Tag: Majok Deng

NBL1 Central men’s team summary: Forestville Eagles

THE National Basketball League (NBL)1 competition was cancelled for the 2020 season, so instead we take a look back at some of the teams that would have been tipping off in the NBL1 Central competition. Today’s side is Forestville Eagles side that went all the way from second on the table to win the 2019 South Australian Premier League title.

SEASON SUMMARY:

Finished: 2nd (Premiers)
Won: 16
Lost: 4

TOP PLAYERS

Majok Deng

Statistics: 27.7 points, 11.6 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.2 steals, 1.3 blocks
Shooting: 58.0% (2pt), 39.5% (3pt), 78.3% (FT)

It was an absolutely remarkable season by Deng who lived up to all expectations with his performance. Averaging a double-double, Deng averaged 33.2 minutes from 19 games on court, and was accurate from in close with a 58 per cent accuracy. Also able to convert from the free-throw line, Deng was a menace anywhere near the basket. Remarkably though, he could drop three-pointers on the opposition as well, with almost 40 per cent of his attempts going in.

Greg Mays

Statistics: 21.7 points, 10.6 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 0.9 steals, 1.5 blocks
Shooting: 62.4% (2pt), 27.3% (3pt), 57.8% (FT)

The second Eagles player to average a double-double in the 2019 season, Mays finished with a very impressive 21.7 points and 10.6 rebounds. He also denied the opposition with blocks 1.5 times a game and pickpocketed them almost once a match. While not a three-point shooter, Mays more than made up for it from in close, with a 62.4 per cent efficiency inside the arc.

Brendan Teys

Statistics: 19.7 points, 4.6 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 1.6 steals
Shooting: 59.5% (2pt), 28.8% (3pt), 74.1% (FT)

The other NBL talent was the key playmaker in the team with a nice balance of point-scoring, rebounding and assisting teammates. He was able to hurt the opposition offensively with his 19.7 points and 4.7 assists, whilst being able to work hard defensively thanks to 4.6 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game. His long-range game could improve, but his two-point accuracy was impressive at almost 60 per cent, whilst he was solid from the charity stripe with 74.1 per cent efficiency.

Highlight of the season: Winning the title

There is not too much to say other than tasting premiership glory is the ultimate dream for any sportsperson and the Forestville Eagles did just that. They were not the favourites heading into the finals, and had lost to the Pioneers three times prior, but what happens on the day is all that counts, and winning the title was as memorable as it gets. Now with a long wait until the next competitive match, the Eagles have had plenty of time to bask in that glory.

Best Win: Defeated Mt Gambier Pioneers by 17 points

When you win a title, there is nothing sweeter than the game that solidified your victory. The Eagles, coming up against the favourites in Mt Gambier Pioneers, were able to turn the tables on the minor premiers and won by 17 points, 107-90 in thrilling style. They finished with a plus nine in rebounds, plus four in assists and had 14 less personal fouls in a clean performance across the board. Michael Harris finished with 30 points and eight rebounds, as Mays (27 points, 13 rebounds) and Deng (20 points, 18 rebounds) dominated off the boards. Teys’ 17 points, six rebounds and three steals added extra strength to the starting line-up in what was a memorable match.

SUMMARY

There is not much more that needs to be said on how successful the Forestville Eagles season was. Along with the women’s side, the Eagles team did the double and took out both South Australian Premier League titles. Led by the damaging trio along with Harris as well putting plenty of points on the board, the Eagles starting five was stronger than any other team, and still had contributions off the bench. One team that must be close consideration for back-to-back titles when competition resumes in 2021 under the NBL1 Central banner.

2019/20 NBL season review: Cairns Taipans

PRIOR to the start of the 2020 season, the Taipans had finished either last, or one position above that in their previous two campaigns. Cairns would also accumulate an abysmal 6-22 record in their 2018-19 season, six wins lower than Illawarra who finished seventh. Given this, not many would have guessed how much of a turnaround Mike Kelly and his men would have made just a season later.

A major face-lift

It is safe to say that Kelly’s first season at the helm was a major failure, leading his team to one of the franchise’s worst records in the club’s history. It was therefore apparent that a major upheaval was needed to move his squad in the right direction. With signings like imports Scott Machado, who would prove to be one of the League’s most dominant performers, and big-man Cameron Oliver owning the boards, the Taipans already had the weapons needed to be serious contenders.

The rest of the competition had other ideas however, as the Taipans would begin their season the same way they did in 2018, losing their opening three contests against the Kings, Bullets and the Hawks in what was a nail-biting one-point loss away at Wollongong. While the core Taipans group was putting up substantial numbers, it was Cairns’ secondary unit that needed to pull its weight.

It was early on in the season that the likes of Mirko Djeric, Kouat Noi, Majok Deng and future hall of famer Nathan Jawai would begin to click with their side’s offence. The Taipans would go on to win seven out of the next eleven fixtures to level out their season record at .500. As this record was neither impressive nor disappointing, their seven wins they had collected at the mid-way point of the season was already higher than their win total for their entire previous season (six), which was accomplishment in itself. They also sat fourth in the standings at this stage, as more and more basketball fans started to see the Taipans as a serious threat in the NBL.

As the race of the finals started to pick up for the mid-table teams, it was Cairns that began the second half of the season slowly, dropping two games to the Wildcats and a crucial loss to the Phoenix. Knowing full well that losing games late in the regular season in a league like the NBL was almost suicidal for a team’s ambitions, a sense of urgency would kick the Taipans into a higher gear as they would pull together their longest and perhaps most important winning streak of the season. Their five consecutive victories would represent the best basketball played by the ‘Snakes’ all season as they would knock over all five of the other teams in the newly coined ‘Logjam’, taking a commanding lead in third position.

With a slight bump in the road losing out to the eventual minor premier Kings 83-92, four more victories would follow for a team that would secure a finals slot with two games remaining and cap off a dream run of nine wins in ten appearances. The Taipans’ 16-12 record would be their best season performance since the 2014-15 competition, stirring up a fervour and hype that hasn’t been seen in Northern Queensland in a very long time leading into the postseason.

A venomous task

Out of all the seasons for a team to regain exemplary form, this one matched the Taipans up with the reigning champion Wildcats in their semi-final series, providing the most difficult task Cairns had to face up with all season. Despite the monstrous task that was bestowed upon the third placed seed, Game One would come to fruition as a contest for the ages at RAC Arena.Perth would explode out of the block in front of their fans, outscoring Cairns 29-20 in the opening ten minutes. But the visiting side would hit back even harder, erasing the deficit and flipping the margin leading by nine at halftime.

Despite trailing, newly crowned League MVP Bryce Cotton would put his team on his back, leading to a career defining postseason performance and pulling his side together forcing overtime in Game One scoring 43 alone. Trading buckets in what was a back and forth five minutes of post-regulation play, long-time NBL veteran Jesse Wagstaff would knock down two imperative free-throws to put his side up by three with eleven seconds remaining. With two seconds left, Machado would hoist up a three-pointer to tie the game, but instead would put back his miss for just two points, leading to a nail-biting opening game win for the Wildcats, 108-107.

Returning back home with a sense of anger due to the fact they couldn’t get the job done in WA, the Taipans would make it clear early that would fight another day. A dominating 30-16 opening quarter and subsequently a 16-point half-time lead for the Taipans would set the tone for the rest of the game. The Wildcats would attempt a third quarter comeback, however a 22 point and 19 rebound performance by Cameron Oliver would quickly quell any remaining doubts from both sides, setting the series up for Game Three back in Perth with a desperately earned 85-74 triumph.

