Saturday, July 7, 2018

Two teams that asserted themselves in the top four through June have earned the Player and Coach of the Month awards with Hobart Chargers’ Tre Nichols and Geelong Supercats’ Leon O’Neill taking out the awards respectively.

Hobart had a 3-2 record through the month but Nichols averaged 24.8 points (second best in the league), four rebounds, 4.4 assists (12th) and 2.1 steals (fifth) to establish himself as one of the premier players in the competition.

In the Chargers’ first game of June, they defeated fellow top-four team Nunawading by four points as Nichols got the better of impressive Spectres guard duo, Shane McDonald and Tom Wright.

They combined for 26 points, nine rebounds, eight assists and two steals while Nichols came close to securing a triple-double, recording 20 points, seven boards, eight assists and two steals himself.

Coming out of the Queen’s Birthday break, Nichols’ production dropped a little to tally 19 points and four assists in a loss to Melbourne.

However, he equalled Tom Wilson’s offensive output and also nabbed four steals in the contest, helping the Chargers to finish with a +10 advantage in points off turnovers.

The following weekend, Hobart headed out on a double-header road trip and while Nichols played all 40 minutes against the CoE to score 28 points on 10-20 shooting, the Chargers dropped a second consecutive game.

They bounced back the following day against Canberra though, putting together a clinical display with a 111-77 victory and Nichols again dominated proceedings in the back court, hitting 4-8 from downtown for another 28-point performance.

Wrapping up June back at home with a ten-point win over Dandenong the next week, Nichols took on Lucas Barker and comprehensively beat him as well.

Nichols outscored the Rangers point guard by 17 points with 29 overall, out-rebounded him with six boards and collected two assists as well.

The Chargers now sit third on the ladder with only five games remaining and Nichols, who shot 45% from the field, 39% from deep and 86% from the free-throw line in June, will be key to their Championship hopes.

Arguably the most in-form team of the league in June, Geelong have raced from being out of playoff contention to now threatening for a finals spot after finishing the month with a 4-1 record.

Coach Leon O’Neill has guided the return of Nick Owusu back into the team after a two-year injury while Nathan Herbert has announced his impending retirement but the Supercats are riding that wave of emotion to success.

They responded to losses to Frankston and the CoE in Round 9 and 10 with an answering win over Frankston as well as the ladder-leading Cobras and two teams fighting for a finals position in Bendigo and Melbourne.

Their defence has been outstanding, holding opponents to just 82 points per game during that winning streak while Michael Luxford, DeMarcus Gatlin and Herbert make up three of the top four spots for the most steals in June.

In addition, John Davis was a Player of the Month candidate after averaging 19.5 points and 11.3 rebounds while shooting 51.5% from the field and that spread of contributors is helping O’Neill’s men make some noise as they head towards a 21st consecutive playoff appearance.