Bendigo Braves star Ash Karaitiana insists Launceston Tornadoes are in for a “rude awakening” if they believe they have seen the best already from their SEABL national grand final rival.
The Braves had set up a second-consecutive grand final appearance with a dominant 29-point victory against Kilsyth Cobras last Saturday night in Melbourne.
Their victory gives the Megan Moody-coached Braves another crack at the Tornadoes, who defeated the undefeated minor premiers 84-77 in their opening final.
Karaitiana, who missed the first final due to commitments with the New Zealand Tall Ferns in Asia, said she and her teammates were in a good headspace going into Saturday night’s decider at the State Basketball Centre in Melbourne.
“There are no words to describe just how excited we are this week and we’re ready to take this championship,” she said.
“Launceston really played well [last time], probably one of their best games. It definitely wasn’t one of our best games. To only lose by seven points and not play well, they have a rude awakening coming for them this weekend.”
If she is feeling nervous, Karaitiana is doing a good job of disguising it.
The 26-year-old was relaxed and calm when fronting the media during the week at Bendigo Stadium.
As she might well be, with Karaitiana finding herself in season-best, if not career-best, form.
A stellar past month started with her 40-point effort on debut for the Tall Ferns at the William Jones Cup in Taiwan.
Karaitiana, who is in her first season with the Braves after two with the city’s WNBL team, averaged a team-high 22 points for New Zealand, which won the tournament against Japan B, South Korea, India and a pair of Chinese Taipei teams.
She returned to the Braves in time for their semi-final win against Geelong Supercats and top-scored with 27 points and had eight rebounds and seven assists.
Karaitiana continued her great run of form with an equal team-high 17 points, six rebounds and five assists against Kilsyth.
She declared the Braves ready to capitalise on a dominant season, highlighted by an astonishing 22 wins and only one-loss record.