EAST CONFERENCE FINAL
Albury-Wodonga Bandits (17-7) v Geelong Supercats (16-8), Lauren Jackson Sports Centre, 7.30pm Saturday, September 5
A 9-22 slip-up in the third quarter against Geelong in the Semi-Final is a concern for the Bandits but they fought back with a 29-22 fourth term to win by five. They outscored their opposition by 15 points from the three-point line and six from the free-throw line.
Geelong was never threatened by Dandenong in their Preliminary Final after 32-16 opening quarter in which they shot 63% from the field. Led by a double-double from Eric Gaff (11 points, 18 rebounds), five Supercats players reached double figures while three scored 20+ in a consummate team performance. They have lost both clashes this season in Albury-Wodonga though.
Albury-Wodonga has taken full advantage of their league-best home record (12-1), having played their past five matches at home to help them to a current eight-game winning streak. The last time they fell at the Lauren Jackson Sports Centre was almost two months ago and they will be looking to give their fans a fond farewell with next week’s Championship game to be held in Dandenong.
Albury-Wodonga: Donte Nicholas can be a menace at the offensive end, going off for 20 points in his side’s first meeting with Geelong while averaging eight free-throw attempts per contest overall. His defensive pressure is his most valuable asset though and his ability to shut down the likes of Kimmani Barrett and Nathan Herbert will be key to the Bandits’ chances. As the league’s leader in steals, he has tallied seven against the Supercats this season.
Geelong: Point guard Nick Owusu will be playing in an incredible ninth Conference Final this weekend. He has a 6-2 record since 2004 although he has lost his past two in 2012 and 2014. Averaging 13 points on the season, his numbers have improved to 19.5 in the playoffs as his veteran experience continues to shine through just before his 31st birthday.
Key Match ups
Claybrin McMath v Eric Gaff
In a similar vein to Owusu, Gaff looks to have saved his best for the playoffs with two straight double-doubles at an average of 14 points and 15.5 rebounds compared to his season average of 9.2 and ten. He shot 8-11 from the field in the Semi-Final while holding McMath to six and eight. The week’s rest will aid the Bandits centre but Gaff’s experience gives him the advantage in the battle of the paint.
Previous Meetings This Year
Round 3: Round 9: Semi-Final:
Geelong 96 def. Albury-Wodonga 87 A-W 85 def. Geelong 74 A-W 88 def. Geelong 83
@ Geelong @ Albury-Wodonga @ Albury-Wodonga
With an average winning margin of 11 points and a 12-1 record at home in 2015, the Bandits are a scary team on their own floor. They had no trouble compensating for the loss of Sepokas a fortnight ago, surpassing their season average with 88 points on 45% shooting but a team performance will be required again to cover Geelong’s array of scoring options. The perimeter defence of Nicholas and McMath’s battle under the rim with Gaff will be key areas to watch in the home side’s quest for a return to the Grand Final.
Prediction: Albury-Wodonga by 2.
|ALB||Dixon 21.2||Dixon 11.1||George 4.0|
|GEE||Barrett 17.8||Gaff 10.0||Owusu 3.0|
SOUTH CONFERENCE FINAL
Mt. Gambier Pioneers (20-4) v Bendigo Braves (16-8), Bern Bruning Basketball Stadium, 8.00pm Saturday, September 5
Mt. Gambier continued their hot form at home, moving to an 11-2 record with a 17-point defeat of Bendigo in the Semi-Final. Trailing by four points in the final term, they exploded on a 24-3 run to finish the game with Brad Hill’s double-double of 23 points and ten rebounds leading five players in double-figure scoring.
Behind some clutch shooting from Tony Lewis (26 points, 11 rebounds) and Kevin Probert (11 points, seven rebounds, seven assists), the Braves took care of the Thunder by ten points last weekend after a 24-15 final quarter. They have been in every contest late against the Pioneers this season, trailing by two points at three-quarter time in Round 7, nine points in Round 11 and leading in the final term a fortnight ago.
A trigger-happy team, Bendigo has attempted an average of 29 three-pointers in their three games against Mt. Gambier, compared to the Pioneers’ 23. The Braves must look to go inside or be more efficient as they have only managed to out-score their opponents by 15 points from beyond the arc in total.
Mt. Gambier: As evidenced by his match-winning performance in the Semi-Final, Brad Hill can be a difficult match-up for opposing teams with his combination of speed in the open court and wily frame that allows him to crash the boards. He has averaged a highly impressive 19.6 points, six rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.7 steals against Bendigo this year.
Bendigo: Tony Lewis scored just 12 points in the Semi-Final but bounced back the following week with 26 as Bendigo defeated N-W Tasmania. 25 looks to be the benchmark for the power forward as the Braves have a 7-1 record when he passes that mark compared to a 9-7 record when he doesn’t.
Key Match ups
Tyrone Lee vs. Michael Vigor
Although the likes of Jordan Vandenberg may be rotated through him at the defensive end, Vigor will provide Lee with the most to think about at the other end of the floor. He has reached double-figures in all three clashes against Mt. Gambier but Lee’s 13 points, eight rebounds, three steals and two blocks in the Semi-Final was another complete game from one of the league’s most consistent performers.
Previous Meetings This Year
Round 7: Round 11: Semi-Final:
Bendigo 86 def. by Mt. Gambier 87 Mt. Gambier 86 def. Bendigo 72 Mt. Gambier 83 def. Bendigo 66
@ Bendigo @ Mt. Gambier @ Mt. Gambier
Bendigo will be confident they can cause the upset if they play the full 40 minutes but the Semi-Final was proof that a five minute lapse is all the Pioneers need to pounce. An improved performance from Lewis will severely help the Braves’ chances but the home court advantage and defensive capabilities of Mt. Gambier make them too difficult to tip against.
Prediction: Mt. Gambier by 4.
|MTG||Hill 17.8||Johnson 9.2||Daly 3.5|
|BEN||Lewis 20.0||Lewis 12.2||Probert 4.8|