A BENDIGO Braves team that is hungrier for success than ever heads into this weekend’s South East Australian Basketball League women’s grand final aiming to exact two counts of revenge.
Bendigo plays Launceston, the only side to have recorded victory against the Braves this year, on Saturday night at the State Basketball Centre.
The Braves can also target redemption after making it all the way to the same match last year before falling to Geelong in a thrilling SEABL decider.
Since the loss to Launceston in the first week of finals Bendigo has come out firing, smashing Geelong and Kilsyth in the past fortnight by a combined 54 points.
Moody says the main change in the group has been that the loss has made them even hungrier for the ultimate success.
“We know we’ve beaten Launceston this season, they’ve beaten us. This is the deciding game in more than one way,” coach Megan Moody said.
“We know exactly what they’re capable of if we don’t come out switched on. If we do come out and play the way we know we can on both ends of the floor then I think it will be a very interesting and competitive game.”
One key difference since the last time the two sides met has been the return of Ash Karaitiana to Braves colours.
Her absence in the qualifying final meant Launceston could use the size of Lauren Nicholson and Ally Wilson to its advantage in posting up the likes of Bianca Dufelmeier and Andrea Wilson.
Since returning, Karaitiana has scored 27 and 17 points in consecutive Braves wins, but adds flexibility and strength to the Braves lineup.
“To get Ash back into the lineup gives us that bigger body, a taller guard and a bit more experience and it makes us that little bit tougher on defence,” Moody said.
“Also, having Kara Tessari on one wing and Ash on the other stretches the floor means the defence can’t collapse in on Gabe or Maddy Wild. The difference one player can make, she isn’t the whole team, but she allows us to play our best basketball.”
Despite making several finals in recent years, the Braves women haven’t won a title since 2007.
Under first-year coach Moody the group has had a connectedness that is rare among many sides, Karaitiana saying there has been “absolutely no drama, which can be rare”.
Moody says she hasn’t thought about what winning a title in her first season as coach would mean to her, deferring to the players when speaking about what it could represent.
What she does know is how focussed the group is on capping what has been a remarkable season with one final win.
“We want to be the group that brings that championship back here, we want that banner on the wall,” Moody said.
“We definitely have the playing group that is capable of doing it, we knew that from the start and we put the group together knowing this was possible.
“Now it’s time to just go out and do it. There’s just one more hurdle.”
The Braves play Launceston in the SEABL grand final at Melbourne’s State Basketball centre from 5.45pm on Saturday before the men’s grand final between Hobart and Nunawading. The games will be livestreamed through the SEABL’s facebook page.
– Joel Peterson