- Damian Johnson eyes third SEABL title, but first as a Brave
- Grand final losses steel Braves veterans
- Chris Hogan: Brave, loyal and leading
A SUPERB defensive display has helped Bendigo Braves win their third SEABL national championship crown beating Mount Gambier 79-61.
The Braves' number-one ranked defence limited the normally free-scoring Pioneers to just nine points in the final quarter.
Until guard Tom Daly sunk a three-pointer with two minutes, 50 seconds remaining, the Pioneers had scored only one point for the term.
The Braves' 18 point win sunk the Pioneers' hopes of a national championship three-peat.
Star import Jeremy Kendle again showed why he is considered to win the league's Most Valuable Player award, with a game-high 34 points backed by seven rebounds and six assists.
He was named the grand final MVP.
Fellow American Damian Johnson recorded a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds.
The reigning defensive player of the year capped the win with a trademark steal and slam dunk with 48 seconds remaining, extending the Braves lead to 18.
It was Johnson's third straight national championship after he was a part of the Pioneers' 2014-15 wins.
It was also a triumph for Braves coach Ben Harvey, who was a player in the club's last national championship win in 2005, alongside this year's co-captains Chris Hogan and Taylor Bell.
The game was Harvey's 200th game as coach of Bendigo, while the grand final coincided with his father's birthday.
He described the season, which included 15 consecutive wins leading into the grand final – as “surreal”.
“This we’ve prided ourselves, our trademark has been defence,” he said.
“I’m just so proud of our team (and) supporters.”
Hogan put the lid on a remarkable season with 10 points and seven rebounds, while defensive gun Kevin White produced another consistent all-round performance with nine points seven rebounds and a swag of crucial plays on defence.
Brad Hill scored 18 points for the Pioneers, to go alongside his seven rebounds, while import Dsmond Simmons had 10 points and 13 rebounds.
Indicative of the Braves' relentless defence, there was no repeat of last week's south conference grand final heroics from Tyrone Lee’, when he had 26 points and 11 rebounds.
The former North West Tasmania Thunder big-man was held to just four points.
The national champinship win was the Braves' third, their first coming in 1988.
They have played in three conference grand final since Harvey took over the reins as coach in 2010, including 2010 and '11.