By Grant Richardson
Game of The Week – Dandenong v Sandringham
Thursday 18th June- 7:30pm @ Dandenong Stadium
After a slow start to the season, the Dandenong Rangers are firmly placed in the East Conference top four on the back of four straight wins while the Sandringham Sabres swept Round 9 to rocket from fifth to third in the South Conference.
Leading by just one point at three-quarter time against Frankston last weekend, Dandenong won a tight contest 81-75 with five players reaching double-figures and nine players overall hitting the scoreboard.
On court for the first time since Round 3 due to a leg injury, Andrew Harms added 11 points while Daequon Montreal collected 13 points, eight rebounds and three assists.
Out of nowhere, rookie centre Mason Peatling proved the match-winner, shooting 9-13 for a career-high 19 points and nine boards. Joining the likes of Montreal, Lucas Walker and Chuck Long, the Rangers continue to find impressive big men to bolster their front court.
Sandringham were clinical over the weekend, using a 29-19 opening term to defeat Nunawading by 13 points before backing up with a 109-82 thrashing of N-W Tasmania. They shot 63% from the field in that second clash, including a deadly 12-20 from the three-point line.
Junior Hairston led the way with an average of 23.5 points and 6.5 rebounds alongside Trent Zomer (16.5 and 8.5) while Alister MacDonald (18.5 points) and Nathan Crosswell (17) kept the scoreboard ticking along.
With Rayshawn Goins returning, he will reinforce Sandringham’s forward stocks to counter Dandenong’s talent under the rim while the veteran point guard battle between Crosswell and Harms is always fascinating. The Sabres 4-2 road record is second best in the league but the Rangers have not lost at home since Round 5 and look to have their season back on track.
Prediction: Dandenong by 8
Friday 19th June -
Hobart v Albury-Wodonga
Hobart proved their resilience with two Round 9 victories despite losing their second import for the year and are now within one win of third spot in the South Conference. Albury-Wodonga turned around a half-time deficit to beat Geelong 85-74 and will take confidence from their Round 7 overtime win against the Chargers. Deba George had 15 points in that game against his old side but is averaging 21 in his past five.
Saturday 20th June –
Sandringham v Ballarat
After a nine-point loss to Bendigo last weekend, Ballarat has dropped four of their past five games and look especially vulnerable on the road where they score seven less points and have a 2-5 record. Gregory Thondique debuted with 13 points and 5 rebounds but he will have to be at his best in the paint alongside Chris Smith to counter Zomer and Goins.
Brisbane v Dandenong
With three wins separating top from bottom, every clash between East Conference rivals is vital. Brisbane sit fifth and have won two in a row including a quality victory over N-W Tasmania last weekend in which eight players scored. They will need to utilise that depth again while Dandenong will be wary of their form on the second night of a double-header, where they are 1-2 with their only success a two-point win against Hobart.
Canberra v Kilsyth
Both sides have won just one from their past five games with Canberra’s reputation for clutch performances taking a hit in recent weeks. Prior to Round 7, they were 7-1 in matches decided by three points or less since 2014 but have fallen to Geelong by three and Hobart on a buzzer-beater in consecutive rounds. Kilsyth has a poor record against current finalists (1-7) and have played top four sides in each of their past four games so must take advantage against a lower ranked team.
N-W Tasmania v Albury-Wodonga
Sitting equal first in the South Conference after Round 6, N-W Tasmania is now on the fringe of the top four after four straight losses. The Bandits are the highest scoring team in the league and Deba George and Daniel Sepokas could take full advantage from the three-point line as the Thunder allow oppositions to shoot 41% from there. In a strong debut, Garrett Jackson averaged 17 points and 9.5 rebounds and will provide a great foil for Dixon alongside Fred Hunter.
Nunawading v Frankston
An eight day break will benefit the Blues although Nunawading will also have enjoyed a week's break. Two losses last round only compounded Frankston’s problems as their losing streak was extended to five while their road record stands at 0-6. Playing his old team, Eric Williams will be looking for a big game while the Spectres, who usually shoot 34% from beyond the arc, will want to improve on their 24% effort from last round.
Geelong v Mt. Gambier
The Supercats face their fellow conference leader in a possible Grand Final preview. Mt. Gambier is the hottest team in the competition with eight straight wins but they have not played a top four side in almost a month. There will be intriguing clashes all over the floor with Eric Gaff and Ash Cannan facing Damian Johnson and Tyrone Lee, Kimmani Barrett and Brad Hill going head-to-head as well as the combined experience of 450+ games between Nick Owusu and Matt Sutton at the point guard position.
Sunday 21st June –
Bendigo v Frankston
Bendigo will have had eight days to prepare at home for the Blues who will make the trek from Nunawading the night before. The Braves overcame Ballarat in a devastating 22-6 final quarter last weekend with Tony Lewis recording 34 points and 16 boards. He is the leading rebounder in the league with 13.2 a game but will not find the going as easy against Brandon Polk who sits fifth in the league with 10.5.
Ballarat v Mt. Gambier
Although there are still nine rounds remaining, the Miners’ hopes for a playoff berth are slipping with a 5-7 record. A loss to Bendigo last week was a chance to resurrect their season but they get another chance against Mt. Gambier at home where they are a seven-point better side. Mt. Gambier’s impressive overall record is complimented by their average winning margin of 15 points on the second game of a back-to-back.