Category: WNBL

Boomers down ladder leaders, UC Capitals in close encounter

IT was a make or break game for the Melbourne Boomers who had their work cut out for them up against back-to-back premiers UC Capitals but did not disappoint stealing a six point victory (67-73). Heading into the clash the Boomers had a record of 4-1 and were stuck outside the top four with a big week of basketball to come showcasing just how monumental win was in dictating potential ladder position. The victory also proved that their best is definitely good enough to take down the ladder leaders and make a real push for a finals berth.

The lead ebbed and flowed throughout the game testament to the high quality players and all-star teams both the Caps and Boomers have before the Melbourne side forged ahead in the second half to create some strong momentum. Scoring seemed to well and truly dry up in the final quarter with both teams not finding the basket as regularly as normal however that played into the hands of the Boomers who held onto the lead and were not keen on relinquishing the buffer they had established.

Overall shooting accuracy was down for both sides however it was the Boomers that held a marginal upper hand converting at 40 per cent sinking 27 of their 67 shots. The Capitals only managed 34 per cent from the field and really struggled to find their radar from deep only nailing seven of their 21 attempts at 33 per cent while the Boomers managed a 40 per cent clip. Despite not leading on the scoring front UC impressed with rebounds collecting 45 to 40 while also registering one more assist than their opponents (17-16). Blocks were a major difference between the two sides with the Boomers showcasing their clear intent to stop the Caps in their tracks amassing six more than the ladder leaders (7-1) while they were also cleaner with ball in hand only giving up possession nine times compared to 11. The Boomers did the most damage inside the paint knocking back an impressive 34 points as opposed to 24.

There was an even spread of points scorers for the victors but it was Madeleine Garrick that recorded a game-high 19 points to accompany her three rebounds and one assist. Youngster Ezi Magbegor had a day out amassing a double-double thanks to her 18 points and 13 rebounds while teammate Tess Madgen also showcased her prowess knocking back 14 points, seven rebounds and eight assists in an all round solid performance. Captain Cayla George also proved to be a handy option adding 10 points to the tally while also collecting four rebounds and an assist, enough to get her side over the line.

The Caps were down on their usual high output and production with the topscorer the ever-reliable Kelsey Griffin who finished with 16 points, six rebounds and an assist to her name. the next closest was Maddison Rocci with 11 points while the only other player to record double digits for points was Brittany Smart with 10. Keely Froling had an impressive strake rate going at 42 per cent but only managed the nine points in what was a missed opportunity for the Caps. Mariana Tolo might not have been as productive on the scoreboard but was a huge threat off the boards dragging in an impressive 12 rebounds.

It is a tight turnaround for the Boomers who face off with Sydney Uni Flames tomorrow in another must win clash if they are to really stamp their authority on the competition. The Caps have a little bit more time, not playing until Friday but are set to face the Lightning who have proven to be a real threat when on song and raring to go.

Perth honour captain with a 16 point win

WNBL (Getty images)

Down at the opening break Perth turned on the afterburners for the remaining three quarters to hand Bendigo their ninth straight loss (95-79) and honour captain Katie Ebzery in the best way possible her 300th game. It was a slow start to the higher ranked Perth as the Spirit came out with a real intensity and desperation but they simply could not maintain that high level with the Lynx wearing them down and finding the basket with great ease as the game went on.

An explosive second term, really turned the tables into Perth’s favour sinking 30 points to 14 to create some scoreboard separation and put the Spirit well and truly onto the back foot. They continued that hot form into the second half outscoring Bendigo 49-43 showcasing their ability to work their way back into the contest and then maintain that element of control.

Perth made the most of their opportunities when close to the rim sitting at 50 per cent while Bendigo failed to find their range converting at a mere 38 per cent. The Lynx did their most damage when within two point range nailing 28 of their 41 attempts going at an impressive 68 per cent, 20 per cent more than their opponents who only managed to find the basket 17 out of their 35 attempts. Bendigo however were strong from beyond the arc boasting a higher three-point percentage of 29 and better accuracy from the free throw chugging along at 80 per cent compared to 68. Perth did not miss a beat on the rebounding front dragging down 47-36 while also impressing with ball in hand to record 25 assists to 20. They also led the way in steals with 5-3 and had less turnovers (7-9) in an overall clean and tidy game from both sides.

The return home for Darcee Garbin has done nothing but allow the youngster to flourish collecting an impressive game-high 28 points. Garbin proved to be the go-to girl for Perth finding the basket with great ease and converting at 50 per cent while also managed five rebounds and two assists. She was well aided by the likes of captain Katie Ebzery who knocked back 21 points, four rebounds and five assists in her 35 and a half minutes on court. The efforts of Alexandra Sharp did not go unnoticed with the guard starring with her staggering 17 rebounds, 13 of which were defensive along with her 12 points. Kayla Steindl also managed to chime in with her 13 points and fell just short of a double-double with nine rebounds while the only other player to make double figures was Alex Ciabattoni with 11 in her 30 minutes on court.

For Bendigo it was the usual standouts that stepped up to the plate and delivered with Tessa Lavey leading the charge thanks to her 23 points, seven rebounds and five assists in her 40 minutes. The next best was Demi Skinner who slotted 17 points to keep the scoreboard ticking over while also picking up six rebounds and two assists. The reliable, Carley Ernst once again plied her trade knocking back 16 points but could have had more had she been more consistent from the field converting at 35 per cent. She also collected eight rebounds and five assists while Amelia Todhunter proved to be handy off the bench with nine points, three rebounds and four assists.

Bendigo are still on the hunt for their first win of the season and their job does not get any easier set to lock horns with the Melbourne Boomers on Saturday while Perth face off with the fifth placed Townsville Fire.

2020 WNBL Round 4 preview: Competition for finals spots heats up

MELBOURNE Boomers will have the toughest Round 4 schedule of any side after a more relaxed Round 3 in the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL), having to play four games in six days, including two matches against last year’s grand finalists. Adelaide Lightning, Bendigo Spirit, Perth Lynx and University of Canberra (UC) Capitals will play three games apiece, while Southside Flyers, Sydney Uni Flames and Townsville Fire have the two games this week.

ADELAIDE LIGHTNING

vs. Southside Flyers @ Cairns on Wed, Dec 2
vs. UC Capitals @ Townsville on Fri, Dec 4
vs. Perth Lynx @ Townsville on Sun, Dec 6

It is a make or break round coming up for the Lightning, following two losses in Round 3, that were also accompanied by two big wins. They lost by 40 and 31 points to Melbourne Boomers and Southside Flyers respectively, but accounted for Bendigo Spirit and Sydney Uni Flames by 40 and 22. They now have to back up to try and turn the tables on the Flyers, before two sets of 48-hour breaks to take on reigning premiers, UC Capitals and then the struggling Perth Lynx. If the Lightning can come away with two wins, they will be in a good position to play finals, but even 1-2 could leave them in the lurch if results do not go their way.

Steph Talbot has been the star this season, putting up 20.8 points 9.8 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.0 blocks per game, joined by the likes of Abigail Wehrung (13.6 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.0 assists) and Alex Wilson (13.2 points, 6.0 rebounds, 5.6 assists and 1.2 steals) in the top points scorers. Marena Whittle has also been crucial off the boards with seven rebounds to go with eight points per game.

BENDIGO SPIRIT

vs. Perth Lynx @ Townsville on Tue, Dec 1
vs. Melbourne Boomers @ Cairns on Sat, Dec 5
vs. Sydney Uni Flames @ Cairns on Sun, Dec 6

The Spirit are out of contention for the finals race, but could try and finish on a high, playing the other two bottom three sides in the next week. Yet to win a game, a win over the Lynx would be a confidence-boosting effort, whilst the Flames on Sunday is a possible chance as well with their opponents’ best impressive, but their worst pretty bad. The Boomers in between will be a tough ask, but even the likely finals-bound side has shown to have chinks in the armour. With only two games left after this round, the Spirit need to break their winless drought here.

In season 2020, much of the work has been left up to the experience of Carley Ernst and Tessa Lavey. Ernst has been enormous off the boards with 7.3 rebounds to go with 16.7 points and a block per game, while Lavey has put up 16.3 points, 6.6 assists, 3.9 rebounds and a steal per game. Both have been crucial in transitioning from offence to defence, but have made up the bulk of their team’s scoring with Mary Goulding (6.6 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 1.1 assists) the next best, and Lavey has recorded about half of the team’s assists, an area the Spirit have struggled in.

