Tag: alex sharp

WNBL20 Season Review – Perth Lynx

THE WNBL for the second straight season has found itself with a clear top four and clear last four in the standings and for the second straight season, Perth Lynx has found themselves in a low-lying position on the WNBL ladder, finishing seventh. Lynx struggled to get going throughout the season with an unappealing record of four wins and nine losses.

While the last-minute season cancellations of Sami Whitcomb and Maddie Allen caused a seismic shift amongst Ryan Petrik’s roster, a number of individuals needed to step up this season and while the results were less favourable than most, plenty of Perth’s players emerged out of WNBL20 better for it.

Thanks to a glacial start to the season in their opening game, going down to Townsville Fire 48-73, and just missing out by five points to the Adelaide Lightning to end the opening round, Perth had already found themselves on the back-foot to begin the season.

Perth’s start to the season became inherently worse, when they encountered a third consecutive loss this time at the hands of the Melbourne Boomers. Following some drastic moves, finally, the Lynx were able to get their name into the winner’s column during their second game of Round 2. While the meaning of the win was expected and rather minimal, it was a win nevertheless against the Bendigo Spirit and the Western Australian side now had something to work with heading in to the second half of the season.

Eight games into WNBL20, Perth found themselves in a rather unremarkable position with a record of one win and seven losses, practically conceding a bottom-four position by this stage. But the Lynx had other ideas entirely for Round 4 raising significant questions on whether they are perhaps better than their final ladder position would suggest.

Despite having just, a slightly better record than Bendigo, Perth convincingly worked over the Spirit for a second time and removed all doubt that they were at a similar level in terms of talent. However, it was their next two contests that the Lynx started to turn some heads.

Backed up by Katie Ebzery and Darcee Garbin’s impressive double-doubles on the night, Perth knocked off a red-hot Townsville Fire by nine points. Following this, the in-form squad managed to fend off the Adelaide Lightning by just a single basket, capping off back-to-back-to-back victories in their first winning streak of the season, re-establishing some honour in the club and their win-loss record.

The Lynx’s brief run of victories would end at three, following a narrow loss to the Sydney Uni Flames, which preceded a season-concluding loss in their final clash of the season against a dominant Boomers outfit.

While finishing seventh at the end of the season with a record of four wins from 13 outings seems quite disappointing, many will be left to ponder “what if?”, regarding the absences of Whitcomb and Allen.

Nevertheless, it was not all doom and gloom after the side’s final game, as Ebzery earned herself a coveted position in the ALL-WNBL First Team for a second season in a row (third of her career). Ebzery completed her stellar season with flying colours averaging 18 points, four rebounds and 3.8 assists, shooting a ridiculous 43.1 per cent from the field – a shoe-in for the Opals squad next year.

Another Opal to be reckoned with was Garbin, who led the team in minutes per game with 33.4. Adding to this, Garbin ranked second in points (16.5), total rebounds (94), blocks per game (0.9) and steals (1.2) throughout her side’s roster. Next to her in the frontcourt was a surprise standout in Alex Sharp, who led the side in rebounds with 7.9 boards per game and ranked fourth in scoring, averaging 8.9 points.

Coach Petrik might not look too fondly on the fact that he finished seventh in his first season as head coach, but the fact that the difference between seventh and fifth was only a single win, means the Lynx might not have too much improving to do. With a full roster next season and the right combination of rotations, we can look forward to Perth providing some quality outings in 2021.

Melbourne weathers the Lightning, 21-point victory over Adelaide

AFTER their 76-55 win over the Adelaide Lightning, an impressive Melbourne Boomers roster has regained the third seed in the WNBL standings to kick off the fifth and final round of the season. The win also sets the tone for the rest of their final week with two more games still yet to be decided for one of the competition’s favourites.

Melbourne looked to do damage early, following a triple from Ashleigh Karaitiana on the opening play. However, Ally Wilson answered back with a mid-range jumper of her own to commence proceedings in Cairns.

Trading buckets early, both sides put up consistent numbers for the majority of the first quarter and remained within earshot of one another in that time. But a 10-0 run from the Boomers, allowed the purple and gold to take a superior stance with a double-digit advantage early in the game.

A three-pointer off the inbound pass to Cayla George would drop, as the opening quarter buzzer went off, giving Melbourne a huge 17-point lead at the first break. Now being down 14-31, Adelaide head coach Chris Lucas pleaded with his side to make some changes and talk to one another for the remainder of the contest, a focus point that would do little good.

Despite holding a 20-point buffer approaching the second intermission, the Lightning were able to construct a 7-0 scoring run of their own to ultimately win the second term exclusively, narrowly cutting the deficit to 13 at halftime.

The Lightning’s main issue to address at half-time was George’s accuracy, as she converted 66 per cent of her shots (compared to her team’s 48 per cent) which translated to 14 points, seven rebounds and a couple of assists up to the halftime stoppage. Meanwhile, Stephanie Talbot was accumulating statistics as per usual, with 10 points and four rebounds for her side after 20 minutes.

The efforts in the third quarter from the likes of Ezi Magbegor, Maddie Garrick and Kalani Purcell was enough to maintain a lead over 10 points at the conclusion of the period, but Adelaide’s efforts in the middle quarters was enough to keep the Boomers within striking range with just 10 minutes left to play, especially with sharpshooters Abbey Wehrung and Taylor Ortlepp starting to find their range.

To the Lightning’s credit they worked their way to just an 11-point defici early in the fourth, but Guy Molloy’s roster depth grounded down a struggling Adelaide side, piling on and continually enlarging the lead for the remainder of the meeting.

A massive credit to their work inside the paint, the Boomers totalled 42 points in the key which completely dwindled the Lightning’s 16 points in this area of the game. Such a difference in an extremely important facet of the contest ultimately led to Melbourne’s convincing 21-point win and bumped up the side to third in the WNBL standings as a result.

One of the by-products of Melbourne’s dominance inside the key was their resulting 45 per cent shooting overall, and with Adelaide barely making a quarter of their total attempts (27 per cent) the Boomers made the most of their passing, out assisting the Lightning 25 to 12.

Perfectly fitting for the veteran and future hall of famer, George’s double-double effort (22 points, 11 rebounds and four assists) led the way from start to finish for her side. While supporting frontcourt acts on the night like Magbegor (14 points and 10 rebounds) and Purcell (11 points, nine rebounds and four assists) made her job a little easier in securing the side’s eighth win of the campaign.

