BALLARAT Miners and Bendigo Braves.
Every time they clash – no matter where, no matter when – it is one of the biggest tickets of a South East Australian Basketball League season.
And so it will be again when the GMHBA Miners take on the Braves at Bendigo on Friday night in The Courier-Bendigo Advertiser Cup doubleheader with Bendigo Lady Braves and Integra Ballarat Rush.
The Miners and Braves sit fourth in their respective conferences as they turn into the home straight.
Every game carries enormous importance. One loss or one win has the potential to shape their finals prospects.
The Braves got over the Miners in Ballarat early in the season when Dustin Salisbery got loose.
Miners coach David Flint is a Braves legend, as a player and coach, but he will desperately want to square the ledger with his old team in what is still his hometown.
The south conference’s Bendigo is coming off a significant win over Geelong – something Ballarat frustratingly just came up short of achieving not that long ago.
The Miners are going through a rough patch, with the loss of import Roy Booker to a season-ending injury the harshest of body blows.
Booker was the competition’s MVP favourite and a certainty for the all-star team.
He still leads the league’s scoring and assist averages.
It goes without saying the Miners miss him, despite the efforts of fellow import Ken Horton, Anthony Fisher, Nathan Sobey and new import Dyricus Edwards.
They have lost four of their past five games to slip to nine wins and nine losses, and desperately need to keep their winning ratio above 50 per cent in the east conference.
The Miners do have a mini break over Brisbane, which looms as their only threat to a play-off berth, but cannot afford the Spartans to get too close.
The Miners need to deliver at Bendigo in what shapes up as a huge two days in their season.
Ballarat backs up against Brisbane at the Minerdome on Saturday night. Back-to-back wins and the Miners’ season will be back on track.
OTHER SEABL games this week:
Wednesday night: Nunawading 96 d Geelong 82
Friday night: Hobart v Geelong, Mt Gambier v Frankston, Canberra v Sandringham, Albury-Wodonga v Brisbane
Saturday night: Dandenong v Nunawading, NW Tasmania v Geelong, Frankston v Albury-Wodonga, Knox v Kilsyth