The SEABL championship campaign for the Bendigo Braves women is back on track, but the men’s season is over.
The women advanced to a preliminary final clash with Kilsyth after belting Geelong 99-74 at Bendigo Stadium on Saturday night, while the men lost to Kilsyth 111-88 in their semi-final in Melbourne.
After suffering a shock loss to Launceston in their qualifying final the previous week, the pressure was on the Braves’ women to avoid a straight sets departure and they responded accordingly.
Ash Karaitiana’s return from international duties with New Zealand was timely and she set the tone for the Braves with a brilliant first quarter.
The Braves led 12-10 midway through the first term before Karaitiana inspired an 18-7 run to end the quarter.
She was 5-5 from the field for 13 points, including three three-pointers, as the Braves raced away to a 13-point lead.
Geelong had the better of the second quarter and closed to within five points before the home side rallied to take a nine-point lead into the main break.
The Braves put the game away inside the first two minutes of the third quarter when they unleashed a 9-2 run to lead by 16 points.
The Supercats had no answer to the Braves’ dominance inside the paint and this time there was to be no Geelong comeback.
Karaitiana finished with 27 points on 10-13 shooting, while crowd favourite Gabe Richards was dominant with 25 points on 11-14 shooting an 16 rebounds.
Point guard Kelly Wilson was one rebound shy of a triple double – 10 points, nine boards and 13 assists, while Nadeen Payne was a key contributor again with 20 points, nine rebounds and six assists.
“Ash (Karaitiana) continued her good form that she had overseas and she gave us a really positive start,’’ Braves’ coach Megan Moody said.
“We had some lapses (in the second quarter), but we strung together some stops (in the third quarter) and put some scoreboard pressure on Geelong.
“Credit to Geelong, they kept fighting right to the end.”
Moody conceded the Braves would have to take their game to another level against Kilsyth at Kilsyth in the preliminary final.
“Kilsyth is a very experienced team and, on their court with their crowd, they’re going to be very hard to beat,’’ Moody said.
“It’s going to be a battle for the full 40 minutes.”
The Braves’ men trailed by just four points with two minutes remaining in the first half, but a 10-0 run by Kilsyth to end the second term swung the momentum the home side’s way and Bendigo never recovered.
“It was our worst defensive effort of the year,’’ coach Ben Harvey said.
“The guys never gave up, but Kilsyth showed why they were the beat team all year. They were very, very good.”
Ray Turner was best for the Braves with 27 points and nine rebounds.
Jeremy Kendle had 16 points and seven assists, while Chris Hogan chipped in with 15 points.