ROUND 8 REVIEW
The four finalists for the 2017 NWBL playoffs have been confirmed following a tight race to the finals in Round 8.
Likely needing three victories for the weekend to return to the post-season, the Be Active Perth Wheelcats got Round 8 off to the perfect start on Friday night with a thrilling 64-63 win over the Sydney Metro Blues.
The lead changed hands at each quarter break before free throws from John McPhail (12 points, five rebounds, seven assists) put the Blues ahead by three inside the final 90 seconds.
Shaun Norris (32 points, eight boards, 11 assists) answered with a three-pointer though and Sydney Metro could not convert on two more opportunities before Andrew Liddawadi sealed the win from the free-throw line.
That success would have given the Wheelcats confidence but they could not break through again for the weekend as the Blues took the next two contests by an average margin of 11.5 points.
Joe Chambers (25.3 points, 14.3 rebounds and 5.7 assists per game overall) and CJ McCarthy-Grogan (24.7 points, six boards, 3.7 assists) starred while McPhail shone off the bench with a double-double of 12 points and 11 assists on Saturday night to secure third place for Sydney Metro.
Norris was sensational in a desperate situation for Perth, recording 41 points, eight rebounds and 14 assists in the second contest before notching a triple-double (20 points, 15 boards, 13 assists) the following day.
Those two defeats opened the door for the Queensland Spinning Bullets who needed two victories over the Adelaide Thunder to nab fourth place.
They put no doubt on their situation though, sweeping the weekend with a winning margin of 34.3 points per game as four players averaged double-figures while their spread of scorers saw them out-score Adelaide 92-20 overall off the bench.
Tom O’Neill-Thorne (21 points, nine rebounds) again paced them but it was the performances of Matt McShane (12.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, 13 assists), Kurt Thomson (15 points, 6.7 rebounds), Anderson Parker (11.3 points, 1.3 steals) and Dylan Gawthorne (seven points) that will give them confidence heading into a Semi-Final in a fortnight’s time with a healthy spread across their roster.
The Thunder have completed their return to the league without a win but the experience of this season for their team will prove very valuable for the future while players like Will Crooks, Phillip Stevens and Alhassan Sedky showed this weekend they can be strong complements to Adam Roocke and Beau Buckley.
In the other match-up for Round 8, Kilsyth Cobras secured second place with a sweep of the Red Dust Heelers as they dropped just one quarter across three clashes.
11 members of the Cobras hit the scoreboard in their first win while eight players repeated that feat on Saturday and Sunday with Tristan Knowles (21.7 points, 5.3 boards, 5.7 assists), Shawn Russell (12.7 points, eight rebounds) and Shaun Groenewegen (9.3 points, three steals) leading the way.
For Red Dust, Rob Pike scored 11 off the bench in their first game and was moved into the starting line-up for the last two clashes to also average 12 rebounds per game while Ryan Morich (8.7 points, 26, 6.7 boards) and Jake Kavanagh (8.3 points) also impressed.
Now at the culmination of the 2017 regular season, the finals structure is set. Find the full schedule below.
Friday August 18th @6pm: Wollongong Rollerhawks (1st) vs. Kilsyth Cobras (2nd) in Semi-Final 1
Friday August 18th @8pm: Sydney Metro Blues (3rd) vs. Queensland Spinning Bullets (4th) in Semi-Final 2
Saturday August 19th @6pm: Loser Semi-Final 1 vs. Winner Semi-Final 2 in Preliminary Final
Sunday August 20th @11am: Loser of Semi-Final vs. Loser of Preliminary Final for Bronze
Sunday August 20th @1pm: Winner of Semi-Final 1 vs. Winner of Preliminary Final for Gold