MELBOURNE BOOMERS

vs. UC Capitals @ Townsville on Tue, Dec 1
vs. Sydney Uni Flames @ Cairns on Thu, Dec 3
vs. Bendigo Spirit @Cairns on Sat, Dec 5
vs. Southside Flyers @ Cairns on Sun, Dec 6

If we are talking make or break, then the Boomers have that this round. Four games in six days starting tonight, Melbourne can launch a finals campaign by the end of the week. However, a terrible week would likely see them not only slip back into the back, but also put their finals chances right in doubt. They have a mixed bag this week with likely wins over the Flames and Spirit, but they also take on top two sides, Southside Flyers and UC Capitals. They did account for the Flyers back in Round 1 and would love nothing more than to upset their closest Victorian rival, but coming off three games in five days while the Flyers will have had a few days rest off their only other Wednesday night fixture, it will be tough. Four wins and they are genuinely in the hunt for a top two spot.

Tess Madgen was in scintillating form prior to her ankle injury but she should be back and raring to go this round, averaging 18.8 points, 5.3 rebounds and 5.8 assists in 2020 since crossing from Townsville Fire. The experienced four and five combination of Cayla George (16.3 points, 9.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.2 steals) and Ezi Magbegor (11.5 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.0 blocks) has also been a highlight of the year for the reigning semi-finalists.

PERTH LYNX

vs. Bendigo Spirit @ Townsville on Tue, Dec 1
vs. Townsville Fire @ Townsville on Fri, Dec 4
vs. Adelaide Lightning @ Townsville on Sun, Dec 6

There is no doubt that for Perth to have a shot at finals, they would need a near-impossible set of results to occur. Having played two extra games to their biggest threats in Melbourne and Adelaide, Perth would need to win its remaining five games, and hope the Boomers and Lightning lose them all – bar the one they face against each other. Despite their 1-7 start, the Lynx have been competitive for the most part despite some one-sided defeats too. They have a very winnable game first up against the only side they have beaten so far in the Spirit, before taking on finals contenders in Townsville Fire and Adelaide Lightning. Whilst it is anticipated they end the week with 1-2 added to their tally, they could catch the Lightning off guard and derail Adelaide’s finals chances.

Katie-Rae Ebzery has been the dominant player, averaging 16.6 points, 3.4 assists and 3.1 rebounds per game, whilst former Fire talent Darcee Garbin has thrived in the move out west, putting up 13.8 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.1 steals. Much like the Spirit, the points drop off though both Alex Ciabattoni (8.5 points, 2.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists) and Alex Sharp (8.3 points, 6.9 rebounds) have been prominent, as has Kayla Steindl off the boards with 7.9 rebounds.

SOUTHSIDE FLYERS

vs. Adelaide Lightning @ Cairns on Wed, Dec 2
vs. Melbourne Boomers @ Cairns on Sun, Dec 6

After a busy couple of weeks, the Flyers have a relatively smooth week with just two games in the seven days, coming up against Adelaide Lightning and Melbourne Boomers in Cairns. Tomorrow night’s clash against the Lightning will go a long way to securing a top two spot, with a victory over the Boomers just about confirming it. They have only lost the two games – to the Boomers and Capitals – and will be keen to bounce back against the Boomers in their second fixture. Either way, finals is sewn up for the Flyers who are the title favourites despite the losses.

Liz Cambage has made the mark everyone expected her to on-court with 22.3 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game thus far. She has plenty of talent around her though, with Sara Blicavs (14.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.6 steals) having a ripping season with Jenna O’Hea (10.9 points, 3.9 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.6 steals per game) in the front court. In the back court, Leilani Mitchell (8.7 points, 5.9 assists) and Rebecca Cole (13.2 points, 4.2 assists and 2.2 rebounds) have been slicing and dicing opposition defences and leading their side to some big wins.

SYDNEY UNI FLAMES

vs. Melbourne Boomers @ Carins on Thu, Dec 3
vs. Bendigo Spirit @ Cairns on Sun, Dec 6

Sydney Uni is a side whose season is on life support, though there still is a pulse there if they can capitalise this round. With only five games remaining, they will need to win at least four, but preferably all five, starting with the Boomers and Spirit this week. The Spirit is an obvious must-win on Sunday, but to knock off the Boomers on Thursday would help the Flames at least leapfrog them, and potentially sit equal fourth by the end of the round. With Perth and Adelaide amongst the opponents in the final round, their fate is still in their hands, but they cannot afford to slip-up.

Former Perth duo, Lauren Mansfield and Alison Schwagmeyer have taken to the east coast like ducks to water. Mansfield is averaging 12.6 points, 4.8 assists and 2.1 rebounds while Schwagmeyer has put up 11.0 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 2.3 steals. The impact of five, Lauren Scherf with 12.5 points, 7.9 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.6 blocks should not be underestimated, while Anneli Maley might be the most underrated player in the competition, putting up 7.3 points and 1.3 steals to go with a whopping 11.5 rebounds in her eight games since crossing from the Flyers.

TOWNSVILLE FIRE

vs. Perth Lynx @ Townsville on Fri, Dec 4
vs. UC Capitals @ Townsville on Sun, Dec 6

Much like the Flyers and Flames, the Fire complete the trio of ‘F’ sides only playing the two games this weekend. Both are at home in Townsville this week, and the Fire get to rest up until Friday, the last team to commence action in Round 4. They go head-to-head with Perth Lynx up first, and are able to put a line through the Lynx’s season. The Capitals on Sunday will be a tougher challenge, and they will need to be at their best, but the Fire have shown to be capable throughout matches they just need to do it for longer periods of time, having gone down to the Capitals back in Round 1 by 11 points.

Lauren Nicholson (16.4 points, 3.1 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.0 steals) and Shyla Heal (16.6 points, 3.9 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.0 steals) have been one of the best back court duos in the league this season. They have dominated the vast majority of Townsville’s points since crossing from Adelaide and Bendigo respectively over the offseason. Zitina Aokuso (9.9 points, 6.0 rebounds), Megan McKay (5.9 points, 6.1 rebounds) and Nadeen Payne (8.0 points, 5.7 rebounds) are the bigs who cause headaches for opposition sides off the boards.

UC CAPITALS

vs. Melbourne Boomers @ Townsville on Tue, Dec 1
vs. Adelaide Lightning @ Townsville on Fri, Dec 4
vs. Townsville Fire @Townsville on Sun, Dec 6

The UC Capitals are sitting pretty at the moment with seven wins from eight games and in prime position for top spot. With a last-day matchup against the Flyers set to potentially determine top spot, there would be one eye on the semis despite having the five games remaining. They have the three this weekend, and none are easy, taking on the likely finals-bound Boomers and Fire either side of the team that beat them in overtime back in Round 1, Adelaide Lightning. The form that a full-strength Capitals outfit has shown over the journey is better than any other side, and they will be hard to beat, but before they can focus on finals, they need to keep ticking over the wins and it starts tonight against the Boomers.

Maddison Rocci (15.6 points, 3.4 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 2.8 steals) leads all-comers in terms of points, with the co-captains Marianna Tolo (11.6 points. 5.5 rebounds, 1.1 steals and 1.1 blocks) and Kelsey Griffin (10.8 points. 7.8 rebounds and 1.5 steals) building into the season nicely. Jade Melbourne‘s season has been impressive (9.6 points, 3.0 rebounds and 2.3 assists), while Tahlia Tupaea‘s work off the bench (6.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists) should not be understated.

Southside rally to hand Lightning their second loss

SOUTHSIDE Flyers once again flexed their muscles showcasing their array of talent and bench depth to notch up another convincing win, downing Adelaide Lightning by 31 points in a strong showing (110-79). It is fair to say that once Southside get going there is no stopping them, able to burst out of the blocks and share the scoring around credit to their impressive skillset and incredible number of options to go to the net.

It was not all one-way traffic however, with Adelaide holding the lead at quarter time albeit by three points, proving they too have the fire power to mix it with the best. But a second quarter shooting masterclass put a dampener on that with Southside piling on a whopping 30 points to 17 to not only claim the lead but so to the ascendancy heading into the second half. The Flyers continued that vein of form, outscoring their opponents in the third and fourth quarters to secure their seventh win of the season and claim second spot on the ladder heading into Round 4.

Adelaide had their chances but simply could not convert going at 43 per cent from the field, only nailing 29 goals from 66 attempts. On the other hand, Southside found their rhythm shooting at 50 per cent from the field with their free throw accuracy doing the real damage converting 10 of 12 attempts at 83 per cent. The Lightning proved to be strong off the boards (40-38) while also leading the way for blocks (6-5) but that is where it stopped for Adelaide with the Flyers exploiting them on the assists front (32-24). Southside starred with their clean hands and ability to read the play racking up 12 steals to three while on the turnover front they only recorded a mere six as opposed to Adelaide’s 17.

