Tag: alicia froling

2021 NBL1 South Women’s wrap: Round 3

THREE teams remain undefeated after Round 3 of the National Basketball League (NBL)1 South women’s competition, as Frankston Blues (4-0), Knox Raiders (3-0) and Eltham Wildcats (3-0) stand tall amongst the rest of the competition.

Geelong Supercats (92) def. Waverley Falcons (49)

Geelong Supercats have dominated Waverley Falcons by 43 points in a one-sided affair to open the round. The home team raced out to a 10-point lead at quarter time, and then closed down the opposition’s scoring, capped off with a 29-8 third quarter. A 20-14 final term saw the Supercats finish full of steam as well, winning 92-49. Steph Blicavs dominated with 26 points – four of five from long-range – four assists, three rebounds and two steals, while Aimie Clydesdale hit five of 10 from three-point range to finish with 21 points, as well as four rebounds and four assists, while Sarah Elsworthy (17 points, five assists and three rebounds) and Rebekah O’Donnell (11 points, seven rebounds) also stood tall. Renae Mokrzycki (13 points, three rebounds and two assists), Meg Crupi (12 points) and Nyakoang Lok (11 points, five rebounds and two steals) were the double-figure points scorers for the Falcons in the heavy loss.

Frankston Blues (90) def. Launceston Tornadoes (84)

The battle of the undefeated sides lived up to expectations with Frankston Blues triumphing over Launceston Tornadoes by just six points in a thrilling contest. It was a tale of two halves as the home team raced away to pile on 52 points to 38 in the opening half and lead by 14. Launceston hit back in the second half, but could only claw back eight of those 14 points, to go down 90-84. Despite Tessa Lavey having an uncharacteristically poor day shooting (two of 15 from the field and none of nine from long-range for seven points), the dual sport star had 10 rebounds, seven assists and two steals to still contribute to the team’s success. Darcee Garbin (23 points, 11 rebounds and three assists) and Ella Batish (20 points, five rebounds, three steals and two assists) picked up the slack, while Taylah Giliam (16 points, three rebounds) and Samara Hill (12 points, two assists) also stood tall. For the Tornadoes, it was the triple threat that did all the damage to try and keep the side in it, as Keely Froling (30 points, 10 rebounds and two assists) and Kelsey Griffin (14 points, 10 rebounds and two assists) picked up double-doubles, and Mariah Payne finished with 28 points, four assists, three rebounds and three steals.

Knox Raiders (111) def. Albury-Wodonga Bandits (38)

The bloodbath of the round well and truly went to Knox Raiders, who showed no mercy in a dominating 73-point shellacking of Albury-Wodonga Bandits. The Raiders never looked like losing with a 67-21 opening half, and then kept the Bandits to as low as seven points in the final term, running out 111-38 victors. Marianna Tolo had a night out with 25 points, 11 rebounds and three assists, while Klara Wischer also picked up a double-double of 11 points and 11 rebounds. Kara Tessari (18 points, four assists and three rebounds), Kiera Rowe (17 points, four rebounds and three assists) and Leah Santomaggio (13 points, four rebounds and three assists) were others who hit double-figure points for the Raiders. Emma Mahady knocked down 20 points, seven rebounds and two steals in a lone-hand for the Bandits, scoring more than half of the team’s points.

Ballarat Rush (67) def. by Bendigo Braves (74)

Bendigo Braves have come away with an important win on the road against Ballarat Rush, facing a 13-point half-time deficit but turning it around with a dominant second half. The Braves trailed 46-33 at the main break, but then kept the Rush to just 21 points after that, whilst they piled on 41 to secure the narrow seven-point win, 74-67. Tess Madgen led the way, picking up an almost triple-double of 18 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists, while Kate Oliver (18 points, eight rebounds, three assists and three steals), Cassidy McLean (12 points, eight rebounds, three steals and two assists) and Piper Dunlop (eight points, seven rebounds and two assists) all shone in the win. For the Rush, Alicia Froling was unstoppable off the boards with 16 rebounds – seven offensive – to go with 14 points, two assists and two blocks, while Kasey Burton (15 points, seven rebounds and two assists) and Kristy Rinaldi (15 points, five rebounds and three steals) also contributed strongly.

Diamond Valley Eagles (48) def. by Melbourne Tigers (93)

Diamond Valley Eagles’ winless start to the season continued, going down to Melbourne Tigers by 45 points, while the Tigers strung together back-to-back wins. Melbourne won every quarter, getting out to a 25-point lead at half-time to all but seal the deal, then won the second half by 20 points as well to run out 93-48 winners. Isabella Brancatisano (23 points, 12 rebounds and six assists) and Zitina Aokuso (10 points, 13 rebounds and two assists) both racked up double-doubles, as Monique Conti came close to a remarkable quadruple-double of 23 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and seven steals as a clear best on court. Gemma Simon helped out with 19 points in the Tigers’ win. For the Eagles, Sophie Burrows scored a team-high 12 points to go with six rebounds, four assists and two steals, while Olivia Bontempelli (10 points five rebounds, four steals and three assists) and Ivana Vasiljevic (10 points, three rebounds) also reached double-figure points.

Eltham Wildcats (87) def. Nunawading Spectres (74)

Eltham Wildcats remained undefeated from three games with a solid 13-point victory over Nunawading Spectres at home. The Wildcats raced out to a 14-point lead at half-time, and built it up to as much as 20 points by the final break, before the Spectres fought it out in the final term to cut the deficit back, but fell short of victory as the home team triumphed, 87-74. Lily Scanlon (24 points, six rebounds and two assists) scored the most points, but Anneli Maley‘s unbelievable season off the boards continued with 19 rebounds – 13 defensive – to go with 15 points. Tess Heal (14 points, three rebounds, two assists and two steals), Rebecca Pizzey (13 points, seven rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocks) and Shelby Britten (10 points, seven assists, two rebounds and two steals) also hit double-figure points in the win. Penina Davidson was a standout for the Spectres in defeat, picking up 20 points, eight rebounds, five steals and two assists, while Rachel Antoniadou (17 points, nine assists and two rebounds) and Rachel Brewster (16 points, five assists, three rebounds and two blocks).

Kilsyth Cobras (75) def. Hobart Chargers (73)

Hobart Chargers fell short of their first victory against Kilsyth Cobras, following a spirited four-quarter effort. The Cobras led by four points at the first break, with the teams tied by half-time. Another strong term from Kilsyth saw them extend the lead out to four again, before the Chargers hit back in the fourth, to even hit the front with 2:24 on the clock, but the Cobras managed to steady and take home the win, 75-73. Lauren Scherf (12 points, 15 rebounds and four assists) and Abigail Curtin (14 points, seven rebounds) were influential, as Briahna Whatman (nine points, 11 rebounds and six assists) came close to a double-double, and Nikita Young (13 points, two rebounds, two assists and two steals) was also handy. Madeleine Garrick was the star for the Chargers, not far off a triple-double of 26 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists and four steals, while Tayla Roberts (13 points, nine rebounds) and Kylie McCauley (13 points, nine rebounds and five assists), Sharna Roberts (11 points, five rebounds) and Ellie Collins (10 points, eight rebounds) did all the scoring in a losing team.

Mt Gambier Pioneers (45) def. by Ringwood Hawks (89)

A four-quarter performance capped off by a rampant final term put an exclamation mark on the Ringwood Hawks’ victory against Mt Gambier Pioneers. In the Pioneers first game in South Australia this year, they were up against some stiff opposition and the Hawks came to play, leading by 17 points at the final break. No one would have seen the last quarter coming, as Ringwood piled on 35 points to eight in a one-way domination to blow out the final margin to 44 points, 89-45. Funda Nakkasoglu hit a match-high 26 points, as well as five rebounds and three assists, while Marena Whittle (20 points, 12 rebounds, four assists, four steals and four blocks) and Demi Skinner (18 points, nine rebounds) were also impressive. For the Pioneers, Hannah Young was the standout thanks to 11 points and nine rebounds, while Shakera Reilly (10 points, four rebounds and two assists) and Jasmin Howe (nine points, five rebounds and two assists) were others who stood out for the losers.

Bendigo Braves (84) def. Dandenong Rangers (56)

After a win on the road against Ballarat Rush, Bendigo Braves made it back-to-back victories in Round 3 thanks to a 28-point triumph over Dandenong Rangers. The Braves won all four quarters, scoring at least 17 points in every quarter, and keeping the Rangers to 15 or less in three of the four terms to win, 84-56. Madgen feasted on the Rangers with an almost triple-double effort of 43 points – including seven of 13 from long-range – nine rebounds and eight assists, while Oliver (18 points, 14 rebounds) picked up a double-double, and Abigail Wehrung (15 points, six rebounds and five assists) was also impressive across the night. For the Rangers, Dallas Loughbridge scored 17 points, five steals and three assists, stepping up with Emilee Harmon (15 points, seven rebounds) and Tenaya Sooalo (14 points, three steals and two rebounds) also having a helping hand despite the loss.

