IN Round 5 of the Melbourne United Victorian Junior Basketball League (MUVJBL) Under-16 Girls Championship Division, three teams pressure for the top spot in the top-four. Third placed, Bulleen Boomers, face the lowest ranked side this week in the Knox Raiders, while the Diamond Valley Eagles hope to maintain second spot with a win over the Ballarat Rush. Though the game of the round will likely be Keilor Thunder verse Dandenong Rangers – both teams in the top-four in need of a win to hold their standing.
Keilor Thunder (4th, 10-3) vs Dandenong Rangers (1st, 12-1)
Keilor Thunder have a big task ahead when they face Dandenong Rangers at home this week. The Rangers are yet to record a loss on the road as they sit on seven consecutive wins at the top of the table. The Thunder have done well so far in the Championship Division, taking scalps from the other two teams within the top-four in Bulleen (51-46) and Diamond Valley (41-56). If the Rangers continue their streak, they enter Round 6 against a bottom-end side in Knox and will likely extend as a result. This game will undoubtedly be the match of the round, especially with the league’s two scorers going head to head. Keilor’s, Tess Heal, has been in perfect form in the Championship Division, recording a league-high 19 PPG from four outings. With one less game under her belt, Nyadiew Puoch has also impressed for the Rangers, holding second spot with 16 PPG. The match-up gets more exciting with Bella Peterson (13.7) in fifth spot combining with Heal for the Thunder. Also rounding out the top 10, we have Myah Healey (13.3) and Dallas Loughridge (13.3) set to tear up the floor for the Rangers. This game has more than scoring weapons than any other, and will undoubtedly be an outstanding contest.
Ballarat Rush (7th, 8-5) vs Diamond Valley Eagles (2nd, 10-3)
Diamond Valley Eagles travel to Ballarat this week where they face the Rush in a must-win match-up. Both sides suffered losses last week to top-four teams, but fortunately still hold their spots within the eight. In Round 3, Ballarat impressed when they stole a win against an in-form Thunder. So far, they hold two wins and two losses in the new division, much the same of the Eagles (2-2) who have slowly lost touch with Dandenong. Ballarat’s Milly Simpson is expected to impress, having averaged 11.3 PPG in 11th spot for league scoring. She will look to go head-to-head with Diamond Valley’s lead scorer, Eleanor Bollands, who boasts sixth spot with 13.3. Unlike Simpson, Bollands has a teammate to assist within the top 20 in Aseka Ratnayake (9.7) who has proved damaging across her three games. Ballarat have Rosie Todd (9.3) and Georgia Cox (8.3) to assist Simpson on the board, sitting twenty-second and twenty-third for league scoring.
Nunawading Spectres (6th, 8-5) vs Melbourne Tigers (8th, 7-6)
Nunawading Spectres host Melbourne Tigers in a big top-eight clash. The Spectres have been an interesting team to watch this season, recording a low 1-4 record at home alongside a 7-1 tally on the road. As they come up against the Tigers this week, their worth at home will be tested as they risk slipping from the top-eight. Melbourne need this win to stay in touch, sitting a win below seventh and a win above four teams outside. Fortunately for the Tigers, Nunawading do not have a player averaging more than 10 PPG. Evelyn Curtis (9.5) leads scoring for the Spectres in nineteenth spot, followed by Olivia Morris (9.5) in 20th. For the Tigers, Leila Davis has been a standout, averaging 11.7 PPG in 10th for league scoring. Amy Kurkowski has also shown solid form, presenting with 11 PPG – both beyond their Spectres opponents.
Hawthorn Magic (10th, 6-7) vs Sandringham Sabres (5th, 9-4)
The Sandringham Sabres travel to Hawthorn where they face the Magic for a chance to stay in touch with the top-four. Over the last month, the Sabres have dipped in form losing two consecutive to Diamond Valley (56-59) and Nunawading Spectres (43-64) and now risk slipping further down the table. In 10th, the Magic have a big job ahead if they plan to penetrate the standings. Their work at home has been poor, having won two from five outings. When compared with Sandringham’s work on the road (5-1-0), it seems unlikely that they will lift. Though Ally Marshall has been in top form for the Magic since joining the Championship Division, sitting third for league scoring with a 16-point average. Her teammate, Amy Ohara, has also put together a decent run with 11 PPG from her four matches. For the Sabres, Hannah Wickstrom has been a player to watch, averaging 15.7 PPG below Marshall in fourth. The match-up between these two looks to be one of the best of the round, with Summer Keating also on the rise with 10 PPG from two games.
Knox Raiders (14th, 5-7-1) vs Bulleen Boomers (3rd, 10-2-1)
Of the top three, Bulleen Boomers have drawn this easiest fixture this week as they face Knox Raiders on the road. The Raiders are still without a win in the Championship Division post-split, with the Boomers having gone two from four – losing two consecutive in the opening rounds. After following their failings with two wins over the last month, the Boomers will look to continue their streak with another to stay in touch in the top-four. Gemma O’Donnell leads scoring for Knox with 10 PPG from three outings. She is unaccompanied in the top 20 but has Jaida Reid (7.7) and Kaitlyn Scott (7.3) to assist on the floor. For the Boomers, Ella McIntyre has proven damaging with 12 PPG from three matches. She sits ninth for league scoring, while Tabitha Betson places 12th with an 11.3-point average. Bulleen should win this game comfortably and gain some separation in the top-four.