IT'S do or die for the Albury-Wodonga Bandits this weekend.
Their slim finals chances rest on the hope of a dramatic reversal of form and fortune against Ballarat on Friday night.
With five regular season games left, the Bandits, who sport an 8-11 record, need to pull at least one game ahead of fourth-placed Sandringham, who enter this weekend with a 9-10 ledger.
The Miners, who will travel to Albury as the top seed in the south conference, will be tough to beat.
For better or worse, they’ll be relying on getting a big game from either JT Terrell or the recently signed Obi Kyei.
Terrell is perhaps a more reliable bet to provide the explosive shot-making the Bandits need, but he needs to ensure his shot selection is on point.
As the Bandits offence has faltered somewhat in the face of injury, he and Deba George have slipped into the habit of taking some tough shots early on the clock, particularly from three point range.
Terrell has to trust that the ball will find him in his spot – but this requires the team to be equally disciplined.
Kyei showed some good signs in his first game with the team last week.
With a week of training alongside his new teammates, Kyei’s height and length make him a great fit alongside TJ Robinson and an exciting prospect.
The injury curse has spread to the Lady Bandits, who will be without Toccara Ross for their match against the Ballarat Rush.
Ross suffered an achilles injury against Nunawading last Friday.
While the loss of a leading import is a huge blow for the Lady Bandits, head coach Jim Wilson said he was backing his young players to step up yet again.
“Not having Toccara available makes this a tough ask for us,” he said.
“But we’ve found a way in the past and we will again this time.”
With Ross playing valuable minutes as a power forward or centre alongside Adijat Adams, it’s uncertain who will replace her in the starting lineup.
Jovana Bukvic got the start last weekend, but those minutes were ultimately split fairly evenly between her, Casey Ardern and Breanna Green.
“It’ll probably be one of those young ones who will start,” Wilson said.
“I’ve been impressed by what Casey has done lately, though she’s quite small her speed means she’ll be able to find her place in the basketball world.
“It’s been really exciting for me this season, having all these kids involved.”
The action will get underway with the ladies tipping off at 6.30 with the Bandits’ clash at 8.30 at the Lauren Jackson Sports Centre.