Monday, 17 December 2018 14:32 Written by Domenic Jenewein
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2023 NatCon Finals Preview


2023-NatCon-Finals
The Vancouver Highlanders are looking to return to the OBWL Finals after a one season absence, while the Denver Demons are fighting for their first trip to the title round in team history.

No Huskies, no Knights - who would have thought that before postseason started? But here we are, at the NatCon conference finals with Highlanders competing against the Demons. Most OBWL GM's tipped the Huskies to win it all, but the few sceptics are proven right now, as they lost 4-2 against the tough playing Highlanders. However they had a difficult time during round 1, where the Thunderbirds took the series to 7 games. The Demons, who despite really bad luck with injuries during regular season managed to win the division, had a troublesome round 1 as well, winning a 7 game series against the Inferno. During the second round, they were a bit more convincing, winning the series in 5 games, however against a Crumley-less London. So before we go into a comparison of each teams rosters, let's look at the teams strengths and weaknesses.

Talking about the Highlanders, every OBWL fan has one single word in his mind - defense. The Canadians are all about defense. They are the 2nd worst scoring team, are amongst the leagues least efficient teams too. But they are one hell of a team on defense, leading the league in points allowed, opponent field goal percentage, opponents points per shot and opponents adjusted field goal percentage. Furthermore they are top 5 in blocking and top 3 in fouls commited. If one thing is for sure in Vancouver, then it's you not scoring easy points there.

The Demons combine an explosive offense with a tough nosed defense. In Greg Fore they have the leagues 3rd best scorer, with Daniel Goodrum they have a second scorer easily able to add 20+ on any given night. While their offense can score a lot, they are top 3 on points allowed too.

So who will come out on top? Let's take a closer look on the matchups.

#2 DENVER DEMONS (51-29) VS #4 VANCOUVER HIGHLANDERS (48-32)

Frontcourt

Maines/Schafer/Sturgeon vs. Deans/Cazares/Fore

On paper this looks like a solid win for the Demons. Their frontcourt is loaded with star players, including one of the league's best in Fore. The Highlanders have a very unspectacular frontcourt with no big names and two minimum contract guys. But they are what defines the whole franchise - crazily tough on defense. Richard Sturgeon is one of OBWL's best wing defenders, Jae Schafer one of the best defenders at PF and Chester Maines a no fouling blocking machine with good post defense. To score on the interior against the Highlanders is one of the league's toughest challenges, especially with Nestor Gattis coming off the bench too. With Darin Deans and Charles Cazares, the Demons also have some solid defense in the paint however. Both, Deans and Cazares can be counted to the league's best interior defenders, while also being efficient on offense.

The battle in the paint will be interesting to watch, expect a lot of blocked shots!

Advantage Demons.

Backcourt

Paschall/Keyes vs. Goodrum/Burt

While Paschall starts for the Highlanders at SG, he plays a limited role on their rotation with Dennis Picchardo getting the most minutes there. Michael Keyes is probably the best ballhandler in the game and the main reason for the Highlanders leading the assists charts. Daniel Goodrum ist most likely the best wing defender in the league and has learned to score as well in recent years. Larry Burt is the only player without star potential in the Demons starting lineup, but plays his role quite well. 

Advantage Demons.

Bench

Gattis/Dean/Pichardo/Jenkins vs. Olander/Rodriguez/Carmichael/Anguiano

THe Highlanders have a lot of rotation in their squad, with Maines, Sturgeon and Paschall getting 25 minutes or less on average. They have a lot of depth coming from off the bench, again mostly with defensive skills. Nestor Gattis is a 7-5 roadblock that can't move a lot, but has a crazy wingspan for blocking shots, while commiting no fouls at all. Jerrold Dean fouls, but is an elite defender. Picchardo can defend an is also a weapon on offense, leading the Highlanders in scoring, comming off the bench. Jenkins is an elite defender at PG too. So the Highlanders have a scoring weapon off the bench, together with the best defending bench worldwide. Looking at the demons substitues, it looks like a little less depth. Myron Olander is a good roleplayer, that already has a ring, winning the Heikkinen with the Anaheim last season. With Gino Rodriguez, they have a big boost off the bench - in fouling. The 24 year old averages 2.4 fouls in just 16 minutes, but gives the Demons efficient shooting and adequate post play. Jerry Carmichael is a do it all journeyman-guard, playing on his 6th OBWL team. Joseph Ameno... erm Anguiano gives the Demons some scoring and passing off the bench, alongside some steals. But overall, the Demons bench looks worse than the Highlanders.

Advantage Highlanders.

Regular Season Meetings

Highlanders 96-85 Demons
Highlanders 77-94 Demons
Highlanders 78-87 Demons
Highlanders 92-102 Demons

During Regular Season the Demons won the series 3-1 with mostly comfortable wins, despite their injuries. They were able to beat the Highlanders in Vancouver and due to the better regular season record, go into the series with homecourt. It will be a mountain to climb for the Highlanders.

Key Elements

So what will be the key elements in this series, what will decide who wins? Here is a possible list:

- KvM: Not much of an explanation needed. If KvM starts to bring turmoil into his locker room once again, this series could go south pretty fast
- Greg Fore: Greg Fore is the key player for Denver, his offense is essential for them. If the Highlanders can lock him down, they increase their chances of winning dramatically.
- The interior matchup: Both teams have great interior defenses, probably the 2 best in the league. Which Bigs will give their team a lift?

Prediction

It will be a hard fought series for sure, but a full health Demons team looks like the favourite to me. They won the regular season 3-1, have homecourt and have a roster at full health. Depsite the Highlanders upsetting the Huskies, I cannot see them upset another top team of the league.

Demons in 6.

 

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