SEMI FINAL GAME PREVIEWS
Saturday 20 August
Mackay Meteorettes v Gold Coast Rollers
Although both the Meteorettes and the Rollers both posted big wins, it is fair to say that these two sides had very different games which got them through to the semi-finals. The Meteorettes were too much for the Flames, and trounced them 82-67, whilst the Rollers went into Logan and shocked the competition with an 88-79 upset win against a tough Thunder outfit. The addition of seasoned guard Natalie Stevens Hurst is proving to pay dividends for the Rollers, with the combination of Payne anchoring the middle proving to be a formidable duo with 49 points between the pair.
These two sides have only met once this season, which occurred back in Round 8 at Candlestick Park, where the Rollers couldn’t handle the heat and the Meteorettes ran out comfortable winners by 33 points. Rachel Allison was especially dangerous in that clash with 23 points, to perfectly accommodate Tami Willey’s 31 points and 9 rebounds in just over 26 minutes! The star duo were at the forefront of it all last weekend in their qualifying final also, and with Jillian Haughton leading the way as she has done all season the Meteorettes will be fully confident that they can get it done and return to the QBL Finals. The Rollers offense will need to be on point as it was last weekend, as in Round 8 they managed only 64 points at a solemn 31.4% from the field; of which isn’t enough for them to knock off a legitimate championship contender on the road.
The Rollers will have it up against them this weekend, however they will go into this clash with absolutely nothing to lose and will look to hit first and hit hard. The Meteorettes will go in as hot favourites, and if they play the way they have all season it’s hard to see them losing!
Rockhampton Cyclones v Brisbane Capitals
The Cyclones would have been kicking back on Saturday night after securing a home semi-final and watching with intrigue as the Capitals beat the Force on the road. The coaching staff would have noticed the star trio of Freeburn, Lewis and Eaton lighting it up, and this weekend a number one focus for the Cyclones would be to try and nullify the influence that these three have, alongside King down low.
Although the teams are vastly different at this point in the season, no doubt the Cyclones will be going back to the tape of their Round 7 affair where they manhandled the Capitals at NAB and cruised to a dominating 95-41 victory. If the Capitals shoot at 18.6% this Saturday night, it could be an excruciatingly long night for this brave Brisbane outfit. In that same game, Dowdell and Jones were in top form, with 23 and 22 points respectively in limited minutes. The Cyclones shot it at a fraction under 53% in that clash, which should come as no surprise as they have the second best offense in the league. If they can bring the same intensity on the defensive end the boisterous Rockhampton crowd will have plenty to cheer about as they hope their hometown heroes return to the finals an bring another championship to Rockhampton.
Alike the Rollers, the Capitals will have nothing to lose and will play like they don’t. Playing Rockhampton in Hegvold is never an easy task and although the star power of the Cyclones resembles a WNBL roster, stranger things have happened and this “all or nothing” clash will be no different!
Friday 19 August
Townsville Heat v Cairns Marlins
Both sides go into this battle in the far north full of confidence and rightly so. The Marlins have beaten the Heat up not too long ago and have currently won six in a row, including their qualifying win over the defending champion Meteors on the weekend. A first half surge gave the Marlins a 19 point lead at the main break and they didn’t look back, running out 17 point victors, 99-82. The Heat although had the best record in the league throughout the season and for good reason, with the talent their roster possesses they remain favourites for the title as they have locked up home court advantage throughout the playoffs.
With a starting line-up which features the likes of Tragardh, Heiur, Loughton, Fisher and Mitchell, the Marlins are as potent as anyone. Add in the priceless NBL experience their front line offers, the Marlins will feel they are a real crack. The Heat won’t have a bar of it nevertheless; Wilcher, Schenscher and Crawford are more than capable of filling the void that the star duo in Djeric and Froling offered, who won’t play due to other basketball commitments. The Heat will need to watch NBL stalwart Cameron Tragardh especially, with the forward posting 22 and 11 in the Marlins’ Round 13 win over the Heat. It is easier said than done, but if anyone can do it, the title-favourites are more than capable.
With both teams grabbing a win at home against each other throughout the season, studying game-tape from both clashes will be extremely important. As both of these coaches are seen as quality leaders, this will be a focus of both camps as both sides will try to get the upper hand come Saturday night.
Saturday 20 August
Brisbane Capitals v Logan Thunder
In a semi-final that some have anticipated for some time, the Logan v Brisbane game will take place at NAB following the classy victories both teams had last weekend. The Thunder were too deep for the brave Pirates, with Michael Cedar showing why he is a MVP candidate with 34 points. With forwards Young and Baker both posting double-doubles also, this Thunder outfit sent a message that they are capable of winning it all. The Capitals also were too much for the Force, with some stifling defence and 25 points from Ryan Jeffries shutting out the young and brave Force.
When these sides matched up during the regular season, it was the away team who dominated the home team in each game. The Round 14 drubbing on the home floor that the Capitals handed the Thunder will still sting deeply for Head Coach Derek Rucker, as an expected win their would have given his Thunder outfit one foot in the door for the minor premiership. The Thunder were particularly disappointing in the second half of that game, with poor defence allowing the Capitals to run away 104-89 winners. Aaron Anderson was amazing in that game with 28pts-8ass-8rbs; no doubt nullifying his influence will be key for the Thunder.
Both the Thunder and the Capitals have shown the league that their best is good enough to beat anyone, however both teams have had bad nights also and thus disappointing losses. Nevertheless, expect both sides to be at their best and thus this one could go either way.