Tag: brianna turner

WNBL Free Agency Update: Lynx and Spirit

TO round out Draft Central’s WNBL Free Agency updates, we look at the team out west and the team out back, as the Perth Lynx and the Bendigo Spirit prepare for what will hopefully be bounce back seasons, after each of the sides missed out on postseason action in WNBL20.

PERTH LYNX

The Perth-based side were looking to make a big splash into the Free Agency pond from the get-go. To do this, newly signed Head Coach Ryan Petrik pursued the signing of WNBA Seattle Storm star, Sami Whitcomb. Whitcomb, who committed to three seasons with the Lynx between 2015 and 2018, will make her return to the club for next season under her new coach.

Following Whitcomb’s announcement, Petrik started to compile his core two days later. The re-acquisition of current Australian Opal Katie Ebzery would be the club’s next move, after the 30-year-old would finish sixth amongst league leaders in scoring (16.3 points per game) and 10th in the category of assists (4.2 per game).

Perth-native Darcee Garbin and familiar face, Alex Ciabattoni would be subequent moves for the Lynx. Garbin would be one of the two participants in a two-way trade between the Lynx and the Townsville Fire, as Nadeen Payne would head east to north Queensland. The latter of the two new additions, Ciabattoni has in the past donned the Red, Grey and Black, after a successful 2015/16 season where she would be rewarded with the Rookie of the Year accolade, which was followed by two more seasons before heading overseas to play in Italy.

The pattern of new signings for the side became more consistent, once Perth consolidated their essential picks. The weekly signings kicked off with defensive anchor in Maddie Allen, who averaged 1.8 blocks per contest last season (second only to Adelaide’s import Brianna Turner). A week later, Petrik would announce the addition of one of the League’s most promising young prospects in Nas’eya Parker-Williams, hoping to increase her minutes three-fold compared to her past campaigns.

Two out of Perth’s final three roster alterations came by way of returning college hoopers. The first of which being University of Minnesota alum, Jessie Edwards, who would lead the Gophers in blocks each season during her time in the States. Concluding her three seasons in Minneapolis, Edwards would finish sixth all-time in blocks and ninth all-time in offensive rebounds. The second college recruit of the signing period came by way of Wake Forest’s Alex Sharp, who completed a spectacular career with the Deacons accumulating over 1000 points and 900 rebounds during her time in North Carolina.

The most recent piece of the puzzle was the re-signing of 19-year-old guard Tayah Burrows, who has decided to spend another season in the WNBL before heading off to the States to commence her college career, which will be key to helping Coach Petrik get his new team to a winning record.

Contracted:

Jewel Williams

Re-signed:

Katie Ebzery
Maddie Allen
Nas’eya Parker-Williams
Tayah Burrows

Signed:

Sami Whitcomb
Darcee Garbin
Alex Ciabattoni
Jessie Edwards
Alex Sharp

 

BENDIGO SPIRIT

Head Coach Tracy York has once again had her hands full this offseason, as the combination of renewing her assistant coach’s contract and not having access to imports this season, has resulted in a major facelift for the Bendigo squad heading into the WNBL21 season.

The staff from Bendigo would kick off the Free Agency period, as the team obtained the first signature of the season, with the re-signing of Demi Skinner being the first move made across all eight sides in the competition. After Skinner, would be another re-signing, as Opal nominee Tessa Lavey committed to the side for a second straight season.

With York securing the majority of her core unit, herself and assistant coach Mark Alabakov could start to shop around for fresh new talent to join their ranks and would look to an individual who is keen to make a return to the WNBL. Cassidy McLean’s first season with the Spirit in the 2018/19 season would see her average 3.1 points, 1.8 rebounds and an assist in her debut campaign, however, after sustaining a knee injury that would see her miss the 2019/20 season, she is raring to go for a more successful 2020/21 fixture. Next up would be Indiana University commit and former Melbourne Boomers development player, Paige Price. The daughter of legend Bulleen Boomer, Simone Gloster, Price looks to gain more professional experience before starting her career in the Hoosiers’ program overseas.

