Axed coach Mike Kelly departed on a losing note as Tai Webster inspired the New Zealand Breakers to a 84-78 win over the Cairns Taipans in their NBL clash in Rotorua.
Kelly, the reigning NBL Coach of the Year, admitted he was "bitter a bit" but refused to take aim at the Taipans hierarchy after his three- year tenure officially came to an end on Wednesday, following his surprise dumping earlier this week.
With only pride to play for, last-placed Cairns lifted against New Zealand despite injuries reducing them to nine men for their season finale, grabbing an eight-point lead early in the fourth quarter at Energy Events Centre.
Inspirational Taipans import Scott Machado grabbed a double-double (21 points, 10 assists, five rebounds) but it wasn't enough.
Webster shot a stunning 7-8 from beyond the arc to finish with 23 points and ice the win for the hosts.
The second-last Breakers (12-23) have one more game to play this season - Saturday's home clash with South East Melbourne Phoenix.
Asked if it was a bittersweet moment watching his Taipans lift one last time under his watch, Kelly said: "Not a lot of sweet in it - we lost the game and I got fired.
"Bitter a little bit. But we focused on what we could do as a team and I thought the guys were outstanding with their effort and looking after each other in a tough situation."
Cairns (8-28 record) battled bravely through a spate of injuries and import Cam Oliver's mid-season departure.
But it wasn't enough to save Kelly, who was told just moments after Monday night's loss to Melbourne United he had been dumped with one season remaining on his contract.
"Well, no comment," said Kelly about the handling of his axing. "They want to go with someone else as their coach and they told me that.
"I like it when people are straightforward with me. It's part of life."
It was a rollercoaster ride for Kelly who collected the wooden spoon in his first (2018-19) campaign, then was a win shy of making the 2019-20 grand final before finishing last again this season.
"I am still processing what we could have done better but I know there were circumstances that contributed to it that I had no control over," Kelly said.
"I will learn from it, get better from it and move forward."
Kelly said he didn't know the exact details of his next destination.
"I will be in basketball somewhere coaching," he said. "God only knows right now."
Machado cut a devastated figure sitting next to Kelly post-match.
"I feel for him, it's really disappointing but this is how the business goes," Machado said.
Breakers Corey Webster (16pts), Colton Iverson (15pts, 12 boards) and Finn Delany (10 pts, 10 rebounds) also stood up in the contest.