By Grant Richardson
Game of The Week – Bendigo v Dandenong
Saturday 30th May- 8:00pm @ Bendigo Stadium
Both sides sit fourth in their respective conferences with 50% win rates although Dandenong have played two more games than Bendigo. The focus of this game is firmly set on Tony Lewis though, with the forward playing against his old side for the first time.
The Braves came agonisingly close to a fourth straight win last weekend, falling 86-87 to Mt. Gambier. Lewis starred with 23 points and 16 boards and now easily leads the league in rebounds. He was assisted by Grant Johnson (22 points) and Michael Vigor, who had a double-double of 10 points and 11 rebounds (six offensive).
With back-to-back victories in Round 7, the Rangers lifted themselves off the bottom of the ladder. They backed up an impressive 101-90 victory in Ballarat with a two-point defeat of Hobart on their own floor.
Lucas Walker had his best game of the year against the Miners, collecting 32 points on 11-16 shooting while hitting 8-8 from the free throw line. Daequon Montreal (35 points) took over against the Chargers while Chris Patton averaged 15 points and eight rebounds over the weekend.
After being teammates from 2012-14 at Dandenong, it would be a dream match-up to see Lewis battle with Montreal. Combining as one of the most devastating front court duos in the league, the two power forwards won the 2013 Championship while Lewis also earned MVP honours in his final year with the Rangers.
Montreal does not need to face the task alone though, with Patton, Walker and Chuck Long there for support. The onus is on Bendigo players like Taylor Bell and Jordan Vandenberg to make themselves offensive threats and draw some of the attention away from Lewis.
Injuries continue to bother Dandenong with Andrew Harms (leg) out for at least another two weeks. This leaves the door open for Johnson to have a big game with Long or Walker likely to get the defensive job on Bendigo’s top scorer. Aside from the exciting front court battle, Johnson could be the wildcard to get Bendigo over the line.
Prediction: Bendigo by 4
Friday 29th May -
Mt. Gambier v Frankston
This will be a battle of top vs. bottom in the South Conference but Frankston cannot be taken lightly after falling by just a point to N-W Tasmania last weekend. Eric Williams has scored 40+ in both his games and will be a tough cover for Mt. Gambier’s swingmen. The home side have won five straight games though and have an average winning margin of 19 points at home.
Hobart v Ballarat
One of these sides will end their two game losing streak with Hobart’s second best defence facing the best shooting team in Ballarat. The Miners are fighting to get back into the top four while the Chargers will be itching for a win after coming close against Albury-Wodonga and Dandenong last weekend.
Saturday 30th May –
Brisbane v Albury-Wodonga
The Spartans are inching closer to ending their six game losing streak after suffering two heartbreaking defeats in overtime against Sandringham and Geelong in Round 7. The task will be difficult against the only side left unbeaten at home but Albury-Wodonga’s up-and-down form has been broken up into three wins, followed by three losses, followed by three wins.
N-W Tasmania v Ballarat
Ballarat are the fourth side to face the Tassie double-header this season, with Sandringham the only team to sweep the road trip. The Thunder made the decision mid-week to release Monziago Williams after the point guard was averaging just 9.9 points and this will put pressure on Mason Bragg to contain the league’s leading scorer, Roy Booker.
Kilsyth v Nunawading
Arresting their five game skid with a 25-point beating of N-W Tasmania, Kilsyth have a chance to truly regain their momentum with a win over Nunawading. The night after taking care of Canberra, the Spectres were exposed in overtime against the CoE, losing the rebound count 27-51. Kilsyth sit tenth in the league for boards but have been given the blueprint as to how to defeat Nunawading.
Geelong v Canberra
Shooting just 36% for the game, Geelong were lucky to escape with a two-point overtime win against Brisbane while Canberra gave up 104 points to the Spectres. The visitors have impressed on the road recently, winning two of their past three but they are giving up 90 points per game this season and the Supercats have reached that mark in six of their past seven matches.
Sunday 31st May -
Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence v Sandringham
Both these teams won in overtime last weekend with the CoE reaching the century mark for the first time in either of their past two seasons. Dejan Vasiljevic’s 28 points led ten players on the scoreboard while Junior Hairston (25 points) led four players in double figures for the Sabres. The visitors are comfortable away from home, with the equal best road record in the South Conference.
Frankston v Canberra
The Gunners’ double-header will be balanced by Frankston returning from Mt. Gambier although the home side will have a day’s break in between games. The front court battle should determine the outcome with Canberra’s Ben Allen, Dan Jackson and Luke Jamieson (a combined 34.1 points and 19 rebounds) going against Brandon Polk and Matt Turner (28 and 14.5).
Nunawading v Bendigo
Coming into the round, both sides sit third in their respective conferences and will be playing the second night of a back-to-back although the two hour road trip for Bendigo could put them at a disadvantage. When they met in Round 3, the Braves were five-point victors. Johnson top-scored with 29 while Graham had 26 and 10 rebounds for Nunawading who were playing without point guard, Shane McDonald.