2016 FINALS PREVIEW
Record: 12-3, 1st
Leading Scorer: Tristan Knowles- 27 points per game
Why They Will Win the Title: With only a game separating first from third on the ladder, Kilsyth proved they are a strong chance to go back-to-back by edging out their nearest competitors for first position.
They have three players averaging over 15 points per game with Shawn Russell and Daniel Del Toso joining Knowles and all three players shoot at over 48% from the field. Cool heads and finals experience from last season that saw them come from third position to win will go a long way in the 2016 post-season and a double-chance courtesy of their top two finish also puts them in the box seat.
Why They Won’t: Kilsyth’s three losses for the regular season came at an average of 16 points and their most recent defeat was at the hands of the Wheelcats, the side they will play in the Semi-Final on Friday night.
X-Factor: Veteran Shaun Groenewegen has been handy for the Cobras this season. While only averaging 3.3 points per game, he does have a ten-point game this year against Wollongong while his on-court leadership could prove vital at the business end of the season.
BE ACTIVE PERTH WHEELCATS
Record: 12-3, 2nd
Leading Scorer: Shaun Norris- 31 points per game
Why They Will Win the Title: Norris has been close to unstoppable this season, winning Player of the Week on three occasions while averaging a triple-double of 31 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists.
Kim Robins is the perfect foil for Norris, adding 18.7 points per game while Andrew Liddawadi will be carrying good form into this week’s Semi-Final, having exploded for 14 points against Kilsyth in his last game when the Wheelcats thrashed the defending champs by 20 points.
Why They Won’t: Perth have a rather severe drop-off from their top three scorers and have only had five players compete in every game this year. If a team can keep Norris quiet or have a player match him on the scoreboard, the Wheelcats can be vulnerable.
X-Factor: Enjoying a solid season with Perth, Australian Glider Amber Merritt is averaging 10.7 points while shooting at 47%. Last week in the opening round of the WNWBL, she absolutely dominated to earn Player of the Week and that confidence boost could prove vital in the post-season.
WOLLONGONG ROLLER HAWKS
Record: 11-4, 3rd
Leading Scorer: Brett Stibners- 26 points per game
Why They Will Win the Title: Wollongong have a great spread of scorers, with Stibners leading four players in double-figures while Michael Auprince sits second in the competition for rebounds with 9.8 per game.
The Hawks are at their most damaging when they share the ball and utilise that spread with Stibners and Nick Taylor also both sitting in the top five in the league for assists.
Why They Won’t: The Roller Hawks will have to overcome the memories of last season when they entered the post-season in first place before dropping two consecutive games to prematurely end their hopes of a NWBL Championship.
X-Factor: Rising through the ranks of the Australian Rollers, Luke Pople has also made a name for himself in the NWBL as he averaged at least 14 points per game for the fourth straight year. A capable three-point shooter (31%), he is also a danger in drawing fouls, hitting the fifth-most amount in the league at a 73% clip.
RED DUST HEELERS
Record: 5-10, 4th
Leading Scorer: Brad Ness- 25 points per game
Why They Will Win the Title: Ness has handled the role of player/coach with aplomb this season and will have the Heelers coming into the post-season without fear while a bye in the final round of the regular season will also help.
Jannik Blair and Adam Deans are fellow Rollers that are strong two-way players while a player like Jake Kavanagh has the ability to turn a game on its head with his offensive capabilities.
Why They Won’t: The only team that has advanced to the post-season with a losing record, the Heelers just held off the Spinning Bullets for the final place. They have no margin for error if they are to take the title and have an 0-9 record against the other three finalists.
X-Factor: A couple of lean weeks in the back half of the season may have put Rob Pike under the radar but oppositions will forget him as an offensive weapon at their own peril. Averaging 14 points in his first nine games, Pike also had a triple-double against the Spinning Bullets in Round 3.
The full schedule for the finals this weekend can be found here: http://www.foxsportspulse.com/comp_info.cgi?c=1-4219-0-0-0&a=FIXTURE&compID=390656
The bronze medal game will also be live-streamed from 11am AEST Sunday here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=57GBVmzEyhk
And the gold medal game will be live-streamed from 1pm AEST Sunday here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q81EDlxnqTo&feature=youtu.be