Other youngsters to join the fray would be long-time member of the Bendigo Braves’ NBL1 squad Piper Dunlop (Development Player), former Fordham University sharpshooter and New Zealand Tall-Fern Mary Goulding, as well as 23-year-old Shelby Britten.

York’s final two acquisitions of the offseason included Alicia Froling (twin sister of Canberra Capitals’ forward Keely Froling) as well as long-time competition veteran, Amelia Todhunter, who hopes to bestow her invaluable experience to younger players during the later stages of her championship-winning career. Meanwhile, Carley Ernst (Bendigo’s only contracted player prior to the signing period) hopes to pull together this new team and get the Spirit off the bottom of the WNBL standings after a lacklustre 2020 ending.

Contracted:

Carley Ernst

Re-signed:

Demi Skinner
Tessa Lavey

Signed:

Cassidy McLean
Paige Price
Piper Dunlop
Mary Goulding
Shelby Britten
Amelia Todhunter
Alicia Froling

Picture: Seattle Times

WNBL Free Agency Update: Flyers and Lightning

ALTHOUGH they did not finish the way the would have liked, the Southside Flyers and Adelaide Lightning are two teams that had impressive WNBL20 campaigns, making it to the playoffs. While both the Flyers and the Lightning had countless highlights during the regular season, the Lightning were handed a series sweep knocked out of the postseason early. For Southside, it was a picture-perfect season leading up to the Grand Final series, finishing with a season-best record (17-4) in their inaugural campaign under the Flyers moniker, whereas the Lightning would round out a solid top-four group, with a 12-9 record of their own. Southside knocked over Adelaide in the semis, which was then for the Flyers followed up by an untimely exit thanks to the UC Capitals in the penultimate series.

SOUTHSIDE FLYERS

The Southside Flyers organisation has made less announcements in comparison to the seven other sides regarding their WNBL21 team, but it is evident what their initial intentions have been over the last couple of months.

For Cheryl Chambers and her staff, their initial moves were to consolidate their marquee players, which kicked off in early June when they re-signed their captain and Opals selectee Jenna O’Hea. O’Hea underwent an agonisingly frustrating 2020 season after breaking her wrist on January 12 against the Melbourne Boomers. Thankfully for O’Hea, she made her return to the side just in time for their Grand Final series against the Capitals, despite the Flyers going down in two games. She will look forward to leading the side for at least another season.

Up next on the Flyers “to-get” list, was 28-year-old Rebecca Cole. Cole averaged an elite-level season and was instrumental in the Flyers’ starting five acting as an essential member in getting Southside to the postseason. Averaging 17.3 points per game, four assists and 3.6 rebounds, Cole wreaked havoc on opposition defences throughout 25 games last season and will look to do it again for the Flyers’ second season. The third of Southside’s five signings to this point is forward Sara Blicavs. Blicavs has become one of the most prominent two-way players in the WNBL to this day, and this was further compounded after a solid campaign last season. With the 27-year-old averaging 13.4 points, seven rebounds and 1.3 steals per contest, it does not surprise many that Southside would look to her services for another season.

Stepping into some big shoes after the injury of O’Hea in the later stages of last season, Aimie Clydesdale proved what she was worth to the side, culminating in an 18-point performance in Game 2 of their semi-final series with the Lightning. The Flyers have added her to their roster for next season and will look to give her extended minutes as her development continues.

However, Southside saved their big announcement for their fifth addition to the team. On August 18 they revealed that Australian basketball legend, Liz Cambage, was returning to the WNBL for the first time in three years. A major factor in this was the restrictions that the COVID-19 pandemic has placed on the league, as the Flyers are no longer able to reinstate rebounding machine Mercedes Russell as an import for next season. Cambage, who was a member of the Dandenong Rangers back in 2007, will have feelings of nostalgia as she returns to the suburb where it all began.

