LOUISE Brown says Katie O'Keefe's defensive prowess is one of the keys to Warrnambool Mermaids' championship bid.
The long-time teammates - both former WNBA players - will suit up against Camberwell Dragons in a Big V division one qualifying final at Balwyn on Sunday.
Win and they will travel to face Sherbrooke the following weekend for a chance at a direct passage to the grand final.
Lose and they will host the winner of the elimination final - either Mildura or Western Port - at the Arc.
Brown said the Mermaids were confident of their chances against Camberwell, if they locked in defensively.
"We have a lot of power to score and I just think some days you're hitting your shots and other days you're not," she said.
"Last week was a really good example of that. Our first half was terrible, we could not buy a basket, but defensively we did a good enough job to keep them at a low enough score to stay in the game and then in the second half we started to hit some shots.
"So it's a similar thing (against the Dragons), if we can do a job for 40 minutes I think our offence will take care of itself.
"They have a couple of really nice scorers so if we can slow them down a little bit and keep them to 10 or 12 points each, I think that will go a long way to helping us get the win."
Brown said O'Keefe would lead by example.
"In my opinion she should probably win defensive player of the year for the whole league really," she said.
"She is a great defender - she's long, she's athletic, she reads the ball really well.
"But I think when we play really good team defence that's when we play our best basketball."
The Mermaids, who play at 1pm on Sunday, will have a full roster to start their playoffs campaign.
Brown, a championship winner with the club, said it was exciting to be in playoffs, particularly as their young players will experience the intensity for the first time.
"Camberwell and Sherbrooke are the only two teams we haven't beaten this year, so it's a really good challenge," she said.
"I honestly think any of the five teams are a chance. It's been a pretty even competition this year."
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.