For the second year running the Albany Basketball Association top men’s team have fallen just short at the Basketball WA Senior Country Championships, losing Monday’s grand final to Geraldton by 14 points. In search of their ninth championships division title in the past 14 years, Albany again reached the grand final after finishing the regular games in second place and then thrashing last year’s champions Bunbury by 45 points in Monday’s semifinal. Geraldton qualified directly into the decider and dominated the opening few minutes as they raced ahead 13-2 which helped them open up a 13-point half time lead. Albany scored the first six points after half-time as star shooter Luke McGuire got them within six points midway through the second half. Geraldton steadied but Albany came again as a Kalin Lane bucket reduced the margin to five points. However Geraldton scored the final nine points of the game to secure the title 43-29 at Perth’s Bendat Basketball Centre. McGuire was a shining light in the grand final defeat finishing with 14 points despite hitting one nine three point attempts. Lane (six points) and Kyle Smith (five) also had an impact but it was a second consecutive grand final loss for Albany in championship division. Albany lost their qualifying game to Geraldton on Saturday by two points but wins over Mandurah (59-30), Kalgoorlie (37-31) and Bunbury (48-41) had them in a strong position. On Monday morning Albany beat Mandurah 56-25 to finish with a 4-1 win-loss record. McGuire was brilliant in Albany’s mauling of Bunbury in the semifinal as he hit 12 of 19 long range attempts on his way to a game-high 38 points and was well supported by Henrick Alforque (12) and Kye Griffiths (8). For the championships McGuire averaged 14.4 points a game, returning double figures in all bar one of the six matches he featured in as he topped scoring in the championship division with 101 points. Albany coach Grant Smith said he was proud of his team’s performances but ultimately long rang shooting cost them in the decider. “The boys played great team basketball all weekend and beat a very experienced and tall Bunbury side in the semis that was probably our best game of the carnival,” he said. “We came up against a fresh Geraldton side that had the bye on Monday morning while we had three games but there were no excuses as we had good looks but shot one from 18 from deep and lost by 14 points.” Meanwhile in men’s division 2 Albany finished sixth winning one of their seven games and in division 4 Denmark were knocked out in the semifinals by Pemberton. Albany’s division 4 men’s team won one game, Denmark also had one win in division 5 and Albany were runners-up in the men’s vets division, withdrawing from the final due to injuries.