THE Melbourne United Victorian Junior Basketball League (MUVJBL) Under 16 Girls 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.
Sandringham Sabres (2nd in Watson) vs. Melbourne Tigers (4th in Watson)
Last time: Sandringham Sabres 58 defeated Melbourne Tigers 41
In their last clash, Sandringham Sabres completely nullified Melbourne Tigers in the first term, helping themselves to a 16-3 lead at quarter time. The game was much closer after that, with Melbourne able to cut back the deficit by two, before the Sabres got back on top to win the second half by six. Maya Dear was superb with 19 points, while Hannah Wickstrom (15) and Christina Roberts (10) were also impressive. Amy Kurkowski scored 11 points for the losers. The Sabres sat at 2-2 at one stage, but finished the season on a high with five consecutive wins, while for the Tigers, they won their last two games to sit one win behind the Sabres. The Tigers are a strong defensive team, while the Sabres are more attacking, both ranked in the top five for their respective areas. Sandringham finished above Melbourne and will head in favourite for this game.
Ballarat Rush (4th in Ashe) vs. Knox Raiders (5th in Watson)
While Ballarat Rush finished fourth in their pool, they did finish two games clear of fifth placed Hawthorn Magic. They only lost the three games for the season, although their percentage of 103 pales in comparison to that of Knox Raiders’ 117.7. The Watson Pool had five clear top sides, and Knox deserved its spot in the Championship Division, as did the Rush who were clearly the fourth best side in the Ashe Pool. At home, the Rish are three wins from four games, while Knox are three wins and a draw from five games on the road. The Raiders are a low-scoring side that strangle the life out of the opposition, but get the job done. Ballarat ranked higher in points for, but much lower in least points conceded, so this game will likely be a tight low-scoring slog.
Keilor Thunder (3rd in Ashe) vs. Bulleen Boomers (1st in Watson)
Keilor Thunder hopes to continue their form heading into the break, when it tries to take down the undefeated Bulleen Boomers. The Thunder have a task ahead of them, but had won four on the trot before the first half of the season came to a conclusion. Both the games they did lose so far were at home, whereas the Boomers are yet to lose a game anywhere. The Boomers are ranked fourth for points for, while the Thunder are sixth, and when considering least points conceded, it is third and fifth respectively. Bulleen heads into this game as strong favourite, but considering some of the results Keilor has produced, it will be ready to take an early scalp against a highly fancied opponent.
Last time: Nunawading Spectres (3rd in Watson) vs. Dandenong Rangers (2nd in Ashe)
You do not have to look too far back to see when these sides faced off – in fact it will be just four days apart after the Rangers saluted in the National Junior Classic final. The two sides showed why they are every bit up there with the likes of Bulleen Boomers and Diamond Valley Eagles, and this is set to be another classic match. Dandenong heads in as favourites given they did win on Monday, but Nunawading will have learnt plenty from the loss and will look to adapt it into the game. The Spectres are not strong at home however, losing three of their four games there, while Dandenong have not yet lost on the road. The Rangers are also ranked first in points for and second in least points conceded which makes them a tough proposition in this game.
Diamond Valley Eagles (1st in Ashe) vs. Hawthorn Magic (5th in Ashe)
Last time: Hawthorn Magic 43 defeated by Diamond Valley Eagles 52
In the other time these sides met, the top-of-the-table Eagles powered back from a one-point half-time deficit to run out nine-point winners courtesy of a 28-18 second half. Sophie Burrows sank 15 points in the win, while Rianna Thiele (13) was the top scorer for the Magic. These two teams had very different paths to qualification for the Championship Division, with the Eagles only dropping the one game and winning seven consecutive matches leading into the two-grade split, while Hawthorn won its final three matches to grab fifth spot from the most unlikely of circumstances. While the Magic are the lowest ranked side in the grade, and Diamond Valley are the second ranked team, it will be interesting to see how Hawthorn approaches this game.