EAST CONFERENCE FINAL
Mt. Gambier Pioneers (21-3) v Nunawading Spectres (17-7), Bern Bruning Stadium, 8.00pm Friday, August 25
Maintaining their incredible record at home, the Pioneers were too strong for Nunawading in the Semi-Final as they won 92-81 without losing a quarter. Brad Hill shot the lights out with 29 points on 7-11 three-point shooting while they also hit 11-12 from the charity stripe compared to Nunawading who only shot 13-19. The Pioneers are now 13-0 at home and 14-0 against conference rivals while aiming for an unbelievable fifth straight Conference Final title.
Nunawading cruised to victory in the Preliminary Final and while they will take the win, a part of them would have preferred a fairer fight as Geelong were ravaged by injuries in the lead-up to the game. Shane McDonald and Simon Conn were at their damaging best with double-doubles, Dain Swetalla shot 8-10 for 22 points and Matt O’Hea caught fire for 25 points in 24 minutes off the bench. They must figure out how to beat Mt. Gambier on their home floor though, losing by 11 points both times they have travelled to the Ice House this year.
The Pioneers are 14-0 this season when they score over 90 points with that record dropping to 7-3 when they don’t reach that mark. Nunawading almost caught them in Round 6 when holding Mt. Gambier to 84 points but in their next two contests, the Pioneers have won with an exact score-line of 92-81. That means the goal will be pretty simple for the Spectres if they want to have a chance on Friday night although Mt. Gambier also have a bench mark to aim for.
Mt. Gambier: In a battle of the point guards a fortnight ago, Tom Daly got the better of McDonald with nine more points, two more assists and 9-13 shooting in the direct match-up. He also helped hold the Spectres guard to 4-13 shooting and when you can halt Nunawading’s play-maker from scoring and distributing, you normally win. Daly cannot let his foot off the gas this weekend as a sniff of a chance could be all the Spectres need but he has played well all season against them with an overall average of 17.3 points and 5.7 assists.
Nunawading: Tom Wright has had a quietly consistent playoff series, averaging 13.5 points and 2.5 assists while shooting at 11-22 from the field. With so many weapons, the Spectres do not normally need all their guns firing to succeed but against Mt. Gambier on the road, they need Wright to have a big game alongside all their stars. In their closest result with the Pioneers in Round 6, Wright tallied a season-high 28 points which proves he does have the ability to penetrate Mt. Gambier’s defences but he also has an important job at the other end of the floor in helping to contain Brad Hill.
Daniel Alexander vs. Simon Conn
It was the match-up to watch in the Semi-Final and will be again this weekend after Alexander (14 points, 12 rebounds, two assists, four blocks) and Conn (27 points, eight boards, three assists, one block) fought a thrilling battle a fortnight ago. The Spectres are more reliant on Conn to score and Mt. Gambier do not need Alexander to match him to win but it was still easily Conn’s most productive performance against the hosts this year. Despite still recording the victory, the Pioneers will be keen to reduce the MVP’s impact on Friday night while Alexander’s four blocks which came against Wright, McDonald, Swetalla and Andrew Steel will be fresh in the minds of the visitors.
Previous Meetings This Year
Round 6: Round 14:
Nunawading 81 def. by Mt. Gambier 84 Mt. Gambier 92 def. Nunawading 81
@ Nunawading @ Mt. Gambier
Mt. Gambier 92 def. Nunawading 81
While a majority of the Spectres line-up seemed to hit form last weekend, they will be more concerned with their performance against Mt. Gambier in the Semi-Final as an indicator for Friday night’s contest. McDonald will need to improve in his battle against Daly, Conn and Swetalla need similar games to a fortnight ago against Luke Jamieson and Alexander while a player like Steel or O’Hea will need to have a big night to combat the streaky shooters in Hill and Erik Burdon. It is an uphill battle for Nunawading with Mt. Gambier’s home record and unbeaten streak against the Spectres impossible to bet against.