With more than half of the team yet to be announced, there could be an influx of young and developing talent to join the ranks for the upcoming season in November, as the senior members of the squad have committed to the Flyers for hopefully another championship push.

Contracted:

Nil

Re-signed:

Jenna O’Hea
Rebecca Cole
Sara Blicavs
Aimie Clydesdale

Signed:

Elizabeth Cambage

 

ADELAIDE LIGHTNING

To round out the Free Agency updates for last season’s finals participants, we look at the Adelaide Lightning, as they look to move past the semi-finals next season.

After losing star international Brianna Turner due to import restrictions, Adelaide made up for that in another WNBA prospect, one who is more familiar with the land down-under. Touted by the franchise as the biggest signing in the Lightning’s history since Suzy Batkovic a decade ago, the acquisition of Phoenix Mercury power forward Alanna Smith has many of Adelaide’s faithful shaking with excitement. Earning regular appearances in this season’s WNBA and completing a successful four-year career at Stanford University, not much gets away from Smith if history shows anything.

Head coach Chris Lucas now needed to form the rest of his squad around their new marquee signing, and he would not need to look too far to begin this. Jasmin Fejo, a member of the NBL1’s Adelaide Bearcats joined contracted players Chelsea Brook and Steph Talbot as a part of the Adelaide Lightning in late-June. Fejo garnered state-wide attention after a phenomenal 2019 season in the South Australia Premier League, particularly after a 40-point performance against the South Adelaide Panthers in that same season. After the strong stint, she was rewarded the Merv Harris medal for being the best player under the age of 21 and was named to the competition’s All-Star Five after averaging 15.6 points and shooting at a clip of 42.7 per cent.

The two most recent procurements for Adelaide was South Australian-born Boston College alum, Taylor Ortlepp, who signed a two-year deal with the club at the start of July, and 26-year-old Perth Lynx utility player Marena Whittle who averaged over 10.3 points, 4.8 rebounds per game, while shooting at a rate of 43.6 per cent behind the arc last season.

With the announcement of recently retired Nat Hurst to become the Lightning’s assistant coach and further additions to be revealed to the team in the near future for WNBL21, championship contenders will have no choice but to take Adelaide seriously, when they square off with the side.

Contracted:

Chelsea Brook
Steph Talbot

Re-signed:

Nil

Signed:

Alanna Smith
Jasmin Fejo
Taylor Ortlepp
Marena Whittle

WNBL Free Agency: Heal and Tupaea become first to switch teams

TALENTED teenager Shyla Heal became the first Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) player to switch allegiances for the 2021 WNBL season. Amongst a high number of re-signings for the University of Canberra Capitals – six players re-signed to the reigning premiers – Heal moved from Bendigo Spirit to the Sunshine State to take a chance with Townsville Fire.

Speaking to Heal last week, the 18-year-old has the intention of nominating for next year’s WNBA Draft, and she is determined to have a strong season with the Fire alongside another talented youngster in Zitina Aokuso. In a breaking announcement today, Sydney Uni Flames point guard Tahlia Tupaea has also headed inland and signed on with the Capitals. The talented 23-year-old who has had her fair share of bad luck through injuries since debuting at the age of 15 – the second youngest in WNBL history – will look to have a clean run in the nation’s capital.

The other big talking point was Alanna Smith returning to Australia from College to line-up with Adelaide Lightning next season. She was drafted in the first round – eighth overall pick – in last year’s WNBA Draft to go to the Phoenix Mercury after graduating through Stanford.

Given the likelihood of Brianna Turner‘s unavailability – due to the league not having imports – the power forward position is Smith’s for the taking. It allows her to team up with Lauren Nicholson and Steph Talbot in the City of Churches to try and bring Adelaide a title after being on the verge of being a contender the last couple of seasons.