Liz Cambage once again dominated highlighting her basketball prowess to knock back 25 points while also reeling in seven rebounds. In her 26 minutes on court Sara Blicavs impressed collecting 21 points, five rebounds and four assists while Jenna O’Hea was another key contributor for the Flyers draining 15 points, three rebounds and six assists. Aimie Clydesdale was the only other player to reach double digits for points with 12 to her name along with four assists. Leilani Mitchell was down on her usual output recording nine points but still managed to reel in 10 assists and two steals. Monique Conti also plied her trade picking up eight points, four rebounds and four assists highlighting just how many scoring options the Flyers had.

Although they did not get the job done there were a couple of key contributors for Lightning who stepped up to the plate with Abigail Wehrung leading the way with 21 points, one rebound and two assists. The next best was Marena Whittle who managed 15 points in her 30 minutes on court. Whittle also recorded nine rebounds five of which were offensive along with three assists while Brooke Basham knocked back 13 points, four rebounds and two assists going at 100 per cent from three point range. Louella Tomlinson popped up for nine points, four rebounds and four assists as Steph Talbot only managed six rebounds, four assists and seven assists.

With a win under their belt the Flyers will be hoping to repeat their efforts against the Lightning when they meet again on Wednesday at Cairns Pop-Up Arena.

 

Fire overcome half time deficit to notch up sixth win

WNBL

Townsville Fire got the job done against Sydney Uni Flames limiting them to 14 points in the second half and claiming a 14 point win (73-59). It was an even start to the game with only one point separating the two sides at quarter time before Sydney really started to find their groove in the second quarter to establish a handy lead. However, the tables quickly turned in the second half with Townsville coming out with a real pep in their step blocking every avenue to the rim for the Flames while proving to be a threat up forward going on a scoring spree and stunning Sydney.

Holding the ascendancy at half time Sydney Uni simply could not maintain that same level of intensity, dropping off as the game went on while on the other hand Townsville exploited each opportunity that came their way to impact on the scoreboard and reduced their opposition’s chances of getting any real momentum. Townsville came out with a fire in the belly determined to override their slower start to the game and secure their sixth win of the season and hold onto that third spot on the ladder.

Overall shooting percentage was a real issue for both sides with neither able to hit the 50 per cent or above mark with points proving to be hard to come by for large chunks of time. Sydney sat at a lowly 32 per cent from the field showcasing just how inaccurate they were only nailing 23 of their 71 attempts and while Townsville were not much better ay 42 per cent it did prove to be the difference. Free throw shooting seemed to be the strength of the Flames converting at 71 per cent as opposed to the Fire’s 33 per cent while points in the paint is where the victors felt most comfortable sinking 30 of their points from there. it was a high rebounding game with the Flames getting the nod thanks to their 53 in comparison to the Fire’s 40 but the tables were reversed when it came to assists and steals as Townsville reigned supreme in those two areas (20-9) and (11-5) respectively. Turnovers also proved to be a killer for Sydney Uni who were wasteful with ball in hand recording 16, seven more than their opponents.

In terms of performances it is hard to go past Lauren Scherf who had a day out just falling short of a double-double before half time but quickly hit the milestone after the break. The center was involved in just about everything recording a team-high 18 points along with a staggering 19 rebounds, 13 of which were defensive showcasing her sheer presence on the court despite the loss. Scherf also managed an impressive four blocks to round out a stats-stuffing performance. She was well aided by the likes of Lauren Mansfield who played the entire 40 minutes and managed 16 points, two rebounds, three assists and two steals while Alison Schwagmeyer also found her range with 14 points, five rebounds and five assists.

For the Fire it was the next generation of youngsters that stepped up to the plate and led the way with their drive to the basket, confidence and shooting radar well and truly on. Zitina Aokuso topped the table for Townsville draining 16 points and walking away with a double-double thanks to her 10 rebounds. Shyla Heal was not far behind amassing 15 points, five rebounds and six assists showcasing her ability to be a real playmaker for her side while also boasting the confidence to get the job done herself. The ever-experienced Lauren Nicholson played an integral role in the win finishing with 14 points and three steals as did Nadeen Payne who slotted seven points, eight rebounds and three assists.

Sydney Uni Flames will be hoping to pick themselves up and rally for their clash against the Melbourne Boomers while Townsville have plenty of time to prepare for their meeting against the struggling Perth Lynx side.

Southside hand Townsville third loss, Fire’s Nicholson leaves with nose injury

GOOD things eventually come to an end and in this instance, it was the Townsville Fire’s three-game winning streak at the mercy of the Southside Flyers, going down to the heavy-handed championship favourites 70-94, while being substantially undermanned.

A scrappy start from both sides led to a low scoring opening few minutes, but two quick fouls for Megan McKay earned her a quick spot on the bench for the rest of the first quarter. The Flyers started to connect on some of their shots as the first quarter rolled on, while Townsville struggled to pick up steam, trailing 4-16 after six minutes of play thanks to nine quick points from Liz Cambage. Not only did Southside’s superior opening period see them gain an 11-point lead, but also a hard blow to Lauren Nicholson’s nose resulting in the Fire losing a star point-guard for the rest of the game.

An And-One from Bec Cole to commence things in the second provided more encouraging signs for Cheryl Chambers and her players, however three straight successful trips up the floor for the Fire was the response Shannon Seebohm wanted to see following quarter time.

Townsville fended off more Southside success leading into the main break trailing only by eight points and winning the quarter 25-22. Down 34-42, the Fire were feeding off of Shyla Heal’s 15 points and three rebounds at this stage, while Nadeen Payne was doing her best to back Heal up with seven points and four boards. Alternatively, Cambage had herself 17 points in 16 first-half minutes next to Cole, who sat on 10 points and five assists at the mid-way point.

Losing Heal for a chunk of the third due to an elbow to the chest, the Fire did a good job of weathering the Flyers’ storm. But a triple from Jenna O’Hea midway through the third quarter signified the gradual expansion of her side’s lead in the second half putting Southside up by 16 with a quarter left to play in Saturday’s opener.

A relatively uneventful final quarter ensued as Southside started to push their advantage towards the 20-point mark and Townsville struggled to cope while running on limited players. As both sides introduced their secondary units in the dying moments of the contest, Southside routinely concluded matters by running out 24-point winners and ending Townsville’s three-game winning streak.

Shooting over 50 per cent throughout all four quarters, Southside was hard to stop from knocking down their shots, particularly down low (48 points in the paint) and from the free-throw-line (14 from 17). The Flyers also held onto the ball well, only turning over the ball eight times the whole game.

Cambage maintained her reputation as a prolific post presence, contributing 26 points, nine rebounds and three assists, while going 75 per cent from the field. Meanwhile, Cole was the next best thing with her 19 points and eight assists. Leilani Mitchell was not a massive presence on the scoreboard, but she certainly facilitated the ball at a high rate finishing with nine assists under her belt.

Heal had another impressive outing racking up a team-high 17 points, four rebounds and three assists, a major talking point for Townsville’s disappointing outcome. But more impressively, were the combined efforts of two of the WNBL’s best auxiliary players. Firstly, 15 points in 26 minutes off the bench for Stephanie Reid provided merit for a top performance from the losing side, whereas Courtney Woods accumulated a modest 11 points in her efforts yesterday afternoon.

Both teams hit the hardwood again in 24 hours, as Southside looks to knock the Adelaide Lightning out of the top four with a second triumph in as many days. While, the Fire look to re-establish themselves as a favourable finals nominee against a Sydney Uni Flames unit that is hungry to climb the standings.

Lightning hit back with statement win

Pic: WNBL

IMPROVING their record to four wins and one loss, the Adelaide Lighting have reiterated the fact that they are a formidable side, after extinguishing the Sydney Uni Flames 75-53, following a one-sided second half and a 30-point masterclass from early MVP-candidate Stephanie Talbot.

Transition points and a quick start from Sydney saw them run the floor well and capitalise on fast break offence early on, but the Lightning had other ideas for how the opening term would end, following a 7-0 run four minutes in for Adelaide. Riding off on their scoring run and four lead changes in the first quarter, Adelaide held a commanding 20 to 12 lead, with Talbot a large presence early having seven points and four rebounds after 10 minutes.

After an extended quarter-time break due to technical difficulties at the Cairns Pop-Up Arena, both teams lost momentum on the scoreboard. Neither side got off a field goal for two and a half minutes, until this trend was upended following a beautiful backdoor cut from Sydney’s Lauren Mansfield.

Baskets became more frequent from both sides prior to half-time and the Flames made some significant headway in the half’s few remaining minutes after two buckets each from Funda Nakkasoglu and Nat Burton, cutting the deficit to only six points at the main break, 32-26.

