Saturday, July 7, 2018

Leading the Bendigo Braves to an unbeaten record through 15 games, Nadeen Payne has earned the June Player of the Month award while a stark turnaround in form to thrust them into finals consideration has seen Diamond Valley Eagles’ Zoe Carr claim the Coach of the Month honours.

Payne has been the offensive spark for Bendigo as they continue to astound in season 2018 and with only five games remaining in their regular season, they are on track to become just the second club to ever finish a SEABL season undefeated.

Averaging 25.3 points, Payne was second in the league for June in terms of scoring while also adding 11.2 rebounds (fourth), three assists and a steal per game.

She showcased her impressive shooting with splits of 51.6% from the field, 41% from beyond the arc and 86% from the free-throw line while leading the Braves to wins against top-eight teams at the time including Kilsyth and Geelong, defeating Sydney Uni twice and Canberra and Albury/Wodonga.

Their clash with the Cobras at the start of the month was billed as a potential Grand Final preview but the Braves disposed of them easily, succeeding by 21 points as Payne recorded a monster double-double of 16 points and 17 rebounds.

She struggled from the field on 3-11 shooting but drilled 10-10 from the free-throw line to still have a significant impact and in Bendigo’s next outing, she dominated the Caps Academy with 25 points (on 9-11 shooting from inside the arc), 13 boards and four assists.

The following week, Sydney Uni pushed them all the way and got within six points at the final siren but Payne was crucial in holding them at bay, collecting 29 points and four assists while knocking down three three-pointers.

Bendigo faced a double-header that weekend, backing up against Albury/Wodonga the next day but Payne showed no signs of fatigue, scoring a high for the month with 30 points on 10-14 shooting to go with nine boards.

Taking on Geelong in the Grand Final replay to start another double-header last weekend, the Braves found themselves trailing by 11 points at half-time.

The cool heads from Bendigo prevailed though and Payne was clutch down the stretch, sinking four important free-throws to finish with another team-high scoring effort of 24 points, 11 rebounds and five assists as the Braves claimed a four-point win.

She did miss all five of her three-point attempts though but the following day in another meeting with Sydney Uni, Payne could not miss as she hit all three attempts from long range on her way to 28 points and 14 rebounds.

Her performances in those last two games earned her a second Player of the Week nomination and if she, alongside Bendigo, can maintain their form through the final three rounds, Payne may also add an MVP trophy to her cabinet before the season is done.

In their debut season, Diamond Valley had put together an impressive roster and while it may have seemed a harsh assessment for a new team, their efforts had been disappointing up until the Queen’s Birthday break.

Sitting at 5-7, the Eagles were a game outside the playoffs but coach Carr has resolved them and in June, their 4-1 record has them right back in the hunt.

They now own a 9-7 record and are placed sixth, only one game ahead of ninth-placed Geelong but just a game and a half outside the top four as well.

Diamond Valley began the month with a loss to Dandenong when they scored just 50 points but since then, they have averaged 89.8 points per game in victories over Albury/Wodonga, Ballarat, Melbourne and Nunawading.

Both the Tigers and Spectres were top-eight teams at the time and two of those wins also came on the road as they look to improve their average record away from home.

Now with only four games to go, the Eagles do not have much room for error if they want to participate in the post-season but coach Carr looks to have her team primed at the perfect time of the season.