THE Albury-Wodonga Bandits need two wins on the road this weekend – no ifs, ands, or buts.
The Eastern conference is starting to develop a logjam, with the Bandits and Sandringham sporting a 4-5 record, Kilsyth one game ahead at 5-5, and Geelong slightly further ahead at 6-3.
Nunawading (9-1) and Mt Gambier (8-1) have established themselves at the top of the table, leaving the four aforementioned teams to fight it out for the remaining two finals spots.
Saturday’s match against the Canberra Gunners and Sunday’s clash with the Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence presents a crucial opportunity to win two games on the road.
This road trip is vital for us, it's make or break time.Sawyer Dearborn
The Gunners are winless and BACoE have won just once – both should be fodder for the Bandits’ potent offence.
More importantly, it’s a chance for the struggling defence to improve.
Small forward Sawyer Dearborn, who missed last week due to an ankle injury but will return this weekend, said time was running out for the Bandits to get it together on defence.
“This road trip is vital, it's make or break time for us,” he said.
“We have a chance this weekend to hone in on and improve our defence.
“The second we can do that, we'll turn a corner.
“Unfortunately, time isn't really on our side any more.
“The good thing is that we can really take advantage of this weekend.
“If we get it right, we've got the potential to create something really special.”
Dearborn also backed in import JT Terrell, saying the former NBA D-League shooting guard had only just scratched the surface of his potential in the SEABL.
Terrell struggled somewhat against the Rangers last week, shooting 1/9 from three point range, but Dearborn said it was only a matter of time before he became a dominant force for the Bandits.
“The thing with JT, particularly on defence, is that he's extremely agile,” Dearborn said.
“His length is very deceptive as well, he can disrupt passes, jump into lanes – he can really cause a lot of headaches for other guards.
“He's a had a bit of time to adapt to the league now, I think he's becoming more comfortable around the group as well.
“I think he could really surprise himself this weekend if he puts in maximum effort.
“He's beginning to buy into that defensive structure, but the more we can do that as a collective, the better we'll be.”
Three-point shooting has emerged as a key for the Bandits this season, and they'll need to improve on an uncharacteristic mark of just 18 per cent from three last week.