EAST CONFERENCE PRELIMINARY FINAL
Nunawading Spectres (17-7) v Geelong Supercats (16-8), Nunawading Stadium, 6.30pm Saturday, August 19
Nunawading played well against the Pioneers in their Semi-Final clash, out-scoring them in points off turnovers, second chance points and finishing with a 34-26 edge in the paint but they could not win a quarter as they fell by 11 points. Their form is still an ominous warning for the Supercats though as they return to Nunawading Stadium where they are 10-2 this year.
Geelong did it comfortably against Sandringham in their Elimination Final, never looking truly bothered before pulling away with a 25-12 third term for a 15-point victory. They have now won six consecutive games for the season and have also been successful in both meetings with the Spectres in 2017, winning by an average margin of 13 points.
The Spectres are around the middle of the pack in terms of three-point defence in the league, allowing 34% but against the Supercats, it has proven to be a major deficiency. Geelong out-scored them by 27 points overall across their two contests while shooting 39% and the Spectres’ recent history is not much better as last weekend, Mt. Gambier unloaded with 15 three’s at 46% as a team.
Nunawading: Dain Swetalla has been a quality addition to the front court for Nunawading this season, adding athleticism and an imposing presence in the paint to match Simon Conn’s shooting touch. He exploded for a 44-point performance earlier this year to earn Player of the Week but has come unstuck against Geelong, averaging just five points and five rebounds on 5-15 shooting overall. He will be keen for a redemptive performance on Saturday night but it will not be easy against Eric Gaff (who almost had a triple-double last weekend with ten points, 14 boards and eight assists) as well as Maalo Hicks and Ash Cannan who all have the size and strength to worry him out of his natural game.
Geelong: Surpassing 350 games this season, Jamie Medved continues to deliver for the Supercats and alongside Nathan Herbert, has been an integral part of their finals success. He contributed 13 points off the bench in their Semi-Final win over Sandringham but also has impressed against Nunawading previously this year, averaging 12 points while hitting 4-11 from downtown. The Spectres played only eight guys last weekend and if that is the case again in the Preliminary Final, the work of Medved will provide a major advantage for the visitors when teams move to their second unit.
Shane McDonald vs. Kristian Rocci
With this morning’s news that DeMarcus Gatlin is out for the rest of the season with a fractured foot, Geelong will be looking to the likes of Kristian Rocci and Kris Blicavs to match-up with McDonald this weekend. Gatlin’s loss is a major one after he recorded a double-double in their first meeting against Nunawading before scoring a game-high 27 points in the second clash. The league leader in assists, McDonald has averaged six per contest in those two contests but has not really bothered the scoreboard and that will be the target again for the Supercats’ back court on Saturday night. However, you can expect there to be a pep in the step of the Spectres’ guards this weekend as they look to take full advantage of the absence of Gatlin.
Previous Meetings This Year
Round 10: Round 17:
Nunawading 73 def. by Geelong 79 Geelong 96 def. Nunawading 76
@ Nunawading @ Geelong
The Gatlin loss throws a major spanner in the works for Geelong and opens up the chance for McDonald to completely take over the game while Tom Wright could also do some damage in the back court. Nunawading have a short roster to utilise and are likely to lose the bench battle against the likes of Medved, Cannan and Liam McInerney but if Conn is at his MVP best and accompanied by Swetalla, Nunawading should be able to maintain their strong home record.
Prediction: Nunawading by 6.
|NUN||Conn 21.0||Conn 9.0||McDonald 8.0|
|GEE||Herbert 20.2||Hicks 9.0||Gatlin 4.2|
SOUTH CONFERENCE PRELIMINARY FINAL
Hobart Chargers (16-8) v Dandenong Rangers (16-8), The Geelong Arena, 7.30pm Friday, August 18
The Chargers pushed Ballarat all the way in their Semi-Final but a couple of late free-throws proved to be daggers as they fell by four points. After missing the playoffs in 2014 and 2015, they reached the Conference Final last season so will be desperate to at least return to that game to have a successful year and they destroyed the Rangers last time they hosted them at home, winning by 35 points.
Dandenong also fought out a thriller in their Semi-Final with Jorden Page the hero off the bench. He scored 12 of his 20 points in the final term which included the Rangers’ last two baskets of the game in a one-point victory. They will not have fond memories of the last time they travelled to the Derwent Entertainment Centre but can take confidence from a seven-point win in Round 14 over Hobart.
Hobart’s road record was taken to 5-8 last weekend but they are back at home for the Preliminary Final where they have been a different animal in 2017. Owning an 11-1 record, their already league-high 93.2 points per game is increased to 100.3 per game at the Derwent Entertainment Centre while their shooting percentages of 47% from the field and 39% from three are bumped to 50.4% and 40% respectively. In Hobart’s first year back at the DEC, the venue could prove to be their lucky charm.
Hobart: The Rangers bolstered their roster late in the regular season with the addition of Felix van Hofe to join the likes of Liam Gibcus and Page. That makes Tiri Masunda’s role in the Preliminary Final even more important after he was the only bench player to hit the scoreboard last weekend for the Chargers. He shot 7-8 from the free-throw line for 11 points, the ninth time this year he has hit double-figures. A 250-game veteran, Masunda knows how to perform in the big games and will be keen to replicate his Round 8 performance against Dandenong when he tallied eight points, two rebounds and four assists in just 17 minutes.
Dandenong: Lucas Barker shone for the Rangers in their victory over N/W Tasmania last weekend, recording ten points, seven rebounds and seven assists but it was his defensive effort on Ahmad Starks (holding him to ten points as well) that made the difference. He faces another tough task this weekend against import Chris Whitehead but the Chargers guard has only averaged ten points and five assists against him in two meetings while Barker has recorded 11.5 points and 5.5 dimes per game.
Tom Garlepp vs. Garrett Jackson
Jackson played against his old SEABL club last weekend and prevailed but now must back up against an NBL team mate from the Sydney Kings in Garlepp. Their front court battle will be integral to the outcome of the game but they have only faced off once in 2017 as Jackson arrived mid-season. In that clash, the Rangers forward tallied a double-double of 13 points and ten rebounds while Garlepp had 17 and eight but only shot 1-7 from three-point range. That is still a deadly part of his arsenal though and if he can draw Jackson away from the rim it will open up the lanes for the likes of Lewis Thomas and Rob Heyer.
Previous Meetings This Year
Round 8: Round 14:
Hobart 117 def. Dandenong 82 Dandenong 74 def. Hobart 67
@ Hobart @ Dandenong
Dandenong proved their mental strength and desire to go deep into the playoffs last weekend with a stirring win and they will also be able to use their Round 14 game as a blueprint to victory on Friday night. Hobart at home are a daunting prospect though and have the ability to hurt the Rangers front court from both inside (with Thomas) and outside (through Garlepp and their leading scorer, Mathiang Muo). If Barker can put forth another impressive defensive effort on Whitehead it will improve Dandenong’s chances but they will find the going tough as they try to keep up with the offensive firepower of the Chargers.
Prediction: Hobart by 10.
|HOB||Muo 22.3||Heyer 7.8||Whitehead 4.0|
|DAN||Jackson 17.2||Jackson 7.1||Barker 5.4|