WHITE Hills' Bendigo District Cricket Association finals drought will continue for at least another year after a day of heartbreak for the Demons on Saturday.
Chasing their first finals berth since 1999, White Hills claimed the one wicket it needed to beat Kangaroo Flat by seven runs at Dower Park.
But the joy of the thrilling win over the Roos later turned to despair for White Hills as victories to Strathdale-Maristians and Eaglehawk shut the door on the Demons' finals hopes.
As was the case last year, the finals will be fought out between Golden Square, Bendigo United, Strathdale-Maristians and Eaglehawk.
Minor premier Golden Square will take on Eaglehawk in a semi-final this weekend, while Bendigo United and Strathdale-Maristians will renew their finals rivalry when they lock horns.
Both Golden Square and Bendigo United have earned the right to host their semi-finals.
All the early interest in Saturday's final day of the home and away season centred on the Kangaroo Flat-White Hills clash.
The Roos with Tim Robertson and Shane Harling at the crease resumed at 9-63 chasing White Hills' 79.
The Roos added nine more runs to move to 72 before the Demons claimed the match-winning wicket when Harling (5) was caught low to the ground at slip by Jayden Sheean off Travis Colley (2-13).
Robertson finished 22 not out.
With the game won inside the first 20 minutes and the Demons on the cusp of the finals, it later became an outright bid for White Hills as news filtered through that Eaglehawk and Strathdale were on top in their games.
The Demons made a quickfire 8-180 off 43.3 overs in their second innings before declaring.
The star for the Demons was hard-hitting teenage opener Brayden Stepien.
Coming off 103 not out in the under-17s earlier in the morning, Stepien fell just short of what would have been his maiden first XI ton when he was dismissed for 95.
Stepien plundered nine boundaries and five sixes in his entertaining knock.
At one stage Stepien hit three consecutive sixes off young Roos' leg-spinner Chris Barber (0-56).
Robertson (4-32) and Daniel Plowman (3-30) took seven second innings wickets between them for Kangaroo Flat.
Following their declaration, the Demons had 30 overs to bowl Kangaroo Flat out a second time to claim the outright win that would send them to the finals.
What looked an unlikely task started well for the Demons when they dismissed openers Brent Hamblin (0) and Josh Newlan (0) - who both made pairs - to have the Roos 2-2, and when Daniel Barber (2) was removed soon after, Kangaroo Flat was 3-10.
But the Roos, led by Lachlan Shelton (31) and captain Adam Burns (23 n.o.), dug in to finish at 4-71 to deny White Hills that long sought-after finals berth.
Colley (3-9) took three wickets in the second innings to finish the match with five.
It was a bitter end to the season for White Hills, who finished just percentage off third position, but ultimately, two one-wicket losses to Golden Square and Bendigo has come back to haunt the Demons.
Kangaroo Flat ended the season with just one win and a rare wooden-spoon.
• Huntly-North Epsom coach Quinton Bentley finished with a 10-wicket haul for the match against his former side Sandhurst, but his gallant efforts weren't enough to steer the Power into the finals.
Having already defeated Sandhurst on day one, the Power pushed for outright points at Poyser Motors Oval.
However, the Dragons showed more resolve with the bat in their second innings to deny the Power maximum points.
In the end, with the way other results unfolded, not even an outright win would have lifted the Power into the finals as they ended the season sixth.
Bentley picked up a phenomenal 7-27 off 26 overs in the Dragons' second innings of 124.
And having taken 3-15 in the first innings, Bentley ended the match with figures of 10-42 off 37 overs, which included 17 maidens.
Bentley's 7-27 were the best bowling figures in the BDCA this season and helped him finish as the competition's leading wicket-taker with 34.
Sandhurst's second innings was led by a half-century from Ned Slater (56, five fours).
Having made 46 in the first innings, the impressive Slater ended the game having made 102 of the Dragons' 202 runs.
The Power finished at 6-74 off 17 overs in their second innings, with Josh Collinson (37) top-scoring like he did in the first innings.
Captain Craig Howard (3-21) took three wickets for the Dragons to go with his 28 earlier in the day.
• Eaglehawk maintained its position in the top four after conjuring a win in its ordinary conditions match against Strathfieldsaye at Canterbury Park.
Resuming at 7-101, the Hawks batted for 15 more overs before declaring at 8-189.
Aaron Monro (37), Cory Jacobs (34 n.o.) and Todd Brown (15 n.o.) added the runs for the Hawks.
Strathfieldsaye's Ben Devanny - who has won the Bendigo Advertiser-Bicknells Player of the Year with 34 votes - picked up the wicket of Monro to finish the match with 6-61 off 26 overs having started the day with 5-17.
The Hawks' declaration left them 67 overs to bowl the Jets out, but they only needed 45.5 to dismiss Strathfieldsaye for 107.
Only David Farley (38) and Neil Johnson (21) passed 20 for the Jets as they ended the season with their seventh loss in a row.
Jacobs (3-31), veteran Andrew Smith (2-21) and Monro (2-23) were the multiple wicket-takers for the Hawks.
• Bendigo United secured the first outright win of the season, defeating Bendigo at Harry Trott Oval.
After resuming their second innings at 2-23, the Goers were bowled out for 128.
They had been 4-109 before their last six wickets tumbled for just 19 runs against a Redbacks' attack led by Nick Crawford (5-20 off 19 overs).
Crawford's 19 overs included 13 maidens.
Bendigo's Mitch Blackman put a high price on his wicket, facing 154 balls for his 63 as his roller-coaster season continued.
Of Blackman's 14 innings this season, in nine of them he has scored either a half-century (four) or a duck (five).
Blackman and Ryan Trickey (27 off 79) put on 72 for the third wicket.
Having bowled the Goers out, the Redbacks were left with 27 overs to chase 100 for the outright win.
And the Redbacks did it in a canter thanks to Matt Pinniger (62 n.o. off 54, eight fours, one six) and Ben Gunn (37 n.o. off 55) as they reached 0-100 in just 18 overs.
Pinniger's unbeaten 64 ensured he ended the season as the BDCA's leading run-scorer with 646, which included six scores over 50.
The Redbacks' outright win over Bendigo came after they lost to the Goers earlier in the season.
• Strathdale-Maristians inflicted Golden Square's first loss of the season on the eve of the finals.
Chasing Golden Square's 200 at MyJet Oval, the Suns passed their target in the 76th over before finishing at 8-266 off their 85 overs.
Star opener Travis King helped set up the successful run-chase as he top-scored with 55 off 138 (four fours, one six).
Since returning from his Victoria Country duties in January, King has now made scores of 41, 103 n.o., 111 and 55 for the Suns.
All-rounder Cameron Taylor followed up his 6-63 last week with 54 off 67 (eight fours, one six).
Captain Linton Jacobs (32 off 98), the in-form Ben DeAraugo (42 off 43) - who has averaged 66.6 his past five innings - and Nick Baker (26 off 27) also chipped in with contributions for the Suns.
Paceman Darren Clutton claimed 4-51 of 22 overs for Golden Square, which included the two key wickets of Taylor and Jacobs, while the consistent Luke Baird took 3-76.