It was the Talbot show in the opening 20 minutes, with the 26-year-old putting up 15 points during that time and seven rebounds to add to that. While Adelaide had few players with big scoring totals, the Flames had low scoring numbers across multiple individuals with all of their starters converting on shots. The former Opal in Burton led the way with eight points while Alison Schwagmeyer proved her mettle on the glass with seven rebounds in the initial two quarters.

A tit-for-tat beginning was the best way to describe the early moments of the second half, as both sides remained level six minutes into the third phase. However, four pivotal scores from Abigail Wehrung, Talbot who had two of those, and Marena Whittle gave the Lightning a nine-point buffer at what seemed like a turning point in a clash that had little room for errors. A beautiful drive and dish from Ally Wilson to Ella Batish and a fast-break layup by Talbot capped off a 13-0 run for Chris Lucas’ roster and put control of the game firmly in their possession before three-quarter-time, leading 53-41.

Adelaide ballooned their lead out to 25 points long into the middle stages of the final stanza scoring 17 of the first 19 points, as the Flames had no answer for their opponents late in the game. The Lightning’s bench completed the emphatic final period, culminating in a dominant 22-point blowout, reaffirming Adelaide as a serious contender among the League’s ranks.

With the Lightning holding the Flames to 27 per cent shooting efficiency they were able to provide themselves ample opportunity to pull away later in the game given that they converted their shots, which they did by shooting 42 per cent. A plus-11 in assists and a plus-12 in fast break points was a product of the way  coach Lucas’ side worked as a cohesive unit pushing the ball up the other end of the court after Sydney Uni’s missed shots.

Another standout performance from likely MVP candidate Talbot rattled another opponent’s roster, with the small forward racking up 30 points, 12 rebounds and three assists, while being fouled a game-high five times. Wehrung was the only other Lightning individual with double-digit totals, finishing with 11 points by way of three triples. Chelsea Brook contributed eight points and five rebounds, while Batish tallied seven of her own.

Scoring just 53 total game points, Adelaide’s shooting success was few and far between, with Burton being the only player to accumulate over 10 points – she finished with 14 points and a pair of rebounds. Meanwhile, Anneli Maley (seven points and eight rebounds) and Mansfield (seven points and four assists) had quiet nights respectively as neither of them were able to make a substantial imprint on the game.

Sydney Uni and Adelaide return later today to face another two teams who are completing back-to-back fixtures. The Lightning have their work cut out for them if they are to try and slow down the Southside Flyers, who just recently beat the Townsville Fire in convincing style. This brings us to the Flames’ opponents later today, looking to regain lost ground in the standings against the Fire in Round Three’s final game.

Caps keep the good times rolling, extend winning streak to seven

Pic: WNBL

THE longest winning streak of WNBL20 this season continues for the University of Canberra Capitals, as the two-time defending champions extended their litany of victories to seven straight, flattening the Bendigo Spirit in last night’s closer 51-87, rounding off the third of three one-sided contests over the first half of the weekend.

A close contest for the majority of the first period, it seemed as though both sides would be within a possession of each other at the first intermission. However, seven-straight points in the last 60 seconds of the term for the Capitals saw the reigning champions lead 20-12 after 10 minutes, highlighted by a buzzer beating corner three from Brittany Smart.

It seemed early on that the only visible scorer on Tracy York’s side was Tessa Lavey early in the second, who had eight points midway through the period. But numerous participants for the Capitals were finding looks of their own. Starting the second quarter on a 12-4 run, Canberra’s starting five and the extra boost given by former Sydney Uni Flame Tahlia Tupaea, quickly lathered on the points against the Spirit prior to half-time.

Outscoring Bendigo 22-9 in the second period, the Capitals were able to produce two-times the amount of points as their opponents in the first half, leading 42-21 at the midway point. However, given their history against lower-ranked sides Paul Goriss reiterated the notion of playing hard for all four quarters to his side at the main break.

With all five of Canberra starters manufacturing valuable contributions in the first half, it was evident that the Capitals were seeking a team-based win, which was pointed out by their eight assists through two quarters.

Canberra’s lone problem was clearly slowing down Australian Opal in Lavey, who had 13 points in all 20 minutes of the opening half, the only multiple field goal scorer for the Spirit prior to the third quarter, as the side failed to efficiently convert on their scoring attempts only shooting 17 per cent.

The Spirit kicked off the second half with a fast-paced brand of basketball, scoring three of the first four buckets for both teams, but that would be the extent of the good news following this. After making an adjustment on the defensive end, the Capitals turned the momentum in their favour once again and this time for good.

Earning themselves a 33-point buffer at the end of the third term, 37-70, the third game of yesterday’s triple-header looked like it was going finish in familiar fashion to the previous two meetings – a blowout.

This fate for the two sides came to fruition as Canberra completed the four-quarter sweep in Townsville and ultimately the 37-point landslide victory, earning their seventh straight win in the process and putting themselves a game ahead of the Southside Flyers on the WNBL ladder.

Shots just did not fall for the Spirit, who now fall to a winless record of zero wins and eight losses at the middle point of the season. Making 17 shots from 63 attempts (26 per cent) and giving up 36 points in the paint, Bendigo really disadvantaged themselves when it came to Canberra’s depth and team chemistry. Whereas the Capitals made a sizeable 44 per cent rate of their shots along with 22 assists in what was a complete team-effort.

Not a single Capitals player scored more than 15 points, highlighting just how distributed the scoring load was for UC. Leading the side, however, was Marianna Tolo with her 14 points and six rebounds, while Maddison Rocci backed up her captain with 12 points and three assists. Keely Froling and Tupaea each finished their nights with 10 points. For the Spirit, only Lavey was able to crack a double-digit scoring total, but severely slowed her level of production in the second half where she accounted for only four of her 17 points.

The Caps line up again on Tuesday against the Melbourne Boomers in a much-anticipated top-four matchup that will see a semi-final rematch of last season. On the other hand, Bendigo will face off with fellow bottom of the ladder side the Perth Lynx, perhaps the Spirit’s most likely chance at gaining their first win of the season.

2020 WNBL Round 3 weekend preview: Cairns hub to provide Top 4 clashes in huge round of action

THREE of the top four sides will battle it out in Cairns this weekend starting today to assert dominance on the rest of the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) competition. The second placed Adelaide Lightning will take on the fourth placed Southside Flyers, while the Flyers will also lock horns with the third placed Townsville Fire. The Fire also take on Sydney Uni Flames who lock horns with the Lightning today, while in Townsville, it looks to be a more one-sided contest as the top-against-bottom clash between the University of Canberra (UC) Capitals and Bendigo Spirit takes place. Melbourne Boomers and Perth Lynx – who played two and three games respectively during the week – will have a well-earned break over the weekend.

Cairns hub:

Townsville Fire vs. Southside Flyers
Adelaide Lightning vs. Sydney Uni Flames
Adelaide Lightning vs. Southside Flyers
Sydney Uni Flames vs. Townsville Fire

The Cairns hub is the place to be this weekend when three genuine contenders and a team capable of causing an upset on its day will provide spectators with four tightly contested matches. The Lightning suffered their first loss of the season earlier in the round, but sit at a 3-1 record and are technically ahead of their opponents Southside Flyers based on less losses, with the Flyers holding a 5-2 record. The Lightning also take on the 2-4 Flames who need to win to keep in touch with the top four, while Townsville Fire have a massive opportunity to grab second overall spot if they can down the Flyers and Flames.

This weekend will be a litmus test for the Fire who come up against the Flyers in the first game today. Last time these teams met, the Flyers were just too strong, winning 101-89 and the class of their Opal-littered starting five (and bench) proved too much for the young Fire outfit. Shyla Heal gets better each game and is a damaging two-way guard in the competition, averaging 16.8 points, 3.7 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.0 steals per game, teaming up well with Lauren Nicholson (19.5 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.2 assists). Megan McKay has a massive job in the center position against Liz Cambage, with McKay averaging 6.3 points and 7.2 rebounds compared to Cambage’s 21.4 points and 8.6 rebounds. The latter’s long reach and size allows her to average more than two blocks a game to deny opposition shooters.

The speed at which Townsville can run the floor is a way to get around the Flyers’ bigs with Zitina Aokuso (9.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.2 steals) also likely to have a crack at Cambage and fellow dominant big, Sara Blicavs (14.9 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.7 steals). The back court combination of Rebecca Cole (13.7 points, 4.1 assists and 2.1 rebounds) and Leilani Mitchell (9.4 points, 4.9 assists and 2.3 rebounds) up against Heal and Nicholson will be fascinating, while Jenna O’Hea (10.6 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.6 steals) is a real strong contributor every single game for the Flyers.