The deciding game would be a battle of wills as both sides would go neck and neck for every individual quarter. But unfortunately for the Taipans, they would lose by the narrowest of margins in every period throughout the game. This would lead to an eleven-point defeat (82-93) in front of more than 10,000 strong in the Red Army, as the Wildcats would earn their right to defend their title against the Kings and end the Taipans’ comeback season.

The NBL’s ‘big three’

Scott Machado

The backbone and commander of the Cairns Taipans, Scott Machado made minced meat of the majority of the competition in his debut season in the NBL. It was Machado’s vision and ability to spread the floor that made his team around him abundantly more cohesive, which in turn created a more efficient offense. He would often do this directly as Machado would lead the League in assists, averaging 7.9 assists per game.

Machado would also do his part on the scoring sheet putting up 16.1 points per contest and hustle for 3.6 rebounds an outing as well. Despite this, it would not be enough to earn himself a league MVP award, however he would settle for an All-NBL First Team selection. Even though Machado has spoken frequently about the positives of living in Australia’s far north, the import has not yet confirmed if he is to stay for another season.

 Dj Newbill

The second of Cairns’ three imports, Dj Newbill solidified himself as one of the League’s elite defenders, following being awarded the NBL Defensive Player of the Year Award and an All-NBL Second Team nomination. Having gone through the struggles of last season, Newbill needed to serve the team as the emotional backbone and would do this with more than just defense. Offensively, Newbill would crack the top ten in scoring averaging 18.8 a game. Defensively he would rank fourth in steals per game with 1.3 and average three rebounds. Much like Machado, Newbill is yet to confirm his intention for the upcoming NBL 2021 season, but if the Taipans administration can lock down the backcourt duo, it would definitely smell of a championship recipe.

Cameron Oliver

One of the League’s marquee centers, Cameron Oliver was an absolute monster at various moments during his 28 games, captivating spectators and flashing his athleticism on numerous highlight reels with rim-rocking slam dunks. But Oliver’s grind on the scoreboard and rebounds was second-to-one (Shawn Long), as he posed as the Taipans defensive protector.

Averaging 17 points and shooting 54 per cent from the field, scoring was almost guaranteed when Oliver had the ball near the rim. On the other end, he would also rank second amongst the League Leaders in rebounds and blocks averaging 9.1 and 1.6 respectively earning himself an All-NBL Second Team spot next to teammate Dj Newbill.

If Cairns can lock down Oliver for next season, then we can all expect similar numbers next season as the 23-year-old has plenty of time to refine his game.

The Coach’s corner – Mike Kelly

As mentioned earlier, this season’s Cairns group has been hailed as the League’s biggest success story. Following Game Three against the Wildcats, Kelly would once again praise the club and what this season’s playing group did for the franchise.

“I think when I look back I’m gonna be able to reflect and see the big picture of what this group did led by these two,” as he pointed to Newbill and Jawai who were seated next to him, “and how special the season was while it was still going.”

NBL1 Central Men’s preview: Round 1 – New era to tip off

A NEW era of National Basketball League (NBL)1 competition begins on Saturday with the NBL1 Central tipping off with the five games played across the Adelaide.

FORESTVILLE EAGLES vs. WOODVILLE WARRIORS
Wayville | Women @6.45pm | Men @ 8.30pm

Our Round 1 featured game of the weekend sees the reigning premiers taking on Woodville Warriors at Wayville with the home fans no doubt getting along to show their support. In the men’s match tipping off at 8.30, the the Eagles will look to overcome the loss of Majok Deng, though fellow NBL players in Brendan Teys and Michael Harris are still in the side and combined for 37 points, nine rebounds and seven assists last season in what will still be a formidable duo. Throw in ex-Flames star, Brandon Brine to the mix who will replace Deng’s massive frame off the boards with his almost double-double average in 2019, along with Greg Mays who is also a prominent rebounder making four players who could combine for almost 80 points alone. Kane De Wit is a playmaker who will come in as a crucial cog in getting it to the scorers, whilst Jake Rios will provide good rotation on court.

Little is known about how the Warriors will perform this season after an eighth placed finish last year and will certainly go into this match as underdogs. With Devon McGee crossing from bottom side Eastern Mavericks, he will team up with last year’s top player in James Boonstoppel to try and create a two-pronged attacked. Norwood’s Bryan McGriff will also run out with the Warriors this year, while American import, Joey Hewitt will add a different dimension on court. They might not be predicted to take down the Eagles in this clash, but a competitive on-court effort would go a long way to giving the side confidence that it can progress up the latter and put in an improved performance in 2020. With the reigning premiers likely to celebrate last year’s title in front of home fans, there will no doubt be the challenge of one-sided support, so the Warriors will need to be at their best to cause an upset.

EASTERN MAVERICKS vs. WEST ADELAIDE BEARCATS
St Francis | Women @ 6.30pm | Men @ 8.15pm

Across at St Francis in the first game of the day, the competition’s most successful unit will hope to overcome a home court advantage and take down a Mavericks side which is missing one of its top players from last season. With McGee swapping his Mavericks jersey for an Eagles one, Eastern head in as an unknown quantity, though finishing on the bottom of the ladder and will hope Dane Miller and Dante Thompson can help them move up from the cellar dwelling position. West Adelaide should start off with a win, though they will be without Bryan Jefferson and Tom Kubank this season, and will require the next tier of players to step up and really take the game on.

NORTH ADELAIDE ROCKETS vs. NORWOOD FLAMES
The Lights | Women @ 7pm | Men @ 8.45pm

Both these teams had respectable finishes last year, making finals and then picking up big-name recruits from the Adelaide 36ers. When it comes to the most entertaining game of the round, this could well be it with the teams hosting a number of start players. North Adelaide has to be considering a huge title contender despite the departure of Alex Starling and Bijan Johnson. They have plucked out Anthony Drmic to join up with Jack McVeigh and the pair will cause all sorts of headaches for the opposition at this level. Many could not wait for former Tigers’ teammates Drmic and CJ Turnage to go head-to-head, with the latter joining the Flames along with an NBL teammate of Drmic’s in Akol Deng. With the experienced Andrew Webber in the side and Matthew Lycett also still there to cover the losses of Brine and James Legan, this has the potential to be a high-scoring contest.

SOUTH ADELAIDE PANTHERS vs. SOUTHERN TIGERS
Marion | Women @ 7pm | Men @ 8.45pm

There will be some real question marks over both these teams this season and this game might give fans a bit more of an idea into how they might perform after some change. The Panthers lost their top player from 2019 with Zach Allmon departing the club, but have replaced him with North Adelaide’s Starling who provides a similar elite ability off the boards and has a higher potential of pick-pocketing opposition players. With Tanner Giddings joining from NBL Canada as well, the second last Panthers will hope some tactic changes and fresh faces can see a rise up the table. They are also playing the one team that has been the hardest hit over the off-season following an week one finals loss in 2019. Southern Tigers will be without Drmic, Turnage and Devin Gilligan who all propelled them to finals action, and it will be up to the likes of American imports Viont’e Daniels and Koop McCalop, as well as former Lion, Jordan Centenera to try and keep the team afloat in the finals positions.

STURT SABRES vs. CENTRAL DISTRICT LIONS
Pasadena | Women @ 7pm | Men @ 8.45pm

A couple of sides that will be hoping to go better than last season are Sturt Sabres and Central District Lions with the pair missing finals. Alex Mudronja is the key signing for the Sabres after some NBL experience with the 36ers, joining Dylan Rawson who was strong as the standout shooter at the club. There are a number of key players who have all left Sturt over the off-season, so the new blood, including young gun Hayden Meakes, will be out to prove a point and keep the Sabres in touch with the top sides despite lacking some of the known quality in the competition. Central District were a spot outside of finals last season, but also six wins behind fifth, so realistically the Lions know they have a lot of work to do. Jimma Dau is one of the more exciting players in the competition and will be crucial in determining the Lions’ fortunes, while American imports, Spencer Williams and Gebereal Baitey will hope to steady the ship at both ends. Magok Manyang taking on fellow Under 20 National Championships, Meakes will be a great battle with Manyang renowed for his rebounding ability for South Australia, while Meakes can be a danger from long range. This is an evenly poised contest with Mudronja possibly pushing Sturt into favouritism on the Sabres’ home court.

