Mt. Gambier Pioneers and Bendigo Braves go head-to-head in our game of the week, plus we preview every match.
By Grant Richardson
Game of The Week – Mt. Gambier v Bendigo
Friday 26th June- 8:00pm @ Bern Bruning Basketball Stadium
The South Conference’s top two teams face off as the Bendigo Braves, on a three-game winning streak, attempt to stop the rampaging Mt. Gambier Pioneers who have won ten straight with their last loss coming on May 5.
Mt. Gambier was clinical in Round 10, breezing past the East’s top side in Geelong with a 94-73 victory after leading by 30 points at three-quarter time. They then used a 47-28 second half to defeat Ballarat the following day.
Damian Johnson was simply unstoppable, averaging 15 points, 10 rebounds (five offensive), five assists and an outstanding 7.5 blocks across the two games. He now has more than double the amount of blocks (62) than any other player in the league. Tyrone Lee added 18 points and 10 boards per game over the weekend while Tom Daly, Erik Burdon and Brad Hill all averaged over double-figures.
Bendigo took care of Frankston 92-74 while winning the rebound battle 49-34 and grabbing 20 offensive rebounds. Tony Lewis (26 points, ten rebounds) had his 11th double-double of the season and was complimented by Chris Hogan (13 points) and Grant Johnson (11).
When these sides met in Round 7, Mt. Gambier survived a nail-biter to win by a point. The battle between Damian Johnson (17 points, 11 rebounds), Lee (12 points) and Lewis (23 and 16) was enthralling, with the Bendigo power forward also stretching the floor on 4-5 three-point shooting. His ability to recreate that performance will be integral to the outcome of this match as will be the efficiency of Grant Johnson and Hill.
In their best shape of the year, the Braves must keep winning as they only sit two wins above fifth place in the South Conference. A victory here would certainly force the competition to take notice of them but the Pioneers are undefeated against South Conference rivals and own an average winning margin of 20 points at home.
Prediction: Mt. Gambier by 6
Friday 26th June –
Hobart v Canberra
Although five players reached double-figures, the Gunners fell just short of Kilsyth last weekend while another grind-it-out performance from Hobart was not enough to overcome Albury-Wodonga as they lost 55-62. The Chargers will be buoyed by their two-point win over the visitors just a fortnight ago but they cannot afford to lose the rebound battle by 24 again or give up 18 offensive boards.
Saturday 27th June –
Geelong v Nunawading
This East Conference showdown is sure to have ramifications with just a loss separating second placed Geelong from third placed Nunawading. With head-to-head results in mind, the Supercats will be looking to overcome their 11-point loss to the Spectres from Round 6 when Simon Conn collected 28 points and 17 rebounds. He will not play this weekend but his replacement, Adam Ballinger, had 17 points on debut last round and could have a game-defining battle with Eric Gaff.
N-W Tasmania v Canberra
In danger of falling out of the South Conference top four, the Thunder snapped a four-game losing streak with an eight-point defeat of the Bandits last weekend. In a Round 3 match-up, Fred Hunter (21 points, 12 rebounds) countered Nnaebuka Anyaorah (26 and 16) as N-W Tasmania used a 28-17 final term to win by a point. With just one victory from their past six games, Canberra’s finals hopes will begin to dwindle if they cannot at least split their Tassie road trip.
Frankston v Sandringham
After 297 games with Frankston, Mitch Chapman made the move to Sandringham this season and finally gets a chance to face his old side. Three wins from their past four matches have carried the Sabres into the South Conference top four while the Blues are languishing at the bottom of the ladder with seven consecutive losses. A 5-2 road record for the visitors does not bode well for the Blues who are winless at home since mid-May.
Kilsyth v Albury-Wodonga
Amazingly, Albury-Wodonga sit on top of the ladder despite the second worst road record in the South Conference. They were unconvincing on their Tassie road trip and have won only two of their last four but the Cobras have not fared any better in the same amount of time. Giving up 37% from beyond the arc, the Bandits could be vulnerable as Kilsyth is the third best three-point shooting team in the league.
Ballarat v Brisbane
In a Round 2 meeting, Brisbane were 3-point victors on the back of a 28-17 fourth quarter with Izzy Tueta’s 19 points a team high. They allow the lowest shooting percentage in the competition at 39% while Ballarat is the best shooting team at 47%. Although the Miners are 3-3 at home, they will look to exploit the Spartans’ winless road record as both teams try to stay in touch with the South Conference finalists.
Sunday 28th June –
Dandenong v Albury-Wodonga
A very important round in the context of Albury-Wodonga’s season, a sweep could see them gain a healthy advantage of top of the East Conference while two losses could drop them to fourth. A win for Dandenong could move them into second but they will also be wary of the margin after losing by five to the Bandits earlier this year. The Rangers’ forwards in Daequon Montreal and Chuck Long combined for 52 points and 15 rebounds in that clash but were unable to slow down Cory Dixon who amassed 14 points, 13 boards, five assists, two blocks and two steals.
Nunawading v Brisbane
Both teams will have similar travel time from their matches the night before but Nunawading cannot rely on the home court advantage as they are 3-3 at the Graveyard this season. In their Round 5 meeting, the Spectres were four-point victors in a high scoring affair in which both sides shot over 49%. It will be up to Izzy Tueta to slow down Shane McDonald, who set up that win with 18 points and 12 assists.