Four current or former Southland Sharks will square off in the 2018-19 NBL Grand Final series starting Friday with Alex Pledger and Mitch McCarron (Melbourne United) securing a spot in the big dance this afternoon where they will face former Sharks Mitch Norton and Nick Kay (Perth Wildcats).
Pledger and newly-announced Shark McCarron disposed of Sydney today 90-76 to sweep their semifinal series and send the defending champions back to the Finals. There they will face winners of the regular season, Perth who have the advantage of starting the series at home in Western Australia on Friday night.
Pledger has provided a rare luxury, backing up starting centre, American Josh Boone and giving Dean Vickerman a 7-foot option off the bench. Team mate McCarron has played a key role for United, earning an MVP nomination, partnering Casper Ware in the back-court, making 25 starts and averaging a career high 11.8 points per game to go with 2.9 assists and 5.3 rebounds.
Like the Melbourne duo, former Sharks Norton and Kay are turning out for a new club this season. The pair, who helped take the Sharks to the Final Four in both 2016 and 2017, moved west from Illawarra to become part of Perth's Red Army.
Both featured alongside McCarron in last year's FIBA Asia Cup-winning Boomers side and both are likely to have big says in the Wildcats title tilt.
Norton should be available for the Finals series. He hasn't played since tearing his left calf on January 25th. He was close to suiting up for the second semifinal against Brisbane before being a late scratch.
Kay is having a career year. He was named in the All-NBL First team after recording career highs in starts, field goal percentage, rebounds, assists and points. He dominated Brisbane as the Wildcats swept the Bullets in the semifinal series, recording back-to-back double doubles including a 16 point/15 rebound effort in Saturday's Game Two victory.
The NBL Finals will be played over a best of five games format with Game One scheduled for RAC Arena in Perth for Friday night (11:30pm NZ time) with Game Two at Melbourne Arena next Sunday at 4:30pm.