STAWELL - The Stawell Panel and Paint Wildcats took on a tough assignment against the powerful Horsham Hornets when they hit the court for the first time in the new year on Saturday night.
The Stawell Wildcats were jumped early by a talented Hornets outfit who took an early advantage.
Stawell stayed in touch, refusing to be blown away thanks to some tough defence keeping the margin to a minimum.
Blake Dunstan, Joel Freeland and Jarred OHayon were active players all over the court while Ryan Logan was impressive off the bench.
Hornets kept Stawell in check with Cam Bruce, Tim Pickert and Matt Lovel providing the large crowd with some excitement.
Darcy Tucker was on fire beyond the arc in the second half.
Joel Freeland led the way in the scoring department for the Wildcats, finishing with a game high 25 points, to go with his 11 rebounds in his biggest game for the season.
Blake Dunstan was again impressive for Stawell with consistent point guard play, controlling Stawell's offence.
Coach Ben Leslie was happy with the team's effort despite losing by 25 points.
"The boys played their hearts out, but the shots just wouldn't fall at crucial stages, allowing them to gradually extend their lead," Leslie said.
"The boys never gave up, they fought to the end. I'm very proud of them."
Horsham finished 83-58 winners.
"We keep improving every game but as Horsham showed us, we still have a long way to go," Leslie said.
Stawell will now wait until the Australia Day long weekend for its final two games, against Portland and Warrnambool where they will again try and end this losing streak.