This matchup should be as exciting as we see this finals series. Arguably the two most enjoyable teams to watch play basketball, there’s no doubt the Pioneers and the Eagles will produce some top-quality play in their semi-final this week. The Pioneers will be fresh and ready to go after their bye week in the first week of the finals. The Eagles, in turn, will have to ensure they are on their A-game after defeating North Adelaide in an overtime thriller. Mt Gambier possess the best offensive game in the league. The way they share the ball and find open looks is unmatched. If they can execute their offensive game-style at good efficiency they will be very hard to stop. Forestville are dangerous with players like Deng, Teys, Mays and Harris, but it is on defence where they will need to be strongest.
The last game between these two was just over two weeks ago now, with the Pioneers taking the chocolates 106-93. Kentrell Barkley and Tom Daly were completely dominant in that game, despite the offensive performance from Mt Gambier being widespread. Forestville will have to rotate better and shut down lanes to the basket at a higher rate than they did that game, or they’ll be in big trouble. If they can do that though, and Deng can perform on offence with help from his supporting cast, like in the Rockets game last week, the Eagles may grab an upset.
Ones to watch
Deng has done a bit of everything for the Eagles this year, accumulating steals and blocks on defence and also scoring and dishing the ball at a high rate on the other end. His rebounding and ability to get the ball and go has also been impressive. He will undoubtedly be at the top of Mt Gambier’s list of players to limit, and for good reason. If he has a big game, the Eagles have a shot. His form is nothing to laugh about either, having just dropped 29 pts, 4 assists and 9 rebounds in his team’s win last weekend.
You could make the argument that Teys and Mays have perhaps been more consistent than Harris this year, but they aren’t as dangerous. Harris is an explosive talent on the offensive end and if he gets going, he can be the factor that completely breaks the game wide open. He has the ability to score on the inside and get extremely hot from outside. He dropped 5 of 8 threes on the Rockets, proving too hard for his opponents to cover. If the Eagles can get another strong contribution from him, they may be able to stay with the Pioneers offensively.
Averaging 22 pts and 5 assists on the season, Tom Daly has been a huge asset for his Pioneers side. Their team is extremely deep, but he and Barkley are still standouts in most weeks. He’s the floor general for what is an unselfish Mt Gambier side, so the Eagles will have to lessen his influence. Look for him to accumulate a lot of assists this game as he looks to get his teammates involved before scoring, which he also does well.
Barkley is probably the best player on the floor in this one. He dropped 38 points and 14 rebounds to go along with 3 steals the last time he played Forestville, so he is clearly someone they need to try and contain. He can completely take over a game on both ends of the floor, and is very hard to stop on offence, especially in this insanely deep Pioneers team. Forestville will most probably shape their defensive game-plan around him, but still expect him to have a big game as the Pioneers look to make a statement in their first Premier League final.
Hang Time prediction: An extremely intriguing matchup. Forestville will need to be perfect defensively and will need good support for Deng on the other end of the floor. However, it’s hard to see Mt Gambier being contained enough on the offensive end, with their depth and game-style far too effective. Pioneers by 10 points.