The Spirit might have lost Heal over the Free Agency Period, but have re-signed Demi Skinner and Tessa Lavey, whilst Jenna O’Hea put pen to paper for another season with Southside Flyers. The Capitals re-signed six players in a spree early in the period, with Maddison Rocci, Abby Cubillo, Alex Delaney and Keely Froling joining Kelsey Griffin and Marianna Tolo in the capital to try and mount a title defence.

Three players have also announced their retirement from the league with Adelaide’s Nat Hurst, Bendigo’s Gabe Richards and Sydney Uni’s Sarah Graham calling it a day.

Draft Central’s 2019/20 WNBL Top 10 Players: #2 – Brianna Turner

ONE of the WNBL’s fresh new faces to arrive over from the United States (US), Brianna Turner landed Down Under keen to expand her basketball knowledge and continue her development  thanks to a recommendation from her head coach at the Phoenix Mercury.

“In the WNBA, Sandy Bondello is my coach and she coaches the Australian National Team, I’ve heard nothing but good things [about the WNBL] which really attracted me,” said Turner. “I want to raise my basketball IQ and learn the details of the game.”

After a brief 21-minute stint against the Sydney Uni Flames in Round 1, Turner would flip the switch and begin playing at an extraordinary level of efficiency and production. Turner’s first major mark she would make on the WNBL, came in Round 3, as the Lightning sized up to a formidable Perth Lynx squad.

Regrettably for the Lynx, they had no answer for the Mercury-listee, as she dominated the rebounding conversation, hustling her way to 17 rebounds and 26 points. These kinds of performances became the norm for the 23-year-old, as she would terrorise the glass with her tenacity and discipline.

Rivalling Mercedes Russell as one of the premier frontcourt players in the League, Turner’s 10 double-doubles throughout the regular season would put her at the top of the rankings in several categories following Round 16 of the campaign.

Turner’s stat line would read an impressive 16.8 points (fourth in scoring), 10.7 rebounds (second in rebounds) and 2.4 blocks (league leader) per game. An All-WNBA Rookie and a NCAA Champion with Notre Dame, Turner is no stranger to success on the court, so it would come as no surprise that the Texan would take home an All-WNBL First Team selection and receive the Lightning’s Best and Fairest Award, capping of what was a well-rounded season individually.

As a team, the Lightning looked to the minor premier Southside Flyers for their semi-final matchup, after solidifying fourth spot in the standings with a record of 12 wins and nine losses. After concluding her season averaging a double-double, the pressure of the postseason didn’t seem to unnerve Turner in the slightest, as she would fall one rebound short of another double-double, accumulating 11 points, nine rebounds and five blocks in Game One.

Game Two and the threat of elimination would spur her on to an even greater extent, this time with the Power Forward/Centre racking up 25 points, 18 rebounds and four blocks. But like so many others before them, the combination of Jenna O’Hea, Leilani Mitchell and Russell would prove too much, as the Lightning would bow out of the finals in a two-game sweep.

Being the third and final Lightning player on Draft Central’s Top 10 WNBL Players of the season, there was plenty to celebrate in South Australia in 2020. Perhaps if Turner makes a return to Chris Lucas’s squad next season, then maybe Adelaide can make it one step closer to the franchise’s first championship in more than a decade.

Draft Central’s 2019/20 WNBL Top 10 Players: #3 – Mercedes Russell

WHEN it comes to how Southside Flyers’ centre Mercedes Russell perceives herself, she tells of someone who is, “very low maintenance, laid-back and just go with the flow”. “Play me a good amount of minutes and I’m happy,” she added. Russell would receive what her appetite for basketball required, as she would average close to 31 minutes per game during the regular season, thus allowing her to become one of the most dominant frontcourt players in the Australian basketball scene and number three in this season’s edition of Draft Central’s Top 10 players.

