SEABL Round 14: The South Conference Race Is On while the Sabres Finally Have a Reason To Smile
The race for the top four continues to hot up in the South Conference as the Canberra Gunners, Frankston Blues and Sandringham Sabres all moved to 8-10, just one win outside a playoff spot.
Canberra added another scalp to their impressive list of wins, defeating the Nunawading Spectres 81-73 for a fifth win from their past six matches. The Spectres got within 4 points with 2:00 remaining but aside from a 48 second period in the third term, never owned a lead. Six Gunners players reached double figures with Matt Staff (18 points, 11 rebounds) and Tad Dufelmeier’s near triple-double (12 and 9 with 7 assists) leading the way while Mitch Creek scored a game high 27 for Nunawading. Tommy Greer (14 and 14) and Simon Conn (7 and 15) dominated the rebounds but had little impact in second chance points or points in the paint.
Sandringham improved their poor home record to 4-5 with a convincing 99-76 win over the Brisbane Spartans, their biggest of the year. A 30-15 opening term blew the game open and while both teams had eight players score, five Sabres players went on to reach double figures. Rayshawn Goins (24 points, 11 boards) and Junior Hairston (17 and 14) combined well as Sandringham finished +15 in points off turnovers and +12 in second chance points.
Brisbane’s performance may have been hampered by fatigue, having played the night before in Tasmania against the Hobart Chargers. Hobart are going in the opposite direction to their South Conference rivals, dropping a fifth straight game in a 79-82 loss. They led by 17 points late in the third quarter but a 13-30 fourth term collapse handed the Spartans the win. Deba George (15 points, 8 assists) responded after a horror fortnight and newcomer Zach White poured in 21 but the Chargers need to re-group quickly as their finals hope begin to slip away. For Brisbane, Brendan Teys had 33 against Hobart and averaged 26 for the round.
With Sandringham and Canberra enjoying success, the Frankston Blues needed a win to stay in touch and they managed to eke out a 77-76 victory over the Knox Raiders. With 2:10 remaining and a 9 point lead, the Blues looked to have secured the victory but Knox reeled off the next 8 points and just fell short after Rhys Carter missed a buzzer beating three. Against a small line-up, Brandon Polk (35 points, 12 rebounds) proved dominant while his partner in crime, Chuck Long (10 and 13) also enjoyed a prosperous night.
Knox’s weekend only got tougher as they fell 72-87 to the Mt. Gambier Pioneers on Saturday. They lost every quarter and trailed by as much as 21 in the final term before another strong finish made the scoreline more respectable. One of Knox’s rare shining lights this year, Delwan Graham, averaged a double-double for the round with 11.5 points and 10.5 rebounds while Justin Aver averaged 14 points and 3 steals off the bench.
Mt. Gambier’s three game winning streak came to a halt on Sunday though, taken to the sword by the Kilsyth Cobras. The South Conference leaders never found a rhythm to their offence, scoring 24 points in the second half and shooting 39% overall to lose 61-79. Brad Hill’s 19 points took his round average to 18 while Tom Daly defied his point guard status with 14 points and 7.5 rebounds per game.
The win for Kilsyth snapped a two game losing streak, having been upset by the Albury/Wodonga Bandits on Friday night. The Bandits led wire to wire but had to fight off a desperate Cobras side who got within 1 point in the final term before falling 69-78. Playing for the first time since May, Auryn MacMillan averaged 15 points and 8 boards while Kyle Adnam was brilliant with 15.5 points, 5 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game. Albury/Wodonga are out of playoff contention but snapped a five game losing streak thanks to the efforts of Lamar Mallory (16 points, 15 rebounds) and Nick Payne (17 and 11) while Jamar Briscoe recorded a game high 24.
The Geelong Supercats’ hold on the East Conference top spot is looking shaky as they dropped their first home game as well as a second straight since losing Mike Mercer. Their 91-96 defeat at the hands of the Bendigo Braves looks close but a 24-8 run to end the game helped after Bendigo exploded for a 35 point opening term. Eric Gaff pulled down an incredible 18 boards but shot just 3-6 for 7 points as newcomer, Anthony White Jr. (26 points), showcased his scoring abilities. Bendigo scored 27 points off 17 turnovers as Josh Wilcher (24 points) and Dustin Salisbery (22) helped the Braves to a 53% shooting night. The unexpected win has helped Bendigo’s cause immensely, maintaining their one game advantage in the South Conference’s fourth spot.
Finally, the Dandenong Rangers got over the Ballarat Miners 84-76. They recognised the importance of Ken Horton and shut him down for 11 points and 10 rebounds while Daequon Montreal (23 and 10) and Tony Lewis (23 and 13) did damage at the other end. Ballarat’s Nathan Sobey (20 points) kept the Miners in the hunt but a 12-3 run in the fourth quarter finally silenced them. Andrew Harms (8 points, 6 rebounds, 9 assists and 4 steals) stuffed the stat-sheet for the Rangers as they moved above Nunawading into second in the East Conference.
