FINALS are a whole new ball game.
It might be a well-worn cliché, but never has it rung truer than after week one of the SEABL finals.
A seemingly impervious Bendigo Braves women’s team, riding a 20-game winning streak, fell in a qualifying final against fourth-placed Launceston Tornadoes.
But for the seventh-placed Braves men, there was a win over the fifth placed Centre of Excellence, a team they failed to beat in two previous attempts during the regular season.
The somewhat ‘left-field’ results were just two of four from a total of eight games played across the men’s and women’s divisions last week in which the lower-seeded team won.
Such is the nature of the ‘one-and-done’ set up of SEABL finals, according to Braves co-captain Chris Hogan, where most pressure lies on those higher-ranked teams.
“People who follow basketball will realise a lot can happen over the course of three, or five or even seven games,” he said.
“The ‘one and done’ does give the under-dog a fair go.
“Coming from seventh is certainly not impossible, because that’s our goal.”
The Braves enter their cut-throat semi-final against Kilsyth Cobras in Melbourne on the back of arguably their most complete performance of the year, led by exceptional games from imports Ray Turner and Jeremy Kendle.
It’s a performance that has given coach Ben Harvey’s team plenty of confidence against the Cobras, who have stumbled through three losses in their last four games, after heading the ladder for much of the season.
“Kilsyth is very good and has a heap of NBL experience and at collegiate level and beyond that,” Hogan said.
“It will be a challenge – no doubt about that – but finals basketball is a very different game.
“Given what we have come off last weekend and with two more trainings under the belt, we are in a good spot to make it difficult for Kilsyth to play their way and ideally we can play exactly how we want to.”
The Braves women head into their cut-throat semi-final against Geelong Supercats at Bendigo Stadium on Saturday night in unfamiliar territory, coming off a loss for the first time this season.
But little, or anything, is likely to have altered in coach Megan Moody’s team’s focus or preparation for this clash.
The Braves will welcome back Ash Karaitiana for this game following a stellar William Jones Cup tournament with the New Zealand national side in which she averaged 22 points.
They will though be wary of a Supercats team which pushed them in a pair of losses by only four and eight points.