BENDIGO Braves star Damian Johnson says an eventual SEABL championship match-up against his former team was all the motivation he needed going through the season.
"I pretty much knew Mount Gambier would be there (in the grand final), so my whole go was to help this team reach that same level," the American said on the eve of Saturday night's championship decider against Mount Gambier Pioneers.
"Once I saw we had guys like Jeremy (Kendle), Kevin White and Matt Andronicos, I knew we had a great opportunity.
"Then guys like Chris Hogan and Taylor Bell stepped up this year, I pretty much thought there was a high chance we'd make it to the championship ourselves."
Johnson, who crossed to the Braves this season after back-to-back championships with the Pioneers, is intent on playing the role of spoiler against his former teammates.
The Braves enter the contest on the back of a 15-game winning streak and with a league-best 23-3 season record.
But they were pushed to the limit against a gritty Nunawading Spectres in last weekend’s east conference final at Bendigo Stadium and required overtime to eke out a 76-64 win.
The Pioneers path to the championship decider was somewhat smoother, stunning the Hobart Chargers 97-72 in a timely reminder of their championship credentials.
As someone who has spent time in both camps, Johnson said the Braves and Pioneers were as evenly matched as two sides could be.
But there were clearly no sentimental feelings heading into the game - at least not from Johnson's side.
"I'm just looking at it like it's just another game," he said.
"Every opportunity I get to step onto the court, I look forward to winning. I'm a competitor."
Johnson, who contributed game-highs in points (24) and rebounds (15), against Nunawading was confident there would be no repeat of the shooting problems that plagued the Braves last weekend, particularly in the first half.
"We've watched the film and there was a lot of shots we missed that we would normally make," he said.
"We might have had a few jitters, where guys were a little too anxious to get a lead going early and shots that we usually make just weren’t falling."
The Braves have not won a championship since 2005.