The Sandringham Sabres doubled their season win tally in one round, with victories over the Brisbane Lady Spartans and Knox Raiders finally giving the Sabres faithful something to smile about. Since biting the bullet and bringing in new coach, Paul Graham, Sandringham are 3-1 and have moved into fifth spot in the South Conference.
Their 79-70 defeat of Brisbane saw them shoot 46% from the field which countered a -10 differential in points off turnovers. The Lady Spartans also won the rebound count by 10 but apart from Olivia Thompson (24 points on 10-15 shooting) they couldn’t find the basket. Four Sabres players reached double figures with Mikaela Dombkins (19 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists) leading the way.
Brisbane can be forgiven for a sluggish effort offensively, having played in Hobart the night before. They picked up an incredible 86-83 win against the Lady Chargers, trailing for the entire game aside from a 4-0 start and pushing the match into overtime after falling behind by as much as 18. Nat Taylor (11 points, 9 boards off the bench) hit the game tying shot in regulation before Odette Andrew (19 points) drilled a three in the final minute of the extra period to record a famous victory. Olivia Thompson was superb, averaging 22.5 points and 9 rebounds for the round. Hobart will be at a loss as to how they let the game slip as four of their starters reached double figures with Cayla Francis (24 points, 15 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks) and Kathleen Scheer (14, 11 and 6 assists) dominating.
Having beaten Brisbane, the Sabres headed to Knox on Sunday and didn’t lose a quarter on their way to a 75-61 victory. Their three game win streak was aided by impressive performances off the bench from Bridget Deery (15 points) and Georgia Stott (10 and 7 rebounds) while Micaela Cocks (16 point, 7 assist average for the weekend) and Michelle Joy (15 points, 6.5 rebounds) starred.
Knox’s playoff hopes are all but dashed after another 0-2 round (their third of the year), having lost to the Frankston Lady Blues the night before. The Raiders tried something different, giving their starters big minutes and the scheme almost paid off as they got within 3 in the final term before falling 54-61. Knox’s bench tallied 0 points, 0 rebounds and 1 assist with Shanae Greaves (20 points, 8 boards) and Jess May (18 and 9) running themselves ragged. Thanks to Kelly Bowen (14 and 12) and Emily Fryters (2 and 15) the Lady Blues dominated inside, recording a 45-31 advantage in points in the paint. Sammie Simmons enjoyed her most productive game of the year, collecting 15 points as Frankston moved to equal first in the South Conference.
Alongside them are the Kilsyth Lady Cobras, who thrashed the Albury/Wodonga Lady Bandits 86-45 with every one of their players scoring. Sarah Parsons (16 points, 12 rebounds) celebrated her 200th game in style while Louella Tomlinson also had a double-double (14 and 10 with 6 blocks). Emilee Harmon (13 and 11) was the only bright light for the Lady Bandits as her side shot just 30% and recorded 19 less free throw attempts.
The third side sitting equal first in the South Conference are the Bendigo Lady Braves, who fell to the Geelong Lady Supercats 74-88 on Friday night. Bendigo led by 2 points in the fourth term but the Lady Supercats finished on a 27-11 run, moving their home record to 7-2. Alex Bunton (25 points, 13 boards) and Kerryn Harrington (17 and 6) came up big for the Lady Braves but they couldn’t contain Geelong’s spread of scorers as Courtney Williamson (19 points) and Alex Duck (18) led six players over 8 points.
The Canberra Capitals continued their good form without any reward, falling to the Nunawading Spectres 53-61. The class of Nunawading proved too much as they overcame a 5 point deficit in the third term to remain one game shy of top spot in the East. Bec Allen’s 20 points and 10 rebounds were game highs while Elli Lovelace (17 points) reached double figures for the first time this season. For Canberra, Caitlin Rowe (14 points, 7 rebounds, 2 blocks) stood tall and Alyce Shearing collected 14 points and 7 boards despite starting on the bench.
The Dandenong Rangers won every quarter in their clash with the Ballarat Rush, winning 74-51 as Lauren Scherf (15 points, 12 rebounds) proved too strong inside. Along with Alison Downie’s 10 rebounds, Scherf helped Dandenong to a 34-18 advantage in the paint as Abbey Wehrung (15 points) provided the only resistance. Dandenong’s Jacinta Kennedy (18 points in 19 minutes) continues to make a case for the best bench player in the league with an 11.5 point, 6.2 rebound average for the year. Her only competitor is Nunawading’s Alanna Smith (12.8 points, 5.9 rebounds). Smith is +8 in field goal percentage and averages half a block more per game but the final East Conference standings could also have a say on who picks up the award at the end of the season.
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