Eaglehawk advanced to the Bendigo District Cricket Association finals after an eventful final round on Saturday.
To squeeze into the top four the Hawks needed to defeat Sandhurst in its final round match and hope that Strathfieldsaye lost to top side Strathdale-Maristians.
After an afternoon of twists and turns, the results fell Eaglehawk's way and the Borough qualified to play Huntly-North Epsom in next Saturday's first semi-final.
The Hawks lost their first three matches after Christmas and their finals hopes looked quashed, but they rattled home with four wins and two draws from their final six games to edge out the Jets on net run rate by 0.32.
"Even when we lost three or four tight games I thought we were playing good cricket, but falling just short with the bat,'' Eaglehawk skipper Cory Jacobs said.
"The boys at the top of the order Joshy Wiliams and Russ Stockdale have got things rolling for us and we've been able to string together some good performances.
"It's been a great effort by the boys to get there."
For a period of their batting on Saturday it didn't look like the Hawks would get there.
After making a solid enough start to be 1-54, the Hawks lost 5-31 to be in real trouble at 6-85 and a score of 150-plus appeared unlikely.
Young gun Ben Williams and Nick Farley changed the game with a crucial seventh-wicket stand.
Farley hit two sixes and two fours as he blasted his way to 36, while Williams batted with great maturity at the other end.
They added 54 before Farley fell and then Williams batted through to finish unbeaten on 46.
The Hawks finished 8-184 off their 45 overs.
Spinners Ben Evans (3-17) and Dylan Gibson (3-42) did the damage with the ball for the Dragons.
"Sandhurst bowled well, they bowled a fair bit of spin and we couldn't quite get going,'' Jacobs said.
"Nick came out and batted aggressively. It's a bit make or break with Nick, but he hit a few over the fence and Ben was able to bat through and get himself a nice score.
"That helped us get to a score that we think we can defend most weeks."
Sandhurst's run chase started disastrously as Borough new-ball bowlers Farley and Richard Tibbett removed Joel Murphy (5), Anthony McMahon (0) and Gibson (1) with only eight runs on the board.
"Joel Murphy has had a great year and Dylan Gibson has been a bit of a bogey man for us, so to get both of them early on was really important,'' Jacobs said.
"Richard and Nick have hit good form at the right time. We caught and fielded really well, so I was very happy."
The Sandhurst middle and lower-order dug in to ensure the scoreboard was respectable, but the Dragons never really looked a realistic chance of reeling in the total.
Shane Robinson top-scored with 37 in a team score of all out 142.
Jacobs (4-23) and Farley (3-30) led a disciplined attack for the Hawks.
STRATHFIELDSAYE v STRATHDALE-MARISTIANS
While Eaglehawk celebrated its final qualification, Strathfieldsaye was left to ponder what went wrong.
The Jets were inside the top four for most of the season, but fell away late to miss out on the finals by a narrow margin.
It was a tough pill to swallow for a team that appeared to be a top-four side - a quality skipper in Ben Devanny, three Sri Lankan players and young talent that took another step in their development.
"We had a couple of washouts against teams we'd hoped to beat, but we had our chances in other games that we didn't take and it has come back to bite us in the backside,'' Devanny said.
"I think we're good enough to be a top-four side, but in an 18-round season it's tough to argue that the best four sides haven't got through.
"We tested Strathdale once, not so much today, and beat Kangaroo Flat and Huntly-North Epsom, but we shot ourselves in the foot and won't get a crack at it."
The final round clash with the reigning premier Suns started perfectly for the Jets when Jed Rodda (2-47) dismissed Cam Taylor for a golden duck in the opening over.
The Jets gave little away early and it took a patient innings from Grant Waldron (32 off 81 balls) combined with another classy knock from Jack Neylon (51 off 62 balls) to keep the scoreboard ticking over.
Even when Neylon departed (4-119) the Jets were in a sound enough position, but veteran trio Ben DeAraugo (38 off 46), Sam Johnston (34 not out off 43) and Linton Jacobs (17 not out off 13) showed their class and experience to combine for 82 runs off the final 12 overs.
They lifted the Suns to 5-202 off their 45 overs.
In reply, the Jets tale of woe at the top of the order continued when Zoltan Smyth fell cheaply.
Cal McCarty and Nayana Fernando steadied the ship, but in what became a trend for the Jets' innings, just when it looked the home side was going to get on top they lost a crucial wicket.
McCarty (39), Feranando (20) and Devanny (15) all made good starts, but couldn't push on and the Suns tightened the screws.
Chathura Damith (24 off 20 balls) scored freely late in the innings, but the damage had already been done.
The Jets finished all out 171 - 31 runs short of victory and a top-four berth.
All seven of the Suns' bowlers took at least one wicket.
Leg-spinner Cam Taylor (2-29) bowled tightly, while skipper Ben DeAraugo padded out his career bowling figures by rolling his arm over late in the day and claiming 2-4 in five balls.
The victory completed an unbeaten home and away season for the Suns.
BENDIGO v BENDIGO UNITED
A remarkable first XI debut from 16-year-old Xavier Austin helped guide Bendigo United to victory over Bendigo and off the bottom of the BDCA ladder.
Chasing Bendigo's total of 6-192 at the QEO, Austin opened the batting and made a superb 78 not out off 111 balls.
The right-hander hit nine boundaries and batted with a temperament that belies his age.
"Xavier applied himself really well and what he did is something that we've been trying to get our top-order to do all year,'' Redbacks' skipper Miggy Podosky said.
"Through difficult periods our batsmen have got bogged down and then played a poor shot and got out.