NBL1 Central Men’s 2020 season preview

THE countdown is on to the National Basketball League (NBL)1 season, and we take a look at the Central men’s competition and go team-by-team for the season ahead. Historically West Adelaide is the strongest side with 15 titles across its history, while Forestville Eagles have won four titles in the past decade, slightly ahead of Southern Tigers (two).

Central District Lions

Team: Jimma Dau, James Adcock, Joel Offereins, Gebereal Baitey, Spencer Williams
2019: 6th (8-12)
Titles: 1

The Lions missed out on finals last season by one spot and will be hungry to sneak inside the top five under the rebranded NBL1 Central competition. They have only officially named the five players to-date, with Jimma Dau (12 points, seven rebounds in his only game last year) back and James Adcock looking for more minutes having crossed from the Southern Tigers. A couple of American imports and Spencer Williams and Gebereal Baitey give the Lions an element of surprise heading into the season. Central District has one title to its name, back in 1984, but has not tasted success since.

Eastern Mavericks

Team: Dane Miller, Dante Thompson
2019: 11th (3-17)
Titles: 1

The Mavericks broke through for their maiden title back in 2004, but have not had the same success since. Last season was a real down year for the Mavericks, finishing on the bottom of the table with just three wins from 20 matches. Last season, Brandon Morris was a huge influence on the side, putting up ridiculous numbers of 25.8 points, 10.1 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game but has not been officially named in the side this year. Devon McGee has headed to Woodville this year after being prominent off the boards, while Novian Cherry was the other player who has not officially been named to play yet. Dane Miller comes into the side as a former G-League player, while fellow American, Dante Thompson joins as a power forward from Spain.

Forestville Eagles

Team: Brendan Teys, Christian Artacho, Cameron Bell, Brandon Brine, Zac Camerlengo, Jalen Croxton, Kane de Wit, Mitchell Dix, Michael Harris, Greg Mays, Jake Rios, Todd Winter
2019: 2nd (16-4) – Premiers
Titles: 8

The reigning premiers came from second to knock off minor premiers, Mt Gambier Pioneers in the grand final. The Eagles had a strong season with 16 wins from 20 games and added title number eight to the trophy cabinet. They have a couple of Adelaide 36ers on their list, with Brendan Teys (19.7 points, 4.6 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 1.6 steals) and teammate, Michael Harris (19.1 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.0 assists) re-signing. Majok Deng is a huge out though after 26.8 points, 11.6 rebounds and 2.8 assists last season, though Greg Mays (21.1 points, 10.9 rebounds) and Jake Rios (10.0 points, 2.5 rebounds) are still there to round out a great rotation. Kane De Wit is another who will provide great assistance off the boards with an average of 8.0 points, 5.6 rebounds and 8.5 assists and 2.3 steals. A big inclusion to the list is former Norwood player, Brandon Brine who averaged 18.0 points and 9.6 rebounds per game which will put the Eagles into serious premiership contention.

North Adelaide Rockets

Team: Jack McVeigh, Adam Schild, Alex Schild, Nick Marshall, Dylan Marshall, Darcy Aistrope, Kyle McNaughton, Yaak Yaak, Tobias Dowdell, Matt Trandafil, Josh Graetz, Anthony Drmic, Gab Saldavia, Riley Harrap, Ray Harding, Fiston Ipassou, Luke Pike
2019: 3rd (6-14) – Semi-final loss
Titles: 5

North Adelaide is the most successful women’s side, but since winning the first three titles in the South Australian state league competition in the men’s, the Rockets have won just two more, in 1983 and 2007. They finished third last season and picked up a massive coup over the off-season with the recruitment of former Southern Tigers’ and Adelaide 36ers player, Anthony Drmic who averaged 27.5 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.3 steals. Teaming up with fellow 36er, Jack McVeigh (24.5 points, 6.7 rebounds and 3.2 assists), the Rockets will have a dominant duo on the scoring end. It will also make up for the fact that Alex Starling has headed south to the Panthers. Bijan Johnson has also departed the club, while Tobias Dowdell returns after a strong effort of 14.3 points and 9.1 rebounds last season. One of the title contenders this year.

Norwood Flames

Team: CJ Turnage, Akol Deng, Andrew Webber, Ashley Mitchell, Aydan Jannsan, Cameron Heufner, Daniel Barker, Daniel Webber, Jordan Wilson, Luca Barei, Lucas Valk, Matthew Fauser, Matthew Long, Matthew Lycett, Ryan Giradi
2019: 5th (14-6) – Preliminary final exit
Titles: 4

Norwood finished fifth in an even final ladder where the Flames were actually six games clear of sixth. They knocked off Southern Tigers and North Adelaide Rockets in the first two weeks of finals before dropping out in the preliminary finals. With the top two scorers in James Legan and Brine both departing the club, Norwood will look to Matthew Lycett (14.8 points, 6.5 rebounds and 4.1 assists) to pick up the slack and try and keep the Flames in finals contention. Adelaide 36ers’ Akol Deng is an important inclusion to the side, while CJ Turnage has joined the Flames from the Tigers after a massive 28.6 points, 10.6 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.5 steals per game last year. Also, who could forget Andrew Webber‘s buzzer beater in the championship game of 2008 to hand Norwood a title – the third in their history – with the most recent title coming in 2015.

South Adelaide Panthers

Team: Tanner Giddings, Alex Starling, Brad Jonnek, Sam Johns, Isaiah Omamogho, Adam Brown, Codey Ellison, Finn Shead, Andrew Barton, Todd Davies, Elijah Minear-Kulpinski, Stewart Lawson, Matt Regenass, Kristian Garin, Malachai Ah Matt, Levi Haggett
2019: 10th (4-16)
Titles: 10

Despite being the second most successful team in the competition’s history, South Adelaide had a poor year last season with just four wins from 20 games. Having finished second last on the ladder and losing their top player in Zach Allmon (26.7 points, 13.1 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.5 steals) the Panthers will need to find a way to rebuild up the ladder, but have brought in Starling from North Adelaide after putting up 21.3 points, 12.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 2.8 steals and 1.2 blocks last season. Tanner Giddings has signed on having experienced the NBL Canada, while Brad Jonnek (11.6 points, 5.1 rebounds and 5.0 assists) returns for his second season. It will be a bit of an unknown this season, but hopefully for the Panthers they can rise up the ladder.

Southern Tigers

Team: Koop McCalop, Jordan Centenera, Viont’e Daniels, Dave Humphries, Craig Catford, Nick Wurm, Harrison Mills, Brandon Holloway
2019: 4th (14-6) – Elimination final loss
Titles: 5

The Tigers reached the finals last year after winning the title back in 2018, but were bundled out in the elimination final. Having lost their three best players in Drmic, Turnage and Devin Gilligan (23.8 points, 9.5 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.6 steals) over the off-season, it could be a worrying time for the Tigers. They have added some serious excitement though with Harlem Globetrotter, Koop McCalop signing on to play in the yellow and black this year. Jordan Centenera (8.7 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.2 assists) has come across from Central District, with the majority of the list new to the club and going through a rebuilding phase.

