Sony Centre Fury fell 96-95 to title rivals St Mirren in a Scottish National Championship thriller at Grangemouth on Friday night.
Despite a stunning 35-17 first quarter lead and a game high 34 points from Austrian forward Adam Hammerschmidt, the Falkirk side could not stop a Saints comeback that saw them top the Championship race.
Fury were roared on by their usual buoyant crowd and got off to a dream start as they hit six threes in the opening period through Hammerschmidt (3), Keith Bunyan (2) and Eddy Leginus.
The Austrian ace seemed unstoppable in that opening stanza with 14 points, Leginus added nine total with Bunyan and Lithuanian Kornelius Dauksas sharing 12.
But it wasn’t just offence that Fury shone on. Their defence held Saints big guns – Chris Cleary scoreless and Nick Collins to four points.
The second period was key for the Paisley side as they managed to pull back Fury’s 18-point lead to 14 at the half and keep themselves in touch.
It was more of the same for Fury with Bunyan and Hammerschmidt adding to their three-point tallies and Leginus and Dauksas continuing to score in the 22-18 stanza for Saints.
Coincidentally if the game had ended at half-time, the 14 points was the target Fury needed to get the head to head on Saints after the Falkirk side’s loss by 13 in the away fixture in Paisley.
While Fury were able to add a further 20 points in the third to their 53-point first half tally, Saints came out determined to cut into the Fury lead and by the end of the quarter with 31 points had the game back at three with all to play for in the final period.
Five threes in the third had given Saints half their points and as the final period progressed it was anybody’s game, with Fury now just looking for the win, no matter what the scoreline.
But it was Saints who were ahead going into the final four minutes with the score at 86-82. However baskets from teenager Daniel Tran and Dauksas tied the game and then Hammerschmidt hit his fifth three of the night to give Fury the lead on 89-86 on a 7–0 run that sent the Fury fans into overdrive.
Both teams continued to score and Saints again took the edge as Cleary took his team to a one-point lead at 96-95 with just under 40 seconds left on the clock.
Fury had endline possession but were unable to convert giving Saints a full possession. With Fury not able to steal and the clock ticking down, Fury fouled with 10 seconds remaining and took a final time-out as Saints went to the end line in possession.
With the Sony sponsored side pressing on the inbound, Hammerschmidt came up with a steal and took off for the basket with the clock ticking down. With Saints scrambling back on defence, Hammerschmidt was forced into a running two from the edge of the key that rimmed out – game over.
For Fury the Austrian top scored on 34 with Leginus on 21, Dauksas 20 and Bunyan 12.
Head coach John Bunyan said afterwards: “ The game became another in the list of Fury-St Mirren men’s classic games.
“We have had at least two others, similar to this – one in Paisley where Jonny and Nick had about 50 apiece and one in Falkirk that was also a 200 point game – great for the fans – not so good for the defensive stats.
“This was a must win game for both teams and we knew we also probably had to win by more than 13 points to get the head to head on Saints. It did not show in the third period but we worked a lot on a defensive game plan in training and in the first and most of the second the players executed it well.
“A key to defeating Saints is always to restrict Nick and Chris to as few points as possible. We had a dream start and I was able to get players off the bench in and take what was a good 14-point lead in at the half.
“The third proved crucial and we allowed them 31 points. It was anybody’s game right up until Adam’s last shot, but the shot just didn’t drop and it’s credit to Saints for the win.
“I cannot fault the effort of my players, they did a great job, Bryan, Eddy and Daniel were solid at the guard spot – we had a record low of only six turnovers and actually we shot overall 56% to Saints 55%.
“Greg Foussas as ever was influential throughout , but a single point separated the teams at the end of the day and it’s the scoreline that ultimately counts. We need to keep focused in the remaining four Championship games and have a real push in the Play-Offs.”
On Sunday Saints defeated Edinburgh Kings by 20 points as they moved two games clear of Fury, Blaze and Kings.