THE Melbourne United Victorian Junior Basketball League (MUVJBL) Under 16 Boys Championship Division was decided two weeks ago, and now the 10 teams begin the second half of their journey with nine matches with the best of the best to determine the overall champion in a couple of months.
Pakenham Warriors (4th in Watson) vs. Eltham Wildcats (2nd in Watson)
Last time: Pakenham Warriors 39 defeated by Eltham Wildcats 64
The last time these two sides met, it was not a pleasant experience for the Warriors – who conceded 32 points to 11 in the first half on their way to a heavy 25-point loss. Zahn Agosta scored 12 points, while Harrison Stones and Riley Lewis sank 11 each. For the Warriors, Kynan Auhl and Jak Morris-Burney each finished the match with seven points. While the Wildcats did not finish top overall, they showed that they are a genuine title contender in the division, taking out the National Junior Classic with a win over the side that did finish top in Bulleen Boomers. Pakenham was no slouch, losing just the two games, but they were to the top two sides, then drew with third, making it about right where they finished in fourth. Eltham’s greatest asset is its defence – ranked first in least points conceded – while Pakenham scored the exact amount as it conceded in the opening nine rounds – 531 points.
Dandenong Rangers (4th in Ashe) vs. Waverley Falcons (5th in Watson)
Dandenong Rangers won their final four games to lock up a Championship Division spot, while Waverley was always thereabouts, but managed to officially lock in its place with a final round win. The Falcons hit the road in this clash which is good news for them, because they are unbeaten when travelling, much better than their 1-4 record at home. Dandenong are also unbeaten at home from four starts, while sitting two wins from five games away. With both sides yet to lose based on the venue, it will be a fascinating contest to see which side comes out on top. Dandenong is a deserving favourite, and in form, while both these sides are capable of a high score. Waverley had the better defence in the first half of the season, but once Dandenong clicked into gear, the Rangers became a daunting prospect.
Latrobe Energy (5th in Ashe) vs. Geelong Supercats (3rd in Watson)
Despite finishing fifth in the pool, Latrobe Energy only had one more loss than a Geelong Supercats side that finished third in the opposite pool. The Supercats only played the four games on the road, winning two and drawing one, while Latrobe turned Traralgon into a sort of fortress with four wins from five games. With the Supercats needing a long trip to take on the Energy, expect the Gippsland side to be well rested and ready to take out the game. The Supercats only slipped behind two title contenders in Bulleen and Eltham in their pool, so they will not just drift away, which means this game has all the hallmarks of being a ripping contest.
Knox Raiders (1st in Ashe) vs. Bulleen Boomers (1st in Watson)
With just one loss between them in 18 games, Knox Raiders and Bulleen Boomers are set to hold the match of the round. The Boomers will be smarting after a two-point loss to Eltham Wildcats in the National Junior Classic despite defeating them earlier in the season. They have an equally tough game here against the Raiders, with these two sides powerhouses on the offensive end. Bulleen averages a remarkable 78.8 points per game, while only conceding 56. For the Raiders, they are also prolific on the scoring front, the next highest offensive side with 71.3 points per game, while their defence is the highlight, allowing just 53.7 points per game from the opposition. On those numbers, Knox has the nice balance, but Bulleen is a super team, and deserves to be favourite after the National Junior Classic. Knox’s only loss came at home too, so they will be keen to not double that record.
Bendigo Braves (2nd in Ashe) vs. Keilor Thunder (3rd in Ashe)
Last time: Keilor Thunder 46 defeated by Bendigo Braves 47
Last time the sides clashed there was nothing between them, and expect the same again when Keilor Thunder hits the road for a trip to Bendigo. The Braves got the points when they played in Keilor earlier in the season, powering away to a 10-point lead at quarter time, before the Thunder managed to cut the deficit back to a point by the final break. Unfortunately for the home side they could not sneak ahead despite the best efforts of Cooper Colson (12 points). Jacob Nihill was the key architect for the Braves, also scoring 12 points on that day. The Braves are ranked third for defence with less than 500 points conceded, while the Thunder are ranked fifth for offence, well ahead of the last placed Braves. While Bendigo notched up the seven wins, they were tight victories, and expect them to have to fight this one out until the end as well.