A TOP three clash headlines Round 8 of the Melbourne United Victorian Junior Basketball League (MUVJBL) Under-18 Boys Championship Division with the bottom four sides battling for the last two spots in the eight.
Dandenong Rangers (3rd, 11-3-2) vs. Nunawading Spectres (2nd, 12-4)
The match of the round pits third placed Dandenong Rangers against second placed Nunawading Spectres in what could eventuate into a battle for a home final. The teams are on the same amount of points, with the Spectres having one extra win, but one extra loss as well compared to the Rangers’ two draws. The Rangers have only lost one game at home and the Spectres are seven from eight on the road, so it makes for an enticing contest. Harrison Bowater (13.1 points per game) and Riley Simmons (12.1) have been crucial for the Rangers this season and could form a damaging duo, while Nunawading’s James Roche (19.7) will be a danger to watch, as will his teammate Curtis Brecko (11.1). The winner all but takes second spot if they do not stumble in the final round before finals.
Kilsyth Cobras (1st, 12-1-3) vs. Bendigo Braves (10th, 8-7-1)
Top-of-the-table Kilsyth Cobras should not have any problems against Bendigo with an unbeaten run at home from seven games against a Braves outfit that is just two from seven on the road. The Braves are actually sixth on the table when it comes to Championship Division finals, but are still only three points clear of the division cellar dwellers in Korumburra. If they can cause an upset they are guaranteed finals, but a loss and the sides below them move a step closer, though they would need to lose both remaining matches to drop out. As for the Cobras, they could drop to third mathematically with two losses, but will likely secure the minor premiership this round with a superior percentage to all bar Dandenong. Josh Duach (14.1 points per game) and David Okwera (12.2) have been the key scorers, going up against overall division leading scorer Caleb Connick (20.0), who would love to see Dyson Daniels (15.0) return with the young star missing due to National Basketball League (NBL)1 and national representative commitments.
Diamond Valley Eagles (13th, 7-9) vs. Korumburra Wildcats (14th, 7-9)
The bottom two sides clash in what is effectively the last chance saloon for one of the sides to make finals. The loser will be out of the finals race, while the winner will leap frog the loser of the Keilor Thunder-Werribee Devils game and put themselves into the top eight sides. The Eagles are just three from seven at home, while the Wildcats are not any better on the road, with two from seven. What works in the Wildcats’ favour is the fact that the Eagles are yet to win since the post-grade split, dropping seven consecutive games after heading into the new grade as 7-2. Korumburra’s Keith Robinson has been a source of points, averaging 18.7 points per game, teaming well with Brodie Mabilia (12.6) and Luis D’Angelo (12.2), while Diamond Valley looks to Ethan Bateman who is leading the side with 12.1 per game.
Keilor Thunder (12th, 8-8) vs. Werribee Devils (11th, 8-8)
Sitting seventh and eighth in the division, it goes without saying a win in this game is crucial. The winner is set to play finals, while the loser will drop outside the top eight meaning their finals hopes will then rely on favourable results in the last round. Keilor has dropped its past five games and are just three from eight at home, while Werribee has not won for a few rounds now and sit with three wins from seven games on the road. Neither side has a great percentage, both well below the two teams chasing them, meaning a loss here would all but end finals chances. Paul Tsapatolis was a welcome return for Keilor in Round 7 averaging the second most points of any player with 19.8 points per game this season, while Werribee relies on two key shooters in Darrien Herbert and Makur Jongkuch who have the identical output of 15.0 points per game.
Melbourne Tigers (5th, 10-6) vs. Bulleen Boomers (4th, 11-3-2)
The other game set to create interest is the fourth and fifth clash at Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre (MSAC). A win for Melbourne will draw them within two points and give the Tigers hope they can snatch fourth spot with a win in the final round, but any other result assures the Boomers of a double chance. The Tigers are safe from Bendigo overtaking them unless they lose twice and the Braves win both remaining games. Melbourne has an even spread of scorers with Ezrah Vaigafa, Lyzel Mataika and Patrick Twigg combining for an average of 31 points per game. The Boomers have a number of high volume scorers with Anthony Dell’Orso (17.3 points per game), Owen Foxwell (14.1) and Nicholas Woodall (12.3) all key players.