Looking at the two other teams that will face off tonight and then switch opponents tomorrow, the Lightning will be keen to create separation on the Flames with an important win. After a shocking 40-point loss to Melbourne Boomers after an eight-day break, the Lightning bounced back with a 40-point win of their own against Bendigo Spirit. Taking out the terrible defeat to Melbourne – which could come with an asterisk considering what the Lightning had to go through – one could hardly fault them this season, and honestly they could win both games, but the Flames is a must-win contest. The Flyers will be a lot tougher and the Lightning will need to be at their best, but it is possible. For the Flames, to realistically stay in the hunt for finals they need to win both games, and the Lightning one looms as the potential, though they got within three points of Townsville last match out.

The Lightning have a nice balance of players across the court, and some solid depth coming off the bench. Steph Talbot has been the most dominant player thus far, averaging a double-double of 22.3 points, 10.8 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 2.5 steals and 1.5 blocks. She has been deadly from the field with 49 per cent of her attempts going in, and an 84 per cent strike rate from the charity stripe. Likewise, Chelsea Brook (8.3 points. 4.0 rebounds and 1.0 assists) has provided strength off the boards with former Flyers five, Louella Tomlinson impacting off the bench thanks to 5.5 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.3 blocks. The latter pair will need to be at their best to tag-team the influence of Lauren Scherf who gets better with every passing week, putting up 12.8 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.5 blocks per game. Natalie Burton and Carly Boag share the minutes in the other big spot combining for 11.6 points and 7.3 rebounds.

In the back court, Lauren Mansfield and Alison Schwagmeyer have continued their Perth Lynx partnership to the eastern side of the country, both averaging more than 11 points per game, with Schwagmeyer being a key playmaker with 4.8 rebounds 3.3 assists and 2.3 steals and Mansfield not far behind leading the assists with 5.2, as well as 2.2 rebounds. The backcourt matchups will be a little different to 12 months ago, with former Bendigo talent Abigail Wehrung and ex-Sydney Uni guard Alex Wilson taking on the Lynx duo. Wilson has been a star with the Lightning, putting up 15.8 points 5.3 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.3 steals across the season thus far, while Wehrung has managed 12.0 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.0 assists. Marena Whittle is another inclusion to the Lightning program this year, and will face off against her ex-Perth teammates, averaging 6.5 points and 7.0 rebounds in 2020.

Townsville hub:

Bendigo Spirit vs. UC Capitals

Having been the main hub all season, Townsville just hosts the one game this weekend and it is the two teams from opposite sides of the ladder. While Bendigo will hope to cause the upset of the season, it is hard to see them breaking the six-game winning streak of the Capitals who have now beaten everybody except the Lightning thus far this season. The last time these teams played was to kick off Round 2, and the Capitals won by a comfortable 20 points, 76-56. The issue with the Spirit is the fact that they have struggled to score and restrict their opponents, averaging 65.6 points per game, whilst the Capitals – a strong defensive side – have put up 75.7 points. On the defensive end, the Capitals are far and away the best team, conceding just 66.1 points, while the Spirit have allowed a whopping 90.7 points per game.

There are plenty of reasons for their respective seasons, with the Spirit having quite a young side, and a number of inclusions, whilst the Capitals have gained more experienced talent, and have the runs on the board as a successful unit and of course, back-to-back premierships. The Capitals have also seen the emergence of a number of younger stars who have thrived off the no-import rule. Maddison Rocci has been impressive with her long-range shooting, putting up 16.1 points 3.6 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 2.6 steals as an all-round performer. Both her and Jade Melbourne (9.9 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.1 assists) in the backcourt have forced teams to be wary of them and therefore split the load amongst them and their highly capped teammates.

Co-captains Marianna Tolo (11.3 points, 5.3 rebounds) and Kelsey Griffin (11.2 points, 7.6 rebounds) have been brilliantly managed and will be raring to go at the pointy end of the season, while it is hard not to include the other bigs in Keely Froling (10.4 points, 6.0 rebounds) and Mikaela Ruef (8.1 points, 6.7 rebounds), contributing to the best rebounding side in the competition. The Spirit have had the two standout performers in Carley Ernst and Tessa Lavey who have done everything they can this season putting up 34.5 points, 11.8 rebounds and 8.8 assists between them. Ernst will have her hands full against the bigs, but will hopefully have some support from an improving Mary Goulding (7.3 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.8 steals), while Jennie Rintala (5.5 points, 3.8 rebounds) has been the next biggest contributor in the back court with Lavey.

It will take a special effort for the Spirit to get up, but stranger things have happened in basketball. Expect the Capitals to be just too strong though, and they are genuine title contenders for their third straight flag.

Picture: Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images

Capitals survive Lynx scare to post narrow win

REIGNING back-to-back premiers University of Canberra (UC) Capitals have made it six wins on the trot, but not without a scare from Perth Lynx in Cairns last night. The Capitals, who managed to dispatch title favourites Southside Flyers easier than many anticipated, had a huge fight on their hands against the lowly ranked Lynx outfit, pushing them all the way and only falling three points short by the final buzzer, 73-70.

In a match that proved to have plenty of momentum swings as the Capitals played their second match in four days, and the Lynx their third in what was a heavy schedule for the teams, both left nothing out on the court in pursuit of victory. It was the favourites who tipped off the season in style with a strong first term to race away to a 28-19 lead and open up an advantage that looked like it could well be a one-side contest.

The second quarter could not have been any different as the Lynx stunner the Capitals, piling on 24 points and restricting the free-flowing Capitals to just 11, to hit the front by four points at the main break. Having only won one game for the season thus far, Perth was proving it could compete with the best, and even when the Capitals threw everything at them in the third, they could only claw back the deficit to level the scores at 55-apiece heading into the final quarter.

Despite the momentum swinging back in the Capitals’ favour, it was the Lynx who scored 10 of the first 13 points in the final term to race out to a 65-58 lead with five minutes to play. Enter Maddison Rocci. The talented up-and-comer managed back-to-back layups to draw her side within three points, then a couple of long-range jumpers from Kayla Steindl that missed saw teenager Jade Melbourne win the defensive rebound and the Capitals worked the ball down to co-captain Kelsey Griffin who nailed the turnaround jumper.

Their lead cut to just one point, Alex Ciabattoni found Darcee Garbin for a shot and the talented former Townsville Fire shooter made no mistake. But a contact came from Tahlia Tupaea and Garbin headed to the charity stripe for a third point. She made it count and it was a two possession game with two minutes on the clock. Looking in trouble, up stepped Griffin who nailed a three-pointer just in time and put her team within a point. The celebrations were short lived as her opposition captain, Katie-Rae Ebzery made a jump shot of her own and the lead was out to three again.

Griffin had a shot from long-range to try and make it back-to-back threes but missed, though Melbourne was quick to bounce on the offensive board and hit up Rocci to the open Tupaea who did drill it from outside the arc. Scores were tied with 47 seconds on the clock. Ashley Sharp tried to match it up the other end but missed, and Griffin again made them pay by grabbing the board, and with Tupaea involved, this time it was the youngest player on the court in Melbourne who put the final nail in the coffin. With eight seconds on the clock, Melbourne hit the three-pointer to win the game as a last second chance from Ebzery missed.

It is fair to say Griffin was the difference, shooting 21 points and picking up 12 rebounds in a mammoth performance off the bench. Rocci was the only other double-digit shooter, hitting 11 points and dishing off from four rebounds. Marianna Tolo (nine points, six rebounds), Melbourne (five points, six rebounds) and Froling (three points, five rebounds) all impacted off the boards, while Mikayla Ruef (seven points, four rebounds, three assists and three steals) and Tupaea (eight points two rebounds and six assists) impacted off the bench.

Ebzery top scored for the Lynx, knocking down 17 points – though at 36 per cent efficiency from the field – as well as having five assists and three rebounds. Garbin picked up a double-double thanks to 14 points and 11 rebounds, while Sharp racked up 10 rebounds to go with her five points. Also in double-digits was Ciabattoni who scored 13 points and four assists, while Taylah Burrows was the standout off the Perth bench with seven points and six rebounds.

Picture: WNBL

Southside dazzle in 40 point victory over Perth

SOUTHSIDE made light work of Perth Lynx claiming a convincing 40 point victory over the bottom two side (102-62). Lynx simply could not compete with the star power of the Flyers, blown out of the water from the opening term where Southside piled on 27 points to 17. The Flyers won every term by a decent margin, showcasing their ability to put their foot down and star with their ball movement, attack and overall class.

