting crowd getting more noisy as each second passed, nerves continued to show, in the stands, on both benches and on the court. A dramatic three pointer from captain, Emily Nolan put Ayr back ahead 42-41 for the first time in the game since the first quarter. Back came Colliers and a basket with 45 seconds left made the score 43-42.
With a mere five seconds left on the clock, Nolan was fouled and sent to the free throw line. She made her first to tie the scores, but the second agonisingly bounced off the rim. The game headed to overtime.
Ayr bounced out to a five-point advantage, but the determined Colliers girls stuck to their task and fought back once again. Katie Burn then struck what proved to be the game winning basket with 45 seconds left. Try as they might, the Ayr team just couldn't find the decisive basket and the buzzer sounded to show a 51-50 Colliers win.
Colliers lifted the Cup, but there was some comfort for Storm as Belmont Academy's Abbie Middleton was named the Finals MVP, with 19 points, 20 rebounds, three assists, six steals and two blocks to her name.
From the disappointment of defeat, the Ayr girls soon had smiles back on their faces as they received their SLBA League shield and winners medals for the third year running, after an unbeaten league campaign. The icing on top of the cake was when Wellington School's Emily Nolan picked up the league top scorers trophy.
Head coach Maria Vasilaki, summed up the day: Today's game typified our season, a bit of a rollercoaster ride, with lots of highs and lows, but I've told all our girls they have improved so much during the season. Today was Colliers' day, and we congratulate them on their win. Finally I would like to pay testament to our fans, the Storm-chasers were absolutely awesome and provided an amazing atmosphere for these young girls to play in."