On Saturday 6 March, 14 CBL teams will pull on their jerseys in CBL 2021’s last stand to decide who will become this year’s conference champions.
There was a time where the idea of a 2021 CBL season encompassed uncertainty, much like the year 2020. However, as we look towards the 2021 CBL Grand Final series tomorrow night, it’s a time to highlight the determination and passion of basketball our country towns hold onto.
With rematches, old rivalries and the chance for history to be made, this year is set to make its mark!
NORTH WEST MEN
Maryborough Blazers v. Bendigo Braves
In a Grand Final match up we have seen many times before, this hit out between Blazers and Braves is expected to encapsulate all the high-quality basketball you would expect in a CBL Grand Final.
Reigning premiers, Maryborough Blazers, have had tight, physical, fast-paced games with Bendigo Braves over the past three years. Blazers have won three of the last four encounters against Bendigo. Going off history, Maryborough have the upper hand going into Saturday night, having beat Bendigo by 24-points earlier this season and holding last year’s Grand Final win where Blazers finished 17–points in front.
Bendigo will be looking to bite back in their game though, with some prominent players who have demonstrated their ability to elevate in pressured situations. Lachlan O’Brien, Jack White and Dylan McCauley have kept consistency across the court and on the points board all season.
Braves will have to match the skill of Maryborough’s Harry Butler who has continued his dominance this season after being named an All Star 5 player last year. Jake Lohmann and Jye Mortlock are our Maryborough’s defensive rocks and will have the challenge of shutting Bendigo’s offensive players down.
From the Team
“We developed our identity last season and continue to train and play while gaining advice from other coaches to help us continue our success. We had a goal early to be one of the best teams this year and to go for back-to-back titles. Now we have one last hurdle to complete our objective.
“To be the champions this weekend, we will be defensive-minded and develop a fast-paced, enjoyable game style; continuing to play the Blazer way. We will be focusing on what we do well and how we can use our strengths against Bendigo.
“This weekend the association and community are proud to host the North West Grand Final and to have a team playing in it. We are really looking forward to Blazer Nation being loud and proud come Saturday night.”
Brady Neill, Maryborough Blazers (Men’s Coach & Guard)
NORTH WEST WOMEN
Bendigo Braves v. Kyneton Tigers
Kyneton will have a challenge on their hands this weekend to take the title from reigning champions Bendigo Braves. It’s no secret that Bendigo is Kyneton’s biggest rival. Bendigo are notorious for the presence in finals, however after Kyneton’s third year playing in the CBL, it may just be time to hear the Tigers roar.
As expected, Madeline Sexton (14-points), Sharna Appleby (17-points) and Hayley Harrington (15-points) were in demand for Bendigo in the Semi-Final game and will hold a tough offensive front that Kyneton will need to penetrate.
Adi Cameron will be the one to watch from Kyneton. She is a great up and coming junior who has the opportunity to prove herself in the league this weekend. Alex Strawhorn and Michelle Fletcher will play a crucial role in Kyneton’s success and final outcome.
From the Team
“We lost to Bendigo during the season with both teams being depleted, so this weekend’s game will be interesting to hit out with our teams at full strength,
“If we keep on playing the way we have, especially last weekend against Maryborough, we will be in with a good chance. We’re a great team and we all contribute in one way or another, whether we get on the court or not.
“Alex Strawhorn is our playmaker of the team. She has the best basketball IQ and does the one percenters well. Michelle Fletcher will also be a key for us this Saturday night with her height, strength and finals experience.
“The Kyneton crowd is definitely our 6th defender, and I couldn’t be prouder to pull on this jersey each game! A big thank you to the committee and our families, we couldn’t have done any of this without them.”
Amelia Jarvis, Kyneton Tigers (Captain)
Maffra Eagles v. Moe Meteors
Maffra and Moe is the match up we’ll be counting down to see this weekend. Two seasons ago Maffra met Moe in a Grand Final where Moe had a convincing 43-point victory despite Maffra having beat them earlier in the year by 42-points. The pair often execute games that are high–scoring, fast–tempo and possess plenty of three-point shots.
Maffra retained an undefeated status in the 2021 CBL home and away season. A group of core players keeps their consistency alive. Sam Whelan (22–ppg) has been their leader in scoring, while they’ve also had the luxury of adding 6’5’Elliot Hunt (17–ppg) to their ranks. Coby Burgiel may take on a bigger role tomorrow night as a young and hungry player for the yellow and black.
Moe’s key playmakers will be two-time CBL finals MVP Steve O’Brien, Liam Fitzpatrick who is one of the best defenders in the league, and Luke and Christian D’Angelo who prove to be fearless scorers.
From the Team
“This CBL season has been a different challenge than what we’re used to. We would love to win our first CBL Championship in what is a new stadium post the upgrades that occurred throughout 2020 as it would be a great reward for the effort put in over the last five years building with the group we have.