Waverley Falcons (93) def. Albury-Wodonga Bandits (64)

Another team that made it back-to-back wins for Round 3, whilst also sentencing a league battler to yet another loss were Waverley Falcons, who took care of Albury-Wodonga Bandits by 29 points. The Falcons dominated the first half to race out to a 24-point lead at the main break, though credit to the Bandits who hit back in the third term to cut it to 15 points at the last change and give themselves a sniff. The Falcons quickly got back on top with a 24-10 final quarter and ran out 93-64 winners. Anna Bandilovska (29 points, two rebounds) was the highest points scorer, though Mokrzycki racked up 28 points, 17 rebounds and Kelly Bowen had 17 points, 11 rebounds and three assists in double-double efforts. Mahady was again the key scorer with 20 points, 11 rebounds, four steals and three assists, though she had some support in this match thanks to Charlotte Beavan‘s 16 points and three rebounds – with five of nine triples – and Brodie-Paige Theodore‘s 12 points – nine from the free-throw line – four rebounds and two assists.

Melbourne Tigers (109) def. Hobart Chargers (87)

Melbourne Tigers made it three consecutive wins, and handed Hobart Chargers an 0-4 start to the season with a 22-point victory at home. The Tigers were surprisingly sluggish to start the match and conceded 34 points in the first term to trail by 12 at quarter time, but then stepped up to completely dominate the game and score 87-53 and run out 109-87 winners. Conti had another massive performance of 40 points – eight of 12 from long-range – seven rebounds, seven assists and four steals, while Brancatisano (23 points – five of 11 from long-range – four rebounds and four assists) and Aokuso (19 points, 10 rebounds, 12 assists, three steals and two blocks in a triple-double effort) all dominated. Collins stepped up with 25 points, six rebounds and three assists in the loss, while Garrick (19 points, seven rebounds, four assists and three steals), Tayla Roberts (15 points, six rebounds) and Thompson (13 points, three rebounds) were also lively.

Sandringham Sabres (67) def. by Launceston Tornadoes (100)

Closing out the weekend was Launceston Tornadoes bouncing back from their first loss of the season against Frankston Blues, to easily win 100-67 against Sandringham Sabres. The Tornadoes won every quarter by at least eight points in a dominant effort to secure the 33-point victory. Froling had an unbelievable performance of 37 points, 13 rebounds and four steals, one of three players to reach double-doubles, as Griffin (20 points, 12 rebounds three assists and two steals) and Payne (20 points, 12 rebounds and four assists) achieved the feat, while Teyla Evans managed the 13 points and four rebounds. Playing their first game of the round, the Sabres’ Amy O’Neill finished with a team-high 20 points, as well as eight assists, five rebounds and three steals. She was complemented by Jenna O’Hea (10 points, seven rebounds, two assists and two steals) and Cassandra Hill (11 points, two rebounds and two assists) in the loss.

Picture credit: Ian Knight Photography

NBL1 South Womens: Round 2 wrap – Blues standalone with 3-0 record

FRANKSTON Blues stand alone as the only side to record three wins so far in the 2021 National Basketball League (NBL)1 South women’s competition, as the results played out over the weekend. We recap how each of the games went down and who the top performers were with some one-sided results.

Bendigo Braves (70) def. by Frankston Blues (76)

The first of two wins for the weekend for the Blues saw them claim a narrow six-point victory over Bendigo Braves in a come-from-behind triumph. The Braves raced out to a 21-9 lead at quarter time after a dominant first term, with the Blues clawing their way back to within six points at the final break, before slamming on 24-12 in the last quarter to win, 76-70. Darcee Garbin was again a prolific scorer for the Blues, adding 23 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and three blocks in a standout performance. She teamed up well with Tessa Lavey (14 points, eight rebounds, eight assists and two steals) and Taylah Gilliam (14 points, four rebounds). For the Braves, Abigail Wehrung nailed 24 points, four rebounds, three assists and two blocks, though it was Tess Madgen who came agonisingly close to a triple-double of 16 points, nine rebounds, nine assists and three steals. Piper Dunlop (11 points, six rebounds and three assists) and Kate Oliver (10 points, seven rebounds and four assists) were both impressive for the losers.

Hobart Chargers (61) def. by Ballarat Rush (62)

A two-pointer from Ballarat Rush’s Kasey Burton in the final 30 seconds – and a missed three-point attempt from Hobart Chargers’ Madeleine Garrick helped the Rush grab a one-point thrilling victory at Kingborough Sports Centre. The visitors trailed by five at quarter time, led by one and then four at the next two breaks, then were caught by the Chargers, only to win at the death. Burton had an equal team-high 13 points, as well as six rebounds, but it was the amazing effort of Alicia Froling (10 points, 20 rebounds and five assists) that stood out, while Kristy Rinaldi (seven points, 13 rebounds) also dominated off the boards. Annie Collins had the 13 points and two rebounds to equal Burton on the scoring front. For the Chargers, Garrick finished with a double-double of 19 points – including five of 11 from long-range – and 10 rebounds, while Ellie Collins had 16 points and 15 rebounds in an equally amazing effort. Tayla Roberts came close to a double-double herself picking up 16 points and nine rebounds.

Frankston Blues (78) def. Dandenong Rangers (75)

It was billed as the match of the round, and it certainly lived up to expectations with Frankston Blues moving to 3-0 for the NBL1 South season, defeating Dandenong Rangers by three points. The teams traded blows throughout the match, though the Blues led by 11 points at the final break, before Dandenong hit back with a 23-15 final quarter to get within three points, but fall short, 78-75. Garbin had another outstanding game with 30 points – four of 10 from long-range – and eight assists, while Lavey picked up 18 points, eight rebounds and eight assists in the win. Gililam (13 points, three rebounds and four assists) and Saraid Taylor (seven points, 10 rebounds and three assists) were others who stood out. For the Ranges, Gemma Potter was on fire with six triples leading to her 28 points, as well as five rebounds and two assists. Emilee Harmon (23 points, 11 rebounds, two assists and two steals) and Tenaya Sooalo (16 points, three rebounds, three assists and two blocks) were also busy.

Knox Raiders (82) def. Kilsyth Cobras (70)

Knox Raiders proved too strong for Kilsyth Cobras in their clash at the State Basketball Centre, winning three of the four quarters to post a 12-point win at home. The teams were fairly even at half-time after counter-contrasting first and second terms, with Kilsyth leading by one point. Knox piled on 24-14 after half-time to set up the win, then held on in the final term for the 82-70 victory. Klara Wischer was the star for the Raiders, picking up a double-double of 18 points and 12 rebounds, as well as three steals and two assists. Marianna Tolo (14 points, seven rebounds) and Kiera Rowe (12 points, five rebounds and four assists) were also busy in the match among a host of other contributors. Lauren Scherf stood tall for the Cobras with 20 points, 10 rebounds and five assists, notching up a double-double while Briahna Whatman (145 points, five assists and three rebounds) and Carly Turner (five points, 10 rebounds and three assists) were also productive.

Sandringham Sabres (72) def. Mt Gambier Pioneers (70)

Sandringham Sabres survived a thriller with a two-point win over the cross-border Mt Gambier Pioneers on Saturday evening. The Sabres held a narrow lead early, and extended it out to as much as 13 points by the final break, before the Pioneers hit back with a massive fourth quarter. The 29-18 term in favour of the visitors would not be enough however, as the Sabres triumphed 72-70. Jenna O’Hea had 27 points, six rebounds and five assists in the win for the Sabres, leading the way from Rachel Jarry (14 points, six rebounds and two steals), Cassandra Hill (10 points, four rebounds, two assists and two steals) and Amy O’Neill (eight points, six rebounds and two assists). For the Pioneers, Hannah Young racked up an important double-double of 17 points, 10 rebounds and two steals, while Jasmine Howe (15 points, six rebounds) and Shakera Reilly (11 points, eight rebounds) also stood up on both the scoring and rebounding fronts.

Eltham Wildcats (84) def. Diamond Valley Eagles (52)

Eltham Wildcats made it two from two this season in the NBL1 South competition, dominating the Diamond Valley Eagles to win by 32 points. The Wildcats won by nine, seven, nine and seven points in each of the respective four quarters during the 84-52 victory. Anneli Maley had a ridiculous 29 rebounds – 20 defensive – to be unbeatable off the boards, as well as pick up 21 points, two assists two steals. Rebecca Pizzey (11 points, seven rebounds and three blocks), Shelby Britten (16 points, four assists, three rebounds and three steals) were also impressive as Chloe Hilderbrand (10 points, five rebounds and four assists) and Tess Heal (10 points, six rebounds, two assists and two steals) also hit double-figure points. In a disappointing loss for the Eagles, Teah Reichert picked up a double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds, while Imogen Rock (12 points, five steals) and Sophie Burrows (seven points, six rebounds) tried hard.

Albury-Wodonga Bandits (68) def. by Melbourne Tigers (116)

Melbourne Tigers were on from the first tip-off as they completely dismantled Albury-Wodonga Bandits in a dominant 48-point win. Storming to a 31-13 lead at quarter time, the Tigers lost the second term by three, but then piled on the points in the second half with 62 points to 29 to run out 116-68 victors. Monique Conti impressed with 28 points, six assists and three steals, teaming up brilliantly with fellow WNBL talent Zitina Aokuso (18 points, eight rebounds, four assists, three steals and two blocks) doing it all. Isabella Brancatisano (25 points, six rebounds, eight assists and seven steals) was arguably the best on the court, while Melissa Prior (17 points, six rebounds) was also outstanding in the win. The Bandits were led by Emma Mahady (24 points, five rebounds), while Jade McCowan (15 points, three rebounds) and Brodie-Paige Theodore (12 points) reached double-figure points in the loss.