Sturt Sabres

Team: Joel Dyer, Matthew Rule, Mike Shortt, Joel Spear, Toby Hunt, Harry Reemst, Alex Mudronja, Sebastian Griffin, Daniel Nash, Hayden Meakes, Taine Mitchell, Ben Griscti, Jordan West, Cale Matthews, Nicholas Fassos, Dylan Rawson, Max Calligeros, Tom Goodall
2019: 9th (4-16)
Titles: 5

A disappointing season for the Sabres, finishing right down in the bottom three in ninth. Dylan Rawson was the standout shooter with 14.6 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game, but they will need to find more this year if the Sabres are to be a threat. Alex Mudronja (12.3 points. 4.3 rebounds and 6.3 assists) is back again, but a number of players such as CJ Rivers, Tim Klaosen and Nikolas Desantis have all departed the club meaning the new talents will need to come in and provide an impact. Michael Shortt captained the club last season and returned this year, working hard off the bench.

West Adelaide Bearcats

Team: Nick Bowler, Dellan Brown, Luke Cadzow, Patrick Ciganovic, Mitch Hilton, Lachlan Hunter, Mitchell Hunter, Fabian Johnson, Angus Kubank, Cal Kubank, Lewis Rowe, Robert Sampson, Nate Sheppard, Mitchell Slater, Anthony Spadavecchia, Hunter Wren
2019: 7th (7-13)
Titles: 15

The most successful club in competition history, West Adelaide has claimed 15 titles over the years. While they have only won once since 1996 (2017), the Bearcats were almost unbeatable over a 16-year period between 1967 and 1982 when they won a whopping 11 titles, of which five came consecutively from 1978-1982. In saying this, recent history has not been as kind to them, and the Bearcats finished seventh last year missing out on the finals. With Bryan Jefferson (22.1 points, 8.9 rebounds and 2.4 assists) and Tom Kubank (16.5 points, 6.3 rebounds) both out it will make it tough for the side this season. With a number of players departing the club, West Adelaide will also look for Luke Cadzow to have more minutes, crossing from the Panthers over the off-season, while Nate Sheppard and Fabian Johnson are a couple of players who are in line to step up for the Bearcats.

Woodville Warriors

Team: Bryan McGriff, Joey Hewitt, Devon McGee
2019: 8th (7-13)
Titles: 3

The Warriors finished eighth last season, seven wins off the pace for finals and have just the three titles to their name. They have all come this century though, winning in 2000, 2005 and 2014. Last season was a down year for the club, and just three new players have been confirmed for the roster via the NBL1 site, with McGee (13.5 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 1.4 blocks) crossing from Eastern Mavericks, Bryan McGriff coming from Norwood and Joey Hewitt coming in from Whitman College in the US. James Boonstoppel was the best player for the Warriors last season with numbers of 13.4 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.4 steals, whilst Luke Stanbridge was great off the boards with 19.3 points and 9.1 rebounds.

Wildcats charm Taipans, look for fourth title in five years

PERTH Wildcats’ remarkable post-season run continued in the third and defining semi-final clash against Cairns Taipans. Whilst last year’s wooden spooners had improved out of sight in 2019/20, it was the class and home court advantage of the Wildcats that saw them get home 93-82 and book yet another National Basketball League (NBL) Grand Final appearance. Perth will vie for its fourth title in five years and 10th overall if it can succeed against the Kings, but for now the Wildcats will enjoy making it to the last series once again with the big win over the Taipans.

Both teams showed they were up for the fight in the opening term with Perth taking a narrow one-point lead into quarter time, before blowing away the Taipans in the second quarter, much to the delight of the home crowd. The Wildcats scored 27-20 in the quarter to extend the advantage out to eight, and while they did end up winning every quarter, it was the second term that gave the home team some breathing space. The third was once again tight with Perth winning it marginally 24-22, and then again in the fourth with a 17-16 final term. Despite the Taipans’ best efforts, the Wildcats were just that bit cleaner and  what made the win even more remarkable – or possibly scary if you are a Sydney Kings fan – is the fact that 2019/20 Most Valuable Player (MVP), Bryce Cotton only put up five points.

Cotton did however help in other ways with four rebounds and eight assists, but his shooting game was way off on the night, with just two successful field goals from 16 attempts, including one from seven outside the arc. Those who did step up was his partner-in-crime Terrico White with the guard going nuts with 26 points, four rebounds and two assists, only bettered on the night by Nick Kay who continued his superb form with another double-double playing a crucial role to out-perform Taipans’ gun, Cameron Oliver. Kay had 24 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and two steals to his name, marginally ahead of Oliver who finished with 20 points, eight rebounds, two steals and two blocks on the night. Other Wildcats who looked good were Clint Steindl off the bench with an 80 per cent efficiency from the field on his way to 11 points and two assists, while Mitch Norton picked up 10 points and six rebounds for his troubles. Miles Plumlee only had three attempts attacking the basket but delivered all three times, with six points to accompany six rebounds.

For the losing side, it was a brave season that ultimately fell short, though not without a typical performance from Oliver and Scott Machado. The latter has been a huge performer all season, and finished his year with another 19 points, five rebounds, six assists and two steals to lead from the front. Mirko Djeric also reached double-figure points with 12, as well as three rebounds, while D.J. Newbill shot an inaccurate two from 12 from the field for six points, as well as four rebounds. Center, Nathan Jawai was the other notable player with five rebounds and six points coming off the bench, teaming up well with other big, Majok Deng (nine points, three rebounds.

Perth moves onto the final test for the year, going into a best-of-five series against Sydney Kings, with the first match on the road at Qudos Bank Arena on Sunday.

NBL Semi-final reviews: Wildcats and Taipans exchange blows, set up for wild Game Three

AFTER an A-grade first two games in this season’s semi-final matchup between the Perth Wildcats and the Cairns Taipans, we look forward to what will be an intense final game between two of the top offensive sides in the league. Here were the series of events that occurred over the weekend during a turbulent first two games that have led us to this point.

Game 1: Perth Wildcats (108) defeated Cairns Taipans (107)

In front of the red army, Bryce Cotton and his entourage came up big in the NBL’s opening playoff game, as RAC Arena witnessed perhaps the best game of the NBL 20 season to date. Cotton came out of the blocks strong, torching the Taipans from the perimeter, including a four-point play to end the opening period. With the Wildcats leading by nine after ten minutes, the Taipans showed why they are one of the most entertaining offensive sides in the league, completely upending the game and reversing the roles. Following a 34-16 second quarter, thanks to premium shooting by Scott Machado, Marco Djeric and Cameron Oliver, it was Cairns that went into the main break up by nine points. With their work cut out for them in the second half, Perth’s Nick Kay was the next man up, as he hit back-to-back three pointers to finish off the third period, therefore cutting the deficit to just three points, setting the crowd up for a do or die final quarter. Down the final stretch, Kay again came up big, nailing another three-point dagger with 30 seconds remaining to tie the game at 93 points apiece, which was followed up by the Taipans’ Fabijan Krslovic miss, sending the game into overtime. With the big guns going back and forth from both sides following regulation, the ball fell to Wildcats veteran Jesse Wagstaff at the free-throw line. After nailing both, it put the game beyond reach of Cairns, as the Wildcats took Game 1 by a sole point, setting the series up for a highly touted game two rematch.

