The Diamond Valley Eagles suffered a harsh welcome to SEABL, falling by a point on the opening night of the 2018 season with Jeremy Kendle proving the hero in his return to the Bendigo Braves.
Diamond Valley were able to fight back the following night in a visit to Sandringham but will have rued a 15-26 second term against the Braves which created a deficit too great to overcome.
They did re-take the lead late in the game courtesy of a 28-15 third quarter as Matt Reynolds knocked down a three-pointer inside the final four minutes but Kendle had the response, scoring the last four points of the game to finish with 36 points, seven assists and four steals.
Bendigo coach Ben Harvey made his return to the Eagles on the weekend, a club he spent his junior years as a player at while his father was the facility manager of Diamond Valley and his mother worked in the canteen for many years.
“It is great to see Diamond Valley in the league,” said Harvey.
“I have respect for them, they are going to beat a lot of teams this year and especially at home, it was nice and loud.”
Despite having a lead of 15 points at one stage, Harvey said he never felt comfortable.
“I knew they would make a run and I said to the team that I didn’t mind if we won by one or 30 points. At the end of the day we are now 1-0 and it was good to get the first win.
“Kendle was outstanding today but we have some good local kids. We hit a wall but that’s a learning experience.”
The Eagles had four starters reach double-figures in scoring with Dyson King-Hawea scoring 23 points while centre Mike Best (12 points, 13 rebounds) had a great battle with Bendigo import Ray Turner (20 points, eight boards).
“I’m really proud of the team,” said Diamond Valley head coach Grant Wallace.
“Before the game they were nervous, we had nine SEABL debutants and in the second quarter we were away with the fairies. We addressed some things at half-time and if Bendigo had not have hit a third-quarter buzzer-beater, we would have had a lead going into the final term.
“We don’t have anybody over the age of 26 so we don’t have the luxury of someone older stepping in. But I was happy with our bench, our young kids were great today.”
Needing to quickly regroup, the Eagles would travel to Sandringham to play the Sabres only 24 hours later and in another thriller, Diamond Valley were able to secure a one point win.
“I’m proud of the club too,” Wallace said. “The atmosphere was great for the first game and is exciting for the rest of the season.”
Following a double-header to begin their campaign, Diamond Valley head to Nunawading next Saturday night while Bendigo will enjoy a bye.
ROUND 1 RESULTS:
Ballarat def. Dandenong 94-82
Diamond Valley def. by Bendigo 77-78
Hobart def. by Kilsyth 72-80
Geelong def. Mt. Gambier 72-62
Sandringham def. by Diamond Valley 90-91
N/W Tasmania def. Kilsyth 72-70
Albury/Wodonga def. Frankston 82-72
Melbourne def. by Nunawading 94-113