BENDIGO Bank Braves have won for the fourth time in five games, but not before more than their fair share of anxious moments.
A spectacular final quarter from star import Jeremy Kendle helped lift the now 10-6 Braves to a hard-won 79-73 victory against North West Tasmania Thunder at Bendigo Stadium on Saturday night.
Kendle scored 15 of his game-high 32 points in the final term as the Braves turned a one point three-quarter time deficit into a six point win.
A frenetic final quarter was highlighted by six lead changes, with the class combo-guard tipping the scales back in the favour of the Braves on four occasions.
His pair of free-throws in the final minute gave the Braves a six-point lead before he bobbed up yet again with a key rebound on the Thunder’s next drive forward to seal the win.
Key baskets to co-captains Chris Hogan and Taylor Bell in the final half of the quarter also gave the Braves some breathing room in a game that was tight all the way through.
Coach Ben Harvey was understandably pleased to get the win against a potential finals opponent, but felt his side was continuing to tempt fate by not putting sides away when the opportunity presented itself.
“We are not making it easy for ourselves, but we will take the win,” he said.
“I thought Jeremy Kendle was really big tonight, he hit some big shots. And Matt Andronicus was good too.
“The thing this year is we have been so inconsistent, but at the end of the day it’s a big win and we’ve won four out of our last five games.
“Every team in this league is tough – we have five games in 14 days and that was our first, it’s going to be a big 14 days.
“But we are good enough to be top four.”
The Braves’ 10th win sets up a stirring showdown against arch-rival Ballarat Miners this Wednesday night at Bendigo Stadium.
Ballarat (11-6) will enter the clash on a high following Saturday night’s 89-80 win over Nunawading, which sent the Spectres crashing from second to third spot on the league ladder.
Peter Hooley and Marvin King-Davis both scored 21 points for the Miners.
Ray Turner continued his strong form for the Braves against the Thunder and finished with 23 points and a game-high 15 rebounds.
Andronicos scored 10 points, including six early in the opening quarter, and was a strong presence at the defensive end of the floor.
For North West Tasmania, Tre Armstrong, who was recently selected in the Australian Emus squad for next month’s FIBA Under-18 Asian Championships in Bangkok, top scored with 22 points.
Harvey said the Braves had some of areas of their game to address before Wednesday night’s game.
“We were one of 10 from the three-point line and 4-19 overall and that’s not where we want to be,” he said.
“I thought we dominated in the posts, we won the rebounds 53 to 41.
“You look at all the stats, we won everything except the three-point percentage.”