Through four quarters and overtime, Cotton remained Perth’s go to man, finishing with a monumental 42 points through 43 minutes of play, staking his claim as the NBL’s only MVP. His counterpart in Scott Machado also made his presence known with a spectacular 31 points, eight rebounds and nine assists, but it was not enough to get his squad over the line. Other than Cotton, a major contributor for the Wildcats was Kay, who shot at a second to none rate, putting up 23 points, nine rebounds and six assists. He also went on to hit the mark on five of his six three-point attempts proving to be Perth’s lifeline in game one. For the Taipans, the other two from the big three tried their best to get their side over the line, with Dj Newbill accumulating 25 points, while Oliver was big on the boards with 17 rebounds, alongside 19 points. With Game 2 just two days later in North Queensland, Mike Kelly’s men were keen to bounce back and fight to their last breath.

Game 2: Cairns Taipans (85) defeated Perth Wildcats (74)

Following their narrow defeat on Friday night, Cairns got the jump on the Wildcats in the first quarter of Game 2, opening up a 14-point lead off the back of a Machado triple to end the period. The damage caused by the Taipans in the first quarter ultimately set the tone for the rest of the game with more of Cairns’ secondary players having an impact like Nate Jawai and Majok Deng putting up substantial numbers on the night. Despite outscoring the Taipans by six in the third quarter, the Wildcats could not get within striking distance of the home side, mainly due to inefficient shooting. With Perth shooting 38 per cent on the night compared to Cairns’ 47 per cent, it would be hard to shake a determined Taipans outfit eager to force a Game 3. At the end of forty minutes, the Taipans took out the contest 85-74 setting up for a deciding game back in Perth.

Oliver was the Taipans’ leading scorer on the night, making his minutes count with 22 points and 19 rebounds (averaging 18 rebounds through two games). Newbill was also prominent in front of the home crowd with 16 points, four rebounds and three assists. An unlikely standout performance in Clint Steindl for the Wildcats was the main talking point for the team, as the forward secured 18 points in 25 minutes of play, whilst Terrico White was good for 13 points of his own. It can be guaranteed that both sides will bring their best cards to the table come Tuesday night, but will the Taipans be able to upset the Wildcats on a home court that is seemingly impossible to win on? Or will the Wildcats handle business as usual and head to the final dance once again to defend their title?

2019/20 NBL Team of the Week: Round 20

TWO teams fighting over fourth spot in the final round earned multiple Draft Central National Basketball League (NBL) Team of the Week player nominations for Round 20. Both Brisbane Bullets (three) and Melbourne United (two) had multiple players in our team for the final round of the season, while five other sides – those in the top seven – had one apiece, with just South East Melbourne Phoenix and Illawarra Hawks missing out on a player for the last round.

Brisbane’s trio of players included two starters in Nathan Sobey and EJ Singler. Sobey put up 30 points, six rebounds, six assists and two steals in the Bullets’ win over Cairns Taipans, while Singler sank 21 points, and had nine rebounds, six assists and three steals with the second best shooting percentage of the starters with 64.3. Also on the bench is Brisbane’s Cameron Gliddon, who made the side along with Melbourne United duo, Chris Goulding and Shawn Long; those two were named in the guard and center position on the bench respectively.

The other starting guard is New Zealand’s Scotty Hopson, with a double-double effort in the Breakers’ win over the Phoenix, recording 23 points, 10 assists, five rebounds and a steal, while up the other end of the court, Perth Wildcats’ Nick Kay cemented his spot in the starting line-up thanks to 23 points, seven rebounds, two assists, two steals and two blocks, with a shooting percentage of 66.7. Rounding out the starting team is Adelaide 36ers’ Daniel Johnson who had a double-double of 18 points and 11 rebounds, as well as three assists.

Looking to the bench, Cairns Taipans’ Cameron Oliver was a lone hand in a disappointing weekend for the third placed North Queensland side, named in the 10-player team with Sydney Kings’ Jae’Sean Tate – who had the best shooting percentage of anyone in the team thanks to 77.8 per cent from the field. There were a number of unlucky omissions from the side for Round 20, including Melbourne duo, Melo Trimble and David Barlow, Illawarra guards Sunday Dech and Angus Glover, South East Melbourne’s John Roberson and Tai Wesley, Cairns’ Majok Deng, New Zealand’s Robert Loe and Perth’s Miles Plumlee.

STARTING FIVE:

G: Nathan Sobey (BB) – 30 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals, 0 blocks, 47.6 FG%
G: Scotty Hopson (NZ) – 23 points, 5 rebounds, 10 assists, 1 steal, 0 blocks, 44.4 FG%
C: Daniel Johnson (AD) – 18 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists, 0 steals, 0 blocks, 47.1 FG%
F: EJ Singler (BB) – 21 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals, 0 blocks, 64.3 FG%
F: Nick Kay (PW) – 23 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks, 66.7 FG%

BENCH:

G: Chris Goulding (MU) – 25.5 points, 3.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.0 blocks, 56.7 FG%
G: Cameron Gliddon (BB) – 25 points, 2 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 steals, 0 blocks, 47.1 FG%
C: Shawn Long (MU) – 16.0 points, 10.5 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 0.5 steals, 1.0 blocks, 42.9 FG%
F: Cameron Oliver (CT) – 16.0 points, 9.0 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 0.0 steals, 1.0 blocks, 50.0 FG%
F: Jae’Sean Tate (SK) – 19 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 0 steals, 0 blocks, 77.8 FG%

NBL Round 20 review: United win finals race in hectic final round

In a shocking turn of events, Melbourne United has gone on to outlast both the Breakers and the Bullets, as they won both of their games in their double-header weekend, toppling the Taipans and the Phoenix. While the Kings and Wildcats cemented themselves in first and second, Illawarra and South East Melbourne capped off their seasons with impressive losing streaks. Here is Round 20’s sequences of events that finished off a remarkable NBL 2020 season.

Melbourne United (99) defeated Cairns Taipans (83)

With Cairns locking up their finals ticket in Round 19 there was nothing much to do for head Coach Mike Kelly to do except keep his players off the injury list, leading up to his side’s semi-final matchup against the Perth Wildcats. But, for Melbourne it was a much dire situation, as they knew they needed to win both of their remaining games to steal fourth position on the NBL ladder away from the Bullets and the Breakers. Nothing could separate the sides on the scoreboard in the first 37 minutes, which made Melbourne supporters very anxious in the stands. But a pull-up three from the top of the arch for Melo Trimble put United up by six with three minutes remaining, the floodgates opened for the home side. A 31-point final quarter for United was enough to pull away from a resilient Taipans side, resulting in a 16-point win, keeping their finals hopes alive to the final game of the season. Chris Goulding led his side from the field, securing 23 points and four assists, along with five three-pointers as you would expect from the veteran shooter, whereas a return to form for Trimble allowed for him to rack up 19 points in 25 minutes off the bench. David Barlow showed off his shooting accuracy with 15 points and three three-pointers, along with seven rebounds. The big men provided what they could for the Taipans, as Cameron Oliver and Nathan Jawai led in scoring with 19 and 16 points respectively, as well as 14 boards for Oliver in his side’s loss. With the Taipans’ loss securing third position for them, Kelly had to decide how he was going to use his players against the Bullets on Saturday, who needed a 34-point win to stay in the hunt for finals. For United, a win against the Phoenix on Sunday would decide if they would go to the finals or fall short to either the Bullets or the Breakers.