Unsurprisingly it was the Lightning’s main two threats that were the team’s only double-digit producers on the scoreboard, with Wilson accumulating 14 points on the night, along with three rebounds and two assists, whereas Talbot finished with 11 points and six rebounds – a more quiet outing than usual for the MVP candidate.

While Adelaide has essentially lost their ability to make a run at the postseason, they need to recover quickly if they are to bounce back tomorrow and topple the Bendigo Spirit, as more of the team’s secondary unit will have extended runs in the last round of the fixture. For the Boomers, they will look to consolidate a precarious third seed when they face off with the Spirit two days later, in what will be a favourable matchup for the title contenders.

Flames snatch victory from Lynx AND halt Perth’s winning streak 

Pic: WNBL

WITH neither the Sydney Uni Flames or the Perth Lynx eligible for the WNBL Finals, it did not stop both sides from playing with a sense of urgency and determination when they collided in the second of last night’s two games, as the former escaped with the win by a mere three points, 71-68.

In the infancy stages of Tuesday’s closer, both teams were able to display formidable tactics defensively throughout the first 10 minutes of play. Evidently this was the case purely based on the fact that both sides would only combine for 23 points, with Perth harbouring the narrow 13-10 lead heading into the first break.

The subsequent quarter to follow proved fruitless in terms of one team taking control over the game, as the Flames outscored the Lynx 20-19 in a more offence-filled second period, putting the half time deficit at just two points.

But with both teams shooting the ball at a rather poor rate, it seemed like just a matter of time before one of the two sides would start to get going. Nevertheless, Flames’ center Lauren Scherf was rejecting the status quo in those regards, compiling 12 points and five rebounds on 44 per cent shooting in her productive first half. Meanwhile, no Perth players on the other side managed to get quite as hot in the first half as Scherf, but Katie Ebzery gave it a red-hot crack with seven points of her own.

Ebzery continued her efforts on the scorecard, doubling her totals in the next 10 minutes while Sydney Uni continued to hang in there and close the distance. With rebounding superstar Anneli Maley continuing her dominance on the glass, as well as 150-gamer Nat Burton and Alison Schwagmeyer providing supplementary supports elsewhere, Katrina Hibbert’s side found themselves a single point the lesser at the final break, 45-44, and looked to get a running start at the turn of the fourth period.

This aim would be fulfilled as the Flames knocked down the opening two baskets of the final term, momentarily holding a one-point lead over the in-form Lynx. But a return three from Alex Ciabattoni 80 seconds in handed back the lead to Ryan Petrik and his side, further prolonging the Flames’ comeback efforts.

Even though Perth managed to hold onto the lead for essentially the whole last term, the Flames would just not go away, tying things up with two and a half minutes remaining and then regaining the lead a minute later off of a Schwagmeyer triple. Known for her shooting, Funda Nakkasoglu put Sydney Uni up by four with 55 seconds left, where Ebzery answered back with a three of her own with 24 seconds to play, putting Perth behind by just a point. But Scherf’s two made free throws with just 10 seconds on the clock iced the game and end the Lynx’s three-game winning streak.

Both teams shot at a surprisingly low efficiency, where Sydney Uni converted on 36 per cent, which was slightly higher than Perth’s 34 per cent. The Flames held the higher ground in a number of categories to name a few. Particularly noticeable was the side’s plus-11 in rebounding (52-41) and superiority off the bench (30-14), while also winning statistically in areas such as assists, second chance points and three-point shooting.

Schwagmeyer (four assists and three rebounds) and Scherf (11 rebounds and five assists) each scraped away with 19 points apiece, whereas Burton (10 points and two assists) and Maley (eight points, 14 rebounds and four assists) were also instrumental in the win.

Despite the Lynx’s best efforts last night, only two individuals managed over 10 points. Ebzery showed off her scoring abilities at the point guard position, with a game-high 24-point performance, as Alex Sharp fought for her 11-point and 12-rebound double-double last night. A major downfall for the side was Darcee Garbin’s lack of impact, as the Opal only managed nine points and seven rebounds in her 37 minutes of court time.

Perth returns to Townsville Stadium on Thursday to try and emerge victorious for the fourth time in five games against the Canberra Capitals, while the Flames will take the court directly after when they try to upstage a Southside Flyers outfit that has not been defeated since the 23rd of November.

2020 WNBL Round 5 preview: Last chance for teams to make mark

ROUND 5 of the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) is finally here. The last round of the season, and five teams are fighting for four spots, with the top two unable to be moved, and the next two almost there, whilst the fifth placed side has a huge week to try and grab a late spot in the post-season series.

Adelaide Lightning

Position: 5th
Wins: 4
Losses: 5

To make finals?

The Lightning need to win all four games and hope either the Fire or Boomers lose all of their games. Could finish as low as seventh if Perth and Sydney Uni win games in the final round.

Round 5 fixtures:

Tue, Dec 8 @ Cairns vs. Melbourne Boomers
Wed, Dec 9 @ Cairns vs. Bendigo Spirit
Fri, Dec 11 @ Cairns vs. Townsville Fire
Sun, Dec 13 @ Townsville vs. Sydney Uni Flames

After starting off strongly with a 4-1 start, the Lightning have slumped to a four-game losing streak to now be perilously close to missing out on finals. They need a lot to go right in the run home, though one benefit is playing both the Boomers and Fire who hold onto the spots they needs. If they can win those, they should go 4-0, but even then need at least one of those sides to have a shock loss.

Steph Talbot has been the standout this season, averaging 20.0 points, 9.6 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.0 block per game, providing some continuity to the side along with Chelsea Brook (10.4 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists). Abigail Wehrung (11.8 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.5 assists) and Alex Wilson (11.3 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists) have certainly shone but they need to have a big finish in the final round.

 

Bendigo Spirit

Position: 8th
Wins: 0
Losses: 11th

To make finals?

They can’t. In fact they cannot even get off the bottom. Just pride on the line for Bendigo in the Spirit’s final two matches.

Round 5 fixtures:

Wed, Dec 9 @ Cairns vs. Adelaide Lightning
Fri, Dec 11 @ Cairns vs. Melbourne Boomers

It has been a disappointing season for the Spirit, but not completely unexpected given the youth they have been pushing through the program. Having lost the likes of Shyla Heal and Abigail Wehrung over the off-season, the Spirit were quite inexperienced, and while they have been overawed, have had some promising moments for the future.