Melbourne Tigers’ Monique Conti puts up a shot. Picture credit: NBL1

Ringwood Hawks (84) def. Geelong Supercats (55)

Bouncing back from a Round 1 loss, Ringwood Hawks proved too much for Geelong Supercats, running out 29-point victors at The Rings on Saturday evening. The Hawks won the first two quarters to stamp their authority on the match and lead by 20 points at the half, before Geelong edged back one point, only for Ringwood to go again and score 22-12 in the final term a for a 84-55 victory. Marena Whittle had a night out with 20 points and 13 rebounds, as well as six assists and two blocks. Funda Nakkasoglu (16 points, four rebounds, three assists and three steals), Hope Terdich (13 points, six rebounds) and Demi Skinner (12 points, four rebounds) also stepped up in the win. For the Supercats, Stephanie Blicavs knocked down 17 points, along with three rebounds and two assists, while Aimee Clydesdale was the other prominent scorer with 11 points and five rebounds in the loss.

Launceston Tornadoes (92) def. Ballarat Rush (61)

Launceston Tornadoes have stormed to a dominant 31-point win over Ballarat Rush to go 2-0 this season, with Keely Froling picking up another huge double-double against her sister. The Tornadoes never looked like losing, winning the first half by 23 points, then the second half by another eight to secure the 92-61 victory. Froling finished with 28 points, 19 rebounds – 17 defensive – five assists and four steals, while Mariah Payne (22 points, five rebounds and six assists) and Teyla Evans (15 points, six rebounds and five assists) were other double-digit scorers. For the Rush, Alicia Froling hit up 27 points, seven rebounds and four blocks to be the best of the losers, while Kasey Burton (13 points, seven rebounds and three assists) and Kristy Rinaldi (10 points, four rebounds and three assists) were both strong.

Nunawading Spectres (83) defeated Sandringham Sabres (70)

Nunawading Spectres bounced back from a Round 1 loss to hand the Sandringham Sabres their first loss in three games. The Sabres took control to lead by six points at half-time, but having already played a game this round, the Sabres tired in the second half as the Spectres ran over the top of them, courtesy of a dominant 44-25 half to win, 83-70. Izzy Wright (21 points, nine rebounds) and Louise Brown (20 points, five rebounds and four assists) did the damage on the scoreboard, with Rachel Antoniadou (18 points, four rebounds and five assists) not far behind. Rachel Brewster (14 points, 12 rebounds) and Penina Davidson (10 points, 10 rebounds) also picked up double-doubles to share the load across the court. O’Hea was again the standout for the Sabres, picking up 27 points and eight rebounds not leaving the court for a second, while Jarry (16 points, 12 rebounds and two assists) and Amy O’Neill (six points, 11 rebounds) were prominent off the boards.

Waverley Falcons (74) defeated Diamond Valley Eagles (66)

After their heartbreaking one-point loss last week the Waverley Falcons bounced back to win by eight points against Diamond Valley Eagles, handing their opponents a third consecutive loss in the process. The Falcons were led by Aneta Bandilovska (20 points, two rebounds and two assists) on the scoring front, with Renae Mokrzycki (11 points, 11 rebounds, three assists and four steals) recording a double-double. Nyakoang Lok (15 points, three rebounds, three steals and two assists) and Kelly Bowen (13 points, five rebounds) were the other double-digit scorers. For the Eagles, Burrows scored a double-double of 14 points, 10 rebounds and four steals, while Jade Dunne (17 points, four assists, four steals and two rebounds) and Olivia Bontempelli (12 points, five rebounds and two locks) were also steadfast in the loss.

Picture credit: Ian Knight Photography

2021 NBL1 South Womens: Round 1 wrap – Cobras produce venomous late blow

THERE were a few tight contests amongst a number of one-sided wins as the National Basketball League (NBL)1 South tipped off over the weekend and we run through the women’s division and how the teams fared.

Melbourne Tigers (62) def. by Sandringham Sabres (87)

A second quarter domination from the Sabres was the key to victory against Melbourne Tigers, winning the term by 19 points (25-6), following on from the dominant 25-15 opening term to open up a 50-21 half-time lead. Whilst the Tigers made good inroads in the second half to break even and reduce the deficit by four points, the damage was done during the 87-62 loss. Jenna O’Hea (27 points, 10 rebounds) and Rachel Jarry (22 points, five rebounds and two assists) were sensational for the winners, whilst Amy O’Neill was also handy with seven points and eight rebounds. For the Tigers, Geraldine McCorkell (15 points, four rebounds) and Zitina Aokuso (14 points, five rebounds) stood out, with the latter teaming up well with fellow WNBL talent, and AFLW star Monique Conti (seven points, six rebounds and two steals).

Hobart Chargers (61) def. by Launceston Tornadoes (91)

In the all-Tasmanian battle, Launceston Tornadoes proved far too good for Hobart Chargers despite a dismal third term. The Tornadoes raced out to a 54-26 half-time lead in a one-sided contest, before the Chargers hit back with a 24-9 third quarter, That gave them a sniff at the final break to get to within 13 points of the Tornadoes, but it would be Launceston that would finish the stronger of the sides, powering away with a 28-11 final term and securing a massive 30-point win. Keely Froling was absolutely unstoppable for the Tornadoes, knocking down 42 points at 59.3 per cent from the field, and notching up 22 rebounds – 15 defensive – five assists, three steals and a block in a huge effort. Mariah Payne (16 points, 11 rebounds, three assists and three steals) also picked up a double-double, while Teyla Evans (11 points and three rebounds) and D’Asia Chambers (seven points, four rebounds and five assists) were handy. Madeleine Garrick (26 points, nine rebounds, two assists and two blocks) and Tayla Roberts (18 points, four rebounds) were the two best for the Chargers.

Frankston Blues (90) def. Nunawading Spectres (78)

A strong second term was the difference for Frankston Blues in posting an impressive 12-point win over Nunawading Spectres. The Blues won the second quarter 24-15, gaining the nine-point separation they needed to go on with it, and secure the 90-78 victory. It was a tight game all match, but Darcee Garbin was the key, knocking down 30 points – at 68.6 per cent, as well as six of eight from long-range, and picking up six rebounds and three assists in the process. She teamed up well with fellow WNBL talent Tessa Lavey who returned from the AFLW to pick up 23 points, seven rebounds and nine assists having barely missed a beat. Taylah Gillam (11 points, three assists and two rebounds) and Ella Batish (eight points, six rebounds) were the other two to stand out for the home side. Four players hit double-figure points for Nunawading, with Izzy Wright (23 points, four rebounds) the main destroyer, while Penina Davidson (15 points, seven rebounds), Louise Brown (11 points, seven rebounds), Rachel Brewster (13 points, six rebounds) and Rachel Antoniadou (12 points, five rebounds and six assists) all shared it around to no avail.

Knox Raiders (79) def. Geelong Supercats (72)

Knox Raiders have held strong in the second half to bounce back from a second term that swung in the Geelong Supercats favour, to record a narrow seven-point win. The Raiders raced out of the blocks to lead by nine points at the first break, only for the Supercats to cut the deficit to four by half-time. To the Raiders’ credit they stood up in the second half to hold off the visitors and record a 79-72 victory. Leah Santomaggio (22 points, four rebounds and four assists) and Marianna Tolo (20 points, five rebounds and two assists) both had their say on the contest, as Klara Wischer (10 points, 11 rebounds) picked up a double-double and Eliza West (14 points, five rebounds and three assists) was also busy. Sarah Elsworthy topped the Supercats’ scoring charts with 16, as well as picking up eight rebounds, three assists and two steals. Stephanie Blicavs (14 points, nine rebounds) and Aimee Clydesdale (15 points, six rebounds and two assists) both stood up in the game, but while the Supercats were strong off the boards (48-40), they struggled in transition (assists 22-13 in Knox’s favour).

Diamond Valley Eagles (65) def. by Dandenong Ranges (79)

Dandenong Ranges have secured an on-the-road win after a momentum-swinging contest against Diamond Valley Eagles. The Rangers took a strong half-time lead of 12 points, but the Eagles would not lie down easily, taking control in the third to cut the deficit to seven by the final break. Sensing the momentum changing, the Rangers got it back on their terms to win the quarter 23-16 and secure the victory, 79-65. Emilee Harmon (26 points, 10 rebounds) and Gemma Potter (14 points, 13 rebounds, five assists, three steals and two blocks) were sensational for the winners, as Tenaya Sooalo (18 points, four rebounds and three assists) also had a day out. Olivia Bontempelli (17 points, six rebounds and three assists) and Ivana Vasiljevic (11 points, seven rebounds and four assists) were the two players to hit double-figure points for the Eagles in the loss.

Eltham Wildcats (82) def. Ringwood Hawks (51)

Eltham Wildcats put Ringwood Hawks to the sword after quarter time to run away with an easy 31-point win. The Wildcats burst out of the blocks in the second quarter after the sides were level at the first break, to win the term 23-8. They then went on with it in the next two quarters, winning them 18-11 and 22-13 respectively to secure the 82-51 victory. Anneli Maley brought her own backboard with her, picking up an unheard of 26 points and 26 rebounds – 18 defensive – on her way to best on court honours. Erin Riley (22 points, two rebounds, two assists and three steals) and Lily Scanlon (17 points, six rebounds and two assists) were also sensational on the scoring front, whilst Rebecca Pizzey helped out with eight points, seven rebounds and three assists. Funda Nakkasoglu topscored for the Hawks with 13 points and five rebounds, while Hope Terdich (10 points, four rebounds) and Demi Skinner (10 points) both notched up double-figure points.