“We play well as a team and share the ball between everyone on the court. We get lots of scores from forcing turnovers so the defensive end will be a major focus for us. This weekend, we need to limit the driving abilities of the D’Angelo brothers while also trying to contest shots from their better 3pt shooters (Van Dyke brothers).
“We have had an even record with Moe over the last few years with both teams winning a few games each. I expect the Grand Final to be no different.”
James Whelan, Maffra Eagles (Captain & Point Guard)
Warragul Warriors v. Moe Meteors
Last season’s Runners Ups in Moe could take it one step further than the 2019/20 season if they can complete this last conquest against Warragul Warriors. However, top of the table Warragul are yet to experience a loss this season, and we’re sure they aren’t looking for this to come in the Grand Final.
Warragul’s Mikaela Dickson outdid herself last week scoring 20-points in the match, pairing exceptionally well with Tanarly Hood and Myah Healey. Moe’s Sammy Labros is expected to lead the scoreboard for Moe and will no doubt have Caitlin Demczuk and Ella Cornish executing some exciting assists.
From the Team
“This season we’ve played as a team with no great expectations, it’s been about enjoying the opportunity to play together again after the COVID-19 layoff. However, now in the big dance, we’ll be concentrating on our defence to keep the pressure up on Warragul and keep patience offensively.
“Sammy Labros has been offensively consistent all season with assistance from Caitlin Demczuk and Ella Cornish, who are beginning to peak at the right time,
“Danielle Davies and our Captain Bree Anderson have been great at both ends of the floor this season but based on her Semi-Final performance, I think Abbey Noblett will be a key player for us.”
Matt Demczuk, Moe Meteors (Women’s Head Coach)
NORTH EAST MEN
Seymour Blasters v. Myrtleford Saints
Seymour looks in fine form heading into their game against Myrtleford to determine the title winner. Seymour’s last five games have seen every player hit the scoreboard and demonstrate the versatility and consistency across the team. They will need to keep this going on Saturday night and rely on a team effort as opposed to an individual one to get them across the line.
Myrtleford lost by 20-point to the Blasters in their season game, however it was a physical game that only blew out in the second half. If Myrtleford bring the intensity they’re known for from the get-go and play a full 60-minues of competitive basketball, they could be in with a real shot. Myrtleford are very welled coached and play tough basketball and playing on a neutral court will even it out further.
From the Team
“We play an up-tempo style game where we push the ball at pace and play aggressive defence,
“One of our main strengths this year has been our depth where we have 12 players who can all play and contribute at different times of the game. For us, to have success we need to play the way we have played throughout the season and trust in the systems we have in place.
“Also, a special mention to Sammy Cartwright who is leaving us, and this will be his last CBL Grand Final. He has built the CBL to the level it is today and without his passion, it would have never grown the way it has. Thanks Sammy from the Seymour Blasters, for all your assistance throughout the last eight years.”
Craig Hockley, Seymour Blasters (Men’s Coach)
NORTH EAST WOMEN
Seymour Blasters v. Wodonga Lady Wolves
This game is expected to be nothing but tight tomorrow night! Seymour and Wodonga have not met since Round 1 when the Lady Wolves were pipped at the post and fell short to Seymour by five-points. However, their finals history runs deep.
Just hearing the names competing tomorrow night should get you excited with Caitlin Reid, Charlotte Beavan and Jade McCowan for the Wolves, and Maddison Ford, Hayleigh Frost and Dyani Ananiev for the Blasters. It will be a fight for the MVP as well as the title in North East Women.
SOUTH WEST MEN
Ararat Redbacks v. Portland Coasters
These two sides have a similar style of game play which will make for an evenly matched hit out. You can expect both the Redbacks and Portland Coasters to press up the court in defence which will kickstart their respective offensive game.
Ararat have had a perfect season so far and look to be the favourites entering the Grand Final. In their last game against each other, Ararat started strong offensively and created a lead too large for Portland to come back from. We expect Ararat to attempt this again and force Portland to play catch up basketball.
What will make the difference for Portland is their coach, Rebel Noters. He can get the best out of every player and if the team executes his mission, Portland will give themselves very chance of winning the game and conference title.
From the Team
“The team has really worked on executing Coach Rebel Noter’s game plan, both on the offensive and defensive end. Trainings have been intense, long and focused on detail to ensure every player on the squad knows the system,
“We aren’t blessed with a great amount of height, so we have needed to play to our strengths, which is moving the ball quickly, outside shooting, attacking the basket and tenacious team defence.
“First year Captain David Denboer has led from the front, from training to on court leadership. He inherited a strong and positive culture from last season’s Captain Nathan Valori and has thrived in leading the team,
“I know it’s a cliché, but Portland Coasters basketball is a true team game, from the starting 5, to the guys on the bench. We have had a strong contribution from everybody on the team.”
Geordie Cook, Portland Basketball Association (Board Member & Delegate)