WITH only three rounds remaining in the Melbourne United Victorian Junior Basketball League (MUVJBL) Under-16 Girls Championship Division, the Dandenong Rangers look sure to secure a home final and second chance. They face the Sandringham Sabres at home this week, with the Sabres pressing the top-four. The Nunawading Spectres sit similarly in sixth against the Diamond Valley Eagles this week, only two wins below second.
Dandenong Rangers (1st, 14-1) vs Sandringham Sabres (5th, 9-5-1)
The Dandenong Rangers hope to record their 10th consecutive win this week when they come up against the Sandringham Sabres at home. Last week, the Rangers dominated the bottom-end Raiders in a 27-67 match-up – remaining strong on defence to keep Knox under 10 points in each term. This season, the Rangers have had just 592 points scored against them, compared to 911 for. The Sabres season has been fair despite falling short twice in the last fortnight, with a draw to Sandringham (47-47) and loss to Ballarat (60-44). They put their 5-1-1 away record to the test this week when they face the league’s best. Dallas Loughridge has remained in top form for the Rangers with 14.2 points per game (PPG) in third spot for league-average. She’s followed close by Nyadiew Puoch in eighth – averaging 11.6 from five games. Hannah Wickstrom (13.8), Summer Keating (10) and Jemima O’Toole (9.8) have been strong for Sandringham all season in fourth, 17th and 18th respectively.
Nunawading Spectres (6th, 9-6) vs Diamond Valley Eagles (2nd, 11-4)
In a similarly tough match-up, the Nunawading Spectres host the Diamond Valley Eagles. A win could mean a top-four chance for Nunawading or a home final for Diamond Valley. Last week, the Spectres fell short to the fourth-placed Keilor Thunder – losing touch in the final term (20-2) despite leading all game. Similarly, Diamond Valley lost last week to a top-four contender in Bulleen (44-41). The defeat drops them out of touch with the Rangers as Bulleen and Keilor press in third and fourth. Both teams need a lift this week, with Nunawading hoping Evelyn Curtis (10.5) and Olivia Morris (10.4) can continue their form into the clash. Despite the loss, Curtis held up well without Morris in last week’s loss – recording 17. For the Eagles, Eleanor Bollands has been impressive with 11.4 average from five outings, alongside Aeska Ratnayake with 9.7.
Melbourne Tigers (8th, 8-7) vs Ballarat Rush (7th, 9-6)
In the final top-eight clash of the round, we have the Melbourne Tigers hosting the Ballarat Rush. Last week, Melbourne did well to rebound from their 53-50 loss against Nunawading, earning a significant win against Hawthorn (51-55). Ballarat fared similarly, after losing 44-58 to Diamond Valley, responded against an in-form Sandringham at home (60-44). With finals approaching, it’s important for both sides to build momentum. Melbourne will look to Amy Kurkowski to continue her form – sitting second in PPG across the league with 14.3, with Leila Davis following in seventh with 12.4. On the board, Ballarat lack the same scoring utilities. Milly Simpson leads for her side with 11.3 PPG from four outings but has nobody else lifting into the top-end. A few players will need to lift if Ballarat hope to compete.
Knox Raiders (15th, 5-8-2) vs Keilor Thunder (4th, 11-4)
The Knox Raiders host the in-form Keilor Thunder this week in what might be their last chance of making finals. Though unlikely, the Raiders still sit as a mathematical chance to break into the eight but need a lot of teams to drop in the coming rounds. Though with the top-four on the line, it’s unlikely the Thunder will fall. Last week, Keilor returned to the winner’s list with a 55-42 victory over Nunawading. The visitors currently boast three players in the top-20 for average points in Tess Heal (17.3), Jaz Salon (12.8) and Bella Peterson (9.8). Last week, Heal and Salon tore up the floor with 15 and 25 points respectively as Heal remains atop the scoring table. For the Raiders, not a single player ranks inside the top-20, with Jaida Reid (9.2) and Gemma O’Donnell (7.8) leading on the scoreboard.
Hawthorn Magic (13th, 6-8-1) vs Bulleen Boomers (3rd, 11-2-2)
The result of Hawthorn’s match-up with Bulleen could determine whether or not they play finals. With two wins keeping them outside the eight, the Magic need to bring something special if they intend to knock off one of league’s giants. As it stands, Bulleen sit in third on percentage – tied with Diamond Valley (2nd) and Keilor Thunder (4th). Last week, they returned to the winner’s list with a tight 44-41 win over the Diamond Valley Eagles, after tying the week before against the Knox Raiders. Given these teams’ positions, Bulleen should have won both by fair margins. It’s this form dip that may see Hawthorn into a finals campaign. The Magic’s top scorers, Ally Marshall (13.5) and Amy Ohara (11), will be Bulleen’s biggest threats. The pair sit in fifth and 12th across the league, while Bulleen’s, Tabitha Betson (10.8) and Ella McIntyre (10) hold in 13th and 16th respectively.