Tessa Lavey (16.0 points, 4.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 1.1 steals) and Carley Ernst (15.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.0 block) have ben the standout players all season, and have just been searching for more consistent support across the side. Demi Skinner (6.9 points, 2.4 rebounds) and Mary Goulding (5.9 points, 4.0 rebounds) have provided some special moments, while Piper Dunlop (2.7 points, 1.8 rebounds) is one for the future.

 

Melbourne Boomers

Position: 3rd
Wins: 7
Losses: 3

To make finals?

Not lose every game and allow the Lightning to win every game. It is a certainty barring a massive disaster. In fact, even defeating Adelaide tonight guarantees them a spot.

Round 5 fixtures:

Tue, Dec 8 @ Cairns vs. Adelaide Lightning
Fri, Dec 11 @ Cairns vs. Bendigo Spirit
Sun, Dec 13 @ Townsville vs. Townsville Fire

The Boomers can lock up a finals spot with a win tonight over Adelaide, but realistically they should have no issues casting aside Bendigo on Friday. A grudge match against Townsville looms as a massive final day encounter, with the winner potentially taking third spot, and the loser left for fourth.

Ezi Magbegor and Cayla George combine to be two of the best bigs in the league with the way they have really begun dominating each game of late, not that it should come as any surprise. The two Opals are experts at their craft, and George is averaging 14.3 points, 8.5 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.3 steals, while Magbegor has put up 14.2 points, 8.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.0 block. Tess Madgen (14.6 points, 5.6 rebounds and 6.3 assists) has provided all-round support for the Boomers, while Maddie Garrick (10.6 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.8 assists) is the other top scorer on the side.

 

Perth Lynx

Position: 6th
Wins: 4
Losses: 7

To make finals?

They cannot. Unfortunately the Lynx left their run a little too late, and even two wins in the final round sees them fall short.

Round 5 fixtures:

Tue, Dec 8 @ Townsville vs. Sydney Uni
Thu, Dec 10 @ Townsville vs. UC Capitals

After a poor 1-7 start and only a victory against the winless Bendigo, the Lynx have found their feet in the past week, winning three straight games, and boosting themselves to a 4-7 record which saw them leapfrog Sydney Uni Flames. A win over the Flames tonight guarantees them a top six spot, while they could derail the Capitals plans with a victory on Thursday. Perth will be the first team to finish the WNBL season after Thursday.

Darcee Garbin has had a remarkable season and just keeps getting better, with the ex-Fire talent now up to 17.3 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.0 steals per game, sharing the load perfectly with Katie-Rae Ebzery (17.0 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.3 assists). Alex Ciabattoni has been a welcome addition to the squad as a two-way player with 10.6 points, 3.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.0 steal per game, while the rebounding duo of Alex Sharp (8.7 points, 7.8 rebounds) and Kayla Steindl (6.3 points, 7.9 rebounds) has ensured the Lynx remain competitive.

 

Southside Flyers

Position: 1st
Wins: 9
Losses: 2

To make finals?

Never looked like not making it, with top spot to likely be decided in the final round clash against the Capitals.

Round 5 fixtures:

Thu, Dec 10 @ Townsville vs. Sydney Uni
Sun, Dec 13 @ Townsville vs. UC Capitals

Now on a five-game winning streak and having taken care of the Boomers after an earlier loss, the Flyers face their other nemesis in UC Capitals in the final round. Southside has plenty of talent with the Capitals and Boomers arguably the only two teams able to have their measure, and as such should have no problems against the Flames on Thursday, then decide top spot with the Capitals on Sunday.

Liz Cambage has been unstoppable at the level since coming back from the WNBA, racking up 24.1 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game. Sara Blicavs (14.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.4 steals) has relished the focus going off her this season, while Rebecca Cole (13.7 points, 4.2 assists and 2.4 rebounds) and Jenna O’Hea (11.5 points, 3.9 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.7 steals) have also provided all-round support. It is hard to forget Leilani Mitchell who has been an assist-machine, picking up 6.5 dimes per game to go with her 8.1 points.

 

Sydney Uni Flames

Position: 7th
Wins: 3
Losses: 7

To make finals?

They cannot, but they could leap as high as fifth if they can win their last three games and results go their way in other matches.

Round 5 fixtures:

Tue, Dec 8 @ Townsville vs. Perth Lynx
Thu, Dec 10 @ Townsville vs. Southside Flyers
Sun, Dec 13 @ Townsville vs. Adelaide Lightning

The Flames cannot make finals, but have the potential to pick up a couple more wins in the run home and rise as high as fifth on the table. While the top of the table Southside Flyers will be tough to knock off, the Lynx and Lightning either side of that game, tonight and Sunday are winnable matches for Sydney Uni.

Ex-Perth stars Lauren Mansfield (12.6 points, 2.2 rebounds and 4.8 assists) and Alison Schwagmeyer (12.4 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 2.3 steals) have combined brilliantly in the back court this season since crossing the country. Lauren Scherf has remained steady in the five spot with 10.9 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.3 blocks, whilst Anneli Maley has been a revelation thanks to 11.4 rebounds to go with her 6.8 points.

 

Townsville Fire

Position: 4th
Wins: 7
Losses: 4

To make finals?

Similar position to Melbourne, needing one win to secure a Top 4 spot, and can only drop out if they lose them all and the Lightning win them all. Will know if they have to play for a finals spot by the time their first game rolls around.

Round 5 fixtures:

Fri, Dec 11 @ Cairns vs. Adelaide Lightning
Sun, Dec 13 @ Townsville vs. Melbourne Boomers

The Fire are on the verge of bouncing back from last year’s wooden spoon to playing finals this year, but must knock off Adelaide Lightning on Friday. They do that and it will be all secure, before a huge playoff for third takes place against Melbourne Boomers on Sunday. Until Friday, the Fire have the longest rest leading up to the final round.

The back court duo of Lauren Nicholson and Shyla Heal is the best in the competition with the pair providing the majority of the team’s points throughout the 2020 season. Nicholson has put up 18.4 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.4 steals, while Heal has managed 17.1 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.2 steals in their 10 games this season. Zitina Aokuso just keeps getting better and got the start last match, and is almost up to 10 points per game (9.7) coming off the bench, to go with 5.9 rebounds per match. Nadeen Payne (8.4 points, 6.7 rebounds) has provided great support in that area.

