With the 2019 season of the Queensland Basketball League heading into the first week of finals, we preview the match ups with comment from the leagues stars while Nothing but Net Media’s Jon Guarna also makes his predictions.
Most Valuable Player
Rowan J Anderson: I see it being fought out by two players in the men’s league – Jason Cadee or Josh Wilcher. What these two bring to their teams and the league is immeasurable and it will be a two horse race in the finish.
Jon Guarna: It’s between three; Cadee, Wilcher or Parker.
Brisbane Capitals vs Logan Thunder
The Capitals’ Aaron Anderson has been one of the standout imports and guards in the QBL for several years paired in the back court now with Australian Boomer star Jason Cadee and they have become the benchmark in the league. This is even before you have added young gun Will Magnay to this insane Capitals side.
Jason Cadee: “Finished off the season with a win and we’ve been looking forward to finals for a while now.”
The Thunder have one of the best senior cores in the QBL with stars such as Mitch Young and Mick Cedar combining with import guard Rayshawn Simmons who also returned to Cornubia. Ryan Jeffries, Zac Young and Tendekai Machando have also improved Logan’s depth. Struggling to come together as a unit due to unplanned disruptions through the season yet still booking a playoff berth it will be interesting to see what this side can do.
Mick Cedar: “Prep has gone as per normal. Still just focusing on us as a group and getting better with our cohesiveness on both ends of the floor. Brisbane have been the best team all season and we know we have to be at our best to give us a chance to beat them. We believe we are starting to put it all together as a group and feel there is no pressure on us so if we enjoy the moment and play for each other we got a great chance. New season starts this weekend and we can’t wait.”
Rowan tips: Even as a Thunder faithful I see the Capitals showing they can kick it to yet another level and at home will be far too dominant for the lads from Logan.
Jon tips: Brisbane has been the strongest team from start to finish and I do not see that ending in the quarterfinals versus a Logan team who has yet to find consistency this season.
Cairns Marlins vs Rockhampton Rockets
The Marlins were pretty much unchanged from 2018, having offloaded one import for another, and a Taipan for another. Fisher as captain is a star and the Marlins become a whole other beast come this time of year.
Christian Jurlina: “Squads feeling good. Everyone’s in good condition and in high spirits so no complaints here.”
Rockets Point guard Shaun Bruce was signed after showing what he brings to the beef capital after his wealthy NBL and QBL experience. Experience, leadership and playmaking ability has proven invaluable. Sean O’Mara along with the other great recruitment for the Rockets they have arrived to send a message.
Shaun Bruce: “As a group we were unsettled at the start of the season with changes to the lineup. But with momentum and finishing the season strong on the road we are feeling confident with the game this weekend.”
Rowan tips: Marlins are a whole different beast come playoffs and with home court advantage and the two Euro pillars combining with the leadership of Fish I see Cairns taking this one out.
Jon tips: Cairns is doing Cairns things; playing great defense and efficient offense, and they once again are hitting their peak heading into Finals. Rocky is tough but home court in Cairns helps the Marlins get up.
Townsville Heat vs Mackay Meteors
Mackay’s Ragin’ Cajun Washington has meshed well with this group who lost some great parts including Todd Blanchfield. Having a player like Chris Cedar leading and at the point guard position is pivotal and his record of eleven finals from twelve seasons exemplifies this.
Chris Cedar: “Training this week is going good. We are travelling North for the first time and can only focus on the one game and not having to back up the night after. Townsville pulled our pants down in the 4th quarter last time we played them at home and I feel we need to earn some respect back after that. This being my twelfth year and only missing the finals once gives me a lot of confidence knowing this is a one off game and anything can happen. If we stick to our game plan and I know Rod (Townsville head coach) has a good blue print for us as they beat us twice this year, but I am confident we can sneak a win.”
The defending champion Heat aiming to go for a three-peat. Point guard Josh Wilcher is the driving force of this squad and although they have lost some potency in Baker, Jett, and Froling under Rocket Rod Anderson, they should never be ridden off.
Josh Wilcher: “We are feeling good. Tough matchup this week against an experienced Mackay group but we know what playoff basketball is all about so ready to give it our best shot again.”
Rowan tips: The tightest game of the men’s league to tip. Wilcher v Cedar is one of the peak matchups as they bring so much in game expereince, toughness and leadership. I am not writing off the three peat possibility but betting against a Cedar led squad is pure stupidity. Let’s see how this plays out.
Jon tips: Tipping against Townsville at home is very dangerous but something tells me Mackay’s imports have big games and Chris Cedar has had some of his best games vs Heat; I wouldn’t be surprised if he has another one this weekend.
Gold Coast Rollers vs USC Rip City
USC star Isaih Tueta has shown he still has it in the tank leading this squad back to the finals. Coach Nathan Arousi and his young squad has shown a fresh, up-tempo game style throughout the season as expected.
Isiah Tueta: “We are feeling good coming off four wins on the trot. Feel like we are peaking at the right time.”