"Xavier didn't do that today. He built partnerships along the way and he was the rock that we've been looking for all year.
"For a 16-year-old to bat like that was awesome."
Austin, who recently started Year 10 studies at Xavier College in Melbourne, put on 66 for the third wicket with Harry Donegan (41 off 32 balls) and 79 for the fourth wicket with Jayden Templeton (45 off 58 balls).
"Xavier played his drives really well and he worked the ball to all parts of the ground,'' Podosky said.
"It was a really mature innings."
The Redbacks passed Bendigo's score for the loss of six wickets with 39 balls to spare.
The victory lifted the Redbacks from 10th to above Golden Square and Bendigo into eighth on the table - a fine achievement considering they didn't win their first game until round nine.
"We've been talking about the process of how we play rather than worrying about where we finish on the ladder,'' Podosky said.
"We've been focusing on doing the right thing at training and working on executing the plans that suit our side.
"Last week we bowled Strathdale out and I think we're the only side to have done that. We didn't win that game, but it showed that if we stick to our plans we can put ourselves in winning situations."
Earlier on Saturday, Bendigo's Declan Slingo made a first XI career-best 66 and Shane Koop finished unbeaten on 53 in their side's score of 6-192.
The duo came together with the score 4-62 and they added 116 for the fifth wicket.
Billy Quirk (2-18) and Sam Harper (2-42) were the wicket-takers for the Redbacks.
WHITE HILLS v KANGAROO FLAT
Kangaroo Flat cemented second place and the double chance for the finals by defeating White Hills by five wickets.
It was a result that reads closer than it actually was.
If it wasn't for Gavin Bowles the game would have been much more lopsided.
A week after the Demons were bowled out for 34, Bowled saved the Demons from a second-straight batting disaster.
The left-hander was the only player to score more than 10 as he single-handedly kept his side in the game.
Bowles finished 90 not out off 113 balls, including two sixes and six fours, in a team score of 8-152.
It was Bowles' fifth half-century of the season and gave him a season total of 527.
He's now 17th on the BDCA all-time first XI career runs list with 7117 - moving ahead of Kevin Crawford (7010) and Gibson Pritchard (7074).
Not for the first time this season it was Roos' new-ball pair Adam Burns and Lewis Stabler that set up Flat's win.
Stabler (2-16 off nine overs) and Burns (1-12 off nine overs) put the Demons on the back foot from the start.
Nathan Stubbings and Chris Barber (23) added 48 for the first wicket to put the Roos on track for victory.
Stubbings (56 off 104 balls) produced his highest score of the season and he batted until the scores were level.
Matt Dwyer blasted 27 before he fell for the trap of expecting an Ollie Geary straight-break to turn.
The Roos eventually coasted home with 41 balls up their sleeve.
They now prepare for a second semi-final clash with Strathdale at Bell Oval where the winner earns a direct passage to the grand final.
The Demons finished sixth on the ladder and have some work to do in the off-season if they're to become a genuine top four threat next summer.
HUNTLY-NORTH EPSOM v GOLDEN SQUARE
Huntly-North Epsom warmed up for another finals campaign with a 19-run win over Golden Square.
In a low-scoring game at Strauch Reserve, the Power were forced to work hard for every run in their score of 6-145.
The Power's cause wasn't helped by the absence of star opener Ryan Grundy and Danushka Wijemanna had to retire hurt on four.
Shiran Kulathunga's best first XI innings of the season lifted the home side to a competitive score.
While others struggled to score freely, Kalathunga made 33 off 42 balls.
The Power only hit three boundaries for the innings.
Kayle Thompson took two wickets for Square, while Jack Keating (1-7 off five overs) and Liam Smith (1-21 off nine overs) put the clamps on the Power.
The Bulldogs needed one good partnership to put themselves in the game with a strong winning chance, but the top-order couldn't deliver.
At 6-60 it appeared as though the DOgs would struggle to reach three figures, but young duo Keating and Tom Campbell dug in.
They gave their side a sniff of victory with a 34-run stand before Campbell fell for 18.
Keating tried to lift the scoring rate before he fell for a gallant 28.
The Dogs were dismissed for 126 off the final ball of the 44th over.
Adam Ward (3-21) and Malan Madusanka (3-32) took the most wickets for the Power, while Brett Elvey (1-12 off seven overs) and skipper Elliott Massina (1-14 off seven overs) tied the Dogs down early on.
While the Power are finals-bound, Square finished last on the ladder - a drop of four spots from last year's sixth placing and the club's first wooden spoon this century.
BDCA ladders and finals
Kangaroo Flat 81
Huntly-North Epsom 75
White Hills 45
Bendigo United 33
Golden Square 27
First semi-final: Huntly-North Epsom v Eaglehawk at Strauch Reserve.
Second semi-final: Strathdale v Kangaroo Flat at Bell Oval.
White Hills 69
Bendigo United 57
Golden Square 45
Kangaroo Flat 33
Huntly-North Epsom 27
First semi-final: Strathfieldsaye v White Hills at Tannery Lane.
Second semi-final: Sandhurst v Strathdale at Weeroona Oval.
Bendigo United 90
White Hills 84
Kangaroo Flat 66
Golden Square 36
Huntly-North Epsom 24
First semi-final: Strathfieldsaye v Kangaroo Flat at TBA.
Second semi-final: Bendigo United v White Hills at Harry Trott Oval.
Bendigo United 57
White Hills 54
Golden Square 48
Kangaroo Flat 42
Maiden Gully 18
First semi-final: Strathfieldsaye v Bendigo United at TBA.
Second semi-final: Strathdale v Bendigo at TBA.
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