IN light of the COVID-19 global pandemic, the National Basketball League (NBL)1 South Conference has been cancelled this year. As such, while Draft Central intended to do a preview on all teams leading up to the delayed start, it will instead be a team summary from last season and what they might look to improve on for 2021. Today’s edition looks at Knox Raiders’ womens side that narrowly missed out on a top four spot, but still won a final in the first week.
2019 in Review:
Finished: 5th (lost in semi-finals)
What went right:
- Home court dominance
- Won 13 of the first 16 games to book themselves a finals spot
- Offence (total points 85.0 per game, three-point percentage – 36.3 – ranked first overall, two-point – 47.9 – and free-throw – 78.4 – percentage ranked second overall)
- Playmaking (20.3 assists per game ranked third overall)
- Ball-handling (11.3 turnovers the fourth least overall)
- Lauren Scherf’s season
For a team that bowed out in the semi-finals, there were a lot of positives to take out of season 2019 for the Knox Raiders. They were dominant on their home court for starters, winning eight of a possible 10 regular season games there, before downing Dandenong Rangers in the elimination final. They all but booked their spot in the finals early, going on a tear in the opening 16 games by winning 13 of them and proving themselves to be one of the teams to beat in the competition. The Raiders’ offence, led by NBL1 All-Star Five member, Lauren Scherf was the most powerful of the lot, putting up the most points of any side throughout the season. They not only had their chances, they made the most of them, averaging an impressive three-point percentage of 36.3, as well as strong two-point (47.9) and free-throw (78.4) percentages to rank second overall. Their ability to limit their turnovers (11.3 per game the fourth least in the competition) and set up attacking plays in the frontcourt (20.3 assists per game third overall in the league) was a joy to watch. Overall, the Raiders did everything right except get it done in finals, though they copped the minor premiers Bendigo Braves in the semis, which was unexpected.
What went wrong:
- Lost three of the last four regular season games to slip to fifth
- Continuity (only one player started in every game, three starters played less than 20 games)
- Last quarter of semi-final clash with Bendigo
Unfortunately for the Raiders, their last month was disappointing, dropping three games, albeit to finalists, Nunawading Spectres, Bendigo Braves and Waverley Falcons. They would struggle with continuity throughout the season which made it difficult, as their start player in Scherf would only manage the 14 of a possible 22 games. Just one – Bree Whatman – started every match – and Maddy Wild and Bec Ott were the only other players to take the court in each game. Aside from Scherf, others including Abbey Wehrung (17) and Marena Whittle (19) missed games, but it gave chances for the youngsters of the team such as Charlise Dunn and Alannah Chatfield (both 15-years-old at season’s start) to get minutes on court. Finally, the most disappointing aspect would have been the last term against Bendigo Braves in the semi-finals. The minor premiers were favourites, but Knox fought back from a nine-point deficit to cut the margin to four by the final break. No one would have expected the Raiders to come back, but they would have been disappointed with just six points in the final term as the Braves finished with 19 to run away with a 17-point win, not an accurate reflection of Knox’s effort in the match.
The star player in the side and one of the top competitors across the entire league, it was a shame for her to only get on court 14 times. She was an accurate shooter with a free-throw percentage of 90.6 per cent, missing just four shots from 57 attempts at the line. Her accuracy put opposition defenders in doubt of fouling her as she averaged 51 per cent from the field, including 35 per cent from three-point range albeit from limited attempts. By season’s end, she averaged 21.0 points, 12.9 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.0 steals and 1.5 blocks in a season to remember that set her up for a strong year with Sydney Uni Flames in the WNBL.
Playing every game, Ott was equally as damaging from all over the court, particularly from long range. She averaged the 14.9 points per game, but when she was open, Ott dropped her long-range bombs 47.6 per cent of the time. She was just as accurate from two-point range and the foul line, whilst providing a secondary option by starting in 17 of Knox’s games. Along with her points tally, she averaged 3.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.0 steals per match.
Starting in 13 of her 19 games, Whittle got better as the season went on, and averaged the second most rebounds in the team. She became a great second option off the boards working in tandem with Scherf, averaging 8.6 rebounds to go with her 13.4 points per game. She also stole the ball a team-high 1.6 times per match to accompany 2.5 assists per game. Her accuracy was below that of her teammates, but she was able to provide good experience and a strong body close to the basket.
There were a number of possibilities to pick in this category including Dunn or Chatfield, but opting for Santomaggio who is the closest to becoming a starter in the competition. Santomaggio was 18-years-old when the season tipped off, finishing with 19 games under her belt. While she is yet to start a game, she did average five points, a rebound and assist from limited minutes, which was promising signs for the future. With so much talent around her, expect her to only get better in the coming years.
Christmas list for 2021:
Continuity. The team has the makings of a successful one, and if they had been able to keep the starting squad together throughout the entire season, who knows how they might have been placed heading into finals. Altogether the strong starting core would trouble a lot of sides and there is not too much to add for Knox to be a title contender in 2021.
The Knox Raiders have their top-end talents on the right side of 25 and even everyone on the right side of 30. With some developing teenagers sure to have greater impacts, expect Knox to be a side to push for a top four position if the Raiders can maintain their roster for the 2021 season.