The swagger is back.
After 10 games of inconsistent basketball, the Bendigo Bank Braves rediscovered their swagger on Saturday night in one half of outstanding basketball.
The Braves went into Saturday night’s SEABL clash with the undefeated Mt Gambier Pioneers as the rank outsider.
No-one outside of the club really gave the Braves any chance of beating the Pioneers after Bendigo lost both of its matches in Tasmania the weekend before.
In 20 minutes on Saturday night the Braves blew away the Pioneers and put the competition on notice that the reigning conference champions are still a force.
The Braves outscored the much-vaunted Pioneers 64-28 in the first half on their way to a stunning 92-71 victory.
“We played with intensity and played as a team, probably for the first time this season,’’ Braves coach Ben Harvey said.
“I’m a firm believer in the best defensive teams win. We kept Mt Gambier under 76 points and they have been averaging 92 points per game.
“We moved the ball well and our aggressive defence led to some easy baskets for us.
“We believed in the process we’ve put in place and we proved a point. I’m really proud of the coaching staff and team for trusting in that process.
“We’ve got the right group, but we just hadn’t clicked before this game.
“We played with a swagger, which is something we haven’t done for a while.
“Now we have to string some wins together.”
It was the Braves’ big three – Dyami Starks, C.J. Aiken and Adam Doyle – that led the way.
Starks had 32 points on 12-17 shooting, Aiken had 23 points and 14 rebounds, while Doyle added 14 points and five assists.
Chris Adkins chipped in with six points and six rebounds, while Jake Cowling made an impression off the bench with three points, six rebounds and three assists.
Meanwhile, the Bendigo Champions IGA Lady Braves had their bubble burst by Sydney Uni on Saturday night.
The Lady Braves went down 85-78 in overtime – their second loss of the season.
The Lady Braves started brightly to lead by eight points at quarter-time, but a horror second term handed Sydney the momentum.
The visitors piled on 32 points to Bendigo’s 13 to grab an 11-point lead at half-time.
The Lady Braves worked hard to get back into the game and by the final change they led by two points.
Bendigo led by four points with less than two minutes remaining in the game, but Sydney Uni drained two three-pointers in the final 90 seconds to force the game into overtime.
A Jess Rennie three-point bomb in the first 30 seconds of overtime was the only time the Lady Braves scored in the extra period and Sydney Uni pulled away to score a deserved victory.
Chante Black led the Lady Braves with 20 points and 12 boards, while Carlie Smith had 17 points and nine rebounds before fouling out.