Bendigo Lady Braves (22-1) v Launceston Tornadoes (15-7)
State Basketball Centre, 5.45pm Saturday, August 18
Launceston enter this week’s Grand Final on a five-game winning streak including an 84-77 victory over Bendigo in the Qualifying final three weeks ago. League MVP Lauren Nicholson is averaging 30 points and 11.5 rebounds in the playoffs and has continued her incredible year into the post-season.
Bendigo went undefeated through the regular season but suffered a surprise loss to the Tornadoes in the Qualifying Final. They recovered well to set up a re-match against Launceston this Saturday night though, defeating Geelong by 25 points and Kilsyth by 29 points so will be hellbent on exacting revenge against the only team to get the better of them in 2018.
Bendigo – Ashleigh Karaitiana was unavailable for the Lady Braves in the Qualifying Final due to New Zealand National team commitments. She produced 12 points in 30 minutes when the two sides met in Round 13 and her productivity will be very important this weekend. Having reached double-figures in scoring in 16 games this year, Karaitiana is capable of putting up big numbers on Saturday night.
Launceston – With the likes of Nicholson and Ally Wilson taking most of the plaudits, Ellie Collins has had an outstanding season, averaging 15.9 points, 8.9 rebounds and 2.1 assists to finish third in the Australian Youth Player Award. She has scored 20+ points on five occasions including a season-high of 32 points in July but her main job this weekend will be to limit the offensive input of twin towers Nadeen Payne and Gabe Richards. If she can contain either player on defence and add around 15 points herself, Launceston will be in the box seat to claim their maiden Championship.
Previous Meetings This Year
Round 13: Qualifying Final:
Bendigo 95 def. Launceston 81 Launceston 84 def. Bendigo 77
@ Bendigo Stadium @ Bendigo Stadium
Although finishing in fourth position, Launceston will go into the game confident they can secure the Championship after being the only team to beat Bendigo this year. Coach Derrick Washington has the luxury of adding Australian Opal Lauren Mansfield back into the team for the Grand Final and will be hoping import Courtney Williams can overcome her back injury and be fit to play this week. Adding two quality players into his line-up gives the Tornadoes more offensive firepower which they will need to match the high-scoring and efficient Braves. Bendigo have been the powerhouse team and the Championship favourite all season but the loss to Launceston has raised a few concerns. Their experienced team full of WNBL talent is still capable of lighting up the State Basketball Centre though and it will take a very impressive defensive performance from the Tornadoes to cause another upset.
Points Rebounds Assists
Bendigo Payne 22.5 Payne 9.4 K. Wilson 12.1
Launceston Nicholson 25.4 Nicholson 9.0 A. Wilson 5.5