WITH three wins to cap the season, you’d be forgiven for asking a few ‘what ifs?’ of the Albury-Wodonga Bandits 2018 campaign.
What if Daniel Sepokas and Sawyer Dearborn had been fit?
What if poor officiating hadn’t sent a potential upset win at home into overtime?
What if they had managed just one or two more wins on their home court?
Hindsight doesn’t exist in sport though, making the Bandits eventual finish one game outside the top eight a somewhat bitter pill to swallow.
Nonetheless, with an impressive 104-92 win over the Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence and a dominant 104-89 win over a shorthanded Kilsyth on Friday and Saturday respectively, the Bandits put some respect on a season that, for a few weeks at least, looked as though it could get ugly.
Lamar Mallory dominated the final two games of the season.
After dropping 34 points and 15 boards against the CoE on Friday, the athletic power forward backed it up in style in front of a home crowd on Saturday, connecting with Tevin Jackson for a series of hell-raising alley-oops on his way to another 25 points.
Foul trouble limited Mallory to just 28 minutes against the Cobras, but that only paved the way for Deba George to take the game by the scruff of the neck on the second half.
The enigmatic guard dropped a game-high 27 points, including five triples, as well as two assists, three steals and three blocks.
Rashad Hassan and Derrick Scott also formed a potent tag team in the middle, with Hassan finishing with 24 points and Scott 10, including a number of highlight plays from the latter.
Head coach Brad Chalmers said while it was somewhat frustrating to have been just on the edge of the finals race, it had been a respectable end to the season.
“I was really happy with their commitment this week, they just did enough to really fight it out,” he said.
“I’m proud of them for knuckling down when it could have gone awry.
“There were some wasted opportunities (throughout the season), I don’t think in the end we deserved to be in the playoffs.
“We were probably just a bit too inconsistent to really deserve a run there, but the way we finished the year was a really good sign.
“We talk about character, it sends a message to the league that we didn’t give up, sends a message to our fans as well.”
The Bandits concluded their season with a 9-11 record, behind Mt Gambier, Dandenong and North-West Tasmiania, who all finished at 10-10.
Of that trio, only North-West Tasmania were able to hang on to their spot in eighth, holding the head-to-head advantage.