Kilsyth Cobras (84) def. Waverley Falcons (74)

Kilsyth Cobras have fired late to win in a stunning overtime game against Waverley Falcons. The Cobras trailed by eight points at quarter time, put together a mammoth second term of 29-12 to hit the front by nine, only to see that lead evaporated due to the Falcons’ 23-7 third term. Trailing by seven points at the final break, the Cobras levelled the scores with a 20-13 final term, forcing overtime which they got up in, 16-6 for an overall 84-74 victory. Carly Turner knocked down 20 points, 12 rebounds, six assists, three steals and two blocks in a complete game for the Cobras, teaming up well with Lauren Scherf (14 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks). Tia Hay (17 points, four steals) and Briahna Whatman (13 points, six assists) was also impressive in the victory. For the falcons, Aneta Bandilovska top-scored with 21 points, as well as three rebounds, two assists and two steals. Renae Mokrzycki picked up a double-double of 19 points and 12 rebounds, while Nyakoang Lok (13 points, four rebounds) and Jackie Vanderzaag (nine points, seven rebounds and five assists) were also busy.

Albury Wodonga Bandits (61) def. by Ballarat Rush (93)

In arguably the performance of the weekend Ballarat Rush won all four quarters convincingly to defeat Albury Wodonga Bandits by 32 points. The Rush won the quarters by seven, six, 11 and eight points in a comprehensive four-quarter effort to take care of the Bandits on the road, 93-61. Kasey Burton topscored for the Rush with 21 points, six rebounds and three assists, while Claire Constable (18 points including four of nine from long-range, two assists) and Kristy Rinaldi (13 points, two rebounds) were also consistent. Millie Cracknell (10 points) also reached double-figure points, while Alicia Froling was busy across the court with nine points, six rebounds and three assists. For the Bandits, they only had two assists for the entire game – both off the hand of Casey Ardern (two points, two rebounds and one steal), with Emma Mahady a lone hand on the scoring front with 26 points, three rebounds and a steal. The next highest scorer was Brodie-Paige Theodore with nine points and four rebounds in less than 17 minutes.

Mt Gambier Pioneers (54) def. by Bendigo Braves (60)

A strong first half has helped set up a win for Bendigo Braves in a low-scoring contest against Mt Gambier Pioneers. After the NBL1 South competition did not go ahead last season, the Pioneers had to wait an extra year for their debut in the league, and they took it right up to the Braves. The visitors got away to a good start with a three-point lead at quarter time and eight by the main break. The Pioneers fought back to cut the deficit to four at the final change, but the Braves steadied to solidify the win, 60-54. Kate Oliver (17 points, seven rebounds) and Tess Madgen (17 points, six rebounds and three assists) both did the bulk of the damage for the winners, whilst Cassidy McLean (seven points, five rebounds and two steals), Piper Dunlop (seven points, four rebounds) and Abigail Wehrung (six points, three rebounds, two steals and two blocks) were all impressive. Shakera Reilly managed the 16 pints and two rebounds in defeat, while Jasmin Howe also notched up double-figure points with 14 herself. Hannah Young (nine points, eight rebounds and three assists) and Sherrie Calleia (four points, six rebounds, two assists and two steals) were the other Pioneers who contributed across the court.

Lightning strike to keep slim finals hopes alive

WITH finals just within their reach Adelaide Lightning had one job to do – win – and that is exactly what they did downing Bendigo Spirit by 10 points in an enthralling battle. Sitting two games outside of the top four and with two games still left to play Adelaide left nothing to chance to put themselves in good shape to make a potential finals tilt if things go their way.

A fast starting Bendigo side shocked the Lightning as they piled on 23 points to 12 in a dominant opening term. Despite Adelaide getting the first points on the board, the Spirit had other plans in the first few minutes of play extending out to as much as a 12 point lead at the six minute mark (14-2) thanks to their accuracy and silky movement. Staring down the barrel of an 11 point deficit the Lightning quickly picked up the pieces in the second quarter finding their rhythm to get back onto level pegging’s and even up the playing field to head into the main break down by a mere point. That hot momentum continued into the third as they doubled their opponents 13 points to knock back 26 points in the term and create a handy buffer heading into the final change of a must win game. the scoring well and truly dried up in the final quarter of action with both sides combining for 22 points and the Spirit actually outscoring the Lightning, the damage had already been done allowing the Lightning to keep their finals hopes alive if all goes to plan from here on out.

Both sides shot at a relatively low clip from the field although Adelaide had a slightly higher  accuracy sitting at 38 per cent compared to Bendigo’s 34 per cent. In terms of two point range that is where the Lightning did their most damage nailing 17 of 31 attempts at 54 per cent while the shots just were not sinking for Bendigo only managing 36 per cent. However their long range shooting was a fraction better than their opponents registering a conversion rate of 29 per cent while the victors sat at 20 per cent. Bendigo were strong on the rebounds reeling in whatever fell short to collect 11 more than Adelaide (48-37). On the assists front Adelaide led the way (17-13) while also taking the cake for steals (9-2) showcasing their defensive intent. Turnovers was another key area as the Lightning only recorded eight for the game while Bendigo had 14.

The scoring was somewhat shared between a number of players but it is no surprise that Steph Talbot led the way with a team-high 15 points at 42 per cent accuracy from the field. She also managed six rebounds, five of which were defensive along with an impressive three steals highlighting her cleanliness and defensive class. Alex Wilson was not far behind on the scoring front knocking back 14 points while three seemed to be the magic number for the guard recording three rebounds, three assists and three steals. Abigail Wehrung played a strong role in her 29 minutes on court amassing 12 points, two rebounds and three assists while Chelsea Brook could have had a bigger day out had she been more accurate converting at a lowly 28 per cent from the field but still managed 11 points along with five rebounds and two assists. Marena Whittle was the only other Lightning player to reach double figures with 10 points to her name. Whittle also reeled in five rebounds and three steals while Louella Tomlinson proved to be a handy option off the bench with her five points, four rebounds and three assists.

It was a one woman show for Bendigo with the ever-reliable Carley Ernst steering the ship from start to finish with her game-high haul of 32 points. Ernst was a menace across the court nailing four triples and boasting a 44 per cent accuracy from the field highlighting her overall dominance. Not only did she do damage on the scoreboard and keep her side in the hunt for a win but starred off the boards with a whopping 15 rebounds, 11 defensive to round out a solid performance from the forward. The next best was Tessa Lavey who played the entire game and managed to walk away with 17 points, five rebounds and six assists to her name however was costly with ball in hand racking up four turnovers. The scoring well and truly dropped off after Lavey and Ernst with Alicia Froling the closest with a mere four points which accompanied her five rebounds and three assists. Although Chevannah Paalvast did not manage to hit the scoreboard in her 30 minutes on court she proved to be handy on the rebound finishing with seven.

It was a seesawing affair but once the Lightning had control they did not let go but will want to have a fast start in their next clash on Saturday against Townsville who currently hold fourth spot if they are to both topple them and keep their finals hopes alive. For Bendigo they now prepare for the Boomers on Saturday.

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.

Dominant UC Capitalise on first half

BACK at full strength, the University of Canberra (UC) Capitals put Bendigo Spirit to the sword in the first half of the opening match for Round 2 in the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL), coming away with a 20-point win.

The Capitals never looked like losing the first game of the new round, storming to an early six-point lead at the first break, before restricting the Spirit to just eight points in the second term to extend their lead to 18 at the main break. In a counter contrast to that term, the Spirit were up for the fight in the third quarter, outscoring the Capitals in a blockbuster 49-point term which went 25-24 in favour of the underdogs. The Capitals managed to straighten up in another strange final quarter which only yielded 21 points (12-9 to the Capitals) and helped them to a 76-56 victory.

The Capitals were smart in sharing the points around. They managed the load of each player ahead of the massive clash with Melbourne Boomers as young gun Jade Melbourne top-scored with 14 points, as well as two rebounds and two assists. Maddison Rocci had 12 points, one assist and one steal, while Mikaela Ruef was the best on court for the winners thanks to her 11 points and 11 rebounds in a dominant double-double effort.

The Capitals simply made more of their chances, shooting at a higher clip from the field (37 to 31 per cent), and whilst neither side could hit the range from three-point land (25 to 19 per cent and just nine makes for the match), the Capitals scored 12 second chance points to six. Once again it was the playmaking experience of the Capitals over the Spirit that stood out, as the reigning back-to-back premiers had 20 assists to 13, as well as 10 steals to seven, and less turnovers (9-16).

Aside from the three double-figure scorers, there were plenty around the mark with co-captain Marianna Tolo putting up nine points, five rebounds and five assists in just 18 minutes, while Keely Froling came close to a double-double with nine points and nine rebounds. She would want to forget her field goal shooting though, hitting just one of 11 from the field. Making a successful return, co-captain Kelsey Griffin produced eight points, four rebounds, three assists, two steals and one block in 14 minutes of action.

