There is little margin for error in the SEABL most seasons and this year is no different.
Bendigo Braves have ended on the wrong end of that margin a few times this season and Saturday night was one of them. The Braves fell to Dandenong Rangers 93-92 at Bendigo Stadium as Grant Johnson’s buzzer-beating open shot missed the mark.
The defeat follows an 87-86 loss to Mt Gambier in Bendigo last round.
Instead of sulking, the Braves put their heads together, decided to simplify their play and be more aggressive. They reaped the benefits against Nunawading Spectres at Nunawading Stadium on Sunday as they won 100-95.
Braves co-captain Chris Hogan said his side was making strides each week despite a few tough losses.
They are 5-5 [win-loss] and sit in fourth place in the South conference.
“You are never happy to lose but when you go down to Dandenong by a point, Mt Gambier by a point and then beat Nunawading at Nunawading you know you are not far off where you need to be,” Hogan said.
“The main thing is we keep improving and we are doing that each week.”
This year’s Braves have a few different faces to complement the old guard of Hogan, Taylor Bell and Kevin Probert with imports Tony Lewis and Johnson coming in along with centre Jordan Vandenberg.
Hogan said it was always going to take the Braves time to mix in with their new signings especially when Lewis, Johnson and second year centre Michael Vigor all play key minutes for the team.
“Bendigo has had a pretty concrete core group for a long time and that has changed a bit in recent years,” Hogan said.
“When you change guys and the new players are playing major minutes then it’s always going to take time to come together.
“We all know that you can have as many trainings and practice matches as you like - it’s only until you start playing real games that you can make that progress.
“We are starting to click now.”
In Hogan’s view, the Rangers were the better team for much of Saturday night’s game but a fight back from the home side in the second half allowed them a shot at the win.
“They had our measure for most of the game and full credit to them,” Hogan said.
“We managed to execute well at the end and have an open shot to win the game - Grant Johnson would make that shot eight out of ten times, this one missed.
“But the Nunawading win really started after the game on Saturday because we had a good talk after the game.
“We had just spent too much time over-complicating things so on Sunday we used some simple messages that allowed us to play aggressive for the whole game, take a few risks and stop worrying about what other sides are doing and just worry about what we are doing.”
The Braves had five guys in double figures led by Lewis’ 30 points and six rebounds, Johnson’s 21 points including 15 of 15 free throw shooting and Vigor’s 17 points.
Hogan said the side needed more balanced scoring displays and that would come as they grew more as a team.
“Any time you can spread the load like that helps and just takes pressure off guys,” Hogan said.
“We shouldn’t have to rely on just one or two scorers but that means we need more of us, myself included, to score more consistently and that will come when we move the ball like we did on Sunday - we hadn’t moved it like that this whole season.”
Hogan has also made a big mark on the Braves’ program as he broke Andrea Walsh’s overall club games record of 332 late last month.
The 32 year-old said he still enjoyed playing and had managed to miss very few matches during his career.
“Hopefully I just have a shave here and there and that makes me look younger,” Hogan joked.
“Whether I was lucky or unlucky or not good enough - I never really played anywhere else except one season with Melbourne Tigers in the Big V.
“I haven’t played NBL or anything like that plus Bendigo is such a great place to play and a fantastic club and community that I’ve just continued to rack up the games.”
Taylor Bell is on track to join Hogan in the 300-club this season while Geelong’s Nathan Herbert, Jamie Medved and Nick Owusu plus Sandringham’s Mitch Chapman have all passed 300 games this season.
“I’ll still enjoying it and I’m happy to keep playing for a while longer,” Hogan said.
“I don’t play for records - just to have a good time and win games.
“Hopefully someone tells me if I become a pain in the backside or am stopping someone younger from coming through.”
Hogan has also stayed around long enough that his little brother David has started making appearances on the Braves' bench.
Hogan added this week the Braves will also be watching on keenly as former Braves’ junior Matthew Dellavedova plays in the NBA Finals with Cleveland Cavaliers.
“You couldn’t find a better role model and all round good bloke,” Hogan said.
“Delly has trained with us at times over the years and used to train a bit with Luke Meyer when he played here - he came to one of our games last season and was still just as humble as ever.
“When you look at some of the US media overreactions to how he goes in for the ball - everyone knows when you have a loose ball the one who doesn’t commit is the one who gets hurt.
“You can’t question Delly’s commitment.”
*Ballarat Miners guard Roy Booker had a monster weekend in Tasmania amassing 62 points over two games with 36 points in his club’s win over North West Tasmania and 26 in the Miners’ loss to Hobart.
*Bendigo Braves’ star Tony Lewis almost matched Bookers’ weekend with 24 points and 17 rebounds against Dandenong then 30 points in their win over Nunawading on Sunday.
*Spectres guard Shane McDonald was on song with 27 points against Kilsyth and 24 against Bendigo.
*Canberra Gunners star Nnaebuka Anyaorah also came to play with 25 points and six boards against Geelong and then 24 points against Frankston.
*Dandenong’s Daequon Montreal scored 27 points and grabbed five rebounds in the Rangers’ win over Bendigo.
*North West Tasmania’s Mason Bragg had 24 points, four rebounds and five assists against the Ballarat Miners.
*Mt Gambier Tyrone Lee controlled the paint against Frankston Blues with 21 points, 11 rebounds and 3 blocks.
SEABL media links
*Ballarat Courier’s Melanie Whelan (@Melanie_Whelan) reports on Roy Bookers’ big weekend. Story: http://www.thecourier.com.au/story/3115998/booker-steals-thunder/?cs=63
*Whelan also reports the Miners have released import Kobi Augustus.
*The Advocate’s Cameron Whiteley reports on Ballarat’s win in Tasmania. Report: http://www.theadvocate.com.au/story/3115500/thunder-demolished-by-bookers-hot-hand/?cs=88
*The Advocate also have a picture gallery from the weekend: Pictures: http://www.theadvocate.com.au/story/3114471/seabl-basketball-action-pictures-photos/?cs=88
*Geelong Advertiser’s Wes Cusworth (@WesCusworth) reports on the Supercats’ good weekend. Story: http://www.geelongadvertiser.com.au/sport/local-sport/geelong-supercats-survive-tight-finish-against-canberra/story-fnjuhs0b-1227376921499
*Albury-Border Mail’s Steve Smith (@stevesmithffx) reports on the Bandits’ loss to Brisbane. Report: http://www.bordermail.com.au/story/3115970/misfiring-bandits-go-down-to-spartans/?cs=10
*Bendigo Advertiser’s Nathan Dole reports on the Braves’ weekend. Report: http://www.bendigoadvertiser.com.au/story/3115052/coach-praises-braves-courage/?cs=81
*Dandenong Journal’s Jarrod Potter (@JarrodPotter) celebrates local product Andrew Bogut’s rise in the NBA. Story: http://dandenong.starcommunity.com.au/journal/2015-06-01/whatever-it-takes/
Roy Ward (@rpjward) is a freelance sports writer who has covered the NBA, NBL, WNBL, SEABL and Big V during his career. He will be filing weekly columns on the SEABL men’s and women’s competitions during this season. For feedback or suggestions send Roy a tweet or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org