QBL Game Previews – Quarter Finals

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Mackay Meteors (1) v Rockhampton Rockets (8)

Last time they met: Round 6 – Mackay 112 (Blanchfield 25) def Rockhampton 105 (Bernard and Lopez 26)

A 16-point Round 15 win over the Pirates has secured the Meteors the number 1 seed and home court for the entirety of the Playoffs, finishing the season with a 15-3 record. Todd Blanchfield was again the main man for the home side finishing with 32 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists. Point Guard Nick Larkins finished with 24 points of his own including 6-7 from behind the arc. Outside of an uncharacteristic 36-point loss to USC back in Round 13 Mackay’s only other losses were by a combined 9 points, highlighting their consistency over the course of the season.

Rockhampton were able to clinch a Playoff berth with an 11-point victory over South West, which also ended their season. Ray Willis and Malcolm Bernard again willed their side to the victory finishing with 28 and 26 points respectively, while Bernard also pulled in a game-high 13 rebounds. The Rockets have somewhat limped into the Playoffs only managing a 2-4 record over their final 6 games which included to non-Playoff teams in the Force and Seahawks.

The two matchups between these two teams resulting in the home side taking the points in both matches. Rockhampton were able to hand the Meteors their first loss of the season in Round 4 with a 84-79 win, although Mackay were able to get their revenge a fortnight later with a 112-105 win in a much higher scoring contest. For the entire 2018 season the Rockets have relied heavily on their Big 4 of Bernard, Willis, Mitchell and Lopez and have had very limited bench production. On numerous occasions coach Tweedy has only used 6 players over the course of a game. In comparison with the Meteors who get at least 12 points a night from all 5 starters, with Gamblin, Rasmussen and Blicavs all playing over 15 minutes a night off the bench.

The Rockets proved in 2017 they have what it takes to knock off the top-seed as an 8-seed, although we think that Mackay will have too much depth and firepower and run away with a double figure victory and move onto Round of the Playoffs.

Prediction: Mackay by 10

 

Townsville Heat (2) v Gold Coast Rollers (7)

Last time they met: Round 6 – Townsville 94 (Froling 24) def Gold Coast 64 (Mitchell 17)

The Heat were able to overcome a determined Sunshine Coast Phoenix in a 99-97 thriller in Round 15. Townsville faced a 13-point deficit inside the final 9 minutes of the contest before a 13-0 run (including 8 by Baker) over the next 3 minutes tied the match, before escaping with the win. A loss would have seen the Heat drop to the 3-seed and forfeited a potential home game to the Thunder in Round 2 of the Playoffs. Josh Wilcher finished the game with 31 points and 7 assists and Justin Baker pinched in 24 points and 10 rebounds.

Gold Coast entered Round 11 sitting in 11th spot on the QBL ladder with a 4-8 record but have closed the season with an incredible 6-game stretch which only included the one loss (by a single point) to finish 9-9 and in 7th position. The Rollers needed two Round 15 victories to cement a Playoff berth and they did just that with a 107-100 win on Friday night over the Ipswich Force and a Sunday afternoon blowout victory over Toowoomba. Jack McVeigh averaged 20.5 points over the weekend and was closely followed by 19.0 by Rhys Martin.

The only matchup between these teams this season was back in Round 6 where the Heat blew out the Rollers by 30-points on their own home court in what was their third game of the weekend. The Rollers are a completely different side now and their Round 6 result will not impact this weekend’s match in the slightest. Townsville enter the Playoffs with a 15-3 record with their only 2018 losses being to the two sides directly above and below them.

Townsville’s quest for back-to-back titles continues and we think that despite a brave fight from the visiting Gold Coast squad, the Heat will get a hard-earned victory and set up a massive Semi-Final hit out with the Logan Thunder.

Prediction: Townsville by 7

 

Logan Thunder (3) v Cairns Marlins (6)

Last time they met: Round 13 – Logan 96 (Kyei 24) def Cairns 64 (Jurlina 17)

The Thunder closed out the regular season as the league’s hottest team with a 14-point victory in Gladstone extending their win streak to 7 games. Mitch Young was dominant with 42 points and 13 rebounds to earn his second QBL Player of the Week award for the season. Obi Kyei also recorded a massive 20-20 game to record his fourth straight points-rebounds double-double.

