THE Melbourne United Victorian Junior Basketball League (MUVJBL) Under-16 Girls Championship Division finals preview between the Dandenong Rangers and Bulleen Boomers headlined Round 9’s fixture. The 56-41 match-up ended in Dandenong’s favour, leading them to their twelfth consecutive win. Not only did the Rangers top the ladder in, but they also managed to do it undefeated in the post-split division. Despite valiant efforts for three terms, Bulleen’s opener (16-6) made it difficult for them to come back. Though despite their result, Bulleen’s second half (14-13, 10-11) still bodes well for finals. Dallas Loughridge was firing all over the court for Dandenong recording 20 points, followed close by Nyadiew Puoch on 14. The pair finish the regular season in third and fourth for points per game (PPG). For Bulleen, only one player finished on double-digits, with Tabitha Betson hitting 10 ahead of Kiralee Collings and Ella McIntyre who had eight each.
Diamond Valley Eagles earned a second chance in finals following their 60-68 win over the Melbourne Tigers. With three consecutive wins and an even home (7-2-0) and away (7-2-0) record, the Eagles present well for finals regardless of where they play. In the match-up, they opened strong with 25 points. In the second, the Tigers won their first and only term (11-9) before conceding 12-16 and 18-18 to close out the game. Jessica Delbrocco and Teah Reichert were dominant on the floor for Diamond Valley, recording 13 and 12 points respectively. For the Tigers, Hayley Cummings led at the board with 21 points, followed close by Leila Davis on 14. Davis finishes in twelfth for PPG (10.3) across the league, while Diamond Valley finish without a player in the top-20.
In the tightest game of the round, the Keilor Thunder reaped top-four rewards after ending Hawthorn’s finals chances in a 47-52 clash. Up until the final term, Hawthorn looked the more consistent side. They recorded 10 and 13 points in the first half compared with Keilor’s eight and 18. Despite trailing by three at the break, Hawthorn maintained their scoring and took a lead into the final break. Unfortunately, just like in the second, Keilor rose when it mattered and closed out the final term 11-19 to win the game. Overall (161) and PPG (17.9) leader, Tess Heal, closed out her season with a dominant 25 points, followed next by Bella Peterson on 15. For Hawthorn, Amy Ohara starred with 17 points, followed next by Evangeline King on seven. Ohara’s scoring average (11.3) places her in seventh at the regular season’s end.
The Nunawading Spectres enter the finals with a bit of momentum after passing the Ballarat Rush on the table with a 61-49 victory. Typically, a home win is a rare occurrence for the Spectres, having recorded seven of their 10 wins on the road. Comparatively, the Rush finished the league at 5-5 on the road but will have a chance to make a mend as they face Nunawading in the same game next week. In Round 9’s match-up, the Spectres started better, recording 18-7 in the first and 14-7 in the third. These terms would go on to cost Ballarat the game despite tying the second (16-16) and winning the fourth (13-19). Evelyn Curtis and Madison Sinclair were immense for the Spectres, recording 16 and 15 points respectively. For the Rush, Milly Rush led with 15, followed next by Georgia Cox on 13.
The Sandringham Sabres closed out the regular season with a comfortable 51-34 win over the Knox Raiders, collecting a home game in their first elimination final. The win marks the Sabres’ second consecutive win, while the Raiders top off a poor season with their fourth loss in a row. In the first-half, Knox struggled to crack double-digits, recording consecutive six-point terms. They picked up their efforts in the third but lacked Sandringham’s scoring capacity as they closed out trailing by 17 points. Hannah Wickstrom starred for the Sabres, recording 18 points to take herself to second across the league for PPG (14.1). Jemima O’Toole (10) also impressed for Sandringham, while Gemma O’Donnell (10) and Paige Burrows (8) held strong for Knox.
In the Reserve grade, the Bendigo Braves clinched a 49-47 victory over the Eltham Wildcats, Frankston Blues fell 43-45 against the Kilsyth Cobras, and the Waverley Falcons won 46-39 over the Ringwood Hawks. Round 9 continued with Sunbury Jets thrashing the Altona Gators (71-47) and the Bellarine Storm winning a close one over the Southern Peninsula Sharks (48-38).
In the Championship Division, the elimination finals kick off with the Sandringham Sabres hosting the Melbourne Tigers, and Nunawading Spectres hosting the Ballarat Rush. The qualifying finals kick off soon after with the Dandenong Rangers hosting the Keilor Thunder, and the Bulleen Boomers hosting the Diamond Valley Eagles.