The 24-year-old made her mark on history straight away, scoring the first ever points for the newly formed Flyers organisation and never looked back. Despite a rusty start to the season, scoring just 12 points and collecting four rebounds against the Townsville Fire in Round 1, Russell’s numbers would increase from then on. Russell’s 12 regular season double-doubles (six straight double-doubles amongst these) would place her in the upper echelon of productive bigs, as she would go neck-and-neck in the race with Brianna Turner of the Adelaide Lightning for a selection to the All-WNBL First Team.

Unfortunately for Russell, she would have to settle for an All-WNBL Second Team selection, however, finishing her season with 16.5 points per contest (fifth amongst league leaders) while averaging 9.8 rebounds (fourth amongst league leaders) is nothing short of spectacular for the WNBA champion. Another facet of Russell’s game that more often than not goes under the radar, was her ability to score efficiently around the rim, which remains a cornerstone of any center’s game. She would go on to convert 55.4 per cent of her baskets (fourth highest in the league).

After being awarded the WNBL’s Robyn Maher Award (Defensive Player of the Year) and helping her side to a competition-best 17 wins and four losses, Russell and the Flyers looked to their semi-final series against the Lightning and Turner, in what would be a battle of the bigs. With Game One not disappointing, Russell would bring her A-game, logging 20 points on 53 per cent shooting from the field and a season-high 19 rebounds in a full 40 minutes of play, as her side would steal the win by a narrow-three points and carry momentum over into Game Two.

Despite just 15 points and four rebounds in the following contest, the Flyers’ depth would prove too much for the Lightning, culminating in a series sweep and the franchise’s first Grand Final appearance in their inaugural season. Even though Russell would average a double-double (13.5 points and 11 rebounds) in the deciding series, the Flyers would go down to the UC Capitals in a 2-0 sweep, cutting short what would have a been a dream debut season for the Oregon-native.

Nevertheless, should Russell return to the Flyers next season, we should expect nothing short of great things in 2021, as Russell’s get-it-done mentality gives her an edge no matter where she plays. “I just try to be as available as I can be and do whatever my teammates need me to do in order for us to win because that’s the most important part.”

Draft Central’s Top 10 2019/20 WNBL memorable moments: #3 – Nicole Seekamp’s 20-assist game

WITH no basketball on for the foreseeable future due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we look at the brighter side of the sport that brought plenty of memories throughout the 2019/20 Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) season. Over the next couple of weeks we will countdown Draft Central‘s Top 10 memorable moments from the season. Some are individual events, others are season views, and even a couple are decisions that panned out for the better. Today we continue with number three, when Nicole Seekamp picked up a WNBL record of 20 assists.

#3 Nicole Seekamp’s 20-assist game

The Adelaide Lightning captain had one of the most memorable games on record when Adelaide hosted Southside Flyers early in the new year. The Lightning welcomed the top-of-the-table Flyers to Titanium Security Arena on January 5, with the mid-table logjam very much alive and the home team needing a win to provide some security on their finals aspirations. With import, Kathryn Westbeld providing some crucial support to the experienced Lauren Nicholson and Brianna Turner, and Stephanie Talbot in ripping form, Seekamp was leading a strong core five who were the underdogs for the season.

They showed just what they could do on their home court on that particular afternoon, coming from a point down at quarter time to tighten the screws and pile on 35 points to 22 in the second term and race away to a 12-point lead at the main break. Southside hit back to cut it to 11 at the final break, but both teams scored 18 in the final stanza for the Lightning to get up, 104-93. Three of her teammates scored more than 20 points, with Turner (25 and nine rebounds), Nicholson (24, five rebounds and four assists) and Westbeld (22 and five rebounds), but it was Seekamp who caught all the attention. She only put up the 10 points, but had a remarkable 20 assists – of her team’s total 37 – to guide the Lightning’s offence.

To put the performance in perspective, Turner only had six less assists than the entire Southside team, and along with Talbot (seven points, eight assists and seven rebounds), worked the ball forward with precision and skill. The win was a confidence booster for Seekamp and the Lightning, and whilst their season would ultimately end at the same venue against the same opponent later in the season, the captain’s effort on that afternoon would not be forgotten. Seekamp played all 22 games, averaging 11 points, eight assists, four rebounds and one steal per game in season 2019/20.

