Tag: brittany smart

Capitals’ reign comes to an end, Boomers advance to prelim

THE three-peat dream for the Canberra Capitals abruptly ended last night as a result of the Melbourne Boomers diligent work on the defensive end, outlasting the reigning premiers 78-68 in Townsville. The win means Melbourne are just one win away from a WNBL Grand Final opportunity.

During the opening five minutes of the game, both sides remained level-headed as the first 20 points of the contest were shared evenly. But the first scoring run went the way of the Boomers, scoring 11 unanswered points to take control of the first period.

Ezi Magbegor’s 10 points in the first was the primary factor that led to Melbourne’s 32-20 lead over the Capitals, but Canberra did not plan on bowing out of their “three-peat bid” after just 10 minutes of play.

As soon as Paul Goriss’s trio of Maddison Rocci, Kelsey Griffin and Marianna Tolo started to click, the Capitals started to earn some success on the floor. Ultimately winning the quarter 15-9 in a more defence-oriented term. Canberra looked to make the elimination final one that would not be decided until the second half, trailing Melbourne by six at the half 35-41.

Magbegor, who went scoreless in the second, headed to half-time with 10 points and three rebounds, while providing much needed consistency inside as the Boomers shot 46 per cent in the first half compared to the Capitals 34 per cent. For the Capitals, Rocci was trying her hand as her team’s main producer with nine points at the half.

Unfortunately for Canberra all of their work from the second quarter was undone in the third, with Melbourne expanding their lead back to 11 points having 10 minutes yet to be played. However, if the Boomers were going to avoid their third-straight semi-final exit in three years, Guy Molloy’s side needed to be on their best form if they were to eliminate the two-time defending champions.

A couple of surprise standouts from each team in the third started to make their imprint on the game, with Boomers’ Izzy Wright holding 11 points and Brittany Smart having 10 of her own at the third intermission.

Even though Canberra limited Melbourne’s scoring early in the fourth, the Capitals were not urgent in their pursuit of points either due to inaccurate shooting and the inability to convert on second-chance opportunities. Drawing back to within eight points with just over two minutes remaining, Canberra tried their best to throw the kitchen sink at Melbourne, while the Boomers made the Capitals sweat for every bucket.

Converting on a fast-break layup following Tess Madgen’s missed bonus free-throws, Smart reduced the deficit to seven. However, two made free throws from Maddie Garrick put the result beyond all doubt in last night’s opener as Melbourne advanced to Friday’s preliminary final while Canberra’s reign in the WNBL came to an honourable end.

Knocking down 44 per cent of their attempts (30-67), the Boomers were able to convert on the majority of their shots while limiting the Capitals to just 68 points, a testament to their moniker of the “League’s Best Defence”. Despite their prominent depth evidenced by their 28 bench points, Canberra now goes home early for the first time in three seasons, with Melbourne emerging superior in various categories such as rebounds, assists and blocks.

Magbegor concluded her performance with a dominant 20-point and 11-rebound double-double effort, while Molloy’s backcourt duo of Garrick (15 points, five rebounds and four assists) and Madgen (13 points, nine rebounds and six assists) proved to be lethal after four quarters. Last and certainly not least, Cayla George dominated on the glass with seven points and 12 rebounds, whereas Wright also notched up 13 points after 40 minutes in her coming out performance of the season.

Although five Capitals players reached double-digit figures, it was not enough to get themselves over the line with Smart leading the way with 15 points off the bench. The WNBL’s sixth highest scorer in Rocci, earned 14 points, seven assists and four rebounds in the loss, while the team’s co-captains in Griffin (12 points and 11 rebounds) and Tolo (10 points and eight rebounds) both made sizeable contributions.

The Boomers will be focusing solely on recovery as they have less than 36 hours to regain their strength in what will be a much-anticipated prelim final on Friday night, bearing in mind the fact that Melbourne are still searching for their first title in more than a decade.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Boomers down ladder leaders, UC Capitals in close encounter

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

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

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

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

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

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

Perth honour captain with a 16 point win

WNBL (Getty images)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lightning hit back with statement win

Pic: WNBL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pic: WNBL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2020 WNBL Round 1 weekday preview: Mackay and Townsville hubs tip-off as all eight teams commence

IN 2020 the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) is a little different compared to usual, with the rounds stretching over more days with extra games. At Draft Central, we will preview the weekday games, followed by the weekend games separately to ensure the permutations in the second half of the round are as accurate as possible.

We tip-off Round 1 with all eight sides competing in the North Queensland hubs, starting in Mackay on Wednesday, and then heading to Townsville on Thursday in what should be a blockbuster opening round of action.

* Game times are local/AEDT

ADELAIDE LIGHTING vs. UC CAPITALS
Wednesday, November 11, 5/6pm (Mackay)

Opening the new season is 2019/20 finalists, Adelaide Lightning going up against reigning premiers, UC Capitals. The Capitals will be keen to retain their title in the 2020 shortened season despite losing a couple of key imports over the off-season. In the absence of volume shooter and league Most Valuable Player (MVP) Kia Nurse, and Grand Final Series MVP Olivia Epoupa, the Capitals will have a slightly different starting five heading into the season.

