2019 NWBL Finals I Preview

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WOLLONGONG ROLLERHAWKS
Record:
 17-1, 1st

Leading Scorer: Brett Stibners- 23.9 points per game

Why They Will Win the Title: Aiming for a three-peat this season, having claimed back-to-back championships in the NWBL, the Rollerhawks have brought back a nearly identical team, with the major exception being the omission of Michael Auprince from the line-up who was crucial to their victories in previous years. Shawn Russell has had a bigger influence averaging 19.2 points and 9.7 rebounds per contest this season; with Luke Pople coming into finals in outstanding form (15.2 points, 7.7 boards, 6.6 assists) while Brett Stibners remains their stat leader with 23.93 points 9.93 rebounts and 8.83 assists this season. Pople and Stibners will represent the Rollers at WCC in Tokyo later this month as Australia prepares to qualify for Tokyo 2020.

Why They Can’t: The only loss the Rollerhawks had this season came in their final round of the regular season against the Queensland Spinning Bullets. Their bench didn’t manage to get on the scoreboard in that game. If that form continues into finals, the Rollerhawks may be in trouble matching up to some of the depth that other teams have.

X-Factor: Averaging 22 minutes a game, Nick Scott has been highly effective for the Rollerhawks. Recently being named in the Steelers squad for the IWRF Asia Oceania Championship, Nick is in red hot form having to transfer his extensive basketball skills quite easily to wheelchair rugby. With Scott adding to the formidable line-up, the Rollerhawks will still be red hot favourites to sweep the Finals weekend and defend their Championship.

PERTH WHEELCATS
Record:
 14-4, 2nd

Leading Scorer: Michael Auprince – 27.07 points per game

Why They Will Win the Title: After finishing Round 1 with a 3-1 record, with their only loss coming up against Wollongong Rollerhawks, Perth Wheelcats went full steam ahead for the rest of the season, losing only against one other team being the Queensland Spinning Bullets in round 3. The addition of Michael Auprince to their roster this year has certainly been a driving force and he has synchronised nicely with Shaun Norris who is averaging 24.5 points and 12 assists per game while shooting 48% from the field. Frank Pinder has also impressed taking on a bigger role with the Wheelcats this season, playing some solid minutes in important games. Frank also made his debut as an emerging Roller at the Fazza Champions Cup earlier this year.

Why They Can’t: Coming back into finals after uncharacteristically missing a spot last year, the Wheelcats will need to get their finals momentum back, finding rhythm and chemistry within their line up to be successful in their quest for another NWBL title.

X-Factor: Michael Auprince is a dangerous threat to any opposition in the finals, having played such a crucial role in the Wheelcats’ line up, helping them finish in the top 2 teams of the 2019 NWBL season. Coming off a bronze medal with the Rollers last year, Auprince will have his eyes set on the AOZs in November this year, ultimately looking to make his Paralympic debut for wheelchair basketball in Tokyo next year. He has averaged an impressive 27.07 points, 11.06 rebounds while shooting 61% from the field this season

KILSYTH COBRAS
Record:
 12-6, 3rd

Leading Scorer: Tristan Knowles- 27.8 points per game

Why They Will Win the Title: Kilsyth have a very strong high-point line up with Tristan Knowles, Jontee Brown and Shaun Groenewegen all averaging in double scoring figures for the season. They also have some very experienced players like Josh Allison, Michael D’Amelio and Damon Fent who have been around the national league for many years now. The mix of experience and young talent will definitely help their performance in high pressure games over the course of the finals weekend. Tristan Knowles has again led the way not only for Kilsyth, but also for the league, scoring 27.7 points per game and shooting 52.5% from the field while hitting an incredible 43 three-pointers on the season. Jontee Brown has also been an offensive star shooting at 58.6% from the field with an impressive 65.7 free throw shooting percentage.

Why They Can’t: Dropping to 3rd spot at the end of this regular season, the Cobras will need to play a preliminary final if they win their first match-up against the home team, to secure a spot in the Gold medal game. The Cobras will also be wary of how last year panned out when they finished top two going into the playoffs, but couldn’t manage a W in the finals series, finishing medal-less in 2018.

X-Factor: Jontee Brown will need to step up coming off his first professional basketball season overseas with the German team, RBC Koln 99ers. Even though he missed a few games for the Cobras this season, he has maintained an impressive stat line, and will aim to improve it in the finals to win his first NWBL medal.

QUEENSLAND SPINNING BULLETS
Record:
 9-9, 4th

Leading Scorer: Tom O’Neill-Thorne- 16.2 points per game

Why They Will Win the Title: Heading into the playoffs after consecutive wins against the Sydney Metro Blues to cement their spot in the finals, the Queensland Spinning Bullets will be confident with the support of their home crowd. The club has steadily improved their performance in finals in the past couple of years, topping their bronze medal finish in 2017, with a silver medal the 2018 season. Undoubtedly, they will be looking to one up that performance this year.

Tom O’Neill-Thorne leads them with 16.2 points and 8.2 rebounds per game, with Matthew McShane coming in second with an impressive 9 points, 5.3 assists and 4 rebounds a game. Dylan Gawthorne, Hayden Seibuhr, Lachlin Dalton, Jordan Bartley and Steve Elliott have also been impressive in the national league after been named in the emerging Rollers squad earlier this year.

Why They Can’t: Boasting of a few Rollers in their depth chart, the Bullets will definitely miss the expertise of Bill Latham who has been a veteran of the Bullet’s squad leading them to a couple of podium finishes in the previous season. They will need other players to step up and fill in the offensive and defensive skills of Bill Latham.

X-Factor: As stated above, the Spinning Bullets’ greatest strength will be their depth, with many players have represented Australian teams in International events. They should also be able to use the ‘home’ court to their best advantage, with the NWBL finals being hosted at Southern Districts Basketball Centre

FINALS SCHEDULE
Friday 16th August Semi Final 1 – Kilsyth Cobras vs Queensland Spinning Bullets @5.30pm
Friday 16th August Semi Final 2 – Wollongong Rollerhawks vs Perth Wheelctas @8.30pm
Saturday 17th August Preliminary Final- Loser of Semi Final 2 v Winner of Semi Final 1 @3.30pm
Sunday 18th August Bronze Medal- Loser of Qualifying Final 1 v Loser of Preliminary Final @10.30am
Sunday 18th August Gold Medal- Winner of Semi Final 2 v Winner of Preliminary Final @2pm

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