The Marlins were able to snap a streak of three consecutive losses as they locked themselves into the 6-seed with an 88-77 win over the Phoenix. 88 points is Cairns highest offensive total since Round 8 against Gladstone and it is no surprise their offense flourished with an improved performance from captain Anthony Fisher. Fisher finished with 20 points, 11 rebounds and 5 assists for what was his best game in the past month, whilst teammate Christian Jurlina added 21 points of his own. Cairns still enter the Playoffs winners of only three of their past seven and with only two wins on the season over Playoff teams a quick change of form is required.

Logan finished the season undefeated at home with a 9-0 record and don’t think that will change as the struggling Marlins look to make amends on their Round 13 embarrassment at Cornubia Park Sports Centre. We don’t see Cairns having a match for arguably the league’s best frontcourt in Young and Kyei and despite an improved performance compared to Round 13, the Thunder will win comfortably at home.

Prediction: Logan by 15

 

USC Rip City (4) v Brisbane Capitals (5)

Last time they met: Round 6 – USC 88 (Tueta 33) def Brisbane 84 (Anderson 24)

After a mid-season slump USC Rip City have returned to some good form of late with three straight victories to hit the Playoffs running. A 9-point win over the last-placed Spartans locked in the 4-seed and a home quarter final against the Brisbane Capitals. Lance Hurdle played all 40 minutes on his way to 22 points, while teammate Eric McAlister only needed 27 to net his 22 points and pull down 9 rebounds. Rip’s defense has returned to its best keeping their past three opponents to an average of 69.3 points.

The Capital’s closed out the regular season with a 20-point thumping of Gladstone on the road on Saturday night. This victory is their sixth of their final seven matches, with their only loss coming to the 2017 Champions the Townsville Heat in Townsville. Similar to the Gold Coast, Brisbane started the season poorly before flipping a switch at the mid-point of the season to finish the regular season as one of the league’s hottest teams.

Based on current form the Brisbane Capitals would enter this game as favourites, but USC have been a different team with Eric McAlister back in the lineup after missing 3 games through injury. Rip were 0-3 in the games where McAlister was missing and outscored by an average of 18 points. Over the past two months Brisbane have proved that they have been able to continue to win regardless of the status of their mid-season recruit Tim Coenraad. With Coenraad likely to suit up for the Playoff run, the Capitals have a variety of different weapons which will give any team headaches to prepare for. Despite USC having home court advantage for this Quarter Final clash, Brisbane have what it takes to go the whole way and they should scrape over the line on the Sunshine Coast come Saturday night.

Prediction: Brisbane by 6

 

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Townsville Flames (1) v North Gold Coast Seahawks (8)

Last time they met: Round 4 – Townsville 90 (Cocks 20) def North Gold Coast 61 (Jansen 12)  

After a tough 12-point win over the Phoenix in Round 15, the Flames have secured top spot and home court advantage throughout the playoffs finishing the regular season with a 16-2 record. Micaela Cocks led the Flames with 22 points over the Phoenix and collected 7 rebounds and 6 assists in the process. Darcee Garbin finished her fabulous regular season with another 18 points, 7 rebounds and 2 blocks and Miela Goodchild had 16 on the night. The Flames starters were kept busy with coach St Maurice using just two players off the bench. The win should give Townsville some extra confidence going into the finals having beaten a top-5 team after a shaky last month which included a loss to Rockhampton and a close 4-point win over the Capitals at home.

Not many would have predicted the Seahawks to make the playoffs in their first QBL season but after dominating the SBL for the past few years and with the core roster intact there was no doubt in the minds of the team that they could reach August and match it with the best that the top league in Queensland had to offer. Despite a last round loss to the Spartans, the Seahawks rounded out the season with a .500 record at 9-9. The Seahawks faced a horror run home losing 5 of their last 6 games with losses to Rocky, Ipswich, South West and twice to Spartans – all teams featuring in the playoffs. Casey Samuels top scored for the team in Round 15 with 26 points, whilst Aimee Durbidge was solid off the bench with 11.

