Mt. Gambier Pioneers and N-W Tasmania Thunder 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 N-W Tasmania
Friday 31st July- 8:00pm @ Bern Bruning Basketball Stadium
Meeting for the second time in six days, Mt. Gambier Pioneers will be looking to record an unbelievable 17th straight victory while N-W Tasmania Thunder must arrest a slight form slump which has seen them win just two of their last five games.
The Pioneers swept the Tasmanian road trip in Round 15, beating Hobart by 35 before overcoming the Thunder in overtime by three the following night.
Trailing by six points at three-quarter time, Mt. Gambier intensified its defensive pressure and won the fourth term 14-8 before holding N-W Tasmania to 2-7 shooting in the extra period, allowing just 12 points in the final 15 minutes.
The loss dropped the Thunder to third in the South Conference, a game behind Bendigo with four matches remaining in their season.
After last week’s defeat, they have now lost eight of their past ten matches against Mt. Gambier, with their last victory coming on May 23, 2014.
Against his old club, Tyrone Lee recorded 15 points and 12 rebounds (six offensive) for Mt. Gambier while Damian Johnson had 14 and 11. The Thunder won the rebound battle by 13 though and Nathan Wilson (21 and 12), Garrett Jackson (21 and 11) and Fred Hunter (13 and 11) will need to recreate their domination on the glass if N-W Tasmania are to reverse last week’s decision.
As it is, the Pioneers look simply unstoppable at the moment with an average 22-point winning margin at home in 2015.
Prediction: Mt. Gambier by 6
Saturday 1st August –
Sandringham v Hobart
A playoff position is most likely on the line in this clash as the loser will fall to sixth while both teams have a poor head-to-head record against fourth placed Kilsyth. Hobart has dropped three straight and has been no match for current finalists in Nunawading, Bendigo and Mt. Gambier. Sandringham put up a fight against Albury-Wodonga last round but is vulnerable at home where they are just 3-7 and will be without Junior Hairston for the rest of the year.
Brisbane v Canberra
After falling by three points to Canberra in Round 12, Brisbane need to win and cover that margin in order to get off the bottom of the East Conference. They were very impressive against Kilsyth last weekend while the Gunners dropped their third consecutive game but doubles-doubles to Nnaebuka Anyaorah (23 points, 11 rebounds) and Ben Allen (19 and 10) in these side’s last meeting will give them confidence.
Nunawading v N-W Tasmania
With Simon Conn (20 points, 11 rebounds) back in the line-up, Nunawading destroyed Canberra by 39 points as Matt O-Hea (21 points on 7-9 three-point shooting) and Shane McDonald (18 points, nine assists) also starred. They will provide a tough contest for the Thunder on the second night of a back-to-back with a top-two spot in the East Conference still available for the Spectres.
Kilsyth v Bendigo
On the back of two straight losses, Kilsyth remain in a dog-fight for a finals spot in the South Conference but the good news is they have not dropped out of the top four despite the defeats. With a win over the Gunners, Bendigo grabbed second place and will like their chances to retain the position after beating the Cobras by nine in Round 5 on the back of a 20-8 final term.
Albury-Wodonga v Frankston
A monster game from Cory Dixon (33 points, 21 rebounds, two blocks, two steals) just a fortnight ago carried Albury-Wodonga over the line against Frankston despite the Blues leading by a point at three-quarter time. Eric Williams had 30 points himself in that contest but a four-quarter performance from his team will be required as the Bandits look to secure top spot in the East.
Ballarat v Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence
Playing in SEABL for the first time since June 12, the CoE will have a different looking line-up with recent additions Mate Colina, Andrew Ferguson and Angus Glover expected to hit the court. Ballarat split Round 15 and still need to make up three games with only four remaining in the regular season.
Sunday 2nd July –
Bendigo v Hobart
This is another chance for the Braves to shape the South Conference top four with both sides on the second game of a back-to-back. Bendigo shot 50% and used a 26-9 final term to defeat Hobart by 22 points just over a fortnight ago, which was the Chargers’ equal biggest defeat of the season. Tom Wright will need another strong performance if the visitors are to win after he had game-highs of 21 points and 7 rebounds in that meeting.
Dandenong v Ballarat
Due to national commitments with New Zealand, Everard Bartlett will be absent for both Ballarat games this weekend, making a clash with Dandenong on the second night of a double-header even more difficult. The Rangers have won three straight to put themselves back in contention for a top two finish in the East Conference and will buoyed by their 11-point win over the Miners from Round 7 when they forced 25 turnovers.
Geelong v Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence
Falling to Dandenong by two points last weekend has kept the Supercats on the same record as the Rangers but their advantage in the head-to-head battle could serve them well as they maintain second spot. They play just one of their final three games of the regular season at home though so must make the most of this weekend as the CoE play their first back-to-back since May.