Prediction: Mt. Gambier by 8.
|MTG||Alexander 18.9||Alexander 9.5||Hill 4.7|
|NUN||Conn 20.7||Conn 9.2||McDonald 8.2|
SOUTH CONFERENCE FINAL
Ballarat Miners (16-8) v Dandenong Rangers (16-8), MARS Minerdome, 7.30pm Saturday, August 26
Trailing by 12 at quarter-time of their Semi-Final against Hobart, Ballarat fought back through a team effort to win by four as all five starters reached double-figures. The Chargers were still ahead by a point with 49 seconds remaining but Sam Short hit a big shot before Marvin King-Davis rebounded a Craig Moller missed free-throw who then converted two more from the charity stripe to clinch their spot in the Conference Final.
Dandenong put on one of the most astounding shooting displays ever seen in SEABL playoff history to defeat Hobart last weekend, winning 105-98 on 61% shooting including 14-24 from the three-point line. They had 41 points off the bench as Declan Soukup recorded a season-high of eight points while Jorden Page backed up his game-winning efforts in the Semi-Final with another ten points. The form of their starting front court duo in Garrett Jackson and Tim Lang will also give them confidence after they combined for 38 points and ten rebounds.
In two encounters this season, the Miners have defeated Dandenong by an average margin of 14.5 points while winning seven out of eight quarters. Leading by only three points at half-time in Round 6, a 30-23 third term gave them the buffer needed to secure the victory while they blew the Rangers out of the water with a 26-11 opening period in Round 16. Dandenong will know they need to bring a four-quarter performance to turn the tide this weekend.
Ballarat: In addition to their starters, Leon Henry provides a significant punch off the bench and he was vital in their Semi-Final victory. Playing 28 minutes, Henry totalled nine points, 11 rebounds, two assists, a steal and four blocks as he starred at both ends of the court. The New Zealander has the ability to battle in the paint which will be important against the likes of Tim Lang but is also a capable three-point shooter which will be necessary after Lang, Garrett Jackson and Felix von Hofe combined for 12-18 long-range shooting in last week’s Preliminary Final.
Dandenong: Finishing his college stint, Felix von Hofe arrived at Dandenong mid-season and his ten games have coincided with an 8-2 record for the Rangers. While Ballarat have Henry coming off the bench, their stocks are depleted in the absence of Craig Moller which means the visitors have a real advantage when the teams go to their second unit and von Hofe could prove a major thorn in the Miners’ side. Shooting 40% from the field and 38% from downtown on the season, von Hofe was almost unstoppable in the Preliminary Final, knocking down 4-6 from deep and 6-8 overall for a season-high 16 points.
Peter Hooley vs. Chauncey Orr
After Dandenong caught fire last weekend, Ballarat will be concerned that they can pull off a similar feat on Saturday night but Hooley looms as a player that can match whatever the Rangers throw at them. He is averaging 20.1 points per game on the season, has scored 30+ on four occasions and in Round 6 put together a brilliant performance of 25 points on 9-15 shooting, eight assists and a steal against Dandenong. Orr was almost unseen in last week’s Preliminary Final, scoring only three points but with the Rangers owning enough firepower on their roster, his defensive job on Hooley will be more important this weekend.
Previous Meetings This Year
Round 6: Round 15:
Dandenong 79 def. by Ballarat 95 Ballarat 100 def. Dandenong 87
@ Dandenong @ Ballarat
The Rangers have had to do it the tough way this post-season and are on the road again this weekend but their incredible offensive performance against Hobart would have been enough to defeat any team in the competition. If they can get close to replicating that on Saturday night, the Miners will struggle to match them on the scoreboard but the likes of Hooley and Davon Usher can catch fire themselves while Henry and Marvin King-Davis have the presence in the paint to combat Dandenong’s front court. The loss of Craig Moller, competing for Australia at the World University Games, comes at a bad time but the Miners should still have the depth to win on their home floor.
Prediction: Ballarat by 2.
|BLM||Hooley 20.1||Henry 10.2||Hooley 4.4|
|DAN||Jackson 17.4||Jackson 7.0||Barker 5.4|