NBL1 Central preview: Blockbuster day for a cause
NBL1’s Central Division returns for another round of high-quality basketball action. This week will look a little different, with the league celebrating Pink Sports Day, a day dedicated to spreading awareness and supporting those affected by breast cancer. All games will be played on the same day to mark the occasion.
Forrestville Eagles v Sturt Sabres
A blockbuster in every sense of the word, the opening game of round six sees two top sides of the competition go head-to-head at Wayville Sports Centre on Saturday evening. The Eagles are yet to lose a game following their 30-point victory over the Warriors last round. Their confidence will be through the roof heading into the game, and they have the troops to keep the streak alive. Samantha Simons has had a blistering run of form, capped off by her 27 points, seven rebounds and eight assists last round. The Eagles will face some tough competition, with the Sabres entering the contest in red-hot form, winning their last four games as they ride some serious momentum into the round. A 26-point triumph over the Rockets displayed their current form, and they will fancy themselves in this matchup, despite heading in underdogs. They have plenty of avenues to score, last week it was Jade Johnson with 18, but it could be anyone on any given week.
The Sturt Sabres have been on fire lately, the only undefeated side remaining in the men’s competition after five rounds. They will be looking to make it six wins in a row, as they take on the Eagles on Saturday night. The Sabres waltzed through their round five opponents in North Adelaide, and look like they will be difficult to slow down in the near future, especially if Sam Daly keeps up his current form. The Eagles have looked promising in the 2021 season, but have lacked the consistency to stamp themselves as a powerhouse. With a record of 3-2 in their five games, they will be driven to cause an upset against the best side in the competition on Saturday. Michael Harris and Gregory May will need to be aggressive offensively to give their side a shot.
Southern Tigers v Norwood Flames
The Flames will have a tough challenge ahead of them at Morphett Vale Basketball Stadium on Saturday night, taking down the seemingly unstoppable Southern Tigers. The Flames have had an underwhelming start to the season, currently sitting at 2-3 after five rounds of basketball. They had a nice win against a weaker opponent last week, defeating the Eastern Mavericks by 15 points. They face a much tougher team this week and will need to fire on all cylinders if they are to cause an upset. Bride Kennedy-Hopoate poured in an impressive 31 points last week, so expect her Flames teammates to look for her scoring ability again. The Tigers could be about as confident as any team is in the NBL1, and rightfully so. They are 5-0 on the season with some pretty convincing wins on the board, and fresh off an 86-point demolition of the Central Districts. If they keep this form rolling, it is hard to see anyone but them winning it all at the end of the season.
Two in-form sides will clash on Saturday night, as the Tigers and the Flames look to continue their respective winning streaks. The Tigers have bounced back from a sluggish start to the season to walk away winners in their last three matchups. An 11-point win over the Central Districts Lions saw them burst up the ladder and they will be eager to do the same this weekend. Machar Machar had his best performance of the season last round with 27 crucial points and will be one to watch again. The Flames broke their losing ways a few weeks ago and have worked their way to a two-game winning streak and will need to extend this to keep up with the top teams on the ladder. A convincing 31-point triumph over the Mavericks was a promising sign, and if CJ Turnage can continue to score with ease, this will prove a tense battle.
West Adelaide Bearcats v Eastern Mavericks
Two teams in need of a win, the Bearcats and the Mavericks will do battle at Port Adelaide Recreation Centre on Saturday evening. The Mavericks have been struggling since the very beginning of the season and are yet to put any wins on the board after five rounds. Mollie McKendrick continues to battle hard with strong performances, but to no avail. The Bearcats started the season in promising fashion, winning two out of their first three matches, but have since lost two in a row and will be desperate to regain some form, an opportunity they will have this weekend. Jennie Rintala put in a dominant display last week and could do something similar this week.
The Eastern Mavericks will be desperate to surprise everyone and record their first win of the season this weekend as they take on the Bearcats on Saturday night. The Mavericks have looked off the pace all season, highlighted by round five’s 31-point loss at the hands of the Flames. If they are to grab the win this weekend, they will need to change some things up. The Bearcats will also be fighting hard for the win that could help get them back into form as the season progresses. The side won two in a row earlier in the season, but have since lost their last two games, making this clash a crucial result. Earnest Ross has shown no hesitation shooting the ball, resulting in solid scores for his side, and he should continue this.
Woodville Warriors v South Adelaide Panthers
Two sides with contrasting seasons will clash as the Woodville Warriors and the South Adelaide Panthers face off at the St Clair Recreation Centre on Saturday. The Warriors have struggled, with their only win coming in round three while losing two games either side of this. This match marks a significant opportunity to break this streak and take down a serious contender. If they are to do this, Emily Winter will need to be at her very best, and if you’ve seen her best, you’ll know it will go a long way in the Warriors’ chances. The Panthers have had a much better start to the season, with their only loss coming in round three and winning two games either side of this. They look a strong chance to take out this game with their current form.
These two sides should make for an entertaining clash as the Warriors and the Panthers go head-to-head on Saturday night. The Warriors have worked their way to a 4-1 record in the first five rounds and despite the disappointing round four loss, have looked impressive. Luke Stanbridge had a fantastic game last round with 30 points and could once again be the hot hand for his side. The Panthers have found themselves with a 3-2 record from five games, making this a crucial result to have go their way. 4-2 looks a lot better than 3-3, and a victory would move them up the ladder with the contenders.
North Adelaide Rockets v Central Districts Lions
The North Adelaide Rockets will host the Central Districts Lions at The Lights Community and Sports Centre on Saturday evening in the final game of the round for the women’s competition. The Lions have been underwhelming this season, still searching for their first win and consistently putting up low scores. The longer the season goes on, the bigger their hunger gets for a win, so this could be the drought breaker. The Rockets have showed strong signs in patches, but have ultimately been inconsistent, recording two wins and three losses on the season and not recording the same result two weeks in a row. They enter the clash as the favourites against a struggling Lions side, and with Taylor Ortlepp’s offensive ability, they could easily get their season back on track here.
This game is awfully important for both sides, as both the Rockets and the Lions will enter the match out of form on Saturday night, but for one team, the suffering will be over. The Rockets are yet to register a victory this year after five rounds, but don’t look too far off the mark. If they can remain competitive for all four quarters and if Jimma Dau can have a strong game, they will be on their way to a win. The Lions won their first game of the season, but have not backed it up with another, and currently sit on a four-game losing streak. They have their best opportunity here against the Rockets, and keep an eye out for Lual Diing, who has had a fantastic start to his 2021 campaign.
Picture credit: Kelly Barnes/AllStar Photos