Top 10 WNBL 2019/20 moments countdown so far:

#10 – Ezi Magbegor wins second Rookie of the Year award
#9 – Bendigo Spirit breaks road drought
#8 – Mercedes Russell stars in debut season
#7 – Southside’s flying first season
#6 – Back-to-back overtime victories shape finals series
#5 – Southside Flyers’ road win against UC Capitals
#4 – Kia Nurse wins MVP after sensational season
#3 – Nicole Seekamp’s 20-assist game

Draft Central’s Top 10 2019/20 WNBL memorable moments: #4 – Kia Nurse wins MVP after sensational season

WITH no basketball on for the foreseeable future due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we look at the brighter side of the sport that brought plenty of memories throughout the 2019/20 Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) season. Over the next couple of weeks we will countdown Draft Central‘s Top 10 memorable moments from the season. Some are individual events, others are season views, and even a couple are decisions that panned out for the better. Today we continue with number four, which looks at Kia Nurse‘s remarkable second season for the back-to-back premiers, University of Canberra (UC) Capitals.

#4 Kia Nurse wins MVP after sensational season

In what was her second season returning to the UC Capitals after a strong first season teaming up with 2018/19 Most Valuable Player (MVP) Kelsey Griffin in Canberra, Nurse produced some of the best basketball there was to see from an offensive standpoint. Clearly the premier shooter in the competition, her luggage on the way back to Canada would have been significantly heavier than when she arrived. In 2019/20, Nurse picked up the Suzy Batkovic Medal (League MVP), UC Capitals’ Most Valuable Player (MVP), a place in the WNBL All-Star First Team, and of course her championship medal.

In winning the Suzy Batkovic Medal, Nurse became the first import in history to win the honour, polling six more votes than Adelaide Lightning’s Brianna Turner in the award. Playing in the WNBL during the WNBA off-season, the 23-year-old averaged 21.3 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.4 steals throughout the season. She shot from three-point range at a 33 per cent accuracy, but it was her final three-pointer of the season that counted. With 22 seconds left in Game Two of the Grand Final Series, Nurse drained a triple to win her side the 2019/20 title. While Olivia Epoupa was a deserving Finals MVP, Nurse was the reliable scorer throughout the season and a key player for the team.

In departing the club to head back to the WNBA, Nurse told the UC Capitals’ fans that she had loved the atmosphere in Canberra and the support she had received over the past two seasons.

“People tell me I play a very flashy game,” she said. “I was never flashy until I got here. I didn’t play with the swagger and confidence until I got here, and I just continued to grow and that made a difference when I went back to the WNBA last.”

Unfortunately for the Capitals, Nurse will not return to the side citing business opportunities in North America. She thanked the fans and looked forward to tracking how the team went in future years.

Top 10 WNBL 2019/20 moments countdown so far:

#10 – Ezi Magbegor wins second Rookie of the Year award
#9 – Bendigo Spirit breaks road drought
#8 – Mercedes Russell stars in debut season
#7 – Southside’s flying first season
#6 – Back-to-back overtime victories shape finals series
#5 – Southside Flyers’ road win against UC Capitals
#4 – Kia Nurse wins MVP after sensational season

2019/20 WNBL season review: Adelaide Lightning 

LED by veteran coach Chris Lucas, Adelaide Lightning fell agonisingly short of the big dance, going down by three points to the Southside Flyers in both semi-finals. The Lightning made their case well and truly known in season 2019/20 with some hard fought wins to set them up for a finals berth, but in the end they lacked that final piece of the puzzle to get them over the line.