Both teams’ form leading into this one hasn’t been ideal; however, Townsville are at home in front of a massive crowd and should be able to take down the plucky Seahawks.

Prediction: Townsville by 12

  

Ipswich Force (2) v Mackay Meteorettes (7)

Last time they met: Round 14 – Ipswich 88 (Johnson 24) def Mackay 63 (Lloyd 19)

The Force have been close to dominant all season long on the back of MVP-favourite Amanda Johnson. Ipswich narrowly missed out on top spot with a loss against the Townsville Flames back in Round 8 as the tiebreaker. Johnson had another game-high 30 points with 14 rebounds and 4 steals in the Force’s 11-point win over the Gold Coast. Rachel Mate scored 19 points, whilst Gintare Mazionyte had 13 points and 13 rebounds. Johnson has been the top-scoring player in the league in 2018 and second leading rebounder propelling the Force to a home final this weekend.

Mackay come into the playoffs on the back of three straight losses after a difficult last month. The Meteorettes fell to the Pirates by 19 points at home with Ruvanna Campbell scoring 18 and 10 rebounds to go along with Heidi Freeburn and Mia Lloyd’s 16 points apiece. The Meteorettes have been inconsistent throughout the season and have only won once against a playoffs’ team – the Seahawks which gave them 7th place in the final standings.

The Force destroyed Mackay only a couple of weeks ago and it would seem unlikely that the Meteorettes could spring an upset down south.

Prediction: Ipswich by 15

 

South West Metro Pirates (3) v Rockhampton Cyclones (6)  

Last time they met: Round 15 – South West Metro 93 (Seekamp 25) def Rockhampton 87 (Ellenberg 32)

These two teams met last weekend with the Pirates coming out on top by 6 points. Nicole Seekamp was at her dazzling best with 25 points, 6 assists and shooting at 66% from the field. Steph Bairstow had 18 points, whilst Kalani Purcell contributed with 16 points and 14 rebounds. South West had another win the previous night against Mackay with Seekamp again top-scoring with 26 points and Madi Willey putting up 20. The Pirates have won 8 of their last 9 games and are full of confidence going into this clash having beaten their opponents away from home last weekend. With the presence of Seekamp, the Pirates remain one of the dark horses to win the comp.

Rockhampton will be looking for revenge over the Pirates after suffering a defeat in their last home game in front of a big crowd. The Cyclones were led by Aaryn Ellenberg who hit a game-high 32 points shooting at 57% from the field. Shanavia Dowdell played just over 7 minutes in the loss and her fitness will be a concern leading into this weekend’s game.

The Pirates have shown their championship credentials in the past month and back at home this weekend should keep their season alive against the Cyclones.

Prediction: South West Metro by 10

 

Southern Districts Spartans (4) v Sunshine Coast Phoenix (5)  

Last time they met: Round 14 – Southern Districts 92 (Anderson 23) def SC Phoenix 75 (Hurst 31)  

The defending champs are in red-hot form leading into the playoffs having won their last 9 games to finish fourth on the ladder. The Spartans had two strong wins last weekend defeating USC and North Gold Coast on consecutive days with Romy Baer top scoring in both games for an average of 19.5 points. Strong contributions from Anderson, Taia and Parham were enough to give the Spartans a home final this weekend.

The Phoenix come into the playoffs on the back of a three-game losing streak after a tough northern double header against Cairns and Townsville. The dynamic duo of Abby Bishop and Natalie Hurst continued to dominate the stat sheets with Bishop averaging 27 and Hurst averaging 24 points over the weekend.

This promises to be the match of the round with some superstars in action on both sides of the court. Based on the form of both teams the Spartans would be considered heavy favourites, but if Bishop and Hurst can fire the Phoenix once again it will be a close encounter that could be decided at the death. Home court advantage is huge and could be the difference in this one.

Prediction: Spartans by 4

 

 

 

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