Despite Perth edging out to an early five point lead in the first quarter the Flyers flexed their muscles as the quarter went on shutting down their opposition and using their own weapons to full effect. Boasting plenty of x-factor Southside rallied to steal the lead and subsequently swing the momentum in their favour – which from that moment on, never left.

The Flyers led in every significant area shooting at a 62 per cent clip from two-point range while also highlighting their skill from downtown going at 41 per cent, nailing 12 of 29 attempts, compared to Perth who struggled to find their rhythm sitting at 26 per cent. When it came to rebounds the Flyers just pipped Lynx at the post (40-38) while they also dominated assists showcasing their willingness to dish the ball off and share it around, more than doubling their opponents (26-12). Turnovers were another main focal point and an area Perth would not be overly happy to lead in, amassing 27 while the Flyers treasured the ball only recording 12.

It is no surprise that superstar Liz Cambage led the way for Southside recording a game-high 23 points for her efforts while shooting at an overall field goal percentage of 56 per cent. Cambage also managed to ply her trade off the backboards picking up eight rebounds, six of which were defensive while also registering a block. Leilani Mitchell was not far off Cambage with the guard putting up shots from everywhere and most importantly converting at a 77 per cent rate. She walked away with 20 points to her name along with two rebounds, one assist and a steal. The ever-reliable Jenna O’Hea once again stepped up to the plate in her 21 minutes on court sinking 10 points to fill out an already impressive stats sheet of three rebounds, five assists, two steals and a block. The only other player to reach double digits for points was Sara Blicavs who recorded 20 points and seven rebounds. In a clear testament to their bench depth Monique Conti managed nine points while teammate Aimie Clydesdale also chimed in with a handy seven points of her own.

Although the Lynx could not get the job done, a couple of key players proved their worth and impact with Alexandra Sharp starring with her 17 points and five rebounds. The next closest was captain Katie Ebzery who was well and truly down on her lofty standards only managing nine points, four rebounds and four assists. It could have been a big evening for the captain if she had been more accurate shooting at a 37 per cent clip and only nailing one of her five attempts from beyond the arc. Jessie Edwards made her presence felt in her 23 minutes on court knocking back eight points and seven rebounds. She was well aided by the likes of Emma Clarke who slotted seven points and three rebounds while Ashleigh Isenbarger also chipped in with a handy eight points, six rebounds and two assists.

Unfortunately for Lynx the job does not get any easier faced with the UC Capitals tonight who are on a five game winning streak, while Southside will be gearing up for an enthralling clash with Townsville Fire who have been in ripping form the past couple of outings.

Lightning hold off gallant Spirit side

Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images

It was a nail-biting encounter from the opening jump ball with Bendigo Spirit throwing everything they had at Adelaide Lightning only to fall agonisingly short of their first win for the 2020 season (83-89). The class and execution of Adelaide came to fruition, able to withstand the pressure and come out the other side to record their third win of the condensed season.

The lead ebbed and flowed throughout the match with Bendigo claiming the ascendancy heading into the half time break and it looked like it could continue that way with Tessa Lavey dictating the play and opening up a seven point lead midway through the third. But the Lightning struck back with some clever play to outscore the Spirit in the second half 47 to 40. Bendigo seemed to tire as the game went on and were unable to go with Adelaide who kicked it up a gear and could sense a win in the making.

Adelaide had the upper hand when it came to overall field goal percentage going at 44 per cent compared to Bendigo who only converted at 33 per cent. However when it came to three point shooting, Bendigo convert4e 14 of 34 attempts at 41 per cent as Adelaide only managed a 33 per cent clip nailing nine of their 27 attempts. On the rebounding front the Spirit also seemed to have the upper hand reeling in 47 compared to 44. Assists were relatively even with only one splitting the two sides, 18 to 19, while when it came to steals the Lightning showcased their defensive mindset picking up seven opposed to the Spirit’s four.

Despite the loss Carly Ernst was a key figure in the Bendigo outfit, knocking back 22 points, however she shot at a lowly 33 per cent – something she would be hoping to improve on for future games. She also managed a double-double thanks to her eleven rebounds, ten of which were defensive, while also accumulating two assists. It is fair to say that Lavey stole the show starring in her 40 minutes out on court and managing 33 points, nailing four of six shots from three-point range at 66 per cent while also recording three rebounds and six assists. Outside of the aforementioned duo, Demi Skinner was the only other main contributor slotting 17 points in her 21 minutes on court while also amassing three rebounds and one assist in her sides loss.

For the Lightning it is no surprise that Steph Talbot was once again one of the best on court recording 22 points, 12 rebounds (nine defensive) and five assists to cap off an important win. Talbot was impressive from the field  going at 63 per cent but it was Alex Wilson that topped the table for Adelaide recording 23 points, six rebounds and six assists to really push her side over the line. Abigail Wehrung also chimed in with a handy 15 points in her 28 and a half minutes on court showcasing her ability to stand up under pressure and deliver. Marena Whittle plied her trade off the boards collecting eight rebounds to accompany her eight points while the only other player to make a real splash was Louella Tomlinson who slotted eight points.

Lightning are set to come up against Sydney Uni Flames on Saturday while the winless Bendigo have UC Capital next.

Boomers bounce back in style, stun Lightning by 40

AFTER back-to-back defeats, the Melbourne Boomers are again back on the right side of a result following a 40-point landslide win against the Adelaide Lightning in last night’s opening contest, 91-51.

The Boomers were not phased in the slightest by Adelaide’s extended rest period, opening the game up with an 8-0 run before Abbey Wehrung got the Lightning on the scoreboard three minutes in.

Picture-perfect shooting by Melbourne allowed them to create a decent margin by the end of the first quarter while keeping Adelaide to single digits in the process, leading 28-8 in what can be described as one of the best quarters so far this season for Guy Molloy’s team.

To add to the list of issues that the Lightning had to try and contain, Melbourne’s shot conversion rate was a significant one. The Boomers went 19 from 39 (48 per cent) throughout the opening half compared to 33 per cent shooting from Adelaide – numbers that would be the reason for the game’s 53-28 score line at the main break after two quarters.

Looking to repeat a successful first half, the frontcourt duo of Tess Madgen and Maddie Garrick looked to continue their production as they scored 14 and 13 points respectively in the opening 20 minutes of play. But, the job of containing Adelaide’s Opal forward in Steph Talbot was going to prove more of a challenge, as she sounded off on 10 points and three rebounds in the same amount of time.

Both sides slowed down offensively with the two teams combining for 26 points, but the uphill battle did not become any easier to manage for Chris Lucas’s outfit, as the Boomers looked to bounce back from two straight defeats prior to last night as extra motivation.

Leading by 17 with one quarter left, Melbourne just needed to stick to their routine and manage the clock, as a late charge did not seem likely of their opponents. Finally concluding matters last night, the Boomers convincingly outscored the Lightning 24 to 11 in the final term and holding their opponents to 51 points.

The Boomers knocked down field goals at a stellar pace all game, converting on 39 shots from 79 attempts (44 per cent), much higher compared to Adelaide’s average conversion rate of 31 per cent shooting. A plus-25 in rebounding for Melbourne coupled with a plus-13 in assists covered most of the important statistics related to the game that were considered necessary. In addition to this they doubled the amount of points that came from their bench players with 24 compared to Adelaide’s 12.

Marquee players from Molloy’s outfit put on impressive displays, stemming from the rebounding efforts of Cayla George (16 points and 15 rebounds) and Ezi Magbegor (11 points and eight rebounds), and then leading onto the scoring efforts made by Madgen (16 points and five assists) and Garrick (15 points and four assists).

On the flip side, Adelaide’s Ally Wilson submitted a team-high 13 points along with seven rebounds, whereas Talbot finished her night with a modest 12-point and seven-rebound performance.

Taking the contest by 40 points, the Boomers repositioned themselves back in the top four next to the Southside Flyers. But the team now have to wait a week before their next clash against the Canberra Capitals, and given too much time off, a win is anything but a sure thing. A different kind of wait beholds the Lightning, as they have less than a day to recover from their efforts last night, before taking on the winless Bendigo Spirit, who are yet to emerge triumphant after six meetings this season.

Townsville leave Spirit shocked, extend winning streak to four

Pic: WNBL

HOSTS and now the hottest team in the WNBL, the Townsville Fire have kept alive their winning streak in emphatic style by lathering on the points against the lowly Bendigo Spirit 99-51. The result symbolises the two most opposite teams in the competition in terms of form, with the Fire extending their streak to four and the Spirit losing their seventh game in as many contests.

Coming into last night’s contest on a three-game winning streak and in their home city, the Fire were not going to slow down even remotely early on in the contest. This would result in a dominant initial quarter for Head Coach Shannon Seebohm’s side.

