BENDIGO Braves coach Ben Harvey has put the “disappointing” label on his side’s season, but has backed the proud club to hit back hard in 2018.
The reigning national champions’ season ended meekly following a 97-84 loss to the Melbourne Tigers on Saturday.
But in effect it ended a week earlier when the Braves, with a playoff spot on the line, were belted on their home court by the North West Tasmania Thunder, who claimed the fourth final’s seed in the south conference.
It might well be the end of an era for the Braves, with club stalwarts Chris Hogan and Taylor Bell no certainty to play on in 2018.
The dual national championship players have played a combined 733 games, but were cruelled by injuries this season.
Bell featured in just six of 24 games, while Hogan played 19.
If the end does come, Harvey said it would be a hard pill to swallow as coach and a club that the pair’s last game at Bendigo Stadium was a 39-point loss to the Thunder.
“It’s just not the way to finish, knowing if we win that game we are in finals; it really hurts,” he said.
Reflecting on their 11-13 season, Harvey said pair of overtime losses to Canberra and Frankston and a second loss to the Blues in Bendigo were those which had costs his side most.
As the season wore on, it became increasingly harder to strike a correlation between a Braves team which lost a slew of matches against lower-ranked opponents, but beat competition leaders like Mount Gambier, which lost only three games for the season, Nunawding (17-7) and top south conference side Ballarat (17-7).
“It was a season of not many highs and many lows,” he said.
“We won some big games; look no further than Mount Gambier, but the inconsistency of the overtime losses sticks out.
“This time last year we were looking at potentially being national champions and going into finals series – we bring in three new guys this year and miss out – it’s been a rollercoaster.”
The season started with the Braves replacing championship imports Jeremy Kendle (New Zealand and NBL) and Damian Johnson (retired) and point guard Kevin White (NBL), with American Dyami Starks and Adelaide 36ers guard Adam Doyle, with import C.J. Aiken arriving a few weeks in to the season.
Harvey said that trio had met expectations, but was unable to determine who might be back next season.
“There is no doubt Dyami and C.J can play the game of basketball and the same with Adam Doyle, who is a very good player,” he said.
“You definitely can’t blame those players.
“We had some injury problems throughout the year, but it’s definitely shown in the last six weeks of the season, there was a lot of would haves, could haves and should haves, and the games we should have won we could have been top two now and potentially playing a home court final.
“The reality is we are not.”