BENDIGO Braves are one step away from an elusive SEABL national championship after a dramatic east conference grand final win on Saturday.
The Braves needed overtime to overcome a stout Nunawading Spectres 76-64 at Bendigo Stadium.
Led by star import Damian Johnson (24 points, 15 rebounds) and skipper Chris Hogan (14 points, eight rebounds), Bendigo dominated the five minute overtime period, outscoring the Spectres 17-6, after scores were locked at 59-apiece at the end of full-time.
It sets up a national championship showdown against Mount Gambier Pioneers in Melbourne this Saturday night.
The Pioneers, who have won the last two national titles, advanced with a convincing 97-72 win over Hobart Chargers in Mount Gambier on Friday night.
The grand final will pit Johnson against the club he won back-to-back titles with in 2014-15.
The 29-year-old was already looking forward to the contest post-match.
"It's going to be tough - they're a tough team who have won four conference championships in a row and two national championships," he said.
"But I know we'll be ready for them."
Johnson was at his best in the second half, scoring 20 points as both teams struggled offensively for the majority of the match.
Coach Ben Harvey said the win, although not pretty, was built on the team's trademark defence.
"We showed again we are the best defensive team in the league, we stopped them and did a really good job in keeping them to 27 per cent (shooting)," he said.
"Unfortunately, we didn't have a good offensive night. We average 88 points a game and we scored 74 and that included overtime.
"At the end of the day, we said if we could keep Nunawading under 74 we would win and we did that.
"What was pleasing is that when the time came to step in overtime, we got four stops in a row and four scores.
"That was the break we wanted in the third or fourth quarters and it didn't happen."
The floodgates eventually opened for the Braves in overtime.
Their 17 points in five minutes surpassed their output in each of the previous four 10-minute quarters.
Simon Conn (14 points, 14 rebounds) and Andrew Steel (14 points and 11 rebounds) were constant thorn sin the Braves’ side all night.
Harvey praised the on-court leadership of NBL experienced point guard Kevin White and Chris Hogan, who led the Braves at half time with eight points.
"Chris was a big-time player - he's just had a great year," he said.
"He put down a big dunk, he dived on the ball - what a leader of the club."