Another chapter of the most heated rivalry in the CBL was served up on Saturday evening.
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The two Bs of the North East league, the Blasters and Breakers, have come face to face in do-or-die matches over the past few years.
If you compare these teams to lovable fruit-based characters wearing sleep attire, Seymour would be B1 with three consecutive championships under its belt and only one premiership short of a historic 10th title.
Benalla had not been able to overcome the Blasters in recent memory.
But after finishing as the minor premier, B2 was determined to step out of B1’s shadow.
A strong first quarter put the Breakers on the front foot, and despite a second-quarter resurgence from the visitors, Benalla controlled the rest of the semi-final at the Benalla Indoor Recreation Centre.
The home side avoided slipping on the proverbial banana peel to claim a 17-point victory, sealing its spot in the big dance.
Benalla coach Wally Armstrong was ecstatic that his side was into another grand final.
“We’ve been in the CBL system for five to six years, and we’d never beaten Seymour,” Armstrong said.
“We got within one point once we played them in the last two grand finals and obviously got beaten.
“So to finally get the monkey off the back, yeah, I’m very proud of the boys. Exceptional effort.
“Eric Miraflores takes the bull by the horns when he needs to.
“He’s a big-time scorer. Teams put a fair bit of homework into him, but it’s not the size of the dog; it’s the fight in the dog.
“He’s only a little man, but jeez, he knows how to get it done.
“They really tried to put the clamps on him, and that’s when the rest of the team sort of stood up.
“The two big boys, Lachlan Kego and Tom Downie, were fantastic, and the guys that came off the bench were great, too.
“(Sam) Becks chipped in for his 12 points, and Jordan Munro, while it was only five points in the point guard position, was exceptional.
“It’s probably the best game he’s played for us.
“His defensive game was unbelievable.”
With both sides aware of what the other was capable of, getting on the front foot early was crucial to gaining the mental edge.
Benalla shook off the pressure of past failures.
The Breakers stormed into the lead, scoring 26 points to Seymour’s eight in the first quarter.
This shocked Seymour into gear, and in the second quarter, the Blasters brought the deficit back to 12 points by halftime.
It would have been easy for Benalla to think the tide was turning, sit back and hold what it had, but this time, Benalla forced Seymour to play its game.
The Benalla defence was finely tuned.
Each player had a role, and they performed it effectively.
Seymour’s leaders, Robbie Sartori and Jack Murphy, were held to four points between them while attacking threat Eden Hobbs was restricted to 12 points.
While the second half was low-scoring, Benalla doubled Seymour’s third-quarter tally and claimed the last period by a point.
The final buzzer went off, and the home team had a historic win.
The 67 to 50 victory felt like a changing of the guard as the Blasters’ dynasty came to an end.
The Seymour defence could not stop Miraflores, who shot a game-high 26 points, including four three-pointers.
Kego, Downie and Sam Beks played equal roles in attack, each hitting 12 points and keeping the opposition guessing where the shot would come from.
Benalla is into its third straight grand final, and for the first time, it will not be Seymour that the Breakers match up against.
Myrtleford was too strong for Wallan on Sunday afternoon and locked in its grand final berth with an 18-point win.
While Benalla was the top dog on the ladder, Armstrong is weary of the threat the Saints pose.
“I think (Myrtleford) is the best team in the competition that I rated very early on,” he said.
“It’ll be more of a focus on what we can do.
“You can study all the teams you want, but I think the main focus now is just to keep worrying about what we do.
“They’ve got blokes who can shoot the lights out, they’ve got blokes who can get to the ring, and they’ve got bigs that can shoot inside and outside.”
The championship match will get under way at Shepparton Sports Stadium on Saturday at 8pm.
Benallaites will all have their fingers crossed that the third time is the charm.