BENDIGO Braves coach Ben Harvey has urged his charges to use a midweek clash against arch-rival Ballarat Miners as a chance to prove their top four qualifications.
The Braves meet the Miners for the first and only time during the 2018 regular season on Wednesday night at Bendigo Stadium.
There will be plenty at stake with a spot in the top four up for grabs for Harvey’s side.
The Braves enter the contest in fifth position at 10-6 following a hard-fought 79-73 win against North West Tasmania Thunder last Saturday night.
It was the team’s fourth win from their last five matches.
The Miners occupy fourth spot at 11-5 after ending a two-game losing streak with an 89-80 win against former second-ranked Nunawading Spectres.
Harvey, who led the Braves to a national championship in 2016, insisted his side was good enough to earn a top-four berth and implored his players to prove him right by rising to the challenge.
“Our journey is now, we have an opportunity to finish top four, but we need to keep winning games,” he said.
“I’m looking forward to the rivalry on Wednesday night.
“It’s a good love-hate relationship – the SEABL equivalent of Carlton and Collingwood.
“We have a lot of respect for Ballarat; we only play the Miners once in the regular season this year, so we’re keen to make the most of it.”
Our journey is now, we have an opportunity to finish top four, but we need to keep winning games.Ben Harvey
Harvey hoped basketball fans would similarly embrace the experience of a midweek blockbuster.
“We have five games in 14 days (starting last Saturday) – it’s going to be a big 14 days,” he said.
“We are good enough to be top four.
“We were very happy with the win (against the Thunder).
“You obviously want to win every game, but that’s near impossible. Well, it’s probably not because the girls have won every game.
“We just can’t wait for Wednesday night, it’s going to be a blockbuster.”
The clash will pit star Braves imports Ray Turner (23.4 points per game and 11.7 rebounds per game) and Jeremy Kendle (23.1ppg and 4.9 assists per game) against a trio of Miners, who are averaging more than 15ppg.
Peter Hooley leads the way with 20.7, while imports Davin Asher and Marvin King-Davis are averaging 18 and 15.5 points respectively.
Hooley is ranked equal third in the SEABL in assists (5.6), while the Miners Josh Fox is second in the league in rebounds at 12 per game, added to his 13.9 points per game.
The Braves and Miners split their two games last season, with Ballarat winning on its home court early in the season and Bendigo winning their later-season contest 94-80, highlighted by 17 points and eight rebounds from Braves co-captain Chris Hogan.