 

UC Capitals

Position: 2nd
Wins: 8
Losses: 3

To make finals?

They are in, and like the Flyers, have looked in since bouncing back from a surprise opening night loss. Top spot will be up for grabs in the last match against the Flyers if the Capitals win their first match.

Round 5 fixtures:

Thu, Dec 10 @ Townsville vs. Perth Lynx
Sun, Dec 13 @ Townsville vs. Southside Flyers

The reigning back-to-back premiers had a disappointing loss to Townsville Fire which saw them slip to second on the table, and now they have to bounce back with wins against Perth Lynx, and finish off against title favourites, Southside Flyers. The Capitals beat them last time they faced off and will be hoping to do so again, with their defensive mindset key to containing the Flyers’ bigs.

Kelsey Griffin has just been building all season for this pointy end, now averaging 11.8 points. 7.7 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game, teaming up well with co-captain Marianna Tolo (10.3 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.1 blocks). The youth coming through the guard spots in Maddison Rocci (15.7 points, 3.1 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 2.3 steals) and Jade Melbourne (8.0 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.0 assists) has been a delight for the future, while Keely Froling (9.7 points, 6.0 rebounds) has pieced together a really strong season.

Picture: Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images

Capitals back on top of WNBL standings, waltz by timid Lightning

BOUNCING back from their previous loss against the Melbourne Boomers, the University of Canberra (UC) Capitals returned to top-of-the-table form, with a convincing 85-65 triumph over the Adelaide Lightning, who now fall victim to a three-game losing streak in this ever-crucial part of the campaign.

The Capitals came out firing on all cylinders, knocking down five of their first six attempts as they found themselves up 14-2 just three minutes in against a sluggish Lightning squad early on.

Paul Goriss’s side would not let up on the Adelaide squad in the opening 10 minutes at all, keeping their opponents to single digits at the turn of the first term 25-8, while shooting 100 per cent (10-10) from the free throw line, with Maddison Rocci, Marianna Tolo and Kelsey Griffin all contributing six points each in that stint of time.

In a much more two-sided second quarter, Adelaide started to knock down their shots and get some points on the board. Led by their starting five, the Lightning would only play three bench players during the first half and with key individual Ally Wilson scoreless after two, last year’s semi-finalists found themselves in a sticky situation at the main break, down 25-46. Whereas Rocci had the opposite problem with 14 points up to this stage.

Canberra was proving to be a continual nuisance on the boards as the contest wore on, accumulating a plus-20 in the rebounding category by three-quarter-time, and more astonishingly was the fact that 16 of their 42 rebounds came at the offensive end, leading to 21 second chance points and a 72-38 score line with a period to play.

Coach Goriss and his staff wanted to keep his core unit on the floor for as long as possible to give his starters a quality run, but eventually the Capitals secondary unit made their way onto the floor with five minutes remaining. With the game beyond doubt, an empty 27-13 fourth quarter victory for Adelaide made the final result more respectable, but Canberra would emerge clear-cut 20-point victors, taking the contest 85-65.

A stagnant first half for Adelaide dampened their efficiency from the floor, shooting 38 per cent from the field and only 62 per cent from the free-throw line. It was also critically hurtful in the rebounding department for the Lightning, ultimately losing the category 31-45. On the other hand, Canberra made their foes on the night pay with the result, following their splendid discipline in the paint and points off of offensive rebounds, compiling 36 and 21 points in each respective statistic. Finishing the night with 46 per cent shooting from the field and 88 per cent consistency from the line, the two-time defending champions had their best form on display last night to say the least.

Rocci led the way for the reigning premiers with 18 points and three assists in her 20 minutes of court time. Backing her up were co-captains Griffin (15 points, nine rebounds) and Tolo (12 points, four blocks and three rebounds), while Brittany Smart and Mikaela Ruef made valuable contributions in the process.

For Stephanie Talbot, it was another routine dominant performance with a game-high 21 points, eight rebounds and two steals, while fellow forward Chelsea Brook was the only other Lightning individual to clock up double-digit point totals with 14.

After their bounce back win, the Capitals will line-up in what will be a pivotal contest between two top-four sides as they face the Townsville Fire on Sunday night, while Adelaide looks to end their three-game slide and knock off a lowly Perth Lynx side hungry for some more good fortune the game after.

Lynx too hot for Fire, string together first back-to-back wins of the season

Alex Ciabattoni in action for Perth Lynx. Picture credit: WNBL

FOR the first time this season, the Perth Lynx have obtained back-to-back wins after their upset victory over the Townsville Fire. Strong first and final quarters were enough to fend off Shannon Seebohm’s squad after 40 minutes, squeezing out the win 84-75.

Both sides boasted blistering scoring totals in the initial quarter of the meeting, with the Lynx holding a slim 27-25 lead after 10 minutes despite both sides shooting over 50 per cent in a score heavy period.

It was clear that even though Perth was out of finals contention prior to tip off, Ryan Petrik’s side came to play last night as they moved the ball with exemplary precision in the first half and found their points in the paint.

The rate of scoring started to slow after the first break with each side’s conversion becoming scarcer after a high octane first. Perth maintained their slim lead heading into the half-time team talks by a mere four points, after both sides combined for just 25 points in the second.

Nevertheless, both sides still kept their shooting averages over 40 per cent with each team expressing similar numbers statistically. But for a side with two wins from nine outings, the Lynx were handling themselves extraordinarily well against a talented Townsville roster. Key performers in the first half for each squad included Alex Ciabattoni for the Lynx (13 points and four rebounds) and Lauren Nicholson (11 points and two rebounds), as both players showed off some lethal shooting by the midway point.

Many experts would have estimated somewhat of a comeback in the second half from Townsville, but the Lynx continued to pull away after half-time. Winning the third quarter 16-10 in another low-scoring term. As a result, Perth had themselves a solid 10-point buffer with time continuing to wind down in last night’s closer.

To the Fire’s credit, they made a couple of threatening scoring runs in the closing moments of the contest, getting to within six points at one stage. However, it would not be enough for one of this season’s hottest teams, as the Lynx would secure the upset win, their third of the season.

