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There was no fairytale return but the North Otago Penguins could be satisfied with third place in the Conference Basketball League at the weekend.
The Penguins beat Wellington 98-83 in the play-off in Wellington on Saturday, after being beaten 88-83 by the Waikato Titans in Friday's semifinal.
After seven years in the wilderness, the Penguins reformed this year under the guidance of North Otago basketball guru Brian de Geest.
The wily coach recruited an assortment of local and Dunedin-based names and hoped to win a fourth national title.
The loss to a strong Titans side - regular NBL players Prem Krishna, Earl Smith and Ray Cameron were in Waikato's second-division squad - scuppered that dream.
The Titans were chasing a fourth consecutive CBL crown but were beaten 90-84 by the Wellington Saints in the final.
On Saturday, American point guard Dalun Smith had 38 points, seven rebounds, nine assists and four steals as the Penguins dominated Wellington's second CBL side, with a 20-0 run in the second quarter giving North Otago momentum.
Tall Black triallist Calum MacLeod put up 19 points and 18 rebounds for the Penguins.
Smith was named to the tournament team alongside Earl Smith, most valuable player Arthur Trousdell (Saints), Matt Te Huna (Saints) and Troy McLean (Wellington).