THEN there were two… per conference.
The Conference Final teams have been decided following an extraordinary round of clashes across the Country Basketball League.
Maffra Eagles 100 defeated Warragul Warriors 96
Moe Meteors 89 defeated Churchill Blue Devils 73
The clash of the titans certainly lived up to all expectations, as Maffra saluted by four points over Warragul in a double overtime epic to ensure they now host the 2018/19 Gippsland Men’s Final. The season defining match between the two Gippsland powerhouses saw Eagle Andrew Quirk produce a match winning 26-point performance. The experienced Quirk has solidified his standing as one of the most clutch players in the league averaging 27 points in his last three fixtures for the Eagles in their run to the Final. The ultra consistent Samuel Whelan (15 points) once again hit the big shots, and was complimented by brother James Whelan (15 points) whose free throws in the dying stages sealed a famous victory for the Eagles.
Throughout Maffra’s semi-final preparations coach Kaleb Sclater was aware his team needed to “make some adjustments” from their round two defeat to Warragul. The most critical of these was to nullify Warriors game breaker Dwaine Scott.
“Dwayne Scott is a really solid player for them. He’s big, competes really hard and is probably their most damaging player so working out a way to nullify him will go a long way to helping us get a win,” Sclater said.
Maffra executed their game plan to perfection, shutting down Scott’s influence as he recorded his second lowest tally of the season (10 points).
Graeme Radford (26 points) and Mihailo Kalus (17 points) produced stellar performances in defeat for the Warriors. The victory confirms a home final for Maffra, four years after re-joining the Gippsland Men’s conference in a week sure to be engulfed by the hometowns buzz and support.
Moe will face off against Maffra in the Gippsland Men’s Final, after controlling the second semi-final from the get-go in an emphatic 16-point victory over Churchill.
Moe’s season has been a story of consistency and they once again produced a lethal scoring spread. Harrison Pepper, Nick Sedley and Ben Van Dyk all scored 15 points in a true display of the Meteors attacking prowess. Churchill danger man Andrew Petrou (19 points), joined by Robert Michaelides (19 points), battled valiantly in notching up another stellar performance however it proved not enough for the Blue Devils as their 2018/19 season came to an end.
Moe have now won six out of their past seven matches in a scintillating run of form, however next weeks conference final against Maffra will undoubtedly present their biggest challenge yet.
Korumburra Wildcats 71 defeated Moe Meteors 62
Warragul Warriors 85 defeated Traralgon T-Birds 54
Korumburra continues undefeated into the Gippsland Women’s Final, triumphing by 11 points over Moe in a reverse of last year’s semi-final.
The Wildcat’s even attacking brigade dictated the match, as key shooters Chloe Hogg (14 points) and Jamie Lee-Jeffs (11 points) continued their stellar form. In defeat the dangerous Samantha Waters produced her most damaging performance of the season for Moe accumulating 20 points. The experienced Carly Mullen-Bianconi was identified during the week as a player who “loves the big games and will be someone to we will have to contain” by Korumburra coach Matt Holmes. She certainly proved her capabilities in scoring a valiant 15 points.
Having not won a championship for 10 years, there is a steely resolve surrounding the Wildcats this 2018/19 season. They have won five matches by under 10 points, and undoubtedly have 2014’s Final loss in double overtime to Churchill at the forefront of their mind, according to coach Holmes.
“This group are very determined to get there this year. A number of our players, like our captain Gemma Dixon have dedicated many years to trying to grab a title and it would be wonderful for the likes of them,” Holmes said.
Warragul have put concerns over bogey side Traralgon to bed, comfortably conquering the T-Birds by 31 points to ensure a meeting with Korumburra in the 2018/19 Gippsland Woman final.
Having previously lost their last two encounters to Traralgon by a combined ten points, Warragul displayed no signs of weakness on Saturday. League superstar Shanara Nottman was on song tearing the game apart with another 28 points. Nottman has now recorded 221 points for the season at an average of 20 a game, and is the clear match winner Warragul hold in its championship charge. Accompanying her was the fearless Mikaela Dickson (22 points) who owned the arc nailing four three-point shots.
Emma White, Samantha Labros and Emirson Devenie (12 points) produced their best efforts in standing out for the T-Birds, as their 2018/19 campaigns came to an abrupt conclusion.
NORTH EAST MEN
Shepparton Gators 48 defeated by Wallan Panthers 70
Wodonga Wolves 80 defeated Seymour Blasters 79
All hail Deba George, the hero of Wodonga this week. The playmaker nailed the most important three-point shot of his life on the buzzer, in the most thrilling fashion, to steal victory away from the grasp of Seymour. His fifth three-point shot of the match helped register a game high 30 points, in a contest that will be remembered for years to come. The Wolves Josh McKay (14 points) and Bailey Lloyd (12 points) also impressed.
