2016 SA Junior Champs - Day 4 (Finals)
And so we get to the business end of the Tournament. A full day of blood, sweat and tears behind us, Semi Finalist locked in, potential Classics and Nationals invites await some. It needs to be mentioned that a number of teams will have faced frustration and disappointment as well, but adversity and defeat can help a team grow and build too.
Way too many highlights from a full day for us to mention them here so we'll just move straight on to today's games.
12 Boys State
Sturt as expected had little resistance on their way into the Semis. The second team through was a surprise with North not able to keep up their summer premiership form. Southern bouncing back from a big loss Thursday to beat West and Eastern as well as a draw with the Rockets, which ended up being enough after the Bearcats also beat North to pushed them down into 4th in the Pool.
On the other side South also bounced back from a slow start to surprise Centrals by 1, enough to sneak by them after a disappointing draw to Forestville on Day one. Norwood the clear #1 seed going through the pool undefeated.
Sturt should have enough to again sneak past the Panthers while Norwood also appear too strong for Southern setting up a Grand Final between the two undefeated sides. The South v Southern play off should be equally fast and exciting.
14 Boys State
Sturt again have made their way through Pool A undefeated and look firm favourites for the title. North closed out their Pool games with a 7 point win to secure 2nd. In Pool B results also went as expected with Norwood claiming top at 4-0 and South one game behind on 3-1.
With a little extra heat after some player movement between them the South v Sturt game will be a fiery contest but the size of the Sabres should again prove the difference. There will be no less heat in the other battle of neighbours but we feel North will beat the Pool B leaders to set up another GF against the Sabres. South and Norwood have each beaten the other this year but Norwood would go into the play off as favourites. Four Nationals spots secured but as Classics may be limited (as it was in 2015) a June invite to Melbourne may rest on today's results.
16 Boys State
The top 4 seeds have made their way into the Semi's and each will have something to prove today. Centrals best form has been on show at stages this weekend and we feel they'll keep that going into the Grand Final. Woodville have been consistent and have the talent to push again but will they have enough legs to get past their Semi Final opponents. Sturt should be too much for the Warriors but these teams have had some great tussles over the years. We weren't convinced by the Eagles pre-Tournament but they faced challenges from both North and Eastern without too much hassle. We're expecting another Lions v Sabres Grand Final which will be as close as previous contests, as should a 3v4 Warriors v Eagles game.
18 Boys State
Again we underestimated Forestville here who have played some tough, quality, team basketball to get the 2nd Pool A spot in the Semis. Centrals again making their way through with the highest seed. We were unsure if the Sabres could manage it but 3 small wins and a loss, with a number of key personnel missing is something to be impressed by. The Mavericks close win Thursday has been backed up by an impressive run and they go into the Semis at 4-0 and avoid the Lions in the process.
We just can't see Sturt having enough legs left to get over the Lions this morning and Eastern too should have too much depth for the Eagles. We can't stray from this Lions group and believe they'll have the scoring ability and big guys to get the win while if it plays out and Sturt and Forestville meet for 3rd look out for some fireworks in that one.
12 Girls State
A full strength Forestville were too much for their opponents rarely tested and now sitting 4-0. A somewhat surprising Panthers have leapfrogged both Eastern and Southern into the Semis defying their #7 seeding. Sturt almost faltered at the last hurdle a 2 point win to close out Pool games not the best form to bring into Finals. But a 4-0 record puts them top of Pool B. North kept true to their form all year holding their seeding in the top 4. We expect the Eagles to be too much for North to handle in their Semi while the depth of the Sabres should be enough to get past the underdog Panthers. Another Forestville v Sturt girls final, maybe another epic encounter. While North and South will be interesting we think the Rockets will have enough to secure 3rd.
14 Girls State
The South v Sturt game lived up to expectations with the Panthers this time getting the win and securing top spot in Pool A. Sturt managed to hold off the challenge from Centrals to keep their Semi Final position.
The surprise of the tournament would be the result in Pool B. While we always considered this a tough deep pool we believed the talent and numbers at Forestville's disposal would see them safely through but with Southern again surprising the Eagles in the morning, Eastern ended their Finals and Nationals campaign with their 11 point win last night.
Both Semis will be tough contests with all four teams also hoping to guarantee themselves a Nationals invitation by finishing top 2. South and Southern have had a number of close battles this year but the form so far this weekend of the Panthers should be enough for the win. Eastern and Sturt will be a close one, very tough to pick so we'll stick with our pre-Tournament prediction and side with the Sabres.