For the Spirit, Carley Ernst and Tessa Lavey provided the crucial tag-team effort in terms of scoring to try and drag their team over the line. Ernst hit up 15 points, 10 rebounds, two assists and one block, while Lavey finished with 13 points, three assists and two steals as the pair combined for half of the team’s entire score (28 points). Mary Goulding was strong off the boards with six points, eight rebounds and two assists, while Alicia Froling denied opponents time and time again with two points, five rebounds and four blocks. Off the bench, Jennie Rintala notched up six points and six rebounds in 14 minutes.

Now the Capitals prepare for the huge Melbourne Boomers clash on the back of two impressive wins, whilst the Spirit will search for their first points of the season against Perth Lynx.

Melbourne Boomers’ Cayla George shoots her team to victory. Picture credit: Albert Perez/Getty Images

Third quarter the difference as Boomers hold off determined Lynx

Melbourne Boomers have held off a determined Perth Lynx outfit to remain undefeated from three games in the 2020 WNBL season thus far, whilst the Lynx remain winless despite their best efforts. In what was a see-sawing affair, the Lynx started strong, but the Boomers stepped up when it counted in the second half to win by six points, 62-56.

Perth led the contest for 28 minutes up until Kalani Purcell drilled two free throws to hand her side the lead for the first time in the third term with just 128 seconds left in the quarter. Up until that point, the Lynx had pieced together a healthy six-point lead at the first break, then managed to go toe-to-toe with the Boomers in the second term to lead by five at half-time, 37-32.

The momentum was starting to turn bit by bit in the third as Melbourne chewed back the minor deficit and showed off its defensive ability with 18-6 in the quarter to lead by five themselves at the final break. From there they had the scent of victory, never conceding the lead as Perth managed to level the scores a number of time, but the experience of the Boomers shone through, winning by six points in a thriller.

The story of the match was again accuracy, as the Boomers hit 59 per cent of their two-point range shots, but their usually-dominant three-point radar was off, with none of the 20 attempts going in. Perth’s ability to hit five triples – albeit at just 19 per cent accuracy – kept the Lynx in the contest, as they still averaged 45 per cent form the field. Perth also shaded the Boomers in rebounds (41-40), but the same difference reversed to the Boomers in assists (13-12) and second chance points (11-10). The two key areas where the Boomers stood up were defensively, producing five blocks to zero, and 12 steals to eight.

Cayla George steadied the side in crucial moments on her way to an impressive 25 points, five rebounds and two blocks to lead from the front, while Maddie Garrick hit 12 points, three rebounds, four assists, one steal and one block in an all-round performance. Stella Beck‘s shooting was off with just one in seven from the field for two points, though she picked up seven rebounds, as well as two assists and two steals in the win. Ezi Magbegor scored seven points, eight rebounds, two assists and one steal from 23 minutes on court, while Izzy Wright was the most impressive off the bench, finishing with six points, seven rebounds and three steals.

For the Lynx, Ashley Sharp was the clear standout, picking up a massive double-double of 15 points and 12 rebounds, and was the most accurate shooter on court of the starters, shooting at 54 per cent from the field, including five of six from two-point range. Kayla Steindl helped out off the boards with eight points, nine rebounds, two assists and two steals, while Darcee Garbin‘s strong start to the season hit a roadblock with the talent only hitting two of 10 from the field for four points and four rebounds in 33 minutes. Jessie Edwards stood up off the bench though, recording nine points and four rebounds in the loss.

Now the Lynx will need to regroup and will start favourites against the Spirit in a battle of the bottom two sides, while the Boomers will look to keep their winning streak alive against the Capitals.

2020 WNBL Round 2 weekday preview: Last year’s semi-finalists to clash in bumper week

EIGHT games will be squeezed over the next four days in what will be a bumper week of Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) action. With one round down and four more to go, teams have started to get an early feel for the action again, and a repeat of the two semi-finals from last year will take place this week across the two hubs of Mackay and Townsville.

Mackay hub:

UC Capitals vs. Bendigo Spirit
Perth Lynx vs. Melbourne Boomers
Melbourne Boomers vs. UC Capitals
Bendigo Spirit vs. Perth Lynx

Only one side will leave the Mackay hub winless as Bendigo Spirit takes on Perth Lynx in a battle of the bottom two teams. The pairing will first have the chance to overcome title contenders, University of Canberra (UC) Capitals and Melbourne Boomers respectively, before the Capitals and Boomers go head-to-head in the earlier game on Wednesday in what is a repeat of last year’s semi-final. The Boomers are one of only two unbeaten sides after Round 1, with a couple of wins giving them the chance to remain poised to overtake Southside Flyers in the next week. Meanwhile UC Capitals are 1-1 from their season thus far, whilst the Lynx and Spirit sit at two losses from as many games.

If we look at the two bottom teams, the key battles will be at both ends of the court. Carley Ernst has been a prolific scorer for the Spirit in her two games, averaging the 15 point, four rebounds and one block in her two games this season, and she will likely spend time going head-to-head with Darcee Garbin who is a little smaller, but just as potent, with 13.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 2.0 blocks and 1.5 steals, showing she can do a little of everything.

Jessie Edwards has the extra height in the paint for the Lynx, averaging the six points and five rebounds, as Alicia Froling will aim to nullify some of that influence with a massive nine rebounds already in her two games to go with five points per game. In the backcourt, Tessa Lavey built up from game one to game two, averaging 11.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and an impressive 6.5 assists so far this season. With her team struggling to find a playmaker on offence, she is averaging almost half of her team’s 14 assists per game. Perth are in a similar boat with Garbin and Taylah Burrows (2.0 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists) leading the way.

Katie-Rae Ebzery is the third highest scorer from the quartet of teams in the Mackay hub this week, with the Lynx Opal shooting 17 points per game, to go with her 2.5 rebounds and 2.0 blocks. For a sub-180cm player, Ebzery is able to deny the opposition really well and provide good defence on court, then get forward and apply scoreboard pressure.

The blockbuster match of the hub will be the rematch of last year’s semi-final between the Capitals and Boomers, though fresh off an upset win over title favourites Southside Flyers, the Boomers will this time be favoured. The big question mark for the Capitals will be whether or not co-captain Kelsey Griffin can return from injury, because being one of the biggest stars in the competition, she automatically adds and extra element of X-factor for the reigning back-to-back premiers.

In her absence, Keely Froling has made the starting position her own, putting up big numbers of 15.0 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists, whilst Mikaela Ruef has seamlessly returned without an issue thanks to a massive 9.5 rebounds and 11.5 points per game. The fact that she often shares the five spot with Marianna Tolo, or has the flexibility to role into the four shows the amount of depth the Capitals have.

If there is one thing to take away from the Capitals thus far in season 2020, it is the development of the young talent. One only has to look at the likes of Maddison Rocci who has grabbed her starting spot with both hands, dominating on offence with 22.5 points per game, the third highest in the competition. Her head-to-head with the red-hot Tess Madgen (23.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 5.0 assists) is one that everyone will be glued to their devices watching. Spectators cannot forget about Jade Melbourne who has been a special talent since arriving with the team this season, averaging the six points and three rebounds, but showing enough to suggest long-term she is a starting five player.

The Boomers have quickly established themselves as a team not willing to muck around, and whilst Opals, Cayla George and Ezi Magbegor were ultimately beaten by Liz Cambage in their win over the Flyers, the team had enough of a shared load to get over the line. George is putting up 16.0 points, 8.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists, whilst Magbegor is 11.0 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.5 steals. The front court duo are well supported by  Ashleigh Karaitiana who has slotted into the three spot with a huge second game against the Flyers, deadly from range – 54.5 per cent – and averaging 11.5 points.

This group will answer plenty of questions this week, but the Boomers might be marginally favoured to win both, with the Capitals getting up in their clash against the Spirit. The Spirit also could get their act together in the bottom of the table match against the Lynx, though it is hard to split them, just like if Griffin returns for the Capitals.

Townsville hub:

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

Interestingly enough, the Townsville hub has arguably the bigger question marks around the results based on the first round of action. It looks early like both Adelaide Lightning and Sydney Uni Flames will not be easy beats, with the Lightning already toppling the UC Capitals and the Flames taking care of the Spirit. The big question will be how they fair against the biggest challenger in the league in Southside Flyers, as well as a team that is touted as the most improved in Townsville Fire.

The Fire and Flames clash tomorrow will be a hotly contested match, and not just because of their names, but because both are battling for what could be that fourth spot on the table. Similarly, the Lightning have the two crunch games against the Flyers and Flames to really see where they are at. If the Lightning or Flames come away with a win, or even two wins, then that will go a long way to seeing up their season in a condensed year.

Starting with the title favourites, the Flyers are 2-1 after a loss to rivals Melbourne Boomers either side of wins over the Flames and Spirit. They should be able to win against both the Lightning and Fire at their best, but both teams have enough talent to worry the Flyers if they have an off night. It is no surprise to see Cambage leading the way, but despite 24 points and 19 rebounds against the Boomers, it was not enough to drag her team over the line. Limited minutes – eight – in the win against the Flames brought her average down to 16.3 points, 8.7 rebounds and 1.7 blocks, but it’s well over a double-double when looking at the 40-minute average.

