THE Albury-Wodonga Bandits wasted a golden opportunity to consolidate their recent good SEABL form, blowing a 16-point lead to fall to the struggling Knox Raiders, 84-78, on Saturday night.
Albury-Wodonga led 33-17 midway through the second quarter and appeared headed for a comfortable third consecutive win at the Lauren Jackson Sports Centre.
But it all fell apart as the Border club became lost in a fog of woefully poor shot selection and insipid defence that could yet prove to be the fatal blow to their barely flickering playoff hopes.
Angry, disappointed and frustrated, Bandits coach Brad Chalmers was left to lament what might have been, admitting his team failed to execute when it mattered most.
“Early we were good and then slowly but surely we stopped doing the things that got us the lead,” Chalmers said.
“We stopped passing the ball; defensively we were good but then we gave them a sniff.
“I am disappointed; for sure (this was a game we had pencilled in as a win), it doesn’t read well for us.
“We’ll have to take this on the chin and understand it’s simply not good enough.
“We all have to have a look at ourselves and hopefully we can bounce back.
“It hurts, we lost ground on the pack in front of us and that makes things a little more difficult now.”
The Raiders were led by import forward Delwan Graham’s 26 points, while NBL swingman Rhys Carter added 15 despite misfiring on 11 of his 15 attempts.
Jamar Briscoe again paced the Bandits scoring with 22 points, with Alex Bogart-King providing solid help with 19 before fouling out late.
Earlier, a solid first quarter translated into a 27-15 margin as the Bandits took advantage of some shoddy Raiders defence.
But the visitors dragged the Border club down to their level in the second quarter, distracting the Bandits enough to cut the deficit to 41-34 at half-time.
A quickfire 8-3 run from the hosts to open the third quarter pushed the lead back out to 49-37 as Darcy Harding made an impact with consecutive baskets.
And yet again Knox refused to go away, keeping the scoreline close at 61-58 and setting the stage for a thrilling final 10 minutes.
Seven quick points in the opening 90 seconds gave the Raiders their first lead of the contest and the signs weren’t good for the Bandits.
The Raiders continued to gain in confidence and held out to claim a gritty win despite three-pointers from Briscoe and Alex Opacic in the final stages.