SEABL Men- Finals Week 1

SEABL Men- Finals Week 1

Take an in-depth look at all four Semi's in Week 1 of the SEABL men's finals.

By Grant Richardson

EAST CONFERENCE SEMI-FINAL 1

Albury-Wodonga Bandits (20-4) v Geelong Supercats (16-8), Lauren Jackson Sports Centre, 7.30pm Saturday, August 22

Form

The Bandits had to wait until the second last round to wrap up top spot but it never truly looked in doubt as they won their final seven games for the season. They are 11-1 at home in 2015 but will not want to venture on the road if necessary where their record drops to 6-6. They are also slightly vulnerable against the East Conference with losses to Geelong and Dandenong this year.

A sweep of Round 18 was a strong lead-in to the playoffs for the Supercats and a win the previous week in Mt. Gambier will have also been a confidence booster. Heading to Albury-Wodonga should also hold no fears for them as they own an 8-4 road record.

Key Stat

A strong indicator of the victor in this clash will be the offensive rebound count as Geelong are the best in that department, averaging 15 a game to Albury-Wodonga’s 12. When the Bandits won in Round 9 they finished +9 in offensive boards but had five less when they fell in Round 3.

X-Factor

Albury-Wodonga: Having lost his back court partner in Daniel Sepokas recently, Deba George will have to take more of the scoring load throughout the playoffs. He has fitted in nicely to the Bandits chemistry to average 17 points after collecting just 10.5 a game through the first three rounds but when he scores 20+, Albury-Wodonga are 7-1.

Geelong: The tallest man on the court on Saturday night, Eric Gaff will have a job in keeping Cory Dixon off the glass while also battling the 200cm frame of Claybrin McMath. The centre recorded a double-double in Geelong’s Round 3 victory but was held to just four points and one rebound in 25 minutes in Round 8. His presence in the paint is often enough to worry opposition sides but he must control the boards as well.

Key Match ups

Donte Nicholas vs. Kimmani Barrett

After suffering a knee injury in 2012 and missing Geelong’s finals campaign, Kimmani Barrett has returned this year with unfinished business. That task truly starts now but he will have his hands full against Nicholas who leads the league in steals with three a game. The Bandits’ swingman is not a prominent scorer but he has held his own against Barrett, averaging 12.5 points and 7.5 rebounds compared to 20 and six in their two clashes.

Previous Meetings This Year

Round 3:                                                                               Round 9:
Geelong 96 def. Albury-Wodonga 87                            Albury-Wodonga 85 def. Geelong 74
@ Geelong                                                                           @ Albury-Wodonga

Overall:

The veteran experience of Gaff, Nathan Herbert, Nick Owusu and Jamie Medved among others will serve Geelong well as they enter an 18th straight playoff appearance but handing the Bandits their second loss at home will not be easy. It is likely to be a high scoring affair which will suit Albury-Wodonga as they have three players averaging 17+ points a game.

Prediction: Albury-Wodonga by 6.

 

 Leaders Points Rebounds Assists
ALB Dixon 21.0 Dixon 11.0 George 4.0
GEE Barrett 18.1 Gaff 9.5 Owusu 3.1

 

EAST CONFERENCE SEMI-FINAL 2

Dandenong Rangers (15-9) v Ballarat Miners (13-11), Dandenong Stadium, 7.30pm Saturday, August 22

Form

Dandenong finished off the regular season strongly with two victories but the last time they faced a finalist was in Round 16 when they fell to the Miners. They have struggled for consistency for most of the year but on their day, they can beat anyone with a stacked front court and a mix of veteran experience and exuberant youth in the back court.

On paper, Ballarat should never have missed the playoffs this year and thanks to a five-game winning streak to end the season, they snuck into fourth spot. A 16-point defeat of Nunawading in Round 17 truly turned around their fortunes and a month of must-win games will have prepared them well for this elimination final.