Cambage should have no shortage of support around her with Opals all across the court from Sara Blicavs helping her off the boards (14 points, nine rebounds as well as 2.3 steals), Jenna O’Hea (10.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 4.0 assists) covering the court well, and Rebecca Cole being the prolific scorer (17.3 points, 3.3 assists) coming off a 27-point game last start. Leilani Mitchell is able to fly under the radar this season, but her tenacity and ability to scrap for every possession, as well as feed to those potent scorers has been noticed, as she put up 8.7 points and 6.3 assists to rank equal second in that area.

Lauren Mansfield has been one of the top transfers in the WNBL for the Flames, coming across from the Lynx and assimilating in without any issues. She is averaging 16.7 points, 6.3 assists and 3.3 rebounds in her time, whilst teammate Alison Schwagmeyer (10.0 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 2.0 steals) has similar enjoyed the extra time on court. Turkish-Australian national Funda Nakkasoglu has come off the bench for 11.7 points per game in coming into the Australian league, while Anneli Maley, Lauren Scherf and Natalie Burton are all bigs who are averaging 7.0 points and 5.0 rebounds or more thus far in the season.

Townsville Fire might be the most interesting team to watch, with the the potent scoring back court duo of Lauren Nicholson and Shyla Heal. Coming from Adelaide Lightning and Bendigo Spirit respectively, the experienced Nicholson has averaged 17.5 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.5 assists this season, whilst the young star Heal has put up 16.5 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists. No doubt the Fire would love to get more points out of the rest of the team, but they have been quite prolific off the boards, as Nadeen Payne (5.0 points, 6.5 rebounds) has helped support the returning Zitina Aokuso (8.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.0 steals) with minutes.

Adelaide Lightning have been an even team performance led by Steph Talbot who was simply unbelievable in her first two games. Clearly the player of the first round, Talbot dropped 27.5 points, 12.0 rebounds, 4.0 steals, 3.0 assists and 2.0 blocks across her matches in some sensational outings, including stepping up in overtime against the Capitals with eight points. The new recruits have also come in and done well as Abigail Wehrung (16.0 points, 9.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists) and Alex Wilson (13.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 1.5 steals) have seamlessly slotted into the five. Wilson will have a chance to face her old team the Flames in a blockbuster showing.

The Townsville hub has plenty of potential to answer a lot of questions with two more teams having a crack at the Flyers. With the Fire back in front of home fans you can never discount them, whilst the Flames are much improved too. That Sydney Uni-Townsville clash is potentially an early head-to-head to determine a fourth from fifth position. Expect the Flyers to still win both, with the feeling that Adelaide and Townsville get up over Sydney Uni, though the Flames could easily win both as well showing just how tight the competition is.

Mansfield’s first quarter sets the tone, Flames fan Spirit 100-63

THE Bendigo Spirit have once again suffered a debilitating outcome, going down 63-100 against a red-hot Sydney Uni Flames outfit in Saturday’s opener, who exploded out of the gates with a 34-point first quarter.

Neither team made any alterations to their Starting Fives, with Bendigo lining up Tessa Lavey, Ameilia Todhunter, Mary Goulding, Alicia Froling and Carley Ernst. Meanwhile, the Flames stuck with the formation of Lauren Mansfield, Alison Schwagmeyer, Anneli Maley, Nat Burton and Lauren Scherf.

Both teams were coming off demoralising season opening losses to two of the top ranked sides in the competition, so both sides made the most of their chances early. The Spirit knocked down five of their opening eight attempts, as the Flames stacked it on at the free-throw line, making their opening six attempts from the charity strike, which added to 14 points in the initial four minutes of the contest for side.

It was newly signed recruit Mansfield that led the way for Sydney Uni’s ridiculous efficiency in the first quarter leading to a 34-25 lead, as she would contribute 14 points to the Flames’ 34 throughout the opening 10 minutes. Schwagmeyer also added eight points of her own to the side’s numbers that gave them the solid nine-point buffer after one.

The Flames picked up where they left off, as Burton used her uncanny ability to find the loose ball to convert on two straight attempts in the first minute of the second term. But the Spirit replied in turn, as Ernst hit her third three of the game as Coach Tracy York’s side looked to wind back the early double-digit deficit.

Slowly but surely the star duo of Lavey and Ernst hustled on with their side’s offensive output, minimising Sydney Uni’s lead down to as little as seven points before the end of the first half. However, Shanae Greaves’ bucket with less than a minute remaining in the second put the lead back at 11 points heading into the main break. Bendigo’s tandem would each obtain 11 points by this stage with Lavey in particular dishing out seven assists and grabbing five rebounds through 18 minutes of play.

While the Flames continued to find points after Mansfield’s first quarter, Sydney Uni’s 45 per cent shooting as a team as well as their 11 made free-throws were the main factors in their 51-40 advantage at the mid-way point.

After a scoreless second from Mansfield, she started the third off remedying her scoring drought with her fifth three, which was followed up with a Scherf jumper quickly distancing the two teams by 16 points. Furthermore, the former Lynx prospect continued to shred Bendigo’s defensive schemes, concluding the third with 24 points under her belt and helping the Flames to a convincing 80-54 lead with the final 10-minute phase yet to play.

Bendigo’s woes continued into the fourth, scoring a mere nine points to round out Saturday’s opener. But Sydney kept rolling in their scoring totals, capping off a 49-point second half with 20 more in the fourth, as the Flames polished off Bendigo in emphatic fashion 100-63.

Sydney Uni’s team scoring numbers reflected their mountain of point, shooting 43 per cent from the field and adding 20 free-throws to those shots that missed their marks. Headline outings for the Flames consisted of Mansfield (24 points, five assists and four rebounds), Schwagmeyer (12 points and three rebounds) and Funda Nakkasoglu (14 points off of two threes).

While the highlights were few and far between for the Spirit, who now head into next week winless from their two opening games, Bendigo moved the ball well. This came especially from Lavey, who flirted with a triple-double yesterday tallying 15 points, 10 rebounds and six assists. Ernst produced noticeable numbers as well with 14 points, while young gun Paige Price put on a display of her own with 11 points in 14 minutes of court time.

The Spirit face the two-time defending champion Canberra Capitals to begin Round 2, hoping to keep their opponents under 100 points for the first time this season. On the other hand, Sydney Uni has little time to dwell on yesterday’s triumphs, going up against the Southside Flyers later today.

Boomers hammer home from deep, make statement win over Southside

Cayla George in action against Southside Flyers. Picture credit: WNBL

Everyone knew that winning a WNBL title was not going to be a walk in the park, but not many would have predicted the Southside Flyers going down in only their second game of the season. But this was indeed the case, as the Melbourne Boomers’ exemplary range was enough to strike down the international-level squad.

With both sides maintaining their Starting Fives, the Boomers had Maddie Garrick and Tess Madgen handling the ball with Stella Beck, Ezi Magbegor and Cayla George filling the remaining slots. For the Flyers it was the same five as their first game, Bec Cole and Leilani Mitchell in the backcourt, and Jenna O’Hea, Sara Blicavs and Liz Cambage down low and on the wing.

The Melbourne derby started with a blistering pace from both squads, scoring the majorities of their points early in the offence from fast-break points. But midway through the first quarter a 7-0 run from the Flyers would gift them control of the encounter before the teams’ secondary squads got their shift in the second half of the first.

Two of the best benches in the WNBL were able to show off what they were made of with Southside able to stave off a potential opening quarter comeback from the Boomers to close out a 22-12 lead at the first break.

Melbourne coach Guy Molloy employed his side to play one stop at a time and with this mindset, the Boomers would climb back into the contest six minutes into the second quarter. The side’s captain in George made several great plays including a spot-up three to make it a one-possession game on a 9-0 run.

Despite numerous instances where the Boomers looked like possibly stealing the lead before half-time, Southside’s depth prevented them from doing so. This coupled with Cambage’s second quarter double-double and Cole’s 11 points allowed the Flyers to hold their noses in front at the main break, 40-35, whereas George had 13 points and five rebounds of her own through two terms.

Continuing to hammer Cheryl Chambers’ fortress, a Madgen three would give the Boomers a short-lived lead halfway through the third, which was quickly overturned by Mitchell’s corner three on the next play. This time Melbourne would not waiver in their determination to take control of the possible Grand Final preview, as George nailed her second three-pointer of the game before handing the duties over to the bench.

A strong left-handed layup by Tall-Fern Penina Davidson and a buzzer-beating scoop layup by Beck marked a strong end to what was an out-and-out third phase for Molloy’s roster, as they led by seven at the final break.

Southside’s fourth quarter comeback quest began with a nice post-move and mid-range jumper by Cambage to make the game a shootout between two top teams. Leading the charge was Madgen, who made it rain in the fourth with two pivotal triples to keep the Flyers at bay.

Two more threes from Beck and Ashleigh Karaitiana – her fifth for the night – with less than two minutes to play put the exclamation mark on what was nothing short of a phenomenal shooting night from the Boomers. Melbourne walked away with their confidence sky high, trumping the Flyers 89-72 and upsetting the title favourites.

While both sides shot tremendously, the Boomers shooting 41 per cent and the Flyers shooting 40 per cent, Melbourne made the difference from beyond the arc shooting a total of 16 threes compared to Southside’s four. The same trend could also be found in turnovers, as Molloy’s women forced 16 turnovers, five more than Chambers’.

