The Hills District Hornets lost to the Penrith Panthers in a 91-84 defeat on Saturday night at the Penrith Valley Regional Sports Centre.
The Penrith Panthers senior men's basketball team maintained the winning feeling in the latter rounds of the 2012 Waratah Championship League competition.
Penrith started brightly behind a strong effort from their American import Ben Ellsworth but the Hornets' Paul Brotherson and Josh Chapman were also in good touch early, taking the visitors to a 23-18 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Both teams looked nervous on occasions but the margin remained the same at half-time (42-37), although the danger signs were already out for the Hornets as their turnover count had reached 16 – a reasonable number perhaps for a full game.
Ellsworth had cruised up to 19 points during the half, while Chapman (13) and Brotherson (12) were also in double figures for the visitors.
The Hornets have looked vulnerable many times this season during the third quarter and the night would see a repeat of that pattern, as the Panthers out-scored the visitors 30-17 in the term to hold a 67-59 lead heading into 'money-time'.
The turnover count had slowed for the Hornets during the third term but they appeared to have lost their composure against Penrith's stronger defensive effort, allowing the game to slip out of their grasp.
Rob Crane (17) moved into double figures for the Panthers during the third term, providing additional momentum for Penrith's charge to the lead, whilst Ellsworth had now reached 29 points in the game.
Jason Strong (15) and David Pollard (10) were now also in double figures for the Hornets and the fans sat back in anticipation of a late rush from the visitors in the final quarter.
That scenario unfolded in the fourth quarter, with the Panthers looking shaky at times as the Hornets applied amazing pressure, closing to within three points before Penrith head coach brought point guard Josh Morehead back into the game.
The Panthers looked far more composed under Morehead's leadership and although the Hornets closed again to within four points in the last 30 seconds of play, the Panthers would stay composed to grab a seven-point win.
This had been a danger game for the ninth-placed Hornets, who needed a win to stay in play-off contention.
As a result of this loss, there will be some nervous times ahead in the Hills District Basketball Association, as results from other games in this round will play a crucial role in deciding if the Hornets can still reach the playoffs in late-August.
The Hornets are away to the Northern Suburbs Bears on Saturday night, then return home to host the Parramatta Wildcats at the Hills Basketball Stadium at 1pm on Sunday.
Penrith Panthers 91 (Ben Ellsworth 36 points, 11 boards; Rob Crane 23 points, 2 blocked shots; Louis Brandt 11 points, 10 boards, 5 assists) def Hills District Hornets 84 (David Pollard 23 points, 14 boards; Jason Strong 21 points, 6 assists; Paul Brotherson 14 points; Josh Chapman 13).