DC Medal: 3 – Cameron Oliver (CT), 2 – Chris Goulding (MU), 1 – Shawn Long (MU)

New Zealand Breakers (92) defeated South-East Melbourne Phoenix (83)

Given Melbourne’s win the previous night, New Zealand now had to return serve if they were to even be in a position to make the top four, and standing in front of that objective would be a stubborn yet desperate Phoenix outfit that was on a six-game slide, eager to be back in the winner’s column. Both sides opened up the game with efficient scoring with both sides just two points apart after ten minutes. Nevertheless, Scotty Hopson and Sek Henry came out of the shadows in the second period, whereas the Phoenix could not buy a bucket, being limited to just 15 second-quarter points. The Phoenix fought back hard in the third quarter, pulling the deficit back to even with one quarter left to play. But big plays by Breakers captain Tom Abercrombie late in the fourth proved to be the difference, as New Zealand was able to hold on at Horncastle Arena and keep their finals hopes alive, taking the contest by nine. With the Breakers winning all of the shooting statistics, it was hard to deny them their fifteenth win of the season. Being led by their lethal duo in Hopson (23 points, five rebounds and 11 assists) and Henry (14 points), it allowed both Abercrombie (18 points and five rebounds) and Robert Loe (18 points and five rebounds). Given the Phoenix’s best efforts, they were unable to get the job done, as six individuals reached double-digits, led by John Roberson (15 points and eight assists) and Dane Pineau (14 points and seven rebounds). The Breakers now had to wait for the outcomes of Brisbane and Melbourne’s final games, while the Phoenix could spoil United’s finals hopes if they were to win Sunday’s contest.

DC Medal: 3 – Scotty Hopson (NZ), 2 – Robert Loe (NZ), 1 – Dane Pineau (SEM)

Sydney Kings (98) defeated Illawarra Hawks (82)

While the Phoenix extended their losing streak to seven, Illawarra was at risk of finishing their season with a 10 game losing streak. After a competitive first quarter from the Hawks, it looked as if the fans in attendance were going to witness a close contest, but following a 26-17 quarter for the Kings, Illawarra did not recover resulting in an eventual 16-point victory for the Kings and putting them in good stead for their semi-final matchup. Casper Ware’s 19 points and three assists were instrumental, while Jae’Sean Tate’s 19 points and five rebounds were necessary in his side’s win. For Illawarra, it was a statement game for Sunday Dech, who finished with a game-high 26 points and five rebounds, while Angus Glover was good for 15 points, eight rebounds and four assists. With both teams finishing at opposite ends of the standings for the NBL 20 season, it was a fitting end to an exemplary season for the Kings as they went through the entire season in first position. As for the Hawks, a 10-game losing streak is how they ended their season, as they start their pre-season preparations early.

DC Medal: 3 – Sunday Dech (IH), 2 – Jae’Sean Tate (SK), 1 – Angus Glover (IH)

Brisbane Bullets (124) defeated Cairns Taipans (88)

In a unique situation that saw the Brisbane Bullets needing at least a 34-point victory to stay in the finals hunt and leapfrog the Breakers. Brisbane put on the accelerator almost instantly as they needed to reach that minimum lead as they would score a mammoth 39 points in the opening quarter, getting out to 24-point lead. It was important for Andrej Lemarnis’s men to know that to reach the 34 points, they needed to play good defence to keep the Taipans off the scoreboard, which they were able to do in the second half, limiting Cairns to just 43 second-half points. It was not until the final minute of play that the Bullets went clear of the 34-point deficit, winning the contest by a nail-biting 36 points putting them back in finals contention. Top scoring performances in Brisbane’s crusade to make the finals fell to Nathan Sobey, who came through with 30 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, and Cameron Gliddon surprised the home fans with 25 points and four steals, alongside seven massive threes. For a Cairns side that limited its starting five’s minutes, Majok Deng took the reins for his side with 20 points and seven rebounds, while Cameron Oliver put up a mere 13 points and three rebounds. With New Zealand no longer eligible to make the finals, all Brisbane had to do is hope that a Phoenix side in the midst of a seven-game losing streak, could upset United the following night. For Cairns, meaningless back-to-back defeats was quickly out of their minds, as a three-game series against the Perth Wildcats was on the horizon for the Taipans in a much-anticipated semi-final matchup.

DC Medal: 3 – Nathan Sobey (BB), 2 – EJ Singler (BB), 1 – Cameron Gliddon (BB)

Perth Wildcats (94) defeated Adelaide 36ers (79)

With both sides knowing their season’s fates, it was more of a celebration for the people of Perth as they watched their side cruise past a depleted Adelaide side. The Wildcats outscored the 36ers in three out of four quarters as a result of 50 per cent shooting making half of their 75 shots on the night. A strong inside efficiency from Perth’s bigs was the main contributing factor for Perth in their 15-point win, as four frontcourt players went into double digits, most notably Nick Kay who rounded out 23 points and six rebounds on his night. Miles Plumlee and Clint Steindl were the next best performers on the night from the home side with both scoring 14 points. Daniel Johnson topped off a stellar NBL season with 18 points and 11 rebounds, as Jack McVeigh locked in for 16 points and six rebounds of his own. Ousting the 36ers by 15 points in the end, Perth now look forward to a semi-final matchup against the Taipans obtaining their nineteenth win of the season, collecting their third consecutive win in the process. For Adelaide, back-to-back losses to end their season slots them in seventh place for their season with a record of 12 wins and 16 losses.

DC Medal: 3 – Nick Kay (PW), 2 – Miles Plumlee (PW), 1 – Daniel Johnson (AD)

South-East Melbourne Phoenix (90) defeated by Melbourne United (109)

Needing only a win to advance to the NBL finals, Melbourne United made sure their weapons were sharpened before going into battle against their cross-town rivals for the fourth and final time this season. High-octane offence was the flavour of the day, as 34 opening quarter points for United set the tone early for the rest of the game. While the Phoenix would go on to outscore United by narrow margins in the second and third quarters, a strong final quarter by Dean Vickerman’s men blew open the final Throwdown of the season, resulting in a strong-willed nineteen-point victory for Melbourne and a place in this season’s semi-finals. Following a game-high 28 points and four assists, it has become apparent that as of late, United has been relying heavily on Goulding’s offensive efficiency. Following Goulding to the finish line, was Shawn Long (21 points and 12 rebounds), Trimble (20 points and four assists) and astoundingly, Barlow rounded off a successful round with 18 points of his own. Without Mitch Creek for the Phoenix’s final game, Ben Madgen put up respectable numbers with 23 points and four rebounds, while Tai Wesley was big with 20 points, six rebounds and a pair of blocks. Going down for their eighth consecutive loss, the Phoenix finished their inaugural season with a record of nine wins and nineteen losses. Whereas, United look forward to postseason matchup against the league leading Kings, in what will be a true test for United’s players.

DC Medal: 3 – Chris Goulding (MU), 2 – Shawn Long (MU), 1 – John Roberson (SEM)

DC Medal Leaderboard:

44 – Lamar Patterson (BB)
43 –
42 –
41 – Bryce Cotton (PW)
40 –
39 –
38 – Jae’Sean Tate (SK)
37 –
36 –
35 –
34 –
33 –
32 –
31 – Shawn Long (MU)
30 –
29 – Mitch Creek (SEM)
28 –
27 – Jerome Randle (AD), Nick Kay (PW)
26 –
25 – Scott Machado (CT), Melo Trimble (MU), Casper Ware (SK), Cameron Oliver (CT),
24 –
23 –
22 – John Roberson (SEM)
21 – Scotty Hopson (NZ)
20 – LaMelo Ball (IH), Daniel Johnson (AD)
19 –
18 – Chris Goulding (MU)
17 –
16 – DJ. Newbill (CT)
15 –
14 –
13 – Andrew Bogut (SK), Nathan Sobey (BB),
12 – Eric Griffin (AD)
11 – Corey Webster (NZ)
10 – Finn Delany (NZ)
9 – Terrico White (PW)
8 –
7 – Tom Abercrombie (NZ), AJ Ogilvy (IL), Dane Pineau (SEM),
6 –  Kouat Noi (CT),  Brad Newley (SK), Sek Henry (NZ), Robert Loe (NZ),
5 – Aaron Brooks (IL), Anthony Drmic (AD), Todd Blanchfield (IH), Matt Hodgson (BB), Miles Plumlee (PW), Sunday Dech (IH),
4 –  Dario Hunt (PW), Brandon Ashley (NZ), Ben Madgen (SEM),  Didi Louzada (SK), Will Magnay (BB), Josh Boone (IH)
3 – Glen Rice Jr (NZ), Ej Singler (BB),
2 – Jason Cadee (BB), David Barlow (MU), Mitch McCarron (MU), Tim Coenraad (IH), Kendall Stephens (SEM), Reuben Te Rangi (BB), Darington Hobson (IH), Jo Lual-Acuil (MU), Majok Deng (CT),
1 – Craig Moller (SK), Jesse Wagstaff (PW), Keith Benson (SEM), Tohi Smith-Milner (MU), RJ Hampton (NZ), Angus Glover (IH), Emmett Naar (IH), Daniel Kickert (SK), Sam Froling (IH), Mitch Norton (PW), Cameron Gliddon (BB), Angus Glover (IH)

