IT’S taken 17 weeks, 21 games and a handful of painful losses, but Bendigo Braves coach Ben Harvey has seen a change in his team after it staved off elimination from finals last weekend.
It’s not their defence, their offence, or any physical factor. Rather, for the first time all year, Harvey says the Braves simply believe in themselves.
“I think the guys are really hungry, for the first time after the weekend I think they believed in themselves,” he said.
“As a coaching staff you always want to feel like you believe in the team and yes you get frustrated and things change during the year.
“But at the end of the day I really do feel we found our identity and we believe in ourselves and now we can just focus on the things that we are good at.”
The Braves rediscovered that mental edge after a crushing win over the Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence team in Canberra.
The Braves smashed the hosts by 22 points, led by a monsterous 37 points and 11 rebounds from Ray Turner, a standout first half from Jeremy Kendle and five Daniel Hansen three-pointers.
But it was the smaller pieces falling into place that most pleased Harvey.
“Daniel Hansen hit five threes, Matt Andronicos was diving on loose balls, Chris Adkins was doing the same, Chris Hogan hit some big shots, Indiana Faithfull got into the paint and made some good passes, Kendle had a huge first half and Ray Turner was just a beast,” he said.
During the 2016 championship season the Braves and Harvey spoke regularly of their identity, which was centered around defence and built the foundation of a long-awaited title.
Last year the team lost that completely amid a disappointing season. This year it has lurked somewhere near the surface, not fully on show but never far away.
Over the past few weeks Harvey thinks his team has finally started to click and find that key intangible ingredient.
“It’s probably been building for a few weeks but Saturday really locked it in I guess. We just kept everything simple, our preparation was good and that’s a perfect example of a style that will win us most games,” he said.
The Braves travel to Kilsyth tomorrow to take on the Cobras, who lost to Hobart last weekend despite playing in front of a home crowd.
No matter how well his own team is playing, Harvey says they will have their hands full with the hosts sporting a roster as deep as any team in the league.
Ramping up the stakes is the fact the Braves are facing their playoff mortality as every game of the SEABL finals series becomes a battle to avoid elimination.
“They can flat out score. They have six NBL players, they’re deep, and they don’t have one go-to player – they have several go-to players,” he said.
“Defensively we have to limit their opportunities, we had 45 stops at the weekend and we’ll need that kind of effort again on Saturday.”
The Braves take on Kilsyth from 7pm on Saturday.