Key Stat

The Miners could feast from beyond the arc against Dandenong as they hit more three-pointers than any team in the league while the Rangers give up the most. Roy Booker is the main culprit, having hit 17 more three’s than any other player and in the Miners’ Round 16 victory, they hit 16-31 at 52% as a team while out-scoring the hosts by 30 from long range.

X-Factor

Dandenong: Daequon Montreal sits second in the competition with 23.6 points a game but Ballarat seem to have figured him out, holding him to his two lowest totals of the season with just 14 points in Round 7 and 11 in Round 16. He has been on a tear recently though, averaging 31, 8.8 boards and a block in his past four games.

Ballarat: Competing for New Zealand in the Oceania Championship in the past week, Everard Bartlett scored 13 points in Game 2 on 3-6 long-range shooting. He has been a consistent performer for Ballarat all year, sitting second in the league for assists with 6.1 and if he can return in time to face Dandenong, the hosts will have a headache in the back court.

Key Match ups

Andrew Harms vs. Roy Booker

Harms has seen his fair share of point guards in his 250+ game career but few would be as explosive and dangerous at the offensive end like Booker. The Dandenong veteran missed Round 7 and was unable to contain Booker in Round 16 as the Miners’ star recorded 35 and five assists. He has been prone to turnovers though with 21 total errors in the two games and Harms must convert those turnovers into points to give the Rangers a chance.

Previous Meetings This Year

Round 7:                                                                               Round 16:
Ballarat 90 def. by Dandenong 101                              Dandenong 80 def. by Ballarat 97
@ Ballarat                                                                            @ Dandenong

Overall:

Almost impossible to separate, Ballarat’s back court combination of Booker and Bartlett should be balanced by Dandenong’s stacked front court consisting of Montreal, Lucas Walker and Chuck Long. If Booker gets hot, there is nobody who can stop him though and the Miners’ are likely to live and die by their ability to knock down the three-ball.

Prediction: Ballarat by 2.

 

 Leaders Points Rebounds Assists
DAN Montreal 23.6 Walker 9.6 Harms 4.4
BLM Booker 25.1 Thondique 9.6 Bartlett 6.1

SOUTH CONFERENCE SEMI-FINAL 1

Mt. Gambier Pioneers (20-4) v Bendigo Braves (16-8), Bern Bruning Stadium, 8.00pm Friday, August 21

Form

Not too much should be read into the Pioneers losing two of their last three games of the season as they had sewn up top spot weeks ago after winning 17 straight. They are undefeated against South Conference rivals and have an average winning margin of 20 points at The Ice House.

Deserving of the double-chance, Bendigo won their final six games of the regular season including a clutch Round 16 victory over the Cobras in Kilsyth. They have been unsuccessful in both clashes with the Pioneers in the regular season though.

Key Stat

The Pioneers arguably own the best offence in the league, shooting an equal-best 46% from the field while recording an equal-best 87.1 points per game with five players averaging 13+ points. However, they shoot just 64% from the free-throw line, the third worst mark in the competition which is an area Bendigo could look to exploit on Friday night.

X-Factor

Mt. Gambier: Among a plethora of stars, Erik Burdon continues to go about his business as one of the deadliest shooters in the league. Averaging 14 points a game, he is hitting 43% of his long range attempts while making the second most amount in the competition (74). His ability to stretch the floor also helps the likes of Damian Johnson and Tyrone Lee to go to work under the rim as defenders must honour him beyond the arc.

Bendigo: In his debut season, Grant Johnson has kept Bendigo’s scoreboard ticking over despite taking a couple of games to adjust to the SEABL rims. He averaged 20 points in his first two games but shot at just 30% which he has now improved to 43%.  Johnson has been especially efficient against the Pioneers, averaging 18.5 at 70% while nailing three of his 20 three-pointers for the season in those two games.

Key Match ups

Damian Johnson vs. Tony Lewis

Defining himself as the best defender in the competition, Damian Johnson has 24 more blocks than any other player while also sitting second in steals. He will have his hands full in the front court against Tony Lewis though who is staking his claim for back-to-back MVP’s with 20 points and a league best 12.4 rebounds per game. Second chance points will also be an interesting statistic to watch as both players sit in the top five for offensive boards.

