SINCE the start of the Albury-Wodonga Bandits’ rags-to-riches SEABL campaign, coach Brad Chalmers has, after each victory, made a point of tearing from a printed pad taped to the locker room wall the number of wins his team has racked up.
With the final game of the season this afternoon — the SEABL’s championship decider, no less — Chalmers has a chance to sign off on win No.19 for the Border club and a slice of history for perhaps the most unlikely league champions ever.
The Bandits head to the State Basketball Centre in Wantirna for a winner-takes-all clash with the heavily favoured Dandenong Rangers, the only team the North East outfit is yet to beat this year.
Chalmers readily admitted he was under no illusions as to the enormity of the task facing the South Conference champions.
“It’s definitely going to take a big effort,” Chalmers said.
“Defensively is going to be the key, over the past six to eight weeks, Dandenong have had some patches of different form, they’ve had quarters where they’ve struggled and quarters where they’ve exploded.
“So I think that unpredictability about them, we’re just going to have to be really prepared for that and then rebound and be physical with them.
“They’ll throw a fair bit of pressure on us, which you would expect, but if we can manage all those things and keep the game at a tempo we’re comfortable with, I think we’ll be around the mark.”
Chalmers was more than happy to let his squad bask in the glow of its conference championship win over Knox for a couple of days and said he had no problems getting the players to refocus on the ultimate prize this weekend.
“It’s been a good week, we’ve practised pretty well, which is good,” Chalmers said.
“We let the players enjoy the win a little bit but they’re all really motivated, they understand it’s another big game and we want to try to finish off on the right note.
“I didn’t need to prod them much for motivation, it’s been pretty smooth sailing and as to the mental side of it, it’s probably just preparing for a different team now.
“It was definitely in the back of our minds that you have to live in the moment a little bit.
“Yes, we won, but then we have to prepare again and I thought by Tuesday we were on the same page about where we needed to be.”
Despite the satisfaction of claiming a conference title on their home court, Chalmers admitted he had thought about how amazing it would be to tear off win No.19.
“It’d be enormous, last week was a great result but at the end of the day, from the team’s standpoint, we want one more,” Chalmers said.
“We want to be the best team in the league if we can be.
“Yes, it’s great we won our conference and we’re top two but at the end of the day, if we win, we’ll be the best team for 2012.
“I think Dandenong will be in the same boat, they’ve worked hard all year, they probably think they’ve been the best team all year and they probably have been.
“But there’s probably an expectation there from their end that they’ll finish the season like that, which you expect.
“But from our end, our expectations have just grown and grown as we’ve found our way and we’re in the same position now, we expect to get that win and finish the year No.1.
“And if we do, I think it’s a big accomplishment, more Cinderella than it’s already been and that’s the beauty of it, we can still go one step further, which would be enormous for everyone.”
Bandits coach Brad Chalmers is hoping to notch win No.19.
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