Take an in-depth look at both Preliminary Finals for the SEABL men.
By Grant Richardson
EAST CONFERENCE PRELIMINARY FINAL
Geelong Supercats (16-8) v Dandenong Rangers (15-9), The Geelong Arena, 8.00pm Saturday, August 29
Geelong owned a two-point lead at the last change against Albury-Wodonga in their Semi-Final but a 22-29 fourth term saw them fall by five points. A poor final quarter was also their downfall in Round 15 against Dandenong when they surrendered a nine-point advantage at three-quarter time to lose 78-80.
The Rangers were challenged several times by Ballarat last weekend as a 20-point lead was cut to four mid-way through the final term. Their powerful front court trio of Daequon Montreal, Chuck Long and Lucas Walker proved the difference though, combining for 65 points, 30 rebounds and three blocks to carry Dandenong over the line.
Both sides boast a bevy of talented forwards but the home side should be not concerned when attacking the paint as Dandenong are not a shot-blocking team. They average just two a game and have tallied only one against the Supercats in two previous meetings while Geelong’s Eric Gaff stuffed three shots himself when they clashed in Round 15.
Geelong: Earlier in the season, Nathan Herbert went through a period of four games in which he averaged 20 points at 60% shooting including 14-19 long-range shooting. That run involved a Round 5 thrashing of Dandenong and the veteran is still collecting 16 points at 43% from the field on the season. The Rangers have allowed more three-pointers than any team this year which will whet the appetite of Herbert.
Dandenong: Lucas Walker has recorded double-figure rebound games eight times this season to place him eighth in the league for boards with 9.7 a match. His work on the glass will be crucial against the front-court line-up of the Supercats while his ability all around the court has been on display in their previous meetings with an average of 17.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and five assists.
Key Match ups
Eric Gaff vs. Daequon Montreal
Gaff will own the height advantage in this contest but Montreal is capable at the 5 spot and his athleticism around the rim and outside game makes him a concern for any defender. The Rangers star has scored 25+ in each of his past five games while adding 8.8 rebounds and 1.4 steals while Gaff has held his own in previous battles this season, averaging 13.5, ten boards and two blocks. Montreal is the barometer for Dandenong and seems to save his best performances for the playoffs but Gaff is a seasoned veteran who has played in five straight finals series.
Previous Meetings This Year
Round 5: Round 15:
Dandenong 79 def. by Geelong 101 Geelong 78 def. by Dandenong 80
@ Dandenong @ Geelong
Two perennial playoff contenders will be desperate to reach the Conference Final with Geelong seeking a second straight appearance while Dandenong could reach the mark for the third time in four years. The visitors have a deep roster but rely on Montreal to keep the scoreboard ticking over while the Supercats get a majority of their points from the back court and Kimmani Barrett. That spread should get them over the line but overtime is not out of the question.
Prediction: Geelong by 2
|GEE||Barrett 17.6||Gaff 9.6||Harms 4.4|
|DAN||Montreal 23.9||Walker 9.7||Owusu 3.0|
SOUTH CONFERENCE PRELIMINARY FINAL
Bendigo Braves (16-8) v N-W Tasmania Thunder (13-11), Bendigo Stadium, 7.00pm Saturday, August 29
Bendigo put up a brave fight against the Pioneers in the Semi-Final, taking a lead in the fourth quarter but a 24-3 run to finish the game carried the home side to the victory. After attempting 41 three-pointers in that game, the Braves must utilise their strong inside presence with the likes of Tony Lewis and Michael Vigor.
The Thunder overcame a slow start to beat Kilsyth 86-69 after they trailed by seven points at quarter-time. They hit 12 more free throws than their opposition, shooting at a 90% clip while the front court duo of Garrett Jackson (31 points, 11 rebounds, four assists) and Fred Hunter (26, 13 and three) will give them confidence against Bendigo’s forwards.
An MVP candidate, Tony Lewis is averaging 19.7 points on the season but he has not reached that mark in his past five games as his three-point shot has disappeared. Shooting 32% on the season, he has hit just 3-23 (13%) from beyond the arc in that time. His rebound numbers continue to astound but a more productive output on the scoreboard will be necessary for Bendigo to advance to the Conference Final.
Bendigo: Josh Wilcher can sometimes get overlooked in the Braves’ back-court with veteran Kevin Probert alongside him. The point guard has tallied 100+ SEABL games though and was a worthy contributor in both clashes with N-W Tasmania this season, collecting five points and five assists in Round 13 before recording 13 points on 5-8 shooting the following week. With so many offensive weapons to cover, the Thunder must be wary of not letting a player like Wilcher slip through the defensive cracks.
N-W Tasmania: Containing Kyle Adnam to 15 points on 10 shots last weekend, the tough assignments should continue for Mason Bragg as he looks to limit Grant Johnson on Saturday night. Although known as a shutdown defensive player, Bragg has averaged 18.5 points against Bendigo, making him a concern at both ends of the floor.
Key Match ups
Chris Hogan vs. Fred Hunter
This weekend will mark the 350th game for Hogan, a forward who has reached the finals ten times since debuting in 2002. He will be hoping that veteran experience will serve him well as he battles the talented Hunter, who has averaged a devastating 20.5 points, 7.5 boards, four assists and two steals in their previous clashes while he had arguably his best game of the year last week in the Semi-Final.
Previous Meetings This Year
Round 13: Round 14:
Bendigo 75 def. by N-W Tasmania 85 N-W Tasmania 115 def. Bendigo 73
@ Bendigo @ N-W Tasmania
Not that they need any extra incentive but the Braves will celebrate coach Ben Harvey’s 500th SEABL game as player and coach to coincide with Hogan’s 350th this weekend. Those occasions should make for a hostile environment at Bendigo Stadium as the home side look to contain Jackson and Hunter through the likes of Hogan, Lewis and Jordan Vandenberg. A return to form and a more efficient shooting performance from Lewis will be required for the Braves to get over the line.
Prediction: Bendigo by 4.
|BEN||Lewis 19.7||Lewis 12.3||Probert 4.7|
|NWT||Jackson 21.1||Jackson 9.6||Jackson 3.3|