Ladder: 4th
Win-loss: 12-9

The Lightning made noise early in the offseason, acquiring Stephanie Talbot, a quintessential weapon stripped off the Melbourne Boomers. To accompany Talbot, the Lightning added Crystal Langhorne to the roster who was arguably the most talked about signing felt around the entire league. Fresh off winning a championship in the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), the two-time WNBA all star matched the expectations in her first game. Scoring 20 points and grabbing 13 rebounds, while shooting 100 per cent from three-point range. Knee soreness plagued the rest of her season with doctors ruling her out after confirming she aggravated a pre-existing knee injury and would not return for the season forcing Adelaide to dig deep without her. 

Brianna Turner did her best to pick up the slack, leading the team with 16.8 points a game while averaging 10.7 rebounds, second to only Kelsey Griffin of the Capitals (excluding Langhorne). Behind Turner for the Lightning followed Lauren Nicholson with 14.2, Talbot with 13.8 and Nicole Seekamp with 11 points a game. Everyone lifted their load to make up ground Langhorne had left, and they surprisingly were doing just that, winning three of the first four games. A big reason for the teams immediate sense of harmony was because of Seekamp, who was at the top of her game, dishing eight assists a night; a league high. However she was also quite costly with ball in hand, leading the league in turnovers, with 4.2 a game.  Another reason for their post-Langhorne success was the crafty dynamism of Seekamp and Nicholson. One of the most famous pairs in the WNBL, captain Seekamp called their recognised connection “telepathy”, and this season was no different. The duo did a great job leading and pushing the team all the way to the playoffs, but unfortunately what they did on offence did not make up for the team’s shortcomings on defence. Lightning were ranked in the bottom three for steals, which unfortunately did not bode well for playoffs unable to generate enough turnover ball.  

The Lightning also signed Natalie Hurst and Laura Hodges, two 36-year-old veterans to act as role models for the younger players. Their influence was handy for young players like Sarah Elsworthy, Chelsea Brook and even Turner helping to set the tone and standard for the team. But even on the court their significance this season cannot be downplayed. Hurst and Hodges were spectacular late in games in more ways than people notice or at least give credit for. They were never raddled, they knew the right play, and they knew what to say to the younger players to get the best out of them. These are the things a team can only obtain from experienced players. Missing out on that championship banner by the margin they did was painful, but the way this team never stopped fighting after losing what was supposedly their best player in the opening round is commendable. This season should not be looked down upon by Lightning fans. 

WNBL Semi-final 2 review: Flyers snatch three point victory to move through to grand final

THE Southside Flyers are the first side through to the 2020 Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) Grand Final with the winner from the battle between Melbourne Boomers and UC Capitals set to meet them.

Adelaide Lightning (79) defeated Southside Flyers (82)

IN their inaugural season, the Southside Flyers have made it through to their first WNBL grand final downing hosts Adelaide by yet another mere three points. It was a thrilling game of basketball with both teams leaving nothing to chance. Southside got the early ascendancy piling on 25 points to 17 in the second quarter before the Lightning struck back in the third to reduce the deficit but despite their best efforts they fell agonisingly short once again.  The Lightning threw everything they had at them knowing full well it was do-or-die but the Flyers were simply too good outclassing their opponents credit to their even contributions across the board with five players making it into double digits.

Southside showed an extra layer of class with its accuracy from beyond the arc sitting at 48 per cent as opposed to the Lightning who only managed 35 per cent. Although Adelaide secured more rebounds mainly thanks to Brianna Turner (45-42), the Flyers’ work defensively to pick pocket their opponents was a key difference recording 10 steals to seven. Statistically speaking it is hard to separate the sides with accuracy sitting at a similar percentage for both sides but it was the Flyers ability to stand up under pressure that eventually got them over the line.

The Southside Flyers had a point to prove- that they could knock off their rivals away from home and they proved that in style. It was a complete performance from the travelling team with Rebecca Cole taking the reins and dominating the points scoring stats with 19 to her name along with 10 rebounds to record another double-double for the season. Leilani Mitchell also proved hard to stop knocking back 18 points of her own and drawing even with teammate Aimie Clydesdale who also managed 18 points. Mitchell fell just short of a double-double racking up nine assists highlighting her impressive vision and strong attacking sense. Despite being down on her usual output Mercedes Russell still made her presence felt with 15 points, four rebounds and three assists, while Sara Blicavs played a strong support role with her 12 points to get her side over the line and into the big dance.

