BENDIGO Braves coach Ben Harvey has been left to lament what he called his team’s biggest loss of the season, but has vowed that they will bounce back.
Somewhat fortunately, the Braves need only wait until tomorrow to get that chance.
Bendigo frittered away a dominant 28-10 opening term to fall to arch rivals Ballarat 88-84 on Wednesday night in what loomed as a crucial game in the SEABL playoff race.
Heading into the clash the Braves were fifth and Ballarat fourth with half a game separating the two, but Bendigo’s loss makes its top-four aspirations look all but vanquished.
“Everything went against us. They went to the free throw line 20 times, we went five, they got 20 fouls, we got six. It was a tough night,” Harvey said.
Daniel Hansen was on fire early for Bendigo, hitting a trifecta of three pointers in the opening term on his way to 18 points on six threes for the match.
Jeremy Kendle (25 points, five steals, seven turnovers) closed the opening frame with seven straight points to put Bendigo in the box seat.
But the Braves committed 10 turnovers in a brutal second term in which they were outscored 20-10 and saw a sizeable lead into an ultimately decisive deficit at the interval.
“It was just focus, we talked about that and trust, and the focus in the second quarter was terrible,” Harvey said.
“Just missed box outs, not connected… that’s probably been our year to be honest.”
Ballarat import Marvin King-Davis turned the game for the Miners, his imposing physical play compounding the foul trouble Braves bigs Ray Turner and Matt Andronicos found themselves in.
In a one-minute stretch in the second term, King-Davis drew three fouls, all on Andronicos, that saw the Braves big man sit with four fouls and 2:30 left in the second period.
He would later return to start the final quarter, but suffered what Harvey described as a “worrying” left ankle injury.
Despite their failings and looking all at sea at the start of the final term, the Braves somehow found themselves back in the contest in the dying stages.
It was thanks largely to Kendle, who either scored or assisted on all but one of Bendigo’s buckets to start the final term as they raced back into contention.
They even pulled within a point when Taylor Bell drained a triple off of a Kendle dime with 3:34 remaining.
Nick Pozoglou answered with a three of his own to restore Ballarat’s two point lead before Bendigo’s Ray Turner scored to make it a two-point game.
But a frustrating possession in which Miners big Josh Fox hauled in consecutive offensive rebounds – their fifth and sixth of the final quarter alone – before finishing under the basket and restoring the four-point break with two minutes left.
Miners guard Peter Hooley then iced the game as he drained a three with 33 seconds left to consign Bendigo to a painful defeat.
While Andronicos’s ankle complaint added injury to insult, Harvey remained confident the team would bounce back against Geelong on Saturday.
“Well we have to. This is tough to take, it’s our biggest loss for the season. But we have to regroup,” he said.
“We’ll go away, rest up and come back on Saturday for what is another massive game.”
– Joel Peterson