Previous Meetings This Year

Round 7:                                                                               Round 11:
Bendigo 86 def. by Mt. Gambier 87                              Mt. Gambier 86 def. Bendigo 72
@ Bendigo                                                                           @ Mt. Gambier

Overall:

Although they had wrapped up top spot, coach Richard Hill would be wary of recent losses derailing Mt. Gambier’s momentum. They had not lost at home in almost four months before Geelong pipped them by a point in Round 18 but the Ice House remains a fortress and their variety of scorers should prove too much for Bendigo who will need big games out of Lewis and Grant Johnson.

Prediction: Mt. Gambier by 4

 

 Leaders Points Rebounds Assists
MTG Hill 17.5 Johnson 9.3 Probert 4.8
BEN Lewis 20.0 Lewis 12.4 Daly 3.5

 

SOUTH CONFERENCE SEMI-FINAL 2

N-W Tasmania Thunder (13-11) v Kilsyth Cobras (10-14), Ulverstone Schweppes Arena, 7.30pm Saturday, August 22

Form

Third spot had been secured well before the end of the season for the Thunder but they still would have been unhappy to drop three of their final five games. Their defence is the problem, as they give up more points than any other South Conference finalist although they do average seven more points than Kilsyth at the offensive end.

Owning the head-to-head advantage over Hobart proved critical for the Cobras after the two sides finished on the same record. Two losses in Round 18 to Geelong and Ballarat proved their vulnerability but they are 2-0 against N-W Tasmania this season including an 11-point win in Tasmania just a fortnight ago.

Key Stat

Averaging 83.6 points per game on the year, the Thunder have managed scores of just 62 and 78 against the Cobras. Their woes deepen at the defensive end though as Kilsyth have shot 57% and 58% while out-scoring them by a total of 48 points from beyond the arc across the two games.

X-Factor

N-W Tasmania: Coming in for Monzaigo Williams mid-season, Garrett Jackson made an immediate impression, winning Player of the Week awards in Rounds 10 and 11. He sits fourth in the league and leads the Thunder for scoring at 20.4 points a game to go with 9.5 rebounds and 3.2 assists. He helped his side to win the rebound count in Round 17 after they were smashed on the boards in Round 7 in his absence.

Kilsyth: Nearing 200 SEABL games, Tim Lang remains remarkably consistent with 15.7 points and seven rebounds per game. His big frame has helped the Cobras dominate in the front court against N-W Tasmania, improving to 20.5 and seven while shooting 52%. His improved three-point shot has also been on display against the Thunder, pulling the likes of Nathan Wilson and Fred Hunter away from the basket on 4-9 long range shooting.

Key Match ups

Mason Bragg vs. Kyle Adnam

Although not listed as a true point guard, Bragg has the speed to keep up with Adnam and should have the defensive assignment most of the night. With many other scoring options for the Thunder, Bragg can focus solely on defence and maintaining Adnam, who exploded for 34 points, seven rebounds and four assists in Round 17.

Previous Meetings This Year

Round 7:                                                                               Round 17:
Kilsyth 87 def. N-W Tasmania 62                                  N-W Tasmania 78 def. by Kilsyth 89
@ Kilsyth                                                                              @ N-W Tasmania

Overall:

Having played several consecutive elimination-type games in the last few weeks, Kilsyth should be mentally prepared for this actual elimination final and confident after taking care of the Thunder a fortnight ago. After making the Preliminary Final in 2014, N-W Tasmania cannot call this season a success without at least one playoff win but Adnam looms as the main obstacle.

Prediction: N-W Tasmania by 4.

 

 Leaders Points Rebounds Assists
NWT Jackson 20.4 Jackson 9.5 Jackson 3.2
KIL Adnam 17.6 Macmillan 8.5 Adnam 3.9