BENDIGO Braves hopes against Geelong Supercats have been dealt a blow with centre Matt Andronicos ruled out of Saturday night’s must-win SEABL match.
The 2016 national championship player suffered an ankle injury in the final quarter of Wednesday night’s loss to Ballarat Miners.
Andronicos left the court and did not return as the Braves failed to capitalise on an opportunity to press for a top-four berth against the Miners.
The big man has played every game for the Braves this season and is averaging 6.5 points and 4.9 rebounds.
As coach Ben Harvey prepares to tinker with his starting line-up, a top-four finish remains a possibility, albeit it a long-shot.
More certain for the Braves, in a wide-open season, nothing short of wins against Geelong, Frankston Blues and Nunwading Spectres in their three remaining games will guarantee finals action.
Depending on how other results fall, the Braves could conceivably finish anywhere inside the eight from fourth to eighth, or without finals from ninth to 11th.
Harvey viewed each of the team’s past two losses, including Geelong (June 29), as opportunities lost, but as defeats the Braves could hopefully redeem.
“We’ve been training so well over the last few weeks, win those two games and we’re sitting third – that’s how close this season is,” he said.
“It’s the same with other teams, no one except for Kilsyth has a guaranteed finals position, so every game just gets bigger.
“But Wednesday night really hurt.”
With the Braves and Supercats playing each other as recently as a fortnight ago, scouting the opposition has not proved a problem for Harvey.
He insists the team is good enough to find a way past the Supercats.
“They’re a good team and like most teams this season they have had some inconsistent moments, but they’ve also won five on the trot,” he said.
“Nearly every team has done that bar (league leaders) Kilsyth (14-4).
“It’s a big game – we’ve got to find a way.”
A key for the Braves will be limiting the influence of the Supercats’ impressive import pairing of DeMarcus Gaitlin and John Davis.
The pair combined for 49 points and 21 rebounds in their side’s 88-75 win against the Braves.
Ray Turner was the Braves’ best last time with 21 points and 19 rebounds, but scored just 12 against the Miners.
Daniel Hansen is coming off his best game for the season with 18 points, after nailing six of nine three-point attempts.