Dictated by their smooth passing, six of Townsville’s players put the ball in the net after 10 minutes of play and combine for nine assists on their way to an encouraging 30-10 lead after the first quarter siren. This was topped off by Nadeen Payne’s triple on the buzzer providing an extra boost of momentum.

In a scrappier second term, both teams traded rare baskets in a more spaced out fashion, but as Bendigo started to make encouraging progress, Shyla Heal’s second three-pointer six minutes into the period seemingly halted any chance of a run to conclude the first half and thereby kickstarted the cascading display of points to follow.

However, a good first half followed Mary Goulding, as she waltzed her way to double-digit totals halfway through the game (10 points and two rebounds), but it was a minor footnote as Townsville had more than double the amount of total points that Bendigo had produced leading up to half-time, the score being 51-23.

Things went from bad to worse in the second half for the Spirit as they scored 17 points compared to the Fire’s 27 in the third quarter, which in turn saw the three-quarter time lead grow to 38 points and signify the inevitable win for Townsville before the fourth even began.

The Fire were able to cap off a complete game by winning the final quarter in addition to the previous three, falling one point short of the century mark, but 48-point winners nevertheless.

Townsville emerged victorious in virtually every aspect of the game with the exception of blocked shots, as Bendigo gained the advantage 6-3 in that respect. More importantly, the Fire’s shooting at an exceptional level was their main proponent in the win. Finishing with a clip of 47 per cent, it dwindled the Spirit’s shooting efficiency of 32 per cent. The Fire also bested their opponents in rebounding (42-35) and assists (27-15), as well as forcing 26 turnovers from Tracy York’s roster.

A slow second half individually depleted Goulding’s numbers by the final whistle as she would not score again after half-time for the Spirit. Bendigo’s next highest contributor was Jennie Rintala, who amassed 10 points off the bench with four rebounds. Meanwhile, Tessa Lavey and Carley Ernst were almost absent from the contest, stringing together just nine points between them.

Four out of five of Townsville’s starters reached scoring figures over 10 points, with the Fire’s frontcourt duo of Payne and Megan McKay exhibiting their shooting consistency. Payne sunk six three-pointers to get her 18 points and seven rebounds, while McKay accounted for 18 points and eight rebounds.

Bendigo will square off with the Adelaide Lightning later today as both sides are in dire need of a victory, whereas Townsville have a hefty four-day break before heading to Cairns to try their hand again at defeating the Southside Flyers.

Capitals grab fifth consecutive win, move ahead of Flyers

IN what was a defining victory, back-to-back premiers University of Canberra (UC) Capitals reminded fans just what they were capable of, dominating against the highly fancied Southside Flyers to win by 23 points and go outright with the most wins thus far in the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL). Both sides came into the clash with 4-1 records, though the Capitals had strung together four consecutive wins since an overtime loss to Adelaide Lightning on the opening night of the season, and since have gone from strength to strength.

That was certainly the case last night, when the Capitals outplayed the Flyers, convincingly winning three of the four quarters to secure a 95-72 victory, as six players hit double-figure points as the Flyers’ impressive depth struggled outside of Liz Cambage and Sara Blicavs. The ominous signs were there from the beginning with the Capitals racing out to a six-point lead at the first change, before streaking away to a 12-point advantage at half-time.

The third term saw the Flyers manage to stem the momentum and actually win the quarter 23-22, but it was the stunning 29-17 final term by the Capitals that saw them blow the margin out to 23 points and secure such a huge win. They dominated the rebounds (38-32), steals (9-4) and second chance points (18-8), while also having six less turnovers (10-16). The Flyers squared the assists ledger at 20 apiece, whilst having an extra block (3-2).

The Capitals had no shortage of contributors on the night, and a greater accuracy from the field – 52 per cent to 45 per cent, with Marianna Tolo leading the way. The co-captain had a team-high 19 points (64 per cent accuracy), as well as seven rebounds, two assists and two blocks. Hitting the scoreboard in a big way was Maddison Rocci who produced 17 points, three rebounds, three assists and two steals, while young gun Jade Melbourne again stood tall under pressure, producing 14 points, six rebounds and six assists.

Keely Froling also managed the 12 points against the strong forward duo of Blicavs and Jenna O’Hea, while picking up three assists too. Coming off the bench, former Sydney Uni Flames talent Tahlia Tupaea recorded 12 points, four assists and two steals, while co-captain Kelsey Griffin again hit double-figure points with 10, as well as nine rebounds and two assists.

For the Flyers, Cambage (26 points, six rebounds and three blocks) and Blicavs (21 points, seven rebounds) did all the damage for the Flyers, but in an un-Southside like performance, lacked support on the scoring front. The usually slick Leilani Mitchell could only manage three points – one from eight from the field – and just the three assists, half of her season average.

O’Hea (six points, three rebounds and four assists) and Rebecca Cole (four points, six assists and three rebounds) also had low scoring numbers, though both were proficient on offence with their passing. Off the bench, Rachel Jarry had a handy seven points and three rebounds.

Southside Flyers will need to regroup in 48 hours to take on Perth Lynx on Wednesday, before the Capitals have a crack at the no doubt tiring Lynx on Thursday.

Flames fire up to narrow win over Lynx

Funda Nakkasoglu shot an incredible 27 points in Sydney Uni’s win over Perth last night. Picture credit: WNBL

LED by Funda Nakkasoglu off the bench, the Sydney Uni Flames have recorded a tight seven-point victory over Perth Lynx last night to keep their finals hopes alive and move to a 2-4 record early in Round 3 of the condensed WNBL season. The Flames looked good early and on track to record a big win, racing to an eight-point lead at quarter time. The Flames had restricted the Lynx to just 11 points in the first quarter, before Perth clicked into gear in the second.

The Lynx piled on 24-23 in a high-scoring term that made up about a third of the total game’s score, as Perth’s depth started to hit up the scoreboard. While the class of Darcee Garbin and Katie-Rae Ebzery helped cap off a strong finish to the quarter, it was the likes of Alexandra Sharp who started the term in good form. For the Flames, Nakkasoglu was getting her hands on the ball as the team shared it around.

Perth started to get on top in the third term and cut the deficit to just two points at the final break, with an Ebzery layup with three seconds on the clock – making it eight points for the term – drawing the Lynx within a basket. The Lynx had got within a point two minutes earlier, but each time the Flames pulled away. They did so in the final term, scoring the first eight points of the quarter to go 66-56 up, and it was hard to pull back.

When Garbin sank a triple with 2:44 on the clock, the deficit was just three points however as her and Ebzery had done everything they could to lift their side. Unfortunately for the Lynx, that would be their last score, as the Flames closed out the match courtesy of of deliberate fouls and subsequent four free throws to win, 74-67.

It was the team effort of the Flames that got them home, though the shooting of Nakkasoglu – which included four of five from long-range and 10 of 16 from the field for 27 points, was a catalyst. Alison Schwagmeyer (12 points, nine rebounds, four assists and three steals) and Lauren Scherf (12 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and two blocks) were incredible, but it was the stunning work of Anneli Maley off the defensive boards that stole the show. Only the five points herself, the former Southside Flyer racked up 20 rebounds – 15 defensive – as well as three assists in a starring performance.

For the Lynx, it was again the Garbin and Ebzery show as the talents combined for 41 of their team’s 67 points. Garbin hit 22 points at 47 per cent from the field, including four of 10 from long range, while picking up eight rebounds – four up each end – three assists and two steals. Ebzery hit 50 per cent of her field goal attempts for 19 points, as well as five assists. Kayla Steindl did not make any of her eight field goal attempts, but was still the standout, picking up 12 rebounds, including nine off the defensive boards. Sharp had eight points, while Jessie Edwards came off the bench for six.

Sydney Uni Flames now have a little rest until their clash with Adelaide Lightning on Saturday, which also sees them back up against Townsville Fire the next day. That is not the case for Perth Lynx, who have to lick their wounds and then take on last year’s grand finalists, Southside Flyers and UC Capitals back-to-back tomorrow and Thursday respectively.

2020 WNBL Round 3 weekday preview: Lightning returns as Lynx face three games in four days

AFTER a quarantine setback due to State Government rules around the Adelaide Lightning players needing to remain in isolation for another week, the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) returns in full starting tonight. Seven games will be played across four days, with Perth Lynx having a heavy three-game schedule, while the Lightning, Bendigo Spirit, University of Canberra (UC) Capitals and Southside Flyers all play two games. By contrast, Melbourne Boomers only play one game in eight days, while Sydney Uni Flames and Townsville Fire back up with two games over the weekend.