Quite simply it was Perth’s ability to convert from the field that got them over the line last night, shooting a remarkable 45 per cent through four quarters compared to Townsville’s 38 per cent. In addition, a plus-seven in rebounds and a plus-seven in assists gave Perth all the necessary tools to emerge victorious, coupled with the Fire‘s lack of presence in the key defensively.

Darcee Garbin further validated her international-level prowess alongside fellow Opal in Katie Ebzery, with Petrik’s star-duo scoring 21 points apiece and combining for 21 rebounds as well as eight assists. Ciabattoni also made a good impression, securing 18 points, five rebounds and three assists. Alex Sharp made a double-digit contribution with a modest 12 points and seven boards.

League MVP candidate Nicholson impressed those who tuned in with 28 points and five rebounds, as she tried to carry her team to a positive result. But only two of her teammates were impressive enough to try and make that a reality. The young duet of Zitina Aokuso and Shyla Heal worked for 11 points each as both had unexpectedly quiet nights yesterday evening.

Perth who for the first time this season have back-to-back victories under their belt will look to continue their good run of late, as a third straight win is a real possibility against the Adelaide Lightning, who they face on Sunday. Before this, however, the Fire will aim to avoid their third defeat in four clashes with a win against the two-time defending champion Canberra Capitals.

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.

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

Townsville above .500 again, knock off Spirit thanks to third quarter swing

IN the space of about five minutes, the Townsville Fire flipped the script in yesterday’s clash against the Bendigo Spirit, outscoring them by 17 points in the third quarter to ride home their third win of the season 91-81. Meanwhile the Spirit are still searching for the required recipe to win their first game of the campaign, as their losing skid extends to five games.

Bendigo pushed the pace early in the first quarter, getting out to a 17-5 lead halfway through the opening period, which completely dumbfounded the Fire’s defence in the process. This would dominate the headlines in the opening 10 minutes, but six-straight points from Townsville brought the deficit to a more respectable number with some much-needed momentum.

A late And-One from Tessa Lavey repositioned the Spirit with a commanding quarter time lead ahead 26-15, as each of Bendigo’s starters got their names on the scoresheet early on with a 50 per cent conversion rate aiding them.

However, head coach Shannon Seebohm relied on his side’s depth to help will them back into the contest trailing by just four points at one stage in the second. Nevertheless, back-to-back threes from Mary Goulding and Cassidy McLean would sour the Fire’s momentum just a few moments later, re-establishing the double-digit advantage.

Saving the day in the first half for the Fire was Megan McKay, who earned her minutes with her rebounding, totalling six boards through the first two periods along with seven points. Bendigo would conclude the opening half with the lead after two quarters for the first time this season, 47-40, as Lavey led the way with 12 points and six assists while Goulding had herself 13 points as well. Meanwhile, Townsville’s leading scorer in Lauren Nicholson had 11 points throughout all 20 first half minutes.

As Townsville gradually tightened the deficit, Shyla Heal was huge with her mid-range game, knocking down three-straight buckets to pressure the Spirit further and then eventually tally her thirteenth point of the match to put the Fire in front six minutes into the third.

Despite Carley Ernst putting up substantial numbers in the third, Townsville flipped the game on its head and did the same themselves. A 29-11 third quarter for the Fire would reverse the roles for both sides with the score sitting at 69-58 in favour of this season’s hosts. Two early buckets from Bendigo’s duo Lavey and Ernst, provided promising signs early on in the fourth for the Spirit, but the Fire’s tall frontcourt consisting of McKay, Mia Murray and Zitina Aokuso hustled enough in the later stages of the game to fend off Tracy York’s side long enough to get the Fire over the finish line.

A slow start to the game for the Fire was remedied in the second half, allowing them to earn the come from behind win and put their record at three wins and two losses after their hard-fought 91-81 victory. Townsville’s backcourt was instrumental in the win, with Heal being a key contributor against her former side after her 22 points, six rebounds and three assists next to Nicholson’s 20 points and three rebounds. Aokuso also provided a major boost in her 25 and half minutes of play, putting up 21 points and five rebounds.

These performances will need to continue in one way or another as they size up the Melbourne Boomers later today in the second leg of their weekend double-header.

On the other hand, it can easily be argued that yesterday’s efforts from Bendigo involved numerous highlights, a number of those being individual performance like Lavey and Goulding’s 19 points apiece. It also slots nicely next to Ernst’s 15 points, eight rebounds and five assists. The Spirit’s lesser victories in yesterday’s clash put them in good stead for their upcoming meeting on Tuesday against the Fire for a second time, where we will get to see if Coach York changes her tactics in the repeat fixture.

SOUTHSIDE LEVELS PERTH, AWAIT CAPITALS FOR GRAND FINAL REMATCH

Pic: WNBL

ANOTHER impressive wining margin lined the belt of the Southside Flyers last night, as their 12-player roster came back from an early deficit in the opening period to emerge on the other side with another statement win, following a 46-point thrashing of the Perth Lynx, 117-71.

As mentioned, the opening moments of the contest occurred from deep as the first five made field goals from both teams came from three-point range, with Darcee Garbin and Katie Ebzery leading the charge.

With play settling down slightly and the tempo slowing, Perth continued to make their shots count, knocking down their first five attempts from behind the arc, while Liz Cambage did her best to quell the Lynx’s shooting lethality in the opening phase, with 13 points at the first break.

Five triples from Perth and 21 combined points from Garbin and Ebzery helped the Lynx to a 26-21 lead heading into the second, as Flyers captain Jenna O’Hea found early foul trouble. Still, Cambage commenced the second the same way she finished the first by putting the ball in the net, before Stephanie Blicavs tied things up a minute into the second term.

With every minute that went by in the second, the Flyers picked apart Perth’s offence more and more. At the conclusion of the first half, Southside had forced 10 turnovers from the Lynx, which in turn would lead to 18 points from takeaways and a 54-42 lead at the main break.

Even though both teams had shot remarkably well with Southside shooting 50 per cent and Perth shooting 48 per cent, Cambage (19 points and seven rebounds), Sara Blicavs (10 points and four rebounds) and Bec Cole (10 points) were all the major difference makers during the second quarter, as Cheryl Chambers tried her best to slow the production of Garbin (18 points and four rebounds) and Ebzery (13 points and four assists).

