IF ever a game was a microcosm of the Albury-Wodonga Bandits’ season, it was last night’s.
The Border outfit started badly, showed flashes of promise but couldn’t get the job done in a 90-82 defeat to the Nunawading Spectres that almost certainly ended its SEABL championship defence.
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A committed Spectres shot the lights out at the Lauren Jackson Sports Centre, hitting well over 50 per cent from the field as big man Simon Conn proved to be a particularly painful thorn in the Bandits’ side.
The lanky pivot nailed 29 points and hauled down a game-high 15 rebounds, while former Bandits playmaker Shane McDonald orchestrated the offence on his way to 21 points, nine assists and seven boards.
For the Bandits, skipper Nick Payne led from the front with 20 points, Ben Hollis had a double-double of 16 points and 11 rebounds and Matt de Koeyer scored all his 15 from beyond the three-point arc.
A bitterly disappointed Brad Chalmers was left baffled at the lack of intensity to start both the first and third quarters of his team’s biggest game of the season.
“It was an ordinary effort all around,” he said. “Not sure really what to say. You might have to ask the group. We discussed the importance of the game.
“But then to come out and show zero passion for their season really said a lot to me.
“I talked about character and we had some guys bring it and then we had a lot of passengers tonight.”
Nunawading was easily the better team early, jumping to a 17-5 lead as the Bandits struggled to find any offensive flow.
A frenetic full-court press helped the hosts back into the game but they were still staring at a 28-18 deficit at the first break.
In a more physical second period, the Bandits closed to within two several times before a late Spectres run made it 46-39 at half-time.
Inexplicably, the Bandits started the second half in much the same fashion as the first, letting the Spectres open a 58-42 advantage.
With the Spooks holding a 70-58 lead with 10 minutes to play, the Bandits needed something special.
But the well-drilled Spectres had all the answers, not even a late Bandits’ run could deny Nunawading its first win over Albury-Wodonga since 2011 — at a most inopportune time for the Bandits at that.