2019/20 NBL preview: Round 20 – United still in the hunt for finals

THE final round of the National Basketball League action is set to be a big one with the New Zealand Breakers, Brisbane Bullets and Melbourne United all still in contention for that elusive fourth spot on the ladder. While the battle for second spot is just as exciting with Cairns looming as the potential team to leapfrog the Perth Wildcats.

MELBOURNE UNITED v. CAIRNS TAIPANS
Thursday, February 13, 7:30pm
Melbourne Arena

It is do-or-die for Melbourne United who if they want to get any type of finals redemption from last year’s grand final loss, will have to leave nothing to chance. United have struggled with consistency throughout the season, stringing together a couple of strong performances and then going off the boil making them a real unknown. Melbourne has only won two of its past five games, speaking to its inconsistency and have not won against the Taipans so far this season. Cairns Taipans well and truly have the wood over their opponents and are in hot form sitting on a four-game winning streak and claiming victory in nine of their past matches. The Taipans have taken the competition by storm this season, steadily building into the year and creating a strong winning momentum to secure third seed and a spot in finals. There is no denying that captain, Chris Goulding is a real barometer for United with the experienced guard able to sense the moment and hit the scoreboard with his accuracy from three-point the most damaging part of his game. But Goulding will need support from Melo Trimble coming off the bench with his deft touch and scoring ability. Trimble knocked back 36 points in Round 18 and 13 last week, and will have to replicate that strong attacking intent to get his side over the line and give them a shot at finals. The team from up north have been unstoppable with Cameron Oliver and Scott Machado able to do a wealth of damage on the scoreboard. They both had a big day out the last time these two sides met with Oliver recording a double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds making for an intriguing contest.

NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS v. SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX
Friday, February 14, 5:30pm
Horncastle Arena

The fourth placed Breakers have everything to play for in their clash against new comers South East Melbourne Phoenix. New Zealand has had a rollercoaster season to say the least with players leaving and succumbing to injury but have somehow managed to hit their straps at the right time winning 10 of their past 13. A win here could all but sow-up fourth spot and their chance at finals whereas a loss could knock them out of contention. Despite a hot start to their inaugural season the Phoenix have simply been unable to maintain their dominance falling well and truly out of the finals race dropping 10 of their past 12 games. Without star, Mitch Creek who suffered a hyperextension last round, the Phoenix will have their work cut out for them and will look to the likes of John Roberson to lead the way on the scoreboard. Dane Pineau and Ben Madgen will have to step up to the plate, while youngster Kyle Adnam will be hoping to keep his hot form rolling coming off an impressive Round 19 performance of a team-high 19 points. The Breakers are not without their own star power with the likes of Scotty Hopson in blistering form coming off a whopping 31 points. Hopson along with Finn Delaney, Tom Abercrombie and Sek Henry have proven that they can stand up under pressure and deliver time and time again making them a damaging prospect for the Phoenix. Delaney has been in ripping form recording double figures in his past six games, so expect him to keep that form going.

SYDNEY KINGS v. ILLAWARRA HAWKS
Friday, February 14, 8:00pm
Qudos Bank Arena

With top spot all but guaranteed, the Kings will be aiming to iron out any issues ahead of the finals against the last placed Hawks. The Kings have been near-unstoppable throughout the season with their slick ball movement and explosive scoring along with their variety of options making them a very dominant line-up. Despite Sydney winning two of their three encounters the Illawarra Hawks have proven that when on song they can topple the best claiming a five-point victory in Round 13. But their most recent encounter showcased just how punishing the Kings can be with six players reaching double-figures headlined by Deshon Taylor with 17 points. Casper Ware is no slouch when it comes to the points department knocking back 24 points last week while Jae’Sean Tate backs himself from all areas on the court falling marginally short of a double-double last round with 17 points and nine rebounds. Brad Newley and Andrew Bogut are also imposing figures for the Kings with the latter a rebounding machine. The match-up between Sunday Dech and Ware will bring plenty of interest with the Kings guard well held in recent times only managing eight and 10 points respectively. Josh Boone will have to stand up for the Hawks while captain Todd Blanchfield has been a staple in their line-up. Andrew Ogilvy will be aiming to replicate his Round 19 form recording a team-high 15 points, four rebounds and seven assists in hope to get his side over the line.

BRISBANE BULLETS v. CAIRNS TAIPANS
Saturday, February 15, 5:30pm
Nissan Arena

The Brisbane Bullets are knocking on the door of finals and must win their clash against the third placed Taipans if they are any chance to secure fourth spot. But history is not on their side with Cairns winning six of their past games against the Bullets. The boys in blue have steadily risen-up the ranks knocking off unsuspecting teams with their precise ball movement and scoring prowess but Cairns will be looking to keep their dominant form going heading into finals and potentially snatch second spot. Last rounds loss will be fresh in the minds of Brisbane and will be looking to rectify their performance with a strong showing against state rivals. Expect both sides to battle hard considering the relatively even match-up across the court and just how much is at stake. Lamar Patterson has been a revelation for the Bullets with the star forward able to single handily change the course of a game with his drive to the basket and defensive pressure. Patterson scored 18 and 25 points respectively last round while Nathan Sobey showcased his attacking intent with a game high 30 points against New Zealand. Will Magnay is a defensive beast for the Bullets thanks to his strong rebounding and ability to swat the ball away leading the league in blocks. Cairns captain, DJ Newbill has taken his game to a whole other level in 2020 and can flick a switch to kick it up a gear and record a win. Majok Deng has blossomed throughout the season becoming a real talent for Cairns relishing the extra court time while both Oliver and Machado are game changers.

PERTH WILDCATS v. ADELAIDE 36ers
Saturday, February 15, 8:00pm
RAC Arena

With a shot at first spot on the line, expect the Wildcats to throw everything at the 36ers who have been plagued with inconsistency throughout the 2019/20 season. Perth is a class act, able to pull something out of the hat even when it looks impossible, while Adelaide ooze unpredictability. Unfortunately, the 36ers are out of the finals race but can still have an impact on the postseason positioning with a win here and considering their recent track record it is quite possible having won their past two encounters. It is a milestone round for Adelaide with Joey Wright coaching his 500th game and potentially giving the spark the 36ers need to win, but the Wildcats are no easy beats able to mount pressure in ways no other team can.  The 36ers have a wealth of stars across the court with Jerome Randle able to hit the scoreboard time and time again while big man Eric Griffin is a real excitement machine for Adelaide with his basketball nous and skill. Throw in Daniel Johnson who is coming off a solid performance and the 36ers could do enough to rattle their opponents and get the wood over them. But it is hard to worry the likes of Bryce Cotton who is simply ice cold when it comes to scoring holding the leading points title. Nick Kay is also a handy influence on the scoreboard with 23 points to his name last week while Terrico White can chime in to wreak havoc.

SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX v. MELBOURNE UNITED
Sunday, February 16, 3:00pm
Melbourne Arena

The final game of the home and away season is set to be a big one. Melbourne United’s future rides on their performance in this round and a win in the opening game could all but gift them with a fighting chance. Playing against an understrength Phoenix could be exactly what the doctor order for United to sneak into fourth spot and play finals. With Goulding able to put on a masterclass and Trimble showing some form in recent weeks coming off the bench a big performance from star recruit Shawn Long could thrust United into finals. Long has been vital for Melbourne with his points scoring ability and strong frame consistently able to gobble up rebounds. Despite their three key players United will have to rely on the performances from other players such as Mitch McCarron and David Barlow if they are any chance to romp it home. But the Phoenix will not go down without a fight and will be looking to end United’s hopes. Forward Tai Wesley will be hoping to make a splash in his first game against United since their opening clash while Adam Gibson and Kendall Stephens will have to up their ante to cause some of trouble on the scoreboard. But given what is at stake expect Melbourne to play with plenty of intensity and passion to down their cross-town rivals.

2019/20 NBL Preview: Round 19 – Bullets looking to cement spot in top four

THERE are only five games in Round 19 of the National Basketball League (NBL) with the Brisbane Bullets the only side to play two games this round. It will be a ladder defining round of action with a host of top four clubs set to do battle and teams hanging on by a thread hoping to sneak their way into finals contention.

BRISBANE BULLETS v. NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS
Friday, February 7, 7:30pm
Nissan Arena

It will be a hotly contested match between the fourth placed Brisbane Bullets and fifth placed New Zealand Breakers to kick off the start of the round. With finals edging closer the Bullets will be hoping to hold onto fourth spot but a loss against the Breakers who are hot on their tail could end their chances. Brisbane are on a six-game winning streak, gradually getting stronger each and every game while the Breakers have won four of their last five, making for a tantalising battle. Lamar Patterson has been the go-to guy in previous outings for the Bullets with the forward posting up high numbers both on the scoreboard and in rebounds. Patterson is coming off a double-double having knocked back 31 points and 12 rebounds, making him the danger man for the Breakers. Nathan Sobey and Jason Cadee will also have to stand up in the contest if the Bullets are to get the win over the charging Breakers. New Zealand have their own set of star players looking for a chance at playing finals led by the likes of Brandon Ashley who showed just how much damage he can do last round with 31 points and 12 rebounds to his name. Scotty Hopson is just as dangerous with the guard able to find the net with ease while Finn Delaney and captain Tom Abercrombie are no strangers to the big stage, able to stand up under pressure and deliver. This game will ultimately come down to who can withstand the pressure for the longest and which side is willing to lay it all on the line for a chance at finals.

MELBOURNE UNITED v. ILLAWARRA HAWKS
Saturday, February 8, 5:30pm
Melbourne Arena

With a spot at finals still on the line it is do or die for Melbourne United who have had the wood over Illawarra Hawks the past couple of encounters. United have been inconsistent to say the least winning some huge games and dropping some easier match-ups making this contest all the more exciting. On the other hand, the Hawks have really struggled to get any form of winning momentum while also being plagued with injury. Melbourne have only won one of their past five games showcasing just how much a win here could mean to the sixth placed side. It will be up to the likes of Chris Goulding and Melo Trimble to lead the way for United with the latter hitting his straps at the right time. Trimble fell victim to the midseason slump but with a sniff of finals has returned to form of late with 36 points in his latest outing. Big man Shawn Long has also been a key contributor for his new side and will be hoping to make a splash against the Hawks and get his side back on the winners list. Both Mitch McCarron and David Barlow will be hoping to make up for a relatively quiet last round and hit the scoreboard. It is all about pride for the Hawks now, with Josh Boone proving to be a shining light in recent weeks while Todd Blanchfield and Tim Coenraad have combined to become a force off the boards. United will have to throw everything they have at the undermanned Hawks if they are any chance to get finals redemption.

ADELAIDE 36ers v. CAIRNS TAIPANS
Saturday, February 8, 8:00pm
Adelaide Entertainment Centre

With third spot on the ladder almost tied up the Cairns Taipans will be out to officially secure their finals chances while the 36ers will be looking to shake things up. Although they can statistically make the finals, Adelaide’s chances are very slim but a win here and some fortunate losses to teams around them could see the top four open-up. Cairns have been in hot form with their on-court synergy causing headaches for opposition teams. Led by the likes of DJ Newbill the Taipans have roared into action winning four of their past five and do not look like stopping. Cameron Oliver and Scott Machado have proven to be the deadly duo with the two combining week in and week out to post a hefty total. Oliver is crafty across the court, able to find the basket with ease collecting 17 points last round. Throw in the likes of Majok Deng and the Cairns are a real powerhouse when they get going, making it a challenging task for Adelaide. The 36ers will be looking to the likes of Jerome Randle and Eric Griffin to pave the way and keep their season alive. Both players have shown time and time again throughout the season that they can pull a cat out of the bag with their exciting game play and scoring prowess. Daniel Johnson should not be forgotten about for the 36ers with the forward able to navigate his way around the court and use his big frame to outmuscle opponents and score freely coming off a 22-point game.

SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX v. SYDNEY KINGS
Sunday, February 9, 3:00pm
Melbourne Arena

After a successful start to the season the South East Melbourne Phoenix have well and truly fallen off the boil but will want to end the season on a high and cause a major upset. The Kings currently sit one game ahead of Perth in second and will be aiming to increase that lead with a win over the Phoenix, but South East should not be discounted. The boys in green have an uncanny ability to do the unthinkable and could cause a real stir if they get the win over the firing Kings. Mitch Creek has returned to form with the star proving to be the real barometer for his side with his scoring ability while John Roberson has been handy on the scoreboard. The South East duo will have to go big in their clash if they are any chance to win while Dane Pineau and Ben Madgen will have to step up to the plate to help out both defensively and offensively. Unfortunately for the Phoenix, the Kings have a wealth of talent with Casper Ware a real menace while Jae’Sean Tate has been a revelation. Big man Andrew Bogut is a force to be reckoned with and will be looking to impose himself once again on the lowly Phoenix. Brad Newley has been another strong contributor along with Daniel Kickert for the Kings making for a tough challenge for the Phoenix who will have to overcome a strong attacking team.

PERTH WILDCATS v. BRISBANE BULLETS
Sunday, February 9, 5:00pm
RAC Arena

Sitting one game away from top spot on the ladder, the Wildcats will be searching to inflict some pain on the Bullets who are vying for a top four position. Perth have struggled against Brisbane throughout the season dropping two of their past three encounters against the Bullets, making for an intriguing contest to close out Round 19. The Wildcats are extremely hard to stop when they are on song with the likes of Bryce Cotton able to light the court up with his speed and ability to drain shots from anywhere on the court. Cotton managed 30 points last week while Nick Kay is another one to watch for the Bullets. It is hard to go past Terrico White who has been relatively inconsistent but still has plenty of firepower. NBA recruit Miles Plumlee has been a handy inclusion for the Wildcats, making the challenge even tougher for the Bullets. Expect Patterson to stand up under pressure credit to his strong form against the Wildcats while Matt Hodgson will have his work cut out for him against Plumlee. Will Magnay has been solid in recent weeks for Brisbane and will have to replicate his high output if the Bullets are to ruffle some feathers and claim a major scalp ahead of finals.