George turned it up last night with 24 points, eight rebounds and four assists, while Karaitiana shot the lights out from deep obtaining all 18 of her points from behind the three-point-line. Madgen was also a major factor in the same setting, knocking down five threes to go with her 24 points, nine rebounds and five assists. The only concern is that the 30-year-old seemed to roll her ankle severely late in the fourth quarter, forcing her to exit the game early.

Looking to bounce back to their dominant ways in less than 24 hours, the Flyers could not support Cambage’s 24 points and 19 rebounds despite leading comfortably at half-time. Cole and Sara Blicavs each accounted for double-digit totals with 13 and 11 points respectively.

Melbourne can look forward to a well-earned rest day at the top of the standings, as the Boomers head to Mackay on Monday to face off with the Perth Lynx.

2020 WNBL Round 1 weekend preview: Flyers and Flames face tough turnaround in opening week

SOUTHSIDE Flyers and Sydney Uni Flames will become the first teams to face off in three games across four days when they double-up on today and tomorrow following their Thursday night clashes. There will be a blockbuster five games across today and tomorrow in order to conclude Round 1 of Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) action, and then there is no rest for the wicked with Round 2 kicking off on Monday. We preview the two different hubs and their matches:

Townsville Hub:

Bendigo Spirit vs. Sydney Uni Flames
Melbourne Boomers vs. Southside Flyers
Southside Flyers vs. Sydney Uni Flames

Up in Townsville, four teams will need to back-up off a two-day break to face off this afternoon, before the Flyers and Flames go at it again tomorrow. The much talked about Flyers and Melbourne Boomers clash is the pick of the round, with the title favourite Flyers likely to get a tougher resistance than against the Spirit on Thursday whom they smashed by 42 points. The experience gap in that game was clear, but the Boomers have more than enough stars in their own right to worry the Flyers and make them kick up into top gear to get the points.

In their first matches, Melbourne claimed a solid 15-point win over the Flames, before Southside went ham on the Spirit. It would be easy to expect the Flyers to win this game well, and while they should start favourites in every match they play, Melbourne will make life difficult. Both teams looked good in their respective matches, with Southside having more rebounds and assists, but were relatively even across the board. Both are more than capable of picking up second chance points too, which makes them a difficult proposition for any opposition.

The head-to-head of the match has to be Cayla George up against Liz Cambage with the Opal talents likely to have a huge say in the overall result. Cambage was the better performed player in Round 1, picking up 19 points in just 20 minutes, shooting at 63 per cent from the field, as well as five rebounds and two assists. Her free-throw shooting could improve at 50 per cent, but George’s accuracy was well down too with 40 per cent from the field and missing her three triple attempts. She racked up an impressive nine rebounds as well as two assists and two steals. George will also rotate with Ezi Magbegor with either able to play at the four or five, and Magbegor had 16 points and 11 rebounds in a double-double effort. No doubt Magbegor will also have Sara Blicavs for company who racked up 17 points and 12 rebounds in a big first-up effort.

Rotation off the bench will be crucial as the Flyers have to front up the next day with about a 20-hour turnaround from the final whistle on Saturday to the first tip-off on Sunday. With Sydney Uni Flames playing the earlier Saturday game, they will have an extra two hours to rest up for the huge encounter with the likely ladder-leading Flyers who will be hard to stop even if they are a little sore.

Coming away from the loss against Melbourne, the Flames should be relatively happy with their performance. It was not a win, but they pushed one of the top teams all the way. Their almost brand-new looking set-up seemed to go okay, though accuracy really hurt them, averaging just 32 per cent from the field. Lauren Mansfield was the standout with 17 points and seven assists, whilst Lauren Scherf was reliable as ever for 10 points, seven rebounds and three blocks. The one to watch was the returning Funda Nakkasoglu who helped herself to 12 points, half of which came from the free-throw line, and the other half from two triples. She only shot 2-10 from the field which showed with time she could be a more damaging shooter.

They will not be fancied to beat the Flyers, but should be favourites to take care of a young Bendigo Spirit outfit. Piper Dunlop is a star in the making, with the teenager coming off the bench and holding her own to showcase her accuracy from beyond the arc, nailing a three-pointer in her six minutes on court. Carley Ernst was the only player to really worry the Flyers on the scoreboard, knocking down 16 points and seven rebounds, as they too struggled with their field goal percentage. Alicia Froling was the only player to average more than 50 per cent from the field, and she only had the three attempts, but was crucial off the boards with 11 rebounds.

The Spirit lacked that cohesion and experience going forward, and only had the 12 assists, which they will need a lot more of if they are to upset the Flames. It was a baptism of fire for a new team coming up against a side that was not only so well drilled, but full of international experience. The Spirit managed to get minutes into every player, if Tessa Lavey (18 per cent field goal accuracy) can drop more shots in her next outing, then the Spirit will be a much more damaging outfit.

Prediction: Southside Flyers to win both matches against Sydney Uni Flames and Melbourne Boomers, Sydney Uni to defeat Bendigo Spirit.

 

Mackay Hub:

Perth Lynx vs. Adelaide Lightning
UC Capitals vs. Townsville Fire

All four teams in the Mackay hub will be well rested after playing last on Wednesday night, as they go head-to-head on Sunday. While they will enjoy they break, they will not have it easy for long, with the four teams to then back-up and go on Monday in what will be a 24-hour turnaround. The one exception will be Adelaide Lightning, with the Lightning leaving the Mackay hub to play in Townsville on Tuesday, which the Fire will do once they have completed their home games here.

The Round 1 matches on opening night went different ways, with Adelaide Lightning holding off a fast-finishing University of Canberra (UC) Capitals outfit, while a new-look Townsville Fire made light work of Perth Lynx in a big victory. The Lightning looked in control after three quarters against the reigning back-to-back premiers, but then the Capitals stormed home with a Maddison Rocci layup levelling the scores and forcing the match into overtime. While they trailed by a point at one stage, the Capitals conceded the last 11 points of the game – eight to Steph Talbot – as the Lightning secured the win.

In the other game, Townsville Fire hardly looked like losing, running away with a comfortable 25-point win over Perth. The only question mark will come on the strength of the opposition, because like Bendigo, Perth’s youth and departures over the off-season mean they are likely to be in the bottom two teams in 2020. The Fire could only beat who they could beat, and despite fronting up with a new-look starting team, it seemed to work perfectly, and everyone played their role to suggest the Fire will be a big improver this season.

The Fire and Capitals match is set to be the one of the round, with Kelsey Griffin potentially returning for UC which will add that extra elite talent to the mix. In her absence, Keely Froling dropped 19 points and had four rebounds, whilst Mikayla Ruef racked up 13 points and had six rebounds in an impressive performance. The 40-minute outing for Rocci was telling however, with the young gun dropping 21 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and two steals on the opposition. She may well end up going head-to-head with equally exciting young gun Shyla Heal in what could be a matchup to watch.

Both teams have a mix of experience and youth, with Heal recording four rebounds and two assists to go with her 15 points, while Lauren Nicholson notched up 16 points, four rebounds and two assists. No doubt Fire fans would like to see returning young gun Zitina Aokuso used in even more minutes since coming back from a long-term injury, putting up eight points and seven rebounds in a promising return. Expect this game to go right down to the wire, and could come down to if Griffin plays or not, but do not be shocked if Townsville cause an upset, though the Capitals will be favoured.

Adelaide will be highly fancied to move to 2-0 to start their season when the Lightning takes on Perth which will be important ahead of their clash with the Flyers on Tuesday. To grind out an overtime win against such a quality opponent in the Capitals will be vital for the team’s confidence, and it was Talbot who was sensational with 31 points, 13 rebounds, three assists, seven steals and four blocks in the performance of Round 1. No doubt Perth will try and nullify her impact, whilst former Lynx player Marena Whittle will be hoping to put up a good effort after not scoring in her first outing. Abbey Wehrung, Alex Wilson, Chelsea Brook and Louella Tomlinson all hit double-figures though in a team effort.

For Perth, Darcee Garbin was a lone-hand on the scoring front, managing just the 12 points, six rebounds, two blocks and two assists. She will need a lot of help from her teammates in the second match if they are to cause an upset, with Katie Ebzery always tightly watched, whilst the season is more about getting experience into the young players coming through with a number of College returnees in 2020.

Prediction: UC Capitals to win in a thriller against Townsville Fire, and Adelaide Lightning to get the job done against Perth Lynx.

Picture: WNBL

Madgen makes a Booming return, Melbourne knock off Flames in Thursday opener

WITH the mission being to win a championship for the first time since 2011, the Melbourne Boomers are on the right track to start their WNBL20 campaign, with a 15-point victory over the Sydney Uni Flames, 85-70.

A 14-point score difference in the second and third quarters proved to be the difference in the end, as the Boomers’ main weapons found their strokes after the first quarter break.

Melbourne’s starting five was as expected with Cayla George and Ezi Magbegor going shoulder-to-shoulder in the Boomers frontcourt with Maddie Garrick, Tess Madgen and Stella Beck filling the spots outside the perimeter. But many were keen to see how Flames Head Coach Katrina Hibbert lined up her squad for the opening tip. Time would divulge the line-up as being Lauren Mansfield, Alison Schwagmeyer and Anneli Maley running the backcourt, and former Opal Natalie Burton defending the rim with Lauren Scherf.

Early rebounds from George paved the way for the opening points of the contest with Madgen making her return to the Boomers official, putting up the initial two points of the game down the lane. The ensuing play throughout the remainder of the first period would be rather even in terms of scoring, with the Flames edging their noses in front for nine of the first ten minutes.