Unable to derail the Southside train, Perth’s care of the basketball continued to waver with their turnovers accumulating into the third quarter still. Capitalising on this, Cole increased her statistics while the Flyers’ secondary unit contributed to the blowout third period which saw Southside tally 35 points compared to the Lynx’s 14 and hold a commanding 89-56 lead.

Despite the result being determined prior to the start of the fourth, both coaches saw it suitable to let their younger prospects earn some ample WNBL court time. Both Rebecca Pizzey and Monique Conti impressed in the fourth for the Flyers, while Perth’s Jewel Williams had a couple of memorable moments to add to her night.

Match proceedings would end with Southside winning in rather fashionable form, coming out 46-point victors in the 117-71 demolition of Perth. It was the combined efforts of Cambage (21 points and seven rebounds), Cole (20 points and five assists) and Sara Blicavs (19 points and six rebounds) that accounted for the majority of the Flyers’ success last night, which bodes well for the squad as they get their chance at redemption in Monday’s Grand Final rematch against the Canberra Capitals.

For the Lynx, it was Garbin’s show, following what was a red-hot first quarter which ultimately culminated in a 24-point and seven-rebound outing, whereas Ebzery (13 points and five assists) and Alex Sharp (10 points) added chunks of points to fill out the box score. Perth has a chance to bounce back against the Sydney Uni Flames on Monday as they hope to gain some traction in the mid-table logjam, in a season that could easily slip away from Ryan Petrik’s side if they cannot find positive results soon.

CAPITALS HOLD ON AGAINST RESILIENT FLAMES, EXTEND WINNING STREAK TO FOUR

Pic: WNBL

THE University of Canberra Capitals have solidified themselves as serious contenders in the WNBL this season, after obtaining their fourth win in a row following a scrappy affair against the Sydney Uni Flames, winning by five points 68-63 to close out yesterday’s trio of games.

Little could separate the Flames and the Capitals early on, but the efforts that Anneli Maley made in the opening 10 minutes proved fruitful for Sydney Uni, with the 22-year-old fighting towards seven points and five rebounds in that time. Coupled with Lauren Scherf’s six points, the Flames would pull away at the end of the first quarter leading 23-11 and forcing eight turnovers off of Canberra in the process.

No Capitals players stood out tremendously in terms of scoring during the first half, but rather Paul Goriss’s side spread out the points production after reducing the deficit to just a couple of baskets during the second quarter.

The same could also be said for the Flames, but their method of scoring was slightly different, as they found the majority of their points from either mid-range, the free-throw line or through second chance points, whereas Canberra kept punishing Sydney Uni in the paint with baskets around the rim.

Leading 39-32 at the main break, the Flames shot average at best, converting on 37 per cent from the field, but Katrina Hibbert’s side inherited a huge boost thanks to their 11 free throws (eight more than the Capitals). Furthermore, Lauren Mansfield started to find her stroke with 11 points after two terms.

Things in the third did not start any better for the Capitals, as they fell behind by double-digits. But a strong move by Marianna Tolo and a fast-break And-One by Tahlia Tupaea made the contest a tight one well into the third.

An 11-4 run by the Caps with three minutes remaining in the penultimate period had Canberra nipping at the heels of the Flames in what was shaping up to be a sprint to the finish line, where either side were threatening to take over.

To round off a tumultuous third phase, a beautiful assist and bucket on consecutive possessions from Kelsey Griffin would secure the Capitals a four-point lead with 10 minutes remaining 57-53, and with Maddison Rocci leading the charge submitting 14 points and four rebounds, a win was certainly within view.

Both sides fought tooth and nail in what was a perfect way to finish off yesterday’s fixtures, where plenty of bodies hit the deck, missed shots were contested by multiple individuals and loose balls were jumped on by both teams in hard-nose smash-mouth brand of basketball. But Canberra seemed to be wading away midway through the fourth and Coach Hibbert’s side needed a dramatic boost with less than five minutes remaining.

With 48 seconds remaining, the game hung in the balance for both sides with one point being the difference. Luckily for the defending champions, Griffin was able to force Mansfield’s fourth turnover and again strip Alison Schwagmeyer just 30 seconds later, which cemented the victory for the Capitals after Keely Froling laid up the game-sealing bucket with three seconds left, therefore allowing Canberra to win the contest 68-63 in a down to the wire slugfest. The victory continuing their winning streak to four games.

It was another impressive night for Rocci, who had 17 points and five assists to show for last night’s efforts, as more of Canberra’s contributors from last season added solid performances. Griffin (11 points, nine rebounds and four assists) and Froling (15 points, 10 rebounds) provided relief on the boards, while Tolo also tallied 13 points of her own. The Capitals now need to hunker down and prepare for a formidable Southside Flyers squad that is still stinging from their Grand Final defeat last season, a side that has also significantly improved since then.

The Flames had their regular performers on display again, as Scherf led the way in scoring with 19 points. Whereas, Maley had another double-double night with 13 points and 12 rebounds next to Mansfield’s 16 points from 36 minutes on the floor. Sydney Uni now have their own concerns considering they now find themselves on a three-game skid and are tied for second-last with the Perth Lynx, who they face next on Monday in a game that will prove to be crucial regarding the future of the fourth seed.

2020 WNBL Round 2 weekend preview: Spirit and Fire complete massive week

IT has been a particularly strange week in the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL), but not just because the season itself has had to be condensed and Round 2 be a 13-game round over six days.

Due to the ever-changing climate in regards to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Adelaide Lightning have been forced to isolate until Monday under State Government regulations following the cluster in South Australia. While it means the Lightning will miss the three games – and the WNBL will no doubt announce what will happen in regards to their clashes with Southside Flyers, Sydney Uni Flames and Sunday’s match with Melbourne Boomers – it will throw up another challenge for the players and staff alike. In this weekend preview, we will preview the other four games set to go ahead.

Townsville hub:

Townsville Fire vs. Bendigo Spirit
Bendigo Spirit vs. Townsville Fire

In case you had not seen the fixture, that is not a typo, the two sides face off back-to-back over Saturday and Sunday in what will give fans plenty of information about the teams going forward. The Fire are at home – even when they are away – and so far have impressed even in their losses. Townsville went down in narrow defeats to the benchmark sides (UC Capitals – 11 points and Southside Flyers 12 points), in which coach Shannon Seebohm can take plenty of solace from knowing they are not too far off the mark. Considering this was the side that finished on the bottom of the ladder, the Fire are genuinely looking like a finals team.

