THE Bendigo Braves have laid the foundations for an exciting season ahead, securing crucial road wins across the border in Mount Gambier in their respective opening women's and men's NBL1 games.
Brilliantly led by 2021 season recruits Tess Madgen and Kate Oliver, the Braves women withstood a spirited challenge from Mount Gambier Pioneers to prevail 60-54.
Joint captain Madgen and Oliver combined for 34 points (17 points apiece) on the night to stamp themselves as obvious keys to the Braves fortunes this season.
A tough win was underpinned by a brilliant defensive effort by the Braves.
Twenty-five of their 36 rebounds for the night came at the defensive end of the court, while the team combined for seven steals.
With the game in the balance late in the fourth quarter, Abbey Wehrung (six points, three rebounds) put a subdued night behind her to produce some big plays.
The 25-year-old sunk a pair of free throws down the stretch to push the margin back out to six points, before blocking a shot down at the other end to seal the win.
Bendigo Spirit WNBL performer Cassidy McLean finished with seven points and five rebounds, while Piper Dunlop added seven points and four rebounds.
The win was a first as coach for Mark Alabakov, who was first appointed for the cancelled 2020 season, but had to wait until this year to take the reins for the first time.
Tight defence was again a trademark in the Braves men's 13 point victory over the Pioneers.
Dual Braves MVP winner Ray Turner led the way with 20 points and 14 rebounds and again showed he would be a force to be reckoned with in a 95-82 win.
Newcomer Brennan Rymer, who has returned to Australia after completing college at Azusa Pacific University in California, provided a steadying presence with 15 points, seven rebounds, six assists and three steals.
Also on debut for the Braves, fellow guard Nelson Larkins contributed 17 points, five rebounds and four assists, while into his 19th season, veteran Chris Hogan added 10 points and nine rebounds.
Typifying their strong defensive work-rate, the Braves were able to restrict the Pioneers to just five of 35 three-point attempts
Attention now turns to the Braves home season openers against Frankston Blues this Friday night at Bendigo Stadium.
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