AT long last — the Albury-Wodonga Bandits gave their fans something to cheer about on Saturday night, breaking through for their first home win of the SEABL season.
The Bandits triumphed 95-86 over the Bendigo Braves in an, at times, physical and ill-tempered match that saw four technical and two unsportsmanlike fouls issued at the Lauren Jackson Sports Centre.
Playing without injured skipper Michael Watson (calf), the Border club made the most of an explosive third quarter — 14 straight points without response.
Albury-Wodonga was led by Jamar Briscoe’s 25-point, six-rebound, five-assist performance, ably backed up by veteran Nick Payne’s 17 points in his return from injury.
There were offensive contributions across the board, with Momo Ntumba (14 points) and the two Alexes — Opacic and Bogart-King — chiming in with 12 points apiece.
For Bendigo, US import Dustin Salisbery nailed 16 of 19 free throws to tally 28 points, while Michael Vigor and Kevin Probert added 14 and 12 points.
Coach Brad Chalmers said the Bandits thoroughly deserved their second win by snapping a six-game losing streak.
“I felt really confident,” Chalmers said.
“And I have for a few weeks; I’d seen enough in patches to think if we play how we want to play then we’ll be OK.
“It’s just good reward for effort. We’re not a team that goes through the motions at practice.
“These guys are working hard, it’s just a matter of trusting each other and putting it all together.
“If we do that we’ll be a hard team to beat.”
An even first quarter saw the visitors claim a 22-20 lead.
The arm-wrestle continued in the second period, although some late defensive lapses allowed the Braves to double the lead to four, 47-43, at the long break.
In portent of good things to come, for the first time all season, the Bandits didn’t collapse in an heap to open the third quarter.
Rather, they stormed to the lead with an 8-0 burst, forcing Braves coach Ben Harvey to call timeout.
Whatever he said didn’t work as the Bandits kept the run going to 14 straight before Bendigo scored its first points of the quarter.
The hosts kept the intensity, taking a priceless 72-62 margin into the final period.
Despite anxious moments in the last quarter, the Bandits held their nerve — a late Jacob Cincurak triple capping a confidence-boosting win.
“It was a good four-quarter performance,” Chalmers said.
“We had a flat spot in the fourth for a couple of minutes but it didn’t really concern me.
“We had multiple guys in double figures and that comes on the back of sharing the ball.
“We looked after the key areas — minimal turnovers and good offensive rebounding. We looked after the ball and made good decisions, which was good to see.”