Ambassadors out to end Owls’ run

Cameron NewboldAlbany Advertiser
Ambassadors' Ryan Barber will be a key player in tonight’s preliminary final.
Camera IconAmbassadors' Ryan Barber will be a key player in tonight’s preliminary final. Credit: Laurie Benson

Ambassadors stand in the way of Barking Owls securing a 10th straight grand final appearance in what promises to be a tightly contested men’s A-grade preliminary final tonight.

As the Albany Basketball Association enters the final week of 2018-19, Ambassadors will be pressing for a maiden grand final berth when they tackle the Owls for a crack at the title against Knights later in the week.

Ambassadors come into the preliminary final in terrific touch, having won their past three games, including a tense first semifinal over The Farm Athletics last week.

That run also includes a win over tonight’s opponent, Owls, back in round 15 when they won a thrilling finish by two points.

Ambassadors should start warm favourites to knock Owls out, having beaten them in both encounters this season after a 62-60 win back in round 8. Key trio Todd Knuiman, Ryan Barber and veteran Caleb Carmen are the driving force behind Ambassadors’ success, while their long-range scoring threat is extended to sharpshooter Andrew Sephton.

Sephton has made 23 three-pointers this season and Barber has hit 24 of his own, and both are capable of stretching the Owls’ defence, while Knuiman is inside the top three in the competition for scoring, with 187 points at an average of 12.47.

Owls have been a regular part of men’s A-grade grand finals for the past decade, playing in nine straight title deciders, but they only have two premierships to their name.

Their task of making it 10 successive deciders will be without key big men Shaun Rost and Hamish McMorran. That pair lead the competition on average points per game, but Rost will not play again this season and McMorran is now living in Perth, leaving Owls with six players.

Owls lost to Knights by two points in last week’s second semifinal and will be hoping youngster Kyle Smith and veteran Justin Benson can fire in offence.

Panthers' Darcy Kerr takes on Flames' Indianna Weeden this season.
Camera IconPanthers' Darcy Kerr takes on Flames' Indianna Weeden this season. Credit: Albany Advertiser

Meanwhile, reigning premiers Panthers will face Flames in tonight’s women’s A-grade preliminary final, with Magpies already through and awaiting the winner.

Panthers won 12 straight games to start the season but lost to Magpies in the last regular round of the season and then again in the first week of finals, and must bounce back against a side they have beaten three times this season.

Flames will be buoyed by their shooting performance in their impressive first semifinal win over Phoenix as they try to reach their first decider since 2015-16.

Women’s A-grade

Preliminary final, 6pm — Panthers v Flames

Men’s A-grade

Preliminary final, 7pm — Barking Owls v Ambassadors

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