PROGRESS is a key word Port Macquarie Dolphins coach Mark Champion likes to use.
And despite their 81-75 defeat to Central Coast on Saturday night, he is confident the Dolphins have made progress over the opening two rounds.
They didn't hit the lead, but halfway through the final quarter they gave themselves some hope when the scores were level.
Their record still stands at 0-2, but they have made giant strides towards improving, being competitive and slowly climbing their way up the Waratah State League division one ladder.
It's like building a brick wall - it doesn't just appear, but their four-point and six-point defeats in the first two matches are giant strides in the right direction.
"It's good to see when you're building that brick wall and you've got a couple of courses on the ground you see some progress," Champion said.
"That's we've seen over the last couple of weeks; our defence (on Saturday) was as good as I've seen a Port Macquarie team play defence in five years.
"Teams that were beating us by 40 and 50 last year are beating us by four and six points and we were in both games."
Champion conceded the Crusaders were the better team and deserved their victory, but there were still plenty of positives for the home side.
"We were always chasing them all night," he said.
"With a few minutes to go I think they were getting quite nervous because we weren't going away; it was probably even closer than the scoreline showed.
"We fouled them a few times to send them to the line because we had no other option."
While the Dolphins still conceded 80 points, Champion said the Crusaders landed a number of high-quality shots from three-point range.
"A lot of those points they scored were tough contested shots and if a team is going to do that you've got to tip your hat to them," he said.
"They didn't take their foot off the pedal all night."
When asked if losing had become a habit, the Dolphins coach said he felt it wasn't the case, instead it was more his team had rarely been in a winning position.
"I don't think it's so much that losing is a habit, but it's they haven't had enough of those close games to have worked out how to win them," he said.
"We've come a long way since last year, but we've got to keep on working on it.
"There are a lot of things we can get better at; we're not going to all of a sudden jump from the bottom to the top."
The opening two rounds have given Champion even more cause for optimism.
Instead of being out of the contest at halftime, the Dolphins are giving themselves a chance.
"All you can do is put yourself in with an opportunity at being in those games to win them," he said.
"The last two weeks we've done that and while we haven't won the games, if we keep on doing that we will."
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