IF it happens, another South v Sturt match up, this time in a Grand Final would add even more to an already personal and emotional contest. Meanwhile if Eastern and Southern end up meeting expect a close finish, with the last of the Nationals positions on the line.
16 Girls State
The top four seeds have made their way through to the Semis with little challenge presented. Forestville as top of Pool A will face the Pool B #2 finisher Centrals but should make their way through to another Grand Final. Eastern too have impressed on their way to a 1st in their Pool and while West have shown a lot this weekend we feel the Mavericks will get the win.
Forestville has been our safest State prediction and should beat the Mavs in a Grand Final while we think the Bearcats impressive coaching and focal players will get them 3rd over the Lions.
18 Girls State
While not back to their best, the Eagles have improved on their Winter form and come into the Semis 3-0 and in good spirits. The Mavs were pushed but in the end saw off their challengers without too much hassle to fill the 2nd pool A spot. Pool B disappointingly ended up being 3 teams and semis spots have been filled by Sturt and Norwood as expected coming in.
Forestville will be challenged by Flames but we're expecting their best to start to show as they make their way into the Final. Sturt v Eastern too should be close but we can't go past this Sabres group making another Grand Final.
Sturt have been the more consistent side and so we're predicting a title for the Sabres here while the Mavs are our guess for 3rd spot.
12 Boys Reserve
Can the Panthers dream run continue in their Semi against an equally unpredictable Sabres team? Meanwhile the Eagles have snuck their way into the Finals also but face a very impressive North. We're tipping a Sturt v North Grand Final with the two underdogs South and Forestville playing off for 3rd.
14 Boys Reserve
Unlike the 14 girls we would expect Norwood 1 to be too much for their Division 3 club mates in their interesting Semi Final match up. South have shown some better form yesterday and as a result we're expecting them to sneak past North. We just can't see anyone beating Norwood 1 for the title while North should get the win over the Flames 2nd side for 3rd.
16 Boys Reserve
Another match up from one Club sees the very tough Centrals Div 3 team trying to get over the Summer Season premiers but we feel the Lions Div 2 side will finally put an end to their conterparts dream run. Woodville have improved over the past few months but Forestville should get the win in their Semi. Centrals should back up their summer success with a Championship title while we think the 3 v 4 game could be too close to call.
18 Boys Reserve
The seeded four have made their way through, although with a couple of road bumps or near misses along the way. Southern and Forestville had little trouble in Pool A, but the Eagles margins were a little closer in most games then they would have liked. South's 1 point win over Sturt enough to lock in top of Pool B but a shock loss by the Sabres to Norwood 2 forced a three way tie to get them in to the Semis.
Both semis will be tight but we're going to go with Southern over Sturt and South over Forestville based on history and form. Can Southern reverse the summer grand final result or will South find a way to win another game this weekend.
12 Girls Reserve
Not many surprises here with seeded teams 1 - 4 making up the Semi Final positions. All four have come through without loss to this stage in the four pool system. The top seeded Sabres should get the win over a quality Norwood group, while Forestville too should be good enough to beat the Rockets.
Sturt v Forestville grand final, we're going with our previewed final placing predications, the Eagles to get the win and Norwood to finish 3rd.
14 Girls Reserve
Top 4 seeds in the Semis but we think two sides are still a step above. Forestville as #1 seed should comfortably get past Norwood in their semi this morning while the Sabres should do the same against South. We're going with our gut instinct and believe the #2 Sabres will surprise the Eagles for the title while Norwood will have a bit too much fire for the Panthers for 3rd.
16 Girls Reserve
Forestville and Eastern have moved through as expected from Pool A with a little challenge coming from the troublesome Sturt 2 team. In Pool B while Sturt held their form and seeding to go through the pool undefeated the tournament's #4 seeded Lions weren't able to and two 5 point losses meant Norwood were able to make their way through.
Sturt should keep that undefeated run going with a semi final win over Eastern and a grand final win over the Eagles, after they get past the Flames in the morning.
18 Girls Reserve
We can't say much more here but aren't surprised by the form of North's number 1 Under 18 girls team in Reserve grade (while State is contested by just 7 teams). They've certainly surpassed their seeding of 8th in finishing 4-0 at top of Pool A with no competition at all. The Sabres make their way through Pool A as the second Semi Finalist but third seeded West has had the toughest weekend of all. In Pool B Western's winter form continued with an undefeated pool round, including winning against summer premiers Norwood. The Flames did enough still to finish 2nd and make their way into the Semis.
North will have no trouble with the Flames and while very close to call we're predicting Sturt to bounce back and get past the Magic in the Semi, possibly in over time. North will take the title while we think Western will again be able to beat the Flames, this time for 3rd.