Cairns hub:

Southside Flyers vs. UC Capitals
Sydney Uni Flames vs. Perth Lynx
Perth Lynx vs. Southside Flyers
UC Capitals vs. Perth Lynx

There will be no proper rest for Perth Lynx who face an incredibly tough schedule over the next three days, needing to back up and perform against three opponents in four days. After tonight’s match against Sydney Uni Flames, the West Australian team will only have Tuesday off before descending into back-to-back matches against last year’s grand finalists and current top two sides, Southside Flyers and UC Capitals. The grand final rematch is tonight which is sure to create plenty of interest in the group, while the Lynx and Flames both desperately need a win, because a loss will just about put a line through their season.

The Lynx will need to manage their players perfectly over this week, knowing they get a five-day break following the hectic three-in-four schedule. Katie-Rae Ebzery and Darcy Garbin remain the two crucial players for the Lynx, with Garbin playing every game, and Ebzery missing one thus far in season 2020. Ebzery has put up 17.8 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.0 blocks in 2020, hitting 47.1 per cent of her three-point attempts. Garbin has been instrumental off the boards with 13.8 points and 6.4 rebounds.

The struggle for the Lynx has been their assist numbers, with Alex Ciabattoni the only other player with two or more assists, averaging two assists and rebounds as well as seven points. Rebounds wise, the Lynx have been able to remain strong, as Alex Sharp (7.2 points, 7.8 rebounds) and Kayla Steindl (5.2 points, 7.4 rebounds) have provided great coverage in the area. The key will be to somehow overcome the shocking 46-point defeat to the Flyers last week, while the challenges that also come against quality opposition in the Capitals and Flames.

Southside has lived up to its pre-season billing of title favourites, sitting pretty on top of the table with a 4-1 record and its only blemish coming against the Boomers. No doubt defeating the Capitals will be high up on the Flyers’ list of desired achievements having gone down to them in two nail-biting grand finals last season. Liz Cambage has been near-impossible to stop in the center position, averaging 20.2 points, 9.2 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game. Joining her with more than 15 points per game to her name is Rebecca Cole who has been crucial on the offensive end with 16.6 points and 3.6 assists per game, as well as a high 64.7 per cent from long-range for a 58.8 per cent field goal clip.

There are no shortage of stars in the Flyers’ side though, with the same starting five every match thus far. That includes Jenna O’Hea and Sara Blicavs rounding out the three and four spots. O’Hea is averaging 11.6 points, 4.4 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.6 steals per game, while Blicavs has recorded 14.6 points, 7.8 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.8 steals. Leilani Mitchell has only managed the 8.6 points, but might be the most crucial player on the court with her transition work, averaging a massive six assists per game as she heads into battle against her former side tonight.

UC Capitals have the two games, facing Perth on Thursday after their grand final rematch tonight. The advantage with the schedule is the fact the Capitals should be ready to go in the blockbuster Monday night fixture, before taking on a tiring Lynx outfit who would have come off a second game the night before. Maddison Rocci has been amazing this season, putting up 17.0 points, 4.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 3.0 steals to cement herself as one of the stars of the competition. Jade Melbourne continues to juggle her Year 12 exams in between being a basketball talent, averaging the 10 points and two rebounds thus far.

The much more experienced Kelsey Griffin has been building off the bench, and perhaps will have her greatest impact tonight, with the Capitals needing every ounce of her ability to get up over the Flyers. She has been averaging 8.3 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.7 steals and 2.3 assists from limited minutes. Keely Froling (11.6 points, 6.8 rebounds), Marianna Tolo (10.2 points, 4.8 rebounds) and Mikayla Ruef (9.2 points, 8.0 rebounds) are the others who remain consistent in the Capitals’ premiership defence.

Sydney Uni seem the more likely side in that bottom three to keep their season alive despite a 1-4 start. They have been more competitive as a whole, with five and three-point losses in Round 2 which hurt the Flames. They now have a chance to really step it up against Perth Lynx who they should beat, and no doubt Lauren Mansfield and Alison Schwagmeyer will have extra motivation to win. Mansfield is averaging 14. points, 5.4 assists, 2.6 rebounds and 1.0 steals per game, while fellow former Lynx talent Schwagmeyer has averaged 11.6 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 2.2 steals starting every match this season.

Lauren Scherf has been building and getting better as the season wears on, putting up a team-high six points and 1.4 blocks to go with her 13 points. Anneli Maley has also relished the extra time since crossing from the Flyers, showing what she is capable of thanks to 8.6 points, 9.8 blocks and 1.6 steals. Natalie Burton has also contributed strongly with the six points and 4.4 rebounds playing out of that four spot with great success.

Tonight’s winner grabs top spot with the Flyers favoured, but you can never discount the Capitals, while expect both teams, as well as the Flames to end the Lynx’s season this week.

Townsville hub:

Melbourne Boomers vs. Adelaide Lightning
Bendigo Spirit vs. Townsville Fire
Bendigo Spirit vs. Adelaide Lightning

A smaller Townsville hub features the four teams with the Lightning returning and playing two games against Melbourne Boomers and Bendigo Spirit, while the Spirit also takes on Townsville Fire in the game that was rescheduled from Sunday. The unknown of this hub is the Lightning, who will be certainly fresh, but whether it is at a point of being rusty, and the Boomers being a tough first-up opponent. They could capitalise on the Boomers’ recent loss to Townsville, while the Fire and Lightning will still be backed in to take care of the winless Spirit.

Starting with the Lightning, in case many might have forgotten given they have not played in eight days, Adelaide claimed two victories in Round 1, defeating the reigning premiers UC Capitals on opening night in a 12-point overtime upset win. They then went on to defeat Perth Lynx by five points in a much closer contest, before being forced back into quarantine due to the COVID-19 outbreak in South Australia. Technically the Lightning are the only undefeated team in the competition, but will need to play catch-up which means a hectic schedule over the final three rounds.

Steph Talbot was unbelievable in the opening two matches, racking up 27.5 points, 12 rebounds, four steals and three assists to arguably be the player of the competition at that stage. She was well supported by inclusions to the Lightning’s team, Abigail Wehrung (16 points, nine rebounds and three assists) and Alex Wilson (13.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 1.5 steals). Wilson will take on her former side in the Spirit on Wednesday which provides some extra motivation there. Chelsea Brook (nine points, five rebounds) has provided her usual impact at the five spot and teamed up well with Talbot as the bigs.

The Spirit have really struggled on offence this season, but seemed to find a way to counter their low scoring in the narrow 10-point defeat to Townsville on Saturday. The Spirit has a huge first term before tiring towards the end, but finally hit the 80-point mark (81) after scores of 60, 63, 56 and 65 in their first four games. Carley Ernst (17.6 points, 7.2 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.0 steals and 1.0 blocks) and Tessa Lavey (12.8 points, 4.2 rebounds, 7.2 assists and 1.0 steals) have been the dominant rebounder and playmaker respectively thus far, but they need more support.

Mary Goulding has been building nicely in the later games with 8.8 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.8 steals, while Jennie Rintala is the only other player with more than five points, putting up 5.8 points and 4.2 rebounds coming off the bench. By comparison their opponent on Tuesday in Townsville has had no problems scoring, racking up the second most points this season, but also being the second weakest defence behind the Spirit.

Lauren Nicholson (19.5 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.2 assists) and Shyla Heal (16.8 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.7 assists) have been the two back court talents that will cause all sorts of headaches, with Heal’s best game coming against the Spirit in that win over the weekend. She will be hoping to produce much of the same, while Zitina Aokuso is ready to tear the competition apart and is up to 9.8 points and 5.5 rebounds per game getting better with every extra minute. Mia Murray (5.7 points, 4.3 rebounds) and Nadeen Payne (8.0 points, 5.2 rebounds) have been crucial in that area as well.

Meanwhile the Boomers will be hungry for a win tomorrow night following the back-to-back losses in Round 2 against the Capitals and Fire. After starting the season 3-0, including a victory over Southside Flyers, the Boomers went down to the Capitals by 17 points, before suffering their most recent loss to the Fire yesterday, losing by 12. Tess Madgen has been dominant for her new side this season, but has only played the three games after missing two matches with an ankle injury. She has put up 19.7 points, 6.0 rebounds and 5.7 assists, joining captain Cayla George (16.4 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.4 steals) as the dominant scorers.

Ezi Magbegor has provided crucial work in tandem with George out of the four and five spots, recording 11.6 points, 7.2 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.0 blocks, while Ashleigh Karaitiana and Madeleine Garrick remain busy with nine and eight points per game respectively. They desperately need a win to avoid a three-game losing streak, and given they will have a week off, expect them to leave nothing out on the court, especially with four matches in Round 4, including the Capitals and Flyers.

Picture: Albert Perez/Getty Images