Big V 2015: Competition dark horses on verge of something special

The best thing about the 2015 Big V State Championship season has been how closely contested it has been.

While there are always going to be the favourites sitting atop the ladder, a number of teams have always been in contention in both the men’s and women’s division.

As the men’s grand final series approaches, the McKinnon Cougars, a team who finished fourth, are on the verge of something remarkable.

Likewise, in the women’s competition, the Bulleen Boomers, who also sat fourth at the end of the regular season, are just a win away from completing a remarkable run to the grand final series themselves.

Both teams had been touted as dark horses prior to the playoffs, and both have lived up to that billing so far with impressive performances that has put them in a position to seriously challenge for the titles.

The Cougars looked dead and buried last week as they went into the final term against top seed Ringwood, away from home and down 13 points.

The Hawks had lost just once all season, but behind an unconscious Kale Harrison, McKinnon rallied and completed one of the biggest boilovers in Big V finals history.

Harrison was unstoppable as he nailed 20 points in six minutes, finishing with 36 for the game and a spot in the grand final series to boot.

Credit: Big V Media

McKinnon will now face Corio Bay, who is not the formidable force they have been in recent years despite very much still being a title contender all season.

The Stingrays lost four games during the regular season, and impressively edged out Waverley, a genuine title threat, last week despite being down in the final term.

It will be tough for the Cougars, particularly given the season series went Corio Bay’s way 2-0, including a 100-77 thumping in the last game of the season.

Yet the impressive Cougars, who went on a nine-game winning streak early in the season, will fancy their chances of another upset, with Ringwood and Waverley the two sides widely tipped to be playing off this week before the season began.

McKinnon has all the momentum in the world after last weekend, and with Harrison on the floor and in menacing form, anything is possible.

In the women’s competition, Bulleen will be steeling themselves for a tough matchup against top-of-the-table Hume City in a grand final qualifier this weekend after knocking out Waverley and Southern Peninsula in the past two weeks.

The Boomers are perhaps the deepest and most even team in the competition, with no player averaging more than 13 points per contest this season and with eight different top scorers over the course of the year so far.

Lauren Pearce and Taylor Hall lead from the front, but are not depended on to get wins like Pearce and import have been in recent seasons.

In fact, last week Pearce scored just two points in their win over the Sharks, while the week before it was Hall who finished with a single basket as they held on against the Falcons.

Credit: Boomers Media

Facing the Broncos away from home will be by far the biggest test they have faced to date, but the cards seem to be falling Bulleen’s way.

Samara Gallaher may be missing from the Broncos’ line-up if she is still away on New Zealand national duty, which would provide Bulleen with a big boost, particularly in the size department.

The Boomers also have form, winning 10 of their last 11 games, and have beaten the Broncos in the last two meetings at the Broadmeadows venue.

Shutting down Colleen Planeta will be a key focus for Bulleen; with the likely league MVP shooting just 6-for-17 in their last meeting as the Boomers triumphed.

The post-season is a whole new ball game and expect the Broncos to be much tougher this time around, but the visitors are as good a chance of causing a boil over as any side heading to Hume City for a preliminary final.

Both McKinnon and Bulleen could well lose this week, ending the Boomers season and leaving the Cougars needing to win twice away from home to claim the championship.

However, it is the fact that these two sides are in the position they are right now that highlights just how close the competition has been this season across both divisions.

As both teams prepare for battle this weekend, they will again go in as significant underdogs, but if we have learnt anything so far this post-season, it is to never underestimate the ability of a dark horse.

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