THE Melbourne United Victorian Junior Basketball League (MUVJBL) Under-18 Girls Championship Division nears finals as we enter Round 7, with seemingly one spot remaining in the top four. Four teams continue to battle out for a second chance – all equal with 10 wins from fourth to seventh. This week’s game of the round will likely be between Nunawading Spectres and Bulleen Boomers, with the winner taking second place and putting themselves in the box seat for a much-desired home final. The match-up between Hawthorn and Dandenong also presents to be a good one, as the home side vies for a top eight spot.
Nunawading Spectres (3rd, 12-3) vs Bulleen Boomers (2nd, 12-3)
The third placed Nunawading Spectres host their top-end rivals, Bulleen Boomers, in a game that may seal their second-chance home final. Last week, the Spectres grabbed their twelfth consecutive win of the season, knocking off the Hawthorn Magic 61-38 at home. It was an unusual game, with the in-form side only scoring 11 points for the first half. They resurged following the break and went onto score 34 points in the fourth term to close out the curious affair. The Boomers boast two comfortable wins in the last fortnight – beating Hawthorn (59-50) and Geelong (50-41) at home. Though given their position, we expect higher margins against teams outside the eight, but it seems the Boomers have scraped a couple together in the last fortnight. This week, the league’s two best scorers go head to head. Nunawading’s Louis Fakalata has been in top form across her five outings, averaging 19.4 points per game (PPG) in equal-first with Bulleen’s Alexandra Keating. Maddison Zugna continues to be great support for Fakalata, having averaged 13 PPG from six outings, while Keating shares the load well with Casey Valenti-Paea (13.2).
Hawthorn Magic (9th, 8-5-2) vs Dandenong Rangers (5th, 10-5)
Hawthorn Magic host Dandenong Rangers this week in a game that may settle their finals future. Since returning from the break, the Magic have been in poor form – recording three consecutive losses, including a big 61-38 defeat against the Nunawading Spectres. Comparatively, the Rangers sit as one of the league’s most in-form side. Last week, they recorded one their biggest wins of the season after beating the Southern Peninsula by 42 points. The week prior, the Rangers knocked off league-leaders, Knox Raiders (48-52), on the road to make a big case for the top-four. Ryleh Killian stepped up for the Magic in last week’s loss – recording 12 points alongside Casey Dunstan’s 10. The pair will be expected to deliver big in this match-up – especially with NBL1 representative, Elly Morgan, and Leah Mackenzie recording big last week. Morgan shot 19 in the win to move seventeenth for league scoring average, while Hawthorn’s Killian holds strong in fifth.
Knox Raiders (1st, 13-2) vs Diamond Valley Eagles (12th, 7-7-1)
Knox Raiders will look to record an easy win this week against the bottom-end Diamond Valley Eagles, in a game that might secure their number one spot. Last fortnight, the Raiders recorded their second loss in the Championship Division – losing to Dandenong after conceding to Nunawading earlier in the season. Despite sitting atop the table, the Raiders are yet to record a big win in the new division. Since the break, the Eagles have recorded consecutive losses. They fell victim to the Nunawading streak last fortnight and copped a fair knock against the Gators in Round 6. Despite sitting low, Diamond Valley still sit in the finals race, but will need a perfect run home. NBL1 representative, Charlise Dunn, led with 17 points in last week’s clash Bendigo. Currently, she boasts eighth spot across the league – followed next by Georgia Baldwin (9.8 PPG) in eighteenth. For Diamond Valley, Jade Dunne (16) and Georgia Kitchell (12) held up against Altona. Dunne boasts seventh spot in the league following her efforts.
Geelong Supercats (13th, 6-9) vs Altona Gators (6th, 10-4-1)
Altona Gators travel to Geelong this week where they face the Supercats for a chance to snare a spot in the top-four. The Gators added their third consecutive win last week against the Diamond Valley Eagles (51-67) as they continue to show their dominance on the road (6-2-0). In theme of three streaks, the Supercats add their third consecutive loss after falling to Bulleen (50-41) on the road. As it stands, the Supercats will not play finals. They have been one of the more competitive sides in the Championship Division but have not shown enough just yet. Alishia Knights and Carly Remmos will be Altona’s biggest issue, with the pair averaging 12.5 and 11.8 PPG respectively. The Gators will rely heavily on Kayla Salmons (12.8) and Trinity Steele (9.4) to deliver once again. Last week, Salmons stepped up with 22 points, while Tyla Paraha followed close on 17.
Bendigo Braves (8th, 9-6) vs Southern Peninsula (14th, 6-9)
Even though Southern Peninsula are without a win in the Championship Division, Bendigo can never be too cautious when they are in the lower regions of the finals race. Last week, the Braves lost to the Raiders on the road – winning one of their last four outings. As with Peninsula, the Braves have been unsuccessful in the new division and could be the team to miss out on finals. The highlight of Peninsula’s season would be their near win against the Raiders in Round 2 (77-79). Though since then, have dropped off dramatically. Piper Dunlop has been in form for the Braves since beginning the new division, recording 15.8 PPG in third across the league. Tess Barnes has been a similar commodity in thirteenth with 12.6 PPG. With one spot between their opposition, Charli Dobson sits in fourth with 15.2 PPG for Peninsula – followed by Emirson Devenie in twelfth with 12.7