By Grant Richardson
Mt. Gambier Pioneers (20-4) v Albury-Wodonga Bandits (17-7), Dandenong Stadium, 8.00pm Saturday, September 12
Mt. Gambier fought off Bendigo for the second time in the playoffs last weekend, without losing a quarter. Their depth could be questioned as they had 12 players hit the court (four more than Albury-Wodonga in their Conference Final) but just six scored. They have the most dominant starting five in the competition but do they rely on them too much?
A fourth-quarter charge from Geelong came too late in their clash with Albury-Wodonga as a 14-point lead at the final change proved too much of a margin to overcome. The Bandits drilled 11 three-pointers at 41% with centre Clay McMath proving his range on 5-11 shooting while, not for the first time this season, Deba George was pure on a half-court heave on his way to 3-7 long-range shooting.
With back-to-back Championships, Mt. Gambier could install themselves as one of the greatest SEABL teams of all time but this current crop of players must overcome their 1-1 record in Grand Finals while the Pioneers as a club are 2-3 in Championship games over their 28-year career. The Bandits will compete in just their third Championship game since 1984 but will be keen to maintain their unbeaten record after Grand Final wins in 2001 and 2012 with Matt De Koeyer the only remaining member from that team.
Mt. Gambier: After recording 7+ blocks last weekend for the seventh time this year, Damian Johnson is just three away from cracking the century mark. He collected 15 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks against the Bandits in Round 18 while holding Cory Dixon to 17 points and seven boards. In an athletic battle, expect more than a few highlights offensively from both players but it is at the defensive end where Johnson truly shines.
Albury-Wodonga: Clay McMath shot just 3-11 when these sides last met but was able to knock down two three-pointers and it is his ability to stretch the floor that helps open the lane for the likes of Dixon and Donte Nicholas. His big frame will also be required to contain Tyrone Lee but he must avoid foul trouble after Lee recorded 16 free-throw attempts in Round 18.
Key Match ups
Tom Daly vs. Deba George
After missing their only meeting in the regular season, Daly will need his running shoes on to keep up with George who averages 3.3 more points and half an assist more per game. Daly is economical with his shot selection though, hitting 50% from the field on the season and his less flashy style of play cannot be underestimated. With momentum playing such a big factor on Saturday night, both point guards will be pitted in a tough battle to maintain the tempo throughout the game.
Previous Meetings This Year
Albury-Wodonga 91 def. Mt. Gambier 88
With athletic front courts, speedy back courts and solid field goal shooters on both teams, the SEABL Grand Final is set to be a thrilling and fast-paced contest. The Bandits will need to find their three-point range quickly as they will not let up from beyond the arc all match. Although the Pioneers starting five will have to play a majority of the game, they are talented enough to get the job done with the defence of Johnson and Lee the deciding factor as they look to limit Dixon, Nicholas and McMath inside.
Prediction: Mt. Gambier by 4.
|MTG||Hill 17.8||Johnson 9.4||Daly 3.4|
|ALB||Dixon 20.9||Dixon 11.2||George 3.4|