Tonight marks a pivotal moment in the Bendigo Braves’ SEABL season.
Since round 10 the Braves have been clinging to third spot, which means hosting a home elimination final.
It’s now round 19 and Bendigo has the chance to sew up third with a home win against fifth-placed Sandringham Sabres tonight.
However, a loss will keep the Braves in a fight with Frankston and the Sabres for two finals spots.
With tough games against east conference top teams Geelong and Dandenong to finish the season, the Braves want to at least guarantee a finals spot – and hopefully third – tonight.
“Absolutely, it’s a big game,” Braves coach Ben Harvey said.
“It would be nice to know that this weekend we win and whatever happens the following weekend – win, lose or draw – we’re sitting third.”
Harvey’s positive mindset means he hasn’t given up hope of stealing second from Geelong.
The Supercats are three wins clear of Bendigo, but are faltering since a season-ending knee injury to key import Kimmani Barrett.
“(To finish second) is a complete possibility, but the focus is third and you never know,” Harvey said.
Melbourne Tigers assistant coach Rohan Short took Braves training on Tuesday night and Harvey believed it helped prime his team to take revenge on a nine-point loss to Sandringham a month ago.
“You can imagine an NBL coach there how the guys are going to react. The standard was great. I said to the guys that’s what it should be the whole time,” Harvey said.
“We just needed a spark, a change and someone else’s voice. We’re playing good basketball, we’re not far away.”
Meanwhile, the Champions IGA Lady Braves will try to find weaknesses in Sandringham’s team ahead of a likely re-match in the elimination final.
The Lady Braves are cemented in third spot and will be looking to keep a psychological edge over the Sabres.
“We know we’ve got a home final in three weeks against Sandringham; this weekend will be us tinkering with a few things,” coach Lukas Carey said.
“It’s about getting a little bit of an idea into what they’re doing… because when we played them last time their Olympian, Micaela Cocks, didn’t play.
“So we just want to see how she fits into their roles and their offensive stuff, where we can find some weaknesses with her in the group as well.”
The Lady Braves have consistently relied on Renae Camino and Mia Newley to score the bulk of their points.
“When we’ve had three scorers in double figures, we’ve dropped two games for the year. When we’ve had two scorers or one scorer in double figures, we haven’t won those games,” Carey said.
“That third consistent input offensively has been the thing we’ve struggled with.”