ONLY two rounds remain in the Melbourne United Victorian Junior Basketball League (MUVJBL) Under-16 Boys Championship Division with finals still available for all 10 teams. With the top-four all vying for a home-final, the contest between the Eltham Wildcats and Keilor Thunder has potential to better the winner’s chances next fortnight. The Dandenong Rangers’ match-up with Bulleen Boomers presents similar gain – with both contests likely indicating how prepared each side is for finals.
Eltham Wildcats (2nd, 13-3) vs Keilor Thunder (3rd, 12-4)
The match-up between the Eltham Wildcats and Keilor Thunder at Eltham High could set the winner up for a home final next fortnight. Both sides have boasted a good deal of success in the Championship Division, with Eltham picking up their fourth consecutive win over Dandenong last round, as Keilor re-joined the winner’s list against the Latrobe Energy. Dandenong challenged the Wildcats more than most but failed to match at the boards – conceding the first and second highest scoring terms. Bradley Moorey and Harrison Stones were Eltham’s biggest utilities, scoring 14 and 12 points respectively. Top-scorer, Kristian Ferronato (eight) lacked his usual impact but remains in ninth for league-scoring. Comparatively, Keilor boasted one of their easiest match-ups yet, beating Latrobe 78-53 with an impressive 31-point final term. Nikolas Ellul (14), Xavier Maye (12) and Brodie McWhinney (12) combined well on the scoreboard – with McWhinney moving to 10th for league-scoring. Despite missing the top-end, Cooper Colson’s nine-points moved him to fifteenth for points per game (PPG).
Dandenong Rangers (6th, 10-6) vs Bulleen Boomers (1st, 13-3)
Dandenong Rangers present a chance to join the top-four this week when they host Bulleen Boomers. Last week, the Rangers competed well against the Wildcats – losing 50-45 after recording four consecutive wins, while the Boomers recorded their third win in a row, this time over the Geelong Supercats (82-67). Jerome Pierre was at his usual best for Dandenong, recording 18 points in the loss to move to sixth in the league for PPG. Beau Tranter holds in eleventh spot following his nine-point performance, averaging 13.3 PPG. The Boomers recorded three terms over 20 points in their win, with Marcel Haj absolutely dominating the floor with 34 points. Haj moves to third for points (125) across the league and fifth for PPG with a 17.9 average. Joe Foxwell also proved himself in the contest, scoring 16 points. This week, Dandenong will put their impressive 6-1-0 home record to the test against the best in the league, with Pierre and Haj both in top form.
Pakenham Warriors (13th, 7-8-1) vs Bendigo Braves (9th, 9-7)
Pakenham Warriors host Bendigo Braves this week, with both sides desperately needing a win to stay in touch for finals. Last week, both sides returned to the winner’s list. Pakenham impressed at home against the fourth placed, Knox Raiders, defeating the top-end side 65-61, while the Bendigo Braves took a similarly big scalp over the Waverley Falcons (70-77), exposing Waverley’s weak record at home (2-5-0). In their match-up with Knox, Pakenham opened both halves (11-17, 15-18) weaker than their visitors, though took control when it mattered to close out with the win (19-10, 20-16). Jarrod Small led on the scoreboard for the Warriors with 17 points, followed next by Kobe Wilson on 12. Kayne Taylor still sits as Pakenham’s only player within the top 20 for PPG, averaging 11.7 from seven outings despite recording five against Knox. Bendigo will look to Macey Eaton (14) and Jett Vandenberg (13) to continue their form from last week, with Eaton having a 12.8 PPG average – remaining Bendigo’s only player within the top 20.
Knox Raiders (4th, 10-6) vs Geelong Supercats (8th, 9-6-1)
Knox Raiders will be desperate to return to the winner’s list this round when they host a struggling Geelong Supercats. The Raiders pulled up short against Pakenham (65-61) last week – conceding 20 points in the final term after taking a 45-45 tie into the closer. Similarly, Geelong suffered a loss to Bulleen on their way to their second defeat in a fortnight. Their success in recent weeks does not bode well as they face their third top four side in a month. In the Raiders’ match, Jordan Anderson and Lachlan Heron impressed with 20 and 15 points respectively. Anderson retains the top spot for PPG (22) and overall points (154), while Zachary Greeves moves to 17th following a nine-point performance. Koby Tranys emerged for the Supercats with 20 points, while Olivier Northam recorded one of the league’s best games with 31. Northam moves to second spot for overall points and third for PPG as he comes up against his top-end rival in Anderson.
Waverley Falcons (5th, 10-6) vs Latrobe Energy (12th, 8-8)
Latrobe Energy hope to keep their finals’ chances alive this week when they travel to Waverley to face the Falcons. Last week, the Falcons faced a surprising loss against the bottom-end, Bendigo Braves. Despite winning their second half with consecutive 18-point terms, the Braves’ dominance in the first (16-24, 18-22) was too much for the Falcons. For Latrobe, success has been hard to find. They suffered their third consecutive loss at the hands of the Keilor Thunder last round, moving to 12th – one spot out of finals. In Waverley’s match-up, David Amum delivered with 25 points, followed next by Tesloch Thong on 14. The pair both boast spots within the top-20 for PPG, with Amum in seventh and Thong in thirteenth. Matt Jefferson also rounds out the top-20 with 10.2 PPG. For Latrobe, Kody Tibballs (21) and Coby Burgiel (17) delivered on the board last week, with Tibballs moving to twelfth for PPG and Burgiel to second. Jack Hrehoresen also boasts fourth spot with 19.5 PPG, but has only played four games in the Championship Division.