By Grant Richardson
Game of The Week – Launceston v Dandenong
Saturday 27th June- 6:30pm @ Elphin Sports Centre
Perhaps the Launceston Tornadoes’ biggest test of the season comes this week as they put their eight-game winning streak on the line against the Dandenong Rangers who sit on top of the East Conference with three consecutive victories.
From a 1-4 start to the year, Launceston is now just a win away from the South Conference’s top spot. With 11 players hitting the court last weekend, they overpowered Albury-Wodonga to win 85-67. Mikaela Ruef was dominant with 15 points and 16 rebounds, Lauren Mansfield recorded 16 points and Ally Wilson top-scored with 30 on 13-18 shooting.
Leading by just three at half-time, Dandenong blew past Brisbane with a 22-9 third quarter on their way to a 13-point victory. Jacinta Kennedy (17 points, 15 boards) recorded her seventh double-double for the year while Clare Papavs (10 points, six assists) and Aimie Clydesdale (11 points, five rebounds) were as reliant as ever.
Increasing her point production by 8.4 and her rebound average by 3.1 a game, Kennedy is having a career-best season at age 33. She also leads the league in offensive boards while Papavs sits ninth and their activity around the rim will provide a thrilling contest for Launceston’s forward trio of Ruef, Wilson and Emilee Harmon.
Mansfield has not scored below 13 all year for the home side and her 3.9 assists places her fourth in the league. Clydesdale has stepped up her own game in the absence of Amelia Todhunter but will have her hands full in the point guard battle.
Launceston has not reached the playoffs since 2010 while the Rangers have made it six straight years, including a three-peat of Grand Final victories. The occasion will not concern the visitors but if the Tornadoes are to be taken seriously as a Championship contender, this is a must win.
Prediction: Launceston by 2
Friday 26th June -
Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence v Canberra
In their final round of the season, the CoE will be looking to end the year on a high-note after dropping two of their past four games. They fell to Geelong by just a point last round before overcoming Ballarat by a point the following day. Canberra breathed life into their season with a 75-74 overtime victory against Kilsyth, dethroning the Lady Cobras from the top of the South Conference. Steph Talbot and Julie Forster will trouble the home side on the boards but the CoE’s range of scorers is a concern.
Saturday 27th June -
Frankston v Sandringham
The Lady Blues converted a solid win over Nunawading last round but were unable to record their first winning streak of the season as a loss to Bendigo followed. Sandringham have dropped eight straight but can attack Frankston at home where they are just 1-4. After missing last week, the Sabres will be desperate to get leading scorer Brittany Smart back to face Kate Gaze who is averaging 18.8 points in her past four games.
Kilsyth v Albury-Wodonga
Despite a 22-14 opening term, Kilsyth's three-week break may have caught up with them as they were out-scored by six after half-time to lose to Canberra. The Lady Bandits showed a competitive edge, pushing Hobart to overtime before they were left to rue a slow first half against Launceston. Imports Alison Bouman and Kristina Baltic had season highs in points and rebounds over the weekend and will need to maintain that output against the Lady Cobras who had six players grab an offensive rebound in Round 10.
Ballarat v Brisbane
Even with a roster of just seven players, the Rush ended their six-game losing streak with a 72-52 win over Sandringham before just falling short of the CoE by a point the next night. Those performances will give them confidence against the defending Champions who beat them by 25 in Round 2 but have won just one of their last four games. Olivia Thompson had 13 points and nine rebounds in that clash but would love a victory against her old side.
Canberra v Bendigo
Using a 20-14 final term, Bendigo came back to defeat Frankston last weekend and take their record to 5-5. They are now 4-2 when Kelly Wilson plays and it will be up to the likes of Tara Hay to keep her quiet. Both sides are in the top four for three-point percentage while Canberra is a five-point better side when playing at home.
Sunday 28th June –
Nunawading v Brisbane
In this clash between third and fourth in the East Conference, a top two finish could be put out of reach for the loser. Nunawading will take confidence from their 25-point smashing of Brisbane from Round 5 while it also gives them a healthy edge in terms of head-to-head results. The Lady Spartans’ will be playing their third double-header for the year and face a side who averages a nine-point victory at home.
Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence v Bendigo
A sweep of the round would improve the CoE’s 2014 record when they finished 9-5 with the point guard battle between Katie-Rae Ebzery (13.6 points and 3.8 assists) and Wilson (19.7 points and 5.7 assists per game) key. A day in between games should give the home side the advantage against the Lady Braves who will be playing the second night of a back-to-back.