In our season preview, we believed the Fire could make the finals, and crunch wins over Perth Lynx (25 points) and Sydney Uni (three points) have the North Queensland team at 2-2 after two rounds. They have won the games expected of them, and lost the ones no one would have predicted they do. The two matches against Bendigo fall into the latter, and if the Fire are to make finals, they need to come away with a 3-1 round record and a 4-2 season record with eight matches to play.

On the other hand, Bendigo just need a win, having lost all four games to start the season. The Spirit went down to Southside Flyers (42 points), Sydney Uni Flames (37), UC Capitals (20) and Perth Lynx (13) in some pretty ugly reading. The only positive in that line is that they have trended upwards and been more competitive each game. Given the difficult situation of playing a third and fourth game this round – and back-to-back against the same opponent – it will be more about which team can manage their players better to get the best possible outcomes.

Much has been talked about Townsville Fire’s back court duo of Lauren Nicholson and Shyla Heal. The taller and more experienced Nicholson has put up a team-high 18.4 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.0 steals per game, whilst Heal has been the facilitator, not only averaging the 15 points and 3.3 rebounds, but also four assists per game as well. However it is worth noting Steph Reid’s work coming off the bench and contributing 9.3 points, 2.8 rebounds, 2.5 assits and 1.3 steals has made her incredibly valuable.

In terms of Bendigo’s back court, Tessa Lavey (11.3 points, 6.3 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 1.3 steals) has unsurprisingly been a star, but she needs support, with Jennie Rintala (5.3 points, 4.3 rebounds) and Amelia Todhunter (35. points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.0 assists) the others involved in that trio that need to step up against the in-form Fire guards.

In the front court, Carley Ernst has been sensational for the Spirit, racking up 18.3 points, seven points, and one assist, steal and block per game thus far. Mary Goulding has provided good support with 6.3 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.5 steals, while Alicia Froling has been the influencer of the boards with six rebounds but just the three points. Outside Ernst and Lavey, the rest of the team averaged 26.2 points compared to the duo’s 29.6, which is how the Spirit improve from here.

Townsville’s front court has not had the massive numbers, but Heal has the flexibility to role in there, while Mia Murray (3.8 points, 4.0 rebounds) and Nadeen Payne (8.0 points, 6.3 rebounds) and able to rotate in that four spot. Throw in the highly talented Zitina Aokuso who has been building very strongly over her four games with 9.5 points and 6.0 rebounds off the bench, and Townsville head into these must-win matches as favourites and it is easy to see why.

Cairns hub:

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

Another change for the teams and remainder of the season from this point on is the inclusion of Cairns’ Pop-Up Arena which replaces Mackay as a hub for the WNBL. In the remaining three and a half rounds, all the matches will be played in either Townsville or Cairns and the first four teams to play here are ready to go.

The Sydney Uni Flames have had the extra long break due to Adelaide not being able to play, so the Flames have not taken to the court since Tuesday, which has probably helped given they were one of only two sides to play three games in Round 1. Instead of taking on the Lightning on Thursday, they could focus their attention on UC Capitals for Saturday night, with the reigning premiers seemingly back in business. The Flames belted Bendigo Spirit in Round 1 by 37 points, but have lost to Melbourne, Southside and Townsville since, and have the other key contender in UC making it a tough few games. The Capitals on the other hand have bounced back from their shock overtime loss to Adelaide to post wins against Townsville, Bendigo and Melbourne with a good chance to go 4-1 after this game.

The Flames have had a tough draw but will be keen to bounce back after that heartbreaking three-point defeat at the hands of Townsville. Former Lynx guards, Lauren Mansfield and Alison Schwagmeyer have had good seasons, with Mansfield putting up 14 points, six assists and three rebounds, while Schwagmeyer has averaged the 13 points, four rebounds, three assists and two steals. Funda Nakkasoglu coming off the bench to give them some rest has put up 8.8 points per game, it is more about lifting the assist numbers when the starting duo are on the bench. Lauren Scherf has been building nicely at the five, averaging the 11.5 points. 6.0 rebounds and 1.8 blocks, while Anneli Maley has had an underrated season with 7.5 points ad 9.3 rebounds per game.

By comparison, the Capitals could easily be 4-0 right now had the first game of overtime gone their way, but Kelsey Griffin has returned and come off the bench for seven points, four rebounds and two steals, to no doubt be at full capacity at the pointy end of the season. Fellow co-captain Marianna Tolo has been sensational in the five spot and will have a huge clash with Scherf, having put up 9.5 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists tis season. Mikaela Ruef has stepped up to support her up the front end of the court with almost a double-double of 11 points and nine rebounds, but it is a couple of young guns who have stolen the limelight. Maddison Rocci is in unbelievable career-best form with 17.0 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.5 steals, while Jade Melbourne has won over a lot of fans with her games building each and every match to the point where she is one of the clear rising stars of the competition. Melbourne is up to 11.5 points and 2.5 rebounds per game, having recorded her first 20-point game last match.

In the other game, Southside also had its Round 2 schedule interrupted by the Adelaide clash being postponed, and will have only played the one game – Thursday night’s 12-point win over Townsville – since the Flyers took on the Flames last Sunday. With one game in six days, the premiership favourites will be rested and ready to go against a Perth Lynx outfit that finally broke through for their first win against bottom-of-the-table Bendigo Spirit, though they did show promising performances in their past two games against Melbourne Boomers (six-point loss) and Adelaide (five-point loss) since their disappointing 25-point defeat at the hands of the Fire.

Despite the Lynx’s improvement – which has coincided with captain Katie-Rae Ebzery finding her groove – it will take an unbelievable effort to topple the Flyers in the match. Ebzery has certainly been a strong performer since a disappointing first game, averaging 19.3 points. 4.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.3 blocks, joining Darcee Garbin (11.3 points. 6.0 assists. 1.0 steals and 1.0 blocks) as the two players to watch up either end of the court. Emma Clarke has been producing big and flying under the radar with 7.8 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.8 assists, while bigs in Alex Sharp and Kayla Steindl have combined for 13 points and 17 rebounds in their matches.