In a shootout at the opposite end of the court, key Blaster Robbie Sartori (27 points) produced a typical master class display, and was well supported by an ever-threatening Matthew Boland (22 points).
Trailing by 15 points with five minutes to run, Seymour took the lead in the final seconds before George drained the match winner.
Wallan produced one of the upsets of the season taking apart Shepparton to the tune of 22 points. The Panthers fire power proved far too strong, as reigning league MVP Maxwell Viitala (16 points) accompanied by the dangerous Luke Liesegang and Lincoln Stewart (16 points apiece) took care of the Gators in the emphatic victory. The Gators will be rueing a missed opportunity after ending the season atop of the table with 10 wins and failing to make the conference Final.
NORTH EAST WOMEN
Swan Hill Lady Flyers 56 defeated by Wodonga Lady Wolves 64
Bendigo Braves 77 defeated Kyneton Tigers 59
The Lady Wolves have made it two from two for Wodonga, as they triumphed in a gutsy eight point on the road performance over Swan Hill. Remarkably Wodonga only had six players line up in their sixth straight victory, in a true reflection of the strength of their side. League super star Mel Kirby continued her dream run of form lighting up the court in a 30-point master class that solidified her standing as one of the leagues most threatening shooters. Breanna Green and Charlotte Beaven netted 13 points apiece to ensure the victory, while Laura Anderson contributed her best efforts for the Lady Flyers in defeat with 16 points.
Kyneton have been knocked out in the semi-finals for the second straight year, as Bendigo recorded its 13th win to continue its stellar season. The leagues most potent scorer Danielle O’Toole (15 points), along with Keisha Tonzing (14 points) and Poppy Blanch (12 points) fired from all cylinders to set up a home conference Final against Wodonga. Michelle Fletcher (13 points), Brooke Mangan (12 points) and Rebecca Van Kuyk (11 points) were the best of the Tigers brigade.
NORTH WEST MEN
Echuca Pirates 75 defeated Bendigo Braves 69
Mildura Heat 65 defeated Maryborough Blazers 63
Echuca has booked its place in the CBL Conference Final with a thrilling 75-69 victory over Bendigo. Liam Tenace and Matthew Kellett came up huge in the dying minutes – making some clutch shots to keep the Braves at bay. The best efforts of Bendigo’s Tanner Rayner, Hurst and Leech kept the Braves alive in their bid to return to home court for the finale… but in the end the Pirates had enough in the tank to take out the six-point epic.
Mildura earned its place in the Conference Final following a 65-63 triumph over Maryborough. Lachlan Knight launched into a late barrage alongside Dallas Brown and Zane Lueth to steady the ship, despite Maryborough trying to knock down the comeback. The last ditch efforts of Brady Neill and Dale Hickey almost brought the Blazers back to life, but in the end the Maryborough season would sadly end two points adrift in the semi-final.
SOUTH WEST MEN
Mt Gambier Lakers 95 defeated Bellarine Storm 64
Horsham Hornets 69 defeated by Bacchus Marsh Lions 77
In the upset of the round, the top of the table Horsham lost at home to a fired up Bacchus Marsh by eight points. A characteristic Tim Picket 22-point performance could not ensure victory for the Hornets, who were dominated by an attacking barrage of Lion’s scoring. William Feben (25 points) and Diquan Williams (20 points) simply set the tone of the match. Feben has now racked up 331 points for the season and will be the key playmaker for the Lions if they are to defeat Mt Gambier in the South West Men’s Final.
SOUTH WEST WOMEN
Horsham Lady Hornets 62 defeated by Millicent Magic 71
Portland Coasters 72 defeated by Geelong Supercats 80
A brilliant battle took place to tip of the South West Women’s semi-finals, as Geelong upset Portland by eight points. Georgia Varley (24 points) delivered a season defining performance with her highest point tally of season, while Chloe Skinner (13 points) did what she does best in finding the basket. After steam rolling all opposition with eight wins in a row and sitting atop of the table, Portland ultimately hit a brick wall in season 18/19. The Coaster’s lost their last two matches to plummet out of the race for the championship. A typical on song performance from the Coaster’s Alana Strom (19 points) and Taylah Nelson (19 points) provided resistance in the disappointing defeat.
Millicent produced an inspirational nine-point victory on the road thanks to match-winning performances from twin towers Emily Winter (26 points) and Olivia Fuller (21 points). The pair have now contributed a combined 596 points for the season. Horsham’s key shooters Emalie Iredell (19 points) and Faith McKenzie (15 points) provided strong resolve for the Hornets but they ultimately lacked team support, as their five win streak and season ended. The Magic made amends for their consecutive semi-final defeats in previous seasons and will face off against the Geelong Supercats in next weekend’s South West Women’s Final.