WITH a round to play in the Melbourne United Victorian Junior Basketball League (MUVJBL), there are still two teams fighting out for one finals place, and a home final on the line for two of the sides.
Hawthorn Magic (13th, 7-9-1) vs. Keilor Thunder (4th, 12-5)
On face value the Magic will need every bit of their moniker to get up over the fourth placed Keilor Thunder who cannot be moved from their spot. After dropping a game they had in their keeping against Sandringham Sabres last round, the Thunder will be keen to bounce back with a victory heading into finals. Make no mistake, if Hawthorn lose, then the finals are set and the Magic will finish ninth. For Keilor, they will be facing Dandenong Rangers regardless in the first week of finals. Tess Heal leads all-comers in the point-scoring stakes with 17.0 points per game, just ahead of Ally Marshall with 13.3 points per game, and ranked second in overall points.
Dandenong Rangers (1st, 16-1) vs. Bulleen Boomers (2nd, 13-2-2)
Both these teams are keen to get a win for for a mental advantage in the finals with the teams likely to face off at some stage, the Boomers still need to win to secure a top two spot and home final. The Rangers have the minor premiership in their grasp, but would like to add another win to the 11-game winning streak. If the Boomers lose and the Diamond Valley Eagles win, the Boomers remain in second spot due to the head-to-head victory over the Eagles. The Rangers have a trio of stars who can cause damage to the opposition with Nyadiew Puoch (13.3 points per game), Dallas Loughridge (12.6) and Myah Healey (11.0) all inside the top 10, while Bulleen relies on a more even spread led by Emily Maltezos (9.4).
Melbourne Tigers (11th, 8-9) vs. Diamond Valley Eagles (3rd, 13-4)
In what looms as a must-win for Melbourne, they have to knock off top four side Diamond Valley to guarantee a spot in the finals series. If Hawthorn upstages Keilor, then the Tigers could drop outside the top eight with a loss. Meanwhile the Eagles cannot drop from third with a superior head-to-head points advantage (and percentage) ahead of fourth placed Keilor, and will prepare to play Bulleen in the first round of finals. Eleanor Bollands has been the top scorer for Diamond Valley Eagles with 10.7 points per game, while for the Tigers, Amy Kurkowski has slotted 12.4 points per game.
Nunawading Spectres (8th, 9-8) vs. Ballarat Rush (6th, 10-7)
Nunawading has the opportunity to snatch a home final with victory over Ballarat Rush, with the sides likely to meet again the following week in the elimination final. Providing Sandringham Sabres gets the job done against the lowly Knox Raiders, these sides will meet two weeks in a row, though with a home record of 2-6 and an away record of 7-2, it might be thought the Spectres might relish travelling, though the mental advantage of a win would be of huge benefit going into the finals. Evelyn Curtis (10.3 points per game) and Olivia Morris (10.2) are the dominant scoring duo for the Spectres this season, while for Ballarat, Milly Simpson (10.7) and Georgia Cox (9.8) are both in the top 20.
Sandringham Sabres (5th, 10-6-1) vs. Knox Raiders (15th, 5-10-2)
In the final game of the round, the Sandringham Sabres just have to knock off the cellar dwelling Knox Raiders to ensure a fifth placed finish and elimination final against either Melbourne or Hawthorn. The Sabres are only a point ahead of Ballarat Rush so cannot afford to drop the game, though they will still host Nunawading in the elimination final, but then potentially meet one of the Boomers or Eagles in the semi-finals. Sandringham’s Hannah Wickstrom averages 13.5 points per game to be second overall on average, while Jaida Reid‘s 9.4 points per game sees her equal twentieth.