The duo will have its hands full against the unbelievable depth of the Flyers, led by Liz Cambage is averaging close to a double-double of 20 points and 9.8 rebounds, as well as 2.8 blocks per game. Sara Blicavs (13.5 points, 8.3 rebounds and 2.0 steals) and Jenna O’Hea (12.3 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.3 assists) have also rolled through the front court making life difficult for oppositions. In the back court, the dimes by Leilani Mitchell (10.3 points, 6.8 assists and 2.5 rebounds) and Rebecca Cole (15.8 points, 3.3 assists) have been crucial in setting up the team transition offence.

Last year’s grand finalists in UC Capitals and Southside Flyers are out tip to win their respective matches.

WNBL20 Team Preview – Perth Lynx

ONE of the WNBL’s most promising sides, the Perth Lynx, has taken two substantial blows to their playing roster for the upcoming season, with the last-minute withdrawals of Seattle Storm superstar Sami Whitcomb and defensive powerhouse Maddie Allen.

Announced on October 21 that Allen would be sitting out on the WNBL20 season due to personal matters and then a subsequent announcement on November 4 outlining Whitcomb’s absence due to the birth of her first child, head coach Ryan Petrik now needs to scramble to find suitable replacements and alter his rotation.

As a result of these sequences of events, the number of standout talents diminishes in size, with the exception of captain Katie Ebzery, who Draft Central looks at first today. Ebzery is easily going to be coach Petrik’s go-to weapon as the 30-year-old athlete looks to expand upon a tremendous season in all respects last season. Adding to her 16.3 points per game, Ebzery also shared the rock with 4.2 assists each time out, while obtaining 4.4 rebounds per game in the process. Her efforts saw her earn a nomination to the All-WNBL First Team (her second career nomination) and be named the Lynx’s Most Valuable Player.

Another big name being added to the ranks is former Townsville Fire forward and Western Australian local Darcee Garbin. The Australian Opal put up 14.4 points a game whilst compiling over six boards on average in all 21 games last season with the Fire, and now looks to bring that production up to North-Queensland with a wily and youthful side from Perth.

Backing up Ebzery in the backcourt are Alex Ciabattoni, Alex Sharp and Tayah Burrows in a backcourt that is filled with potential. Prepped for her fourth career season in the WNBL, Ciabattoni will serve as a utility player for Petrik, which has since become an even more important asset to have following Whitcomb’s unavailability. Furthermore, Ciabattoni was able to handle the ball a lot more in her time overseas, as it can be expected that she will carry the rock frequently over the next six weeks. Sharp adds to Petrik’s versatility trait that he has enhanced in his 2020 squad, also noting her ability to stretch the defence with her streaky shooting. This being evident during her time at Wake Forest University, where she totalled 1000 points and 900 rebounds during her NCAA career.

For Burrows, she has postponed recruitment offers from colleges for another year to play at home, given the current climate regarding COVID-19 overseas as the young guard looks to gain more professional experience before leaving Australia. Jewel Williams was also added to the roster following an impressive State Basketball League (SBL) campaign with the Kalamunda Eastern Suns in 2019, where she averaged 14.2 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.4 assists – efforts worthy enough of an All-Star selection.

Rounding out Petrik’s side are the rest of his forwards. Namely Nes’eya Parker-Williams and Jessie Edwards, who will reinforce Garbin’s efforts on the board, which in turn will allow Ashleigh Isengarber and Kayla Steindl to fill any gaps that the other three struggle to cover. The Lynx have retained some familiarity with Parker-Williams, Edwards and Isengarber given their history within the Western Australian basketball scene from a young age. Meanwhile for Steindl, she has hopped between Townsville and Perth since 2012, earning two Queensland Basketball League titles with the Mackay Meteorettes and a West Coast Classic championship this year as a member of the Joondalup Wolves.

Perth have announced that Mackenzie Clinch Hoycard will serve as the first of two Development Players for next season, with the second to be announced at some stage before the season kicks off on Wednesday.

Season Opener for the Perth Lynx – Wednesday November 11th – 8:00pm (AEDT) vs Townsville Fire @ McDonald’s Mackay Multi-Sports Stadium, Mackay

WNBL Player Spotlight – Perth Lynx – Alex Ciabattoni

AFTER a brief stint in Italy, Alex Ciabattoni returns to the Perth Lynx and the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) after two seasons away from the League, where she will look to provide Ryan Petrik and his staff with an adaptive role in the rotation, given her versatility.

Ciabattoni is no stranger to the WNBL either, with the 26-year-old getting ready to enter her fourth season in the competition but arrives after an extended period of time in the European basketball scene, where coach Petrik is ready to display what the Lynx returnee has developed in that time.

“From day one we wanted to think very much outside of the box with Alex,” said Petrik. “We factored in the fact that our Lynx team from seasons past were way too small. An obvious example of that was one night we played Southside in Perth and Katie Ebzery was guarding Jenna O’Hea, just because all of our guards were just so small.

“So, with Ciabattoni and Alex Sharp we needed some bigger guards, and with Ciabattoni she can literally play one through three position-wise. We see her as our point guard/combo guard who will be able to guard bigger opponents at the other end of the court,” Petrik summed up.

The Adelaide-born prospect in no stranger to the State of Western Australia, having also competed in the State Basketball League (SBL) for a couple of seasons with two different sides. The first being with the Kalamunda Eastern Suns where she received an All-Star nomination as well as All-Defensive First Team honours. The second of her two seasons in the SBL this time was with the Rockingham Flames, which ended in championship glory, only enhancing her love for the State evident in her signing announcement. “I love Perth and I see myself building a long-term future in the Western Australia. The culture being built at the Lynx is something that’s really attractive to me and it’s definitely something I want to contribute to,” Ciabattoni said.

While many players choose to go overseas to grow as an individual and a basketballer, Petrik indicated that Ciabattoni perhaps had not gotten the better end of the stick in that regard but is excited for her to return back to WA to reunite with the club and her loved ones.

“She was probably unlucky that she got a couple bad deals in a row or situations that were not made out to be as ideal for her. So, having had that and now getting ready to come back to Perth where her partner is, we think it will be great for her,” Petrik said.

The Lynx’s head coach was able to see some positives in Ciabattoni’s time overseas. For instance, the former WNBL Rookie of the Year according to the gaffer had handled the ball significantly more, and because of this the utility guard will be able to get Perth’s offence moving as a result and also pose as a dangerous weapon to the team’s offensive schemes.