Lightning’s Brianna Turner starred in the clash with the American import doing all she could to keep side within reach of the Flyers. Turner shone from the get go recording a game-high 25 points and mind-boggling 18 rebounds, 15 of which were defensive. But it did not stop there with Turner also managing four blocks showcasing her impressive ability to switch between attack and defence with ease. The forward led the way for the Lightning with Stephanie Talbot failing to have much of an impact on the scoreboard with nine points but racked up nine rebounds and eight assists. Nicole Seekamp also struggled to get going in her sides loss while Lauren Nicholson and Kathryn Westbeld showed their scoring prowess with 16 and 18 points respectively. But unfortunately, the Lightning could not find their mojo in either attack or defence notching up their second straight loss to the ladder leaders and their ultimate dismissal from finals.

2019/20 WNBL preview: Semi-finals – Flyers a win away from grand final as Lightning look to even series

GAME 2 of the semi-finals between Adelaide Lightning and Southside Flyers will help decide which team progresses through to the next stage of the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) finals.

Adelaide Lightning v. Southside Flyers

After a disappointing three-point loss, Adelaide Lightning play host to an in-form Flyers outfit that will be looking to inflict more pain on opposition this season. The Lightning will be hoping to draw on the home crowd advantage with the boisterous fans spurring them on at every point. The home side had their chances in their first clash but simply let it slip away when it counted while the Flyers on the other hand capitalised on every tiny error.

It was a relatively even match-up throughout Game 1 of the semi-final series with both sides posting similar numbers on the scoreboard and shooting at around the 36 per cent mark from the field highlighting just how evenly poised both sides were. The Lightning reaped in the rewards of their bench players outscoring their opponents 16 to seven showcasing just how dangerous they can be and the variety of options they have when going to basket. Another key difference proved to be the points in the paint (32-40) with the Flyers unable to convert in close but sinking them from down town sitting at 35.3 per cent while the Lightning lingered at 22. 2 per cent instead, doing most of their damage up close and personal.

The Flyers will have the belief that they can stand up to the pressure and whatever the Lightning throw at them having rode the wave only two days ago. Three players recorded double figures for Southside in their narrow win with Mercedes Russell leading the scoreboard assault with 20. Russell was unstoppable at both ends of the court racking up a huge 19 rebounds to accompany her 20 points to reel in yet another double-double and guide her side to a hard-fought victory an effort she will be hoping to replicate in her second semi-final. Teammate Rebecca Cole was just as handy posting up 13 points of her own and showcasing her rebounding knack with six and an impressive four steals. Leilani Mitchell was solid knocking back 15 points while Sara Blicavs had a relatively quiet game by her lofty standards an area she will want to rectify coming into this clash.

With the loss still fresh in their mind expect the Lightning to come out firing and most importantly with a point to prove. They have the talent and the depth to topple the highly touted Flyers having done it previously in the season and will be looking to knock them off their perch with the likes of Lauren Nicholson and Stephanie Talbot at the helm. Both have proven they can tear a game wide open with their strength and commitment. Import Brianna Turner fell just short of another double-double last game recording 11 points and nine rebounds but considering that was one of her quiet games could kick it up a whole other level in front of her home crowd. Throw in the likes of Chelsea Brooks and Kathryn Westbeld who had strong showings in their last encounter and the Lightning might just have what it takes to get the win.

If the Flyers are to get over the top of Lightning once again, they will have to shut down their bench players’ ability to come on and have an impact while continuing to attack the basket themselves. On the other hand, the Lightning must limit the Flyers second chances under the ring and deny any easy avenues to goal.