Grand Final Series Game Previews – Men
Townsville Heat (2) v Cairns Marlins (6)
Last time they met: Round 10 – Townsville 107 (Froling 25) def Cairns 70 (Jurlina 18)
Townsville cemented a spot in their second straight QBL Grand Final Series after a 90-85 victory over the Brisbane Capitals. The Heat were all over the Capitals in the first half as they jumped to an early 15-point lead at the end of the first before extending the lead to 21 at half time. Despite the margin reaching a whopping 27 points the Heat took their foot off the accelerator and allowed Brisbane right back into the contest. The Capitals cut the lead all the way back to 1 in the final minutes before two late Harry Froling offensive boards and a Peter Crawford steal turned the momentum back the way of the Heat.
All five Townsville starters reached double figures, led by Baker’s 21, but Jordair Jett played arguably his best game for the season with 18 points, 8 rebounds and 10 assists on 63% shooting. A concern for coach Anderson will no doubt be his sides second half struggle which saw them only scoring 26 points after a massive 64 in the first half. As a team the Heat only connected on 54% of their free throws, which is another area that must improve if they are to go back-to-back as QBL Champions.
The Cairns Marlins pulled off their second straight road upset of the 2018 playoffs as they overcame a 15-point last quarter deficit to overrun the top-seeded Meteors. A 33-17 last quarter from the Marlins puts them into their second Grand Final Series over the past three seasons, now ensuring that the winners of the past two Championships will face of for the 2018 title.
Cairns shot above 50% from both the floor and behind the arc in their second straight game. Christian Jurlina and Michael Nwelue both went 9-15 from the field on their way to 25 and 19 points respectively, whilst despite being 0-8 from 2pt range, Anthony Fisher connected on 4-5 from deep to finish with 17 points and 7 assists.
Townsville were able to win both of their matches against Cairns comfortably throughout the regular season, including a 37-point blowout in their most recent contest in Round 10. The Heat won both encounters by an average of 25 points, whilst keeping the Marlins to under 75 points both times. These previous results will give the Heat a lot of confidence heading into the series, especially with a current 10-game winning streak at Townsville 106.3FM Stadium.
The Marlins have proved over the past fortnight that they are a different team to earlier in the season and are heating up at the most important time of year. Christian Jurlina is playing his best basketball of the season putting up an impressive 28.5 points a game in both playoff appearances thus far. The outside shooting of both Jurlina and Fisher will need to be on target if the Marlins can record two victories in Townsville this coming weekend.
Considering the Heat have only lost the one game at home all season, its difficult to see them losing two out of three in the one weekend. The Marlins will have their hands full containing Baker and Froling on the glass and with Wilcher’s playmaking ability the Heat look like the complete package. Peter Crawford showed in last years all important Game 3 of the Grand Final Series he still has the ability to take over the game with his shooting and we would not be surprised to see a similar outburst from PC in a game this series. The Marlins will be extremely competitive, but Townsville should have too many weapons.
Prediction: Townsville 2-0
Grand Final Series Game Previews – Women
Townsville Flames (1) v Southern Districts Spartans (4)
Last time they met: Round 7 – Southern Districts 96 (Anderson 24) def Townsville 67 (Cocks 15)
The QBL best of three Grand Final Series is upon us with the minor premiers Townsville Flames hosting the defending champions Southern Districts Spartans. In what promises as a fitting finale, both teams are in fine form leading into the showpiece event with the Flames finishing the regular season with a 16-2 record and the Spartans having won 11-straight games to secure their chance of back to back championships.
The Flames welcomed back star Darcee Garbin to their lineup last weekend and she delivered a 23-point, 13 rebound performance shooting at 60% from the field in Townsville’s massive win over the Cyclones. Stella Beck was sensational with 21 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists, whilst Micaela Cocks was also instrumental with 9 rebounds and 5 assists. Townsville’s depth has been the best in the league all season and even without young gun Miela Goodchild, the Flames were again packed with talent with Haylee Andrews and Alex Fowler both impressing off the bench against Rockhampton.
The Spartans managed to fight back from a half-time deficit to defeat the Ipswich Force in last week’s nail-biting semi-final by 5 points. Ashley Taia led the scoring for the Spartans with 23 points including 6 3-pointers. Ambrosia Anderson and Romy Baer combined for 34 points, whilst captain Rebecca Haynes led from the front with 11 rebounds, 2 steals and a block – containing Amanda Johnson to 17 points.
After an early-season form slump, Southern Districts have dominated opponents in their last two months of action and are full of confidence heading into the Grand Final Series. In their last meeting in Townsville, the Spartans destroyed a full-strength Flames outfit 96-67, restricting Garbin and Goodchild to a combined 23 points. Ambrosia Anderson was the top-scorer in that game with 24, whilst Ashley Taia had 20 on the night. This game proved to be the turning point in the season for the defending champs, going on to win all but one for the remainder of the year. Coincidentally it was the only home loss of the season for Townsville.
The Flames will be studying Round 7’s home loss and will be aiming to stop the commanding presence of the Spartans’ bigs. Aja Parham has been the Spartans’ conductor all season long and her battle with Micaela Cocks will be intriguing. After suffering heartbreak with Mackay in last year’s Grand Final Series to Southern Districts, Cocks will have a chance to seek revenge this time on her home court.
Townsville have been the highest scoring team all season with Darcee Garbin averaging 21 points a game, whilst Rebecca Haynes and Aja Parham have been ranked in the top 3 for blocks all season long.
Home court advantage is vital in a playoff game and to have the Grand Final Series played at home will give the Flames an enormous boost in their quest for their first QBL title in 10 years. The Spartans have been the league’s best team in the last month and a half and will be full of confidence travelling to Townsville after a successful trip back in June. This series should go down to the wire with a third game on the Sunday likely to happen. If it does go to a third, expect the fired-up Townsville crowd to lift their team to victory and deny the Spartans back to back championships.
Prediction: Townsville 2-1