The 2017 QBL season is set for a grand finale with the men's and women's competitions playing their best of three grand final series this weekend, with a host of NBL and WNBL stars in action.
Mackay will be hosting Townsville in the men's grand final, with the Meteors' star trio of Lucas Walker, Shaun Bruce and Chris Cedar looking to hold off the challenge of the Heat who will be led by Josh Wilcher, Justin Baker and Peter Crawford.
In the women's grand final, the unbeaten Brisbane Spartan's host of stars including Ashleigh Karaitiana, Kalani Purcell and Rebecca Haynes will be aiming to lift the trophy against the likes of Mackay's Nadeen Payne and Micaela Cocks. Rarely does a team go through a season undefeated, but this Spartans team has been nothing short of exceptional.
With so many talented players in action, neither game is one you should miss, with every game live streamed by Live Sport Australia.
Thanks to Basketball Queensland, here is the must-read grand final series preview.
Mackay Meteors (2) vs Townsville Heat (3)
Last time they met: Round 12 – Heat 96 (Wilcher 36) def Meteors 81 (Cedar 29)
The Mackay Meteors were able to lock in a home grand final berth with a strong 106-90 victory over the Rockhampton Rockets in their QBL semi-final. Mackay fought back from an early double-digit deficit to lead narrowly entering the final quarter. The Meteors pulled away strongly in the fourth term to runaway comfortably victors at the final buzzer. Lucas Walker made his comeback in style by scoring a team-high 25 points, to go along with his 11 boards. Shaun Bruce and Chris Cedar both put in 18 points, as well as 9 and 7 assists respectively.
Townsville escaped their semifinal with a narrow two-point victory after building a strong lead in the opening term. Josh Wilcher came out firing from the get go, scoring well from both inside and out. The Heat capatilised off 9 first quarter Marlin turnovers, to take a 9-point lead into the first break. Cairns chipped their way back over the remaining quarters to take a 73-71 lead with 3 minutes remaining, before late Justin Baker and Jamell Anderson baskets led Townsville to victory. Wilcher was the games high-scorer with 30 points.
Both teams will enter this grand final series with a 1-1 record against the other in QBL season 2017. Townsville got the better of the Meteors in Round 12, winning by a comfortable 15 points. The round 12 match-up may not be the best indicator of how this series may pan out, due to Bruce not playing in this contest and Walker fouling out in only 15 minutes of playing time. Wilcher single-handedly dominate the match, finishing with 36 points in Bruce’s absence. Mackay will feel extremely confident with the possibility of having to play their final three matches of the season at Candlestick Park, where the team has boasted an incredible 9-1 record this season.
Townsville will have won more games in Mackay over one weekend that all other QBL sides managed to all year….combined. This will be an extremely tough task, but Rodney Anderson’s men have shown what they’re capable of over the course of the season. The Heat went 0-3 on the road in the regular season against their fellow top four teams, proving that they are not the same team on the road as they are at home.
The Bruce versus Wilcher match-up will be the highlight of the series, with both players leading their respective teams in points and assists. Whoever gets the best of this point guard duel, will go a long way to helping their team to clinch the QBL championship. Walker versus Baker will be another exciting match-up, with both players scoring over 20 points per game throughout the season. Baker will have the tough task of keeping Walker off the glass, a task in which many have found difficult throughout the year.
Mackay have arguably been the best team all season, and with only one minor hiccup at home, it is extremely difficult to see Townsville winning two games at Candlestick Park in the one weekend. Friday is a must win for the Heat, as it would be near impossible to see them closing out the season after being down 0-1. We expect two (possibly three) very competitive matches, but Mackay may just too much firepower at the top end.
Prediction: Mackay 2-0
Watch Game 1 Live: Friday, 25 August 2017, tip-off at 7:30pm AEST Watch Game 2 Live: Saturday, 26 August 2017, tip-off at 7:3opm AEST Watch Game 3 Live: Sunday, 27 August 2017, tip-off at 2:00pm AEST (if required)
Brisbane Spartans (1) vs Mackay Meteorettes (3)
Last time they met: Round 7 – Brisbane Spartans 80 (Karaitiana 30) def Mackay Meteorettes 77 (Payne 28)
The Brisbane Spartans have a chance to go undefeated through 2017 when they take on the Mackay Meteorettes in a best of three grand final series at Rowland Cowan Stadium. The Spartans have been ranked first in points scored, assists, blocks, steals, rebounds and fewest turnovers all season long, and will go in as big favourites to take out the championship.
Both teams came off good wins in their semi-finals on the weekend. The Spartans were engaged in a tight contest with Gladstone up until the third quarter when they pulled away with a 22-point win. Ashleigh Karaitiana was a surprise starter off the bench, but eventually was the leading scorer for the Spartans with 27 points and 5 assists. Rebecca Haynes had 18 points, whilst Maddie Allen and Kalani Purcell both registered 9 rebounds. The biggest question mark heading into the game was whether the Spartans could control Tabatha Richardson Smith. Judging by the American’s performance they weren’t able to, as she scored 34 points. However the Spartans did shut down her support crew, limiting the rest of the Power to 33 points. Brisbane had all the running in the final quarter due to the fact their opposition had just 7 players suiting up and they were able to run away with the win.
Mackay travelled to Logan on Saturday night and were able to come away with a 13-point win to book their place in the grand final series. The Meteorettes led from start to finish in a dominant performance which was spurred on by Nadeen Payne who amassed 32 points and 18 rebounds. Micaela Cocks and Chevennah Paalvast both scored 13 each, whilst Jillian Haughton had 7 assists. The Meteorettes were very impressive and showed their experience in big games – something that will be needed again this weekend.
The advantage for the Spartans will be their depth, and with plenty of rotations on the bench in previous weeks, they should have fresher legs going up against a Mackay outfit who had to travel to Logan last weekend. Karaitiana has been the leading scorer for the Spartans, but there have been plenty of stars in the team. The Spartans have shown all season long that to win in the QBL, you must have great teamwork and balance. If the Meteorettes can slow the Spartans down, they are a good chance to win, especially on Friday night. Payne has been terrific in the playoffs and if she can dominate under the hoop, Mackay is a big chance.
Anything can happen in a best of three series but it will be extremely tough for Mackay to win two games away from home. If the Spartans drop game one, look for them to come out firing on Saturday to ensure a decider on Sunday. It’s hard to see Mackay winning game two, so their best chance will be first up on Friday. In their previous meeting, Mackay pushed the Spartans all the way, however, up against the undefeated number 1 seed, the task may be a little too tough to claim the 2017 Women’s QBL title.
Prediction: Spartans 2-0
Watch Game 1 Live: Friday, 25 August 2017, tip-off at 7:00pm AEST Watch Game 2 Live: Saturday, 26 August 2017, tip-off at 7:0opm AEST Watch Game 3 Live: Sunday, 27 August 2017, tip-off at 1:00pm AEST (if required)