Coach Guy Molloy made his first rotation change six minutes into the first by injecting Kalani Purcell and Ashleigh Karaitiana, which shifted momentum following a layup and a charge from the pair. With less than a minute to play in the first, Beck would drill a three to return the lead to Melbourne and conclude proceedings in the opening 10 minutes, putting the score at 17-15 in favour of the Boomers.

Following a relatively quiet first quarter from both sides, the first score of the second came after two minutes with Purcell capitalising on good aggression to the rim. But the Flames hit back quickly with Carly Boag earning herself an And-One and Mansfield tying it up shortly after with a triple of her own.

Magbegor went through 14 minutes of play without putting her name on the scoresheet, but she quickly bucked that trend with an And-One to reassert her team’s control giving her side a 40-34 buffer. In the twilight minutes of the second quarter Melbourne’s Opals started to shine through, as the combination of Madgen and George put their skillsets on display by putting a double-digit cushion between the two teams.

Madgen, who led the game in scoring heading into halftime with 70 per cent shooting would compile 15 points along with four rebounds and help the Purple and Gold to a comforting 43-31 lead. Meanwhile, Garrick was next up on deck with eight points and George had a rebound for every first-half-point of her own, producing six points and six rebounds in 20 minutes of play.

A quiet first two periods for the Flames saw Mansfield (seven points) and Scherf (six points) leading their roster in the scoring totals, whereas Schwagmeyer was embracing her new role as a starter with five points and a triplet of assists.

Magbegor started the second half picking up steam, knocking down three free-throws and a put-back layup to get Melbourne off on the right foot in their pursuit of a Game One win. On the other hand, a disjointed Sydney Uni offence struggled to convert early in the third quarter. Mansfield, however, came through after three minutes to get her ninth point of the contest.

Midway through the third phase, Molloy’s squad would crack the 20-point-lead mark with five minutes left in the third thanks to a 12-2 start succeeding half-time, as he made the most out of his starters – namely 30-year-old Madgen and her 22 points in 25 minutes, and Magbegor who had a double-double prior to the third intermission for the Boomers, who were up 64-48 with 10 minutes to play.

While the fourth seemed like a formality, the Flames put up a scrappy end quarter to bring the margin back to a respectable number. Sporadic highlights from secondary prospects like Funda Nakkasoglu and Shanae Greaves brought the deficit back to 15, but the damage had already been inflicted by last season’s third seed, as Melbourne coasted home to a dominant 85-70 triumph.

Shooting 47 per cent overall as a team compared to Sydney Uni’s 32 per cent, Melbourne were on another level when it came to putting points up on the scoreboard. A plus-13 on the boards summed up the Boomers’ performance (48-35), as a season-opening win seemed imperative to the team even before the first whistle.

In her return to the side for the first time in five seasons, Madgen put on a clinic during her 33 minutes of court time. She found her mark on ten field goals, which in-turn led to 23 points, five assists and four rebounds on the night. Magbegor had a quiet first half which led to a resounding second, resulting in a 16-point and 11-rebound performance for the 21-year-old, whereas Garrick left the floor with 14 points of her own. George accounted for eight points and nine rebounds.

The Flames will need to move on quickly and revert back to the basics if they are to bounce back in two days against the Bendigo Spirit, but Sydney Uni had some solid performances, nevertheless. Mansfield recorded a team-high 17 points off the back of three triples, while Scherf led the way in rebounds with seven next to her 10 points. But surprisingly in her return to the WNBL, Nakkasoglu came up big with 12 points comprising of two three-pointers and 100 per cent accuracy from the charity strike (6/6).

After a long time away from the city she admires, Madgen noted post-game how much she was looking forward to playing for Melbourne once again, “I love Melbourne, I love the Boomers and we have got a great team,” said Madgen. “[We have] a lot of really good players and a great coaching staff. It has been a long preseason so it is really good to be out there and play,” she added.

Two days from now, the Boomers size up their cross-town rivals the Southside Flyers in what will be a battle of raw talent on both sides, as two of the best clubs in the country go at it head-to-head in Townsville’s Saturday night double-header.

Picture: WNBL

Flyers reinforce notion as “team-to-beat”, thrash Spirit by 42

Liz Cambage made a successful return to the WNBL on Thursday. Picture credit: WNBL

This year’s championship-favourites proved why they hold that title last night in a 40-minute demolition job of the Bendigo Spirit. The Flyers’ international-calibre depth was on display throughout all four quarters led by their marquee signing Liz Cambage and her “hit squad” of long-time Opals, lashing Bendigo 102-60.

Southside’s star-studded line-up was as expected with Leilani Mitchell and Bec Cole in the backcourt being supported by Jenna O’Hea, Sara Blicavs and Cambage. For the Spirit, Amelia Todhunter, Tessa Lavey, Mary Goulding, Alicia Froling and Carley Ernst got the nod to start the contest.

Froling and Mitchell got the scoring going for their respective teams, but two minutes in, Cambage made her presence known with seven-straight points, setting in motion an early advantage to the Flyers.

Cole got her range going five minutes in with a three-pointer, but Lavey and the Spirit proved pesky opponents in the infancy stages of the game. Despite this, former Opal Rachel Jarry put a dent in Bendigo’s ploy with a three and a jumpshot to extend Southside’s first-quarter lead, which was followed up by a last-second layup from Aimie Clydesdale to conclude a 60 per cent shooting first quarter of play with the Flyers up 22-12.

Bendigo came out of the opening intermission with a focused intent, following five-straight points from Ernst. But for every bit of headway the Spirit made, Southside’s depth undid their work again and again. This problem was further compounded by a 14-0 Flyers run topped off by an O’Hea corner three and in the blink of an eye, the score sat at 43-19 halfway through the second.

To wrap up the first half, both sides exhibited their secondary units, as Southside continued their lead upwards thanks to individuals like Stephanie Blicavs and Monique Conti, as the half time score would read 30-56 in favour of the Flyers.

Headlining their ridiculous efficiency through two quarters (63 per cent conversion rate) were the Southside starters, as the team’s core unit spread out the scoring load up until the midway point of the contest. More specifically, Cambage led the way with 13 points and three rebounds next to her frontcourt partner in crime Sara Blicavs, who totalled eight points and eight rebounds after 20 minutes.

Spirit Head Coach Tracy York relied heavily on her marquee duo in Ernst and Lavey, as the two combined for 33 minutes and 18 points in the first half, whereas Froling hustled her way to seven rebounds.

Bendigo enjoyed a rare scoring stint in the third term with an 8-2 run three minutes into the second half, lighting a small fire under the squad. Unfortunately for the Spirit, more of the same from Cambage was to follow, as she used her size and her strength to bully all opponents defending her around the rim.

Southside continued their barrage from deep thanks primarily to Steph Blicavs and Jarry in the third quarter alone, even including Development Player Saraid Taylor on the action as she polished off a triple with a minute remaining in the championship quarter. Clydesdale almost made the quarter better, getting off a last second three-pointer just milliseconds after the buzzer had sounded.

A foregone conclusion long before the fourth quarter, the Flyers ran out Thursday night’s closer with a complete four quarter performance, outscoring the Spirit 22-13 in the fourth, cracking the 40-point lead mark with 102 seconds to play and achieving 100 team points on the game with 40 seconds left, culminating in a head-to-toe 102-60 rout of Bendigo.

Looking at both teams statistically, the Spirit would get the better of the Flyers in free-throw percentage, but virtually every other aspect of the game belonged to Southside. Most noticeable from last night’s victors was their accuracy from the field, as last year’s runners-ups converted on 38 baskets from 71 attempts (53 per cent). This also included 13 threes from 26 assists in what was nothing less than a one-sided affair.

In just 20 minutes of play, Cambage would set a game-high total in points with 19, while Sara Blicavs continued to uphold her reputation as a rebounding machine with a double-double performance of 17 points and 12 boards. Cole (12) and Mitchell (10) also secured double digits, as Conti impressed off the bench with her fast-paced style of play and silky handles – she finished with nine points and three rebounds.

Knowing full well that they face the Sydney Uni Flames in a couple of days, the Spirit have the chance to bounce back from what just transpired. Some positives could be taken away from last night, especially from specific individuals. Ernst earned herself a solid 16-point and seven-rebound effort, whilst Froling made her first contest back since her injury a respectable one on the glass, finishing with four points and 11 rebounds. In what was a lacklustre shooting night for the captain, Lavey’s eight points from 18 per cent accuracy will be a night to forget, as she prepares herself to lead the Spirit into Saturday’s clash.

In her post-game interview, Sara Blicavs pointed to the team’s eagerness to get back on the floor as their primary motivator in what was a total team effort, “I think we were just excited to get back on the court you know?” said Blicavs.

“We are obviously from Victoria, so we have been in lockdown for about six months and we have not played a game since the Grand Final in March, so we were just eager to get out here.

“We were a little bit nervous; but I think pre-game we got a lot of our energy out which was good, and we came out on court and executed,” she finalised.

WNBL fans have to wait for Saturday night in what will be a meeting of two behemoths, with the Flyers taking on the Melbourne Boomers who are coming off a convincing win against the Flames. A true test of strength will be showcased, as we gain insight into what a possible Grand Final matchup could look like.