ON any normal night a 500 and 350 game milestone would be a big deal for the Bendigo Braves.
Not so this Saturday night.
While the club will mark Ben Harvey’s 500th game as a player and coach in the SEABL and Chris Hogan’s 350th game, the major focus is on defeating North West Tasmania in the south conference preliminary final and earning a grand final berth against Mt Gambier.
“Milestones are nice, but this is all about winning this game,’’ Harvey said on Friday. “Our whole season comes down to this game. At the start of the year we set ourselves to finish top two to give ourselves the double chance.
“We had our chance last week, so there’s no second chance now.”
Harvey admitted it took his side a few days to get over its final quarter capitulation to Mt Gambier in the semi-final.
The Braves were on track to upset the Pioneers and earn a home grand final, but fell away badly down the stretch and lost by 17 points.
“Training on Tuesday night was a bit flat and not where it should have been, but last night was very good,’’ Harvey said.
“Credit to our coaching staff and our captains for making sure everyone was focused and trained hard.
“There’s no point worrying about last week now, it’s gone.”
North West Tasmania holds a 2-0 record over the Braves this season.
The Thunder defeated the Braves 85-75 in Bendigo in round 13 and then handed them a 115-73 belting at Ulverstone in round 14.
That heavy defeat sparked the Braves into action. They won their final six regular season matches to jump into second place.
In contrast, NW Tasmania lost three of its final five regular season games before bouncing back to peak form with an 86-69 victory over Kilsyth in last Saturday’s first semi-final.
“I’m really confident we can get it done tomorrow night,’’ Harvey said.
“North West Tasmania has a lot of talent and depth, but we’re on our home court and, aside from five minutes last week, we’re playing good basketball.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to make our fourth grand final in five years.”
Somewhat fittingly, Harvey’s 500th game as a player and coach in the SEABL will be against his first coach Phil Thomas.
Harvey played the first of his 328 SEABL games with North West Tasmania under Thomas’ guidance in 1995.
“I have a lot of respect for Phil (Thomas) because he was my first coach 20 years ago. Now we’re going head-to-head in a final,’’ Harvey said.
“Once the game starts it will be a war.”
Saturday night’s game at Bendigo Stadium starts at 7pm. Tickets are still available from the stadium.