A DOMINANT resurgence to victory has paved the way for the Bendigo Braves women to continue their SEABL championship quest, but they will have to hit the road to get to a second consecutive grand final.
The Braves’ opening round playoff loss meant the team forfeited home court advantage for the remainder of the postseason, with Bendigo hitting the road to play Kilsyth this weekend in the preliminary final.
It comes after a huge 99-74 win over Geelong last week, led by Ash Karaitiana’s return to action after starring for New Zealand in the William Jones Cup.
Karaitiana scored 28 points and had eight rebounds and seven assists while Gabe Richards scored 16 points off the bench as Bendigo walked all over the visitors.
“Ash was huge for us, it’s great to have her back and to have her playing with confidence,” Braves guard Bianca Dufelmeier said.
“We missed her against Launceston and Geelong really didn’t have a matchup for her, she was massive and was the type of player we know she can be.”
Bendigo’s task against Kilsyth has become somewhat easier on paper with Kilsyth star Steph Blicavs to miss the match due to the Australian Opals holding a camp at the AIS.
But in the five games that Blicavs has missed this season, the Cobras are 5-0 with an average winning margin of 26.2 points.
Two of those wins came over bottom side Frankston, but the Cobras also defeated Launceston and Hobart without the sharpshooting guard.
But the Cobras have plenty in reserve and are well coached under the eye of Sam Woosnam.
Reigning league MVP Angela Beadle remains a force, while Chelsea d’Angelo and Jasmine Gill are more than capable scorers and Alison Downie adds a physical interior defensive presence.
The Braves will need to be on their game defensively to stop the depth of options that Woosnam and the Cobras possess.
“What worked for us last time against Kilsyth was that we played a packed defence,” Dufelmeier said.
“We had our focuses on who we needed to slow down because you’re never going to take those types of players out of the game entirely, we knew who we needed to slow down and we did that as a team.
“It wasn’t ‘hey Kelly, you’re guarding d’Angelo, so do a job’, it was very much about everyone being aware of what our scout is.”
Bendigo plays Kilsyth from 7pm on Saturday at the Kilsyth Sports Centre.
If the Braves win that match they will face either Launceston or Nunawading in the SEABL grand final at the State Basketball Centre on Saturday, August 18.
– Joel Peterson