Touted as the best Rollers side to ever take the court. Let’s see what they have to offer.
Tidjane Diop: “It’ll be a big one for us seeing as we lost to them in regular season. Opportunity for us to redeem ourselves.”
Rowan tips: This Rollers side can do HUGE things this season and that starts this weekend against Rip City.
Jon tips: Gold Coast has one of the deepest, most talented rosters in the QBL with stud import Spencer Parker and veteran Rhys Martin. The depth and talent will be too much for Rip to overcome.
Most Valuable Player
Rowan: Put it this way – 369 match points, 19.33 average rebounds, 348 total rebounds, 93 free throws made… while still recovering from an ACL injury. Mik Ruef deserves the MVP for the women’s league and I see it being a hard run race for the Logan boom star. However Abby Bishop is Abby Bishop… the best and most dominant player in the league by a country mile and will throw down a huge challenge in the MVP race.
Jona: Bishop, Leah Scott or Ruef.
Townsville Flames vs Mackay Meteorettes
Abby Bishop: “Should be a huge game! Squad is feeling good, we had everyone at practice last night after a season of people in an out, so that was great leading up to this game.”
Heidi Freeburn: “Yeah it’s going to take a massive effort from our girls this weekend, we are 0-2 against them so far this season and they haven’t had their full squad. They have a wealth of experience and great players so we just have go up there and give it we have.”
Rowan tips: Dominant and all-class Abby Bishop will continue to deliver invaluable results for the city of T’Ville in the playoffs and into the WNBA season having signed with the Fire. That starts with leading this squad through the finals.
Jon tips: Townsville has the best player in the league in Abby Bishop, who has joined the Flames and taken them to another level. Bishop makes everyone around her better and Mackay will struggle to slow down Townsville.
Gold Coast Rollers vs Logan Thunder
Jacqui Luna Castro: “I’m really proud of my team and the coaching staff. We set goals at the beginning of the season that were bigger than the expectations others had for us and we have worked very hard to check them off one by one. It’s exciting to have the opportunity to play at home in front of our amazing supporters and show them what we’ve been working towards all season. To prepare for this tough game against Logan we’ve been focused on us and how we can tweak and eliminate some of our defensive and offensive weakness and recurring mistakes.”
Mikaela Ruef: “The whole team and I are really excited for the game. We had a great training last night really focusing on executing our half court offense. We’re good in transition but our sets need some work so we’re looking to get all the way through those. Defensively we’re trying to work on our team defense and our rotations when someone gets beat. I think it’ll be a great game, it’s a bummer we didn’t get a home final, but our fans travel well and Gold Coast isn’t too far, so I think we’ll have a pretty good cheering section for the Thunder there supporting us.”
Rowan tips: It all comes down to who steps up for this Thunder squad. Heslehurst should be Coach of the year – coming in with what was typically an empty pantry and rebuilding a squad around star captain Mikaela Cann with rebound queen Mik Ruef, dominant WNBA star Ash Taia, unearthing a future rep star in youngster Tali Natoa and bringing in Brit Carter in the back end of the season while utilising local juniors from the bench. However this means nothing if the big three are not supported by the juniors through bench minutes. The Roller women were written off pre-season and have proven all doubters wrong with a finals berth. Jacqueline Luna-Castro will be seeking a dominant performance to push her squad towards a win against her former side.
Jon tips: Logan would be disappointed in their performance in Round 15 and I think the loss was a good thing. I expect to see the Thunder step up defensively and pull off the upset in the game of the round.
Rockhampton Cyclones vs Ipswich Force
Mary Goulding: “We are super excited! I think this week is going to be a good test for us. I didn’t play against Ipswich last time but I heard it was a tough game. It’s going to be hard but everybody will step up and bring their best game.”
Georgia Ralph: Really excited for the challenge this weekend, Rocky are a great team so we know we need to show up to be in it. We’re down a few key players so we are going to have to have people step up but I think everyone’s ready to give it everything.”
Rowan tips: Rocky at home. Ipswich down in troops and Rocky have all theirs on squad so I can only see this going one way.
Jon tips: Rockhampton will hopefully have their full roster for the first time this season. Ipswich is as talented a team as any in the QBL. This is a tough one but I have to go Rocky at home.
Southern District Lady Spartans vs USC Rip City
Aja Parham-Ammar: “Feeling good. We are coming in focused and knowing Rip is a strong team and we will need to play well to get the win. Playoffs will be competitive across the board this season so we are looking forward to it.’
Kisha Lee: “The preparation going into this weekend’s game is consistent with our preparation throughout the season. Study film, train, prepare our bodies and minds to go out and compete at a high level. Staying in the moment, executing our game plan and being ready for whatever comes our way.”
Rowan tips: Spartans have the big game experience on their side along with leadership in boom players like Parham-Ammar. Should be a great clash but it all comes down to depth and who brings it on the night.
Jon tips: Spartans are the team to beat in my opinion, and while I think Rip has the talent to pull off the upset, I think the Spartans depth and experience will be too much for Rip to overcome.