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WNBL Grand Final Preview - The Final Battle
It's finally here.
What all 9 teams have been fighting for all season has finally led to this very last match. While 7 teams find themselves watching the game from their TVs this Sunday afternoon, two teams remain. Bendigo and Townsville have fought hard to have another go at the game where legends are born and greatness is forged; a game where everyone watches in awe and anticipation. That's right, just like last year, both Bendigo and Townsville have shown themselves to be the best two teams in the league and will deservingly fight it out for the opportunity to be branded as the best.
So far in this season, Townsville has been the only team to have cracked open Bendigo whose only two losses come from the Fire. It isn't all bad for the Spirit against the Fire this season having defeated them once, so the task isn't undoable, especially with their extraordinary 22-2 record.
How could that one week off help Bendigo? How would the league's noisiest crowd alter the game? Will Rachael McCully's 300th game ignite the Townsville flame?
Credit Geoff Tripp for photography.
Bendigo's ability to win this game will come from defense. The most-pressing issue on D is their need to shut down Suzy Batkovic. The Gabe Richards/ Suzy Batkovic match-up should be thrilling, and whoever takes control of the painted area should contribute crucial points for each team. Bendigo needs to limit Batkovic's operating space in the paint, forcing her into another bad shooting game. If Bendigo can consistently defend against Suzy with help coming from the backside, it'll be a tough day for her.
Sara Blicavs provides an interesting x-factor type role for Bendigo. Last time against Townsville, Blicavs exploded for 25 points and 7 rebounds, shooting 10/13. With her sharp-shooting, she was able to constantly find space to work with against the Townsville defense, a defense which became laden with gaps. It is possible for Blicavs to recreate such a production, but she's equally capable in having an absolute stinker of a game. Blicavs's role on offense provides the Spirit with a big morale boost at times, yet it remains a mystery as to whether Mia Newley or Blicavs have a more superior game.
In what could be her last WNBL game, Kristi Harrower will be adamant to leave on a high. Kristi needs to work on not forcing shots, but instead making it to the line where she does the most damage. If the shot isn't there, a pass out is the best option for Harrower where she's the best in the league at finding gaps which others aren't capable of visualizing. Look for Kristi to make double-digit free throws and assists this Sunday.
How's this for luck? Rachael McCully plays her milestone 300th game this week. McCully, who is one of the league's most seriously underrated and under-appreciated players, will look to make her mark in what should be the most memorable game of her life. McCully forced the game-winning turnover last week and her defensive abilities will come in handy facing up against Kristi Harrower. If McCully can produce the level of defense we saw in the final few plays of last week's game, staying ahead of Harrower the whole time in the upcoming match, Harrower's impact would definitely be diminished and the Fire would have a greater chance to win.
Steph Cumming and Micaela Cocks have created a lethal 2/3 combination. They are both able to penetrate the key and dish out to open shooters, or split the defense and put up their own shots. They are also fantastic shooters from the mid-range. Their ability to drill their way into the key and work to make the defense collapse should be crucial for Chris Lucas. With twin-towers Kelsey Griffin and Gabe Richards inside, these two need to create as much space in the paint for the dominant Suzy Batkovic, Townsville's sole big.
How could you go an entire preview without talking about Suzy Batkovic?
She's the consistent double-double queen and can set out to do any task you want her to perform on court. Her ability to influence this game will come from her work down on the low-block, which is an area she excels in. She'll need to take her low-post opponents on a journey, one where they get lost in the process while she scores. Batkovic is going to finish with double-digits in rebounding; it has now become a common sight to see her do so. With her big body, if Batkovic can record 8 rebounds on the offensive end for easy second-chance points, I can see a Townsville win.
However, I can't see Bendigo losing it this time at home. Kelsey Griffin will mostly likely be named MVP for this game, while Gabe Richards will produce an inspirational effort into limiting Suzy Batkovic to under 15 points.
Bendigo Spirit to win 81-73.
The game will be televised live across Australia on ABC at 3PM AEDT time.
For ticketing which is released to the public Tuesday 4th March at 9AM, click here.
For more player stats, do check out FOX SPORTS PULSE.
Don’t forget to check out the ABC Grandstand Sport’s TV schedule for the Finals match-ups or if you’re short on time, the live stats on WNBL. Stay tuned for more exciting WNBL news, right here, at the Pick and Roll.