THE Qualifying and Elimination finals kick off this week in the Melbourne United Victorian Junior Basketball League Under-18 Girls Championship Division. Six of the eight teams will proceed at the round’s end, with Bendigo, Diamond Valley, Altona and Southern Peninsula all facing off in the first leg of elimination finals.
Bulleen Boomers (1st, 15-3) vs Nunawading Spectres (4th, 12-6)
Bulleen Boomers will look to hold their dominance into the finals as they face the Nunawading Spectres in Hawthorn. In their last match-up, Bulleen got the better on the road. Unsurprisingly, Bulleen’s away record remains without blemish (8-0), while Nunawading hold at 6-3 on both ends. At neutral territory, the Boomers seem a lock, having paved their way to five consecutive wins, while Nunawading lost three in a row in the lead-up. Besides advancing to finals, this game presents a lot in the way of match-ups. Bulleen’s second-placed shooter, Alexandra Keating will face Nunawading’s top-league scorer, Louisa Fakalata. Keating currently sits at 17.7 points per game (PPG) with 124 points overall. She’s been well accompanied by Casey Valenti-Paea who follows close with 14.4 PPG. For Nunawading, Fakalata tops the table with 18.6 PPG and 149 points overall, with Maddison Zugna trailing inside the top-20 on 10.7. In their last match-up, Fakalata scored 18, while Keating was absent.
Knox Raiders (2nd, 13-4-1) vs Dandenong Rangers (3rd, 12-6)
In the second qualifying final, the Knox Raiders travel to Batesford Reserve to face the Dandenong Rangers. Without a loss on their away record, Knox enter the neutral territory as favourites. Though comparatively, Dandenong’s last five have been a lot better – winning four compared to one. In their last match-up Dandenong proved better again, but conceded a loss in March at the height of the Raiders’ form. Charlise Dunn continues to be solid for the Raiders averaging 11 PPG from four outings, Georgia Baldwin follows close with 10.1. In last week’s loss, Meg Robinson led the way with 11 points, and sat the only player to crack double-digits. For Dandenong, Hannah Rapp (nine) and Emily Sewell (12.5) have starred. In last week’s win, Leah Mackenzie controlled the floor with 16 points, and will be expected to repeat this week.
Altona Gators (5th, 11-6-1) vs Southern Peninsula (8th, 9-9)
The elimination finals also tip off tonight when the Altona Gators face the Southern Peninsula Sharks in Sandringham. The Gators will be desperate to regain some form with a long road ahead, while the Sharks boasting one of the better months in the league. Of their last four, the Gators have picked up three wins to claw their way back into finals. Comparatively, the Gators have beaten Nunawading and conceded defeat to Geelong, so inconsistency is likely to cost them. Kayla Salmons has been impressive for Altona this season averaging 12.3 PPG, along with Monique Marcetic-Vaotangi (8.6). Last week, Marcetic-Vaotangi led on the board with 10, followed next by Salmons’ seven. For Southern Peninsula Emirson Devenie has dominated, sitting third in the league for PPG (16.7), while Charli Dobson follows with 14.6. In their win last week, Devenie led the way with 26, followed close by Dobson on 22.
Bendigo Braves (6th, 11-7) vs Diamond Valley Eagles (7th, 9-8-1)
The second elimination final pits the Bendigo Braves against the Diamond Valley Eagles for the second time in a month. Bendigo has managed consecutive wins over the past fortnight, defeating Altona Gators and Diamond Valley Eagles. Comparatively, the Eagles rebounded from their thrashing against Bendigo to defeat the Hawthorn Magic. On neutral territory, neither side looks to have the advantage but history declares Bendigo winner. Piper Dunlop and Tess Barnes have been immense for the Braves this season, averaging 14.7 and 14.4 PPG respectively. The pair boast fifth and eighth spots in the league for PPG from seven outings each. For Diamond Valley, Jade Dunne stands as the greatest weapon, averaging 14.4 PPG. In last week’s win, she recorded 19 points, while Keeley Evans also impressed with 15.