The quartet of Australians crucial to the success fo the Capitals all re-signed with co-captains Kelsey Griffin and Marianna Tolo, and rising stars Keely Froling and Maddison Rocci all rejoining the side. Sydney Uni Flames’ Tahlia Tupaea was tipped to be the fifth member of the starting side for coach Paul Gorriss. Along with Tupaea, the Capitals have also brought in former Lightning talents Hannah Kaser and Ashley Taia to add some spice to the mix, as well as up and coming youngster Jade Melbourne.

While the Capitals largely have a known list, the Lightning will be vastly different to the team that fronted up last season. Chelsea Brook, Steph Talbot are the only two expected starters who got on court last season, with Jasmin Fejo predicted to play a key role in 2020. With veteran Lauren Nicholson heading north to Townsville and captain Nicole Seekamp retiring, the Lightning have brought in key player Marena Whittle, and had added talented college graduate Alana Smith but unfortunately injury has ruled her out for the year. Others who have joined returning back to the country include Taylor Ortlepp, Ella Batish and Carlie Smith, as well as WNBL talents Alex Wilson (Sydney Uni Flames), Louella Tomlinson (Southside Flyers) and Abbey Wehrung (Bendigo Spirit).

The UC Capitals will head in as favourites for the clash coming in as reigning premiers and with more stability in their line-up, but the Lightning will be an exciting team to see how they gel.

PERTH LYNX vs. TOWNSVILLE FIRE
Wednesday, November 11, 7/8pm (Mackay)

Two sides that will be keen to build on their 2019/20 season will be Perth Lynx and Townsville Fire who missed out on the post-season finals. The Fire will be no stranger to the weather conditions in the far north, but find themselves the visiting team in this encounter with the Lynx. The Fire have made a number of changes to invigorate their lineup with both young stars and experienced heads joining the team. The Lynx will also look largely different after some off-season changes, including assistant coach Ryan Petrik stepping up to replace outgoing head coach Andy Stewart.

The biggest intrigue of the match will be the changing of colours of Nadeen Payne and Darcee Garbin who effectively were involved in a trade with the players switching allegiances. Payne went from Perth to Townsville, whilst Garbin joined the Lynx from the Fire. Young gun Shyla Heal was the huge signing of the off-season for the Fire, with up-and-comers Megan McKay, Lara McSpadden and Courtney Woods all strengthening the outfit. Steph Reid crossed from Southside Flyers for more court time and enjoyed a strong QSL season, whilst Lauren Nicholson’s arrival from the Lightning added that experience needed at the Fire around the young talent.

The Lynx did not waste any time by announcing veteran and former Lynx star Sami Whitcomb back for the season, but unfortunately she was mutually released for family reasons. The re-signing of Katie Ebzery was as important as any, whilst Garbin was a welcome inclusion. The omissions are going to hurt, with not only Payne going, but Lauren Mansfield and Alison Schwagmeyer heading to Sydney Uni, and Marena Whittle joining Adelaide Lightning. Perth also brought in some local players with Kayla Steindl, Ashleigh Isenbarger and Mackenzie Clinch-Hoycard all joining the fray, while Jessie Edwards signed on from the Lightning among a number of other re-signings.

It seems the two sides are at the opposite ends of the off-season success with Townsville bringing in a host of big guns, whilst Perth has lost a number of key players making it tough for the Lynx. With the home state advantage, expect the Fire to start off strongly here.

MELBOURNE BOOMERS vs. SYDNEY UNI FLAMES
Thursday, November 12, 6/7pm (Townsville)

Tipping off Thursday nights’s action in Townsville, two sides that will believe they can go deep in the finals series go head-to-head. The Melbourne Boomers have kept a relatively strong line-up together, whilst Sydney Uni Flames have bolstered their hopes of pushing into the finals series. Given the losses the Lightning have had, the Flames are a huge chance to force their way into the top four, and alongside Townsville are the other side likely to crack into the finals.

The Boomers announced signing Tess Madgen from Townsville and quickly tied up Madeleine Garrick, Cayla George and Ezi Magbegor within the first month of the re-signing period. Kalani Purcell, Antonia Farnworth, Penina Davidson, Stella Beck and Rachel Brewster all followed, with Eliza Wright, Hope Terdich and Rachel Antoniadou stepping up from NBL1 level. Possibly the most underrated signing of the period came in late October with the announcement that Tall Black, Ashleigh Karaitiana would join the side after a big QSL season and she will only strengthen that outfit. The three losses were Monique Conti to the Flyers, Paige Price to Bendigo and Chelsea D’Angelo out with an Achilles injury, but the Boomers are still a formidable unit.

The Flames will be an incredibly different outfit in 2020, possibly four of the starting five coming from other sides. June 24 marked a big day for the Flames, announcing he recruitment of Anneli Maley from Southside Flyers, and even bigger the coup of Lauren Mansfield from Perth Lynx. Alison Schwagmeyer followed Mansfield to the Flames, while Kiera Rowe joined Maley in crossing from Southside. The inclusions replaced the likes of Tahlia Tupaea, Brittany Smart and Lara McSpadden who all departed, whilst Turkish-Australian national Funda Nakkasoglu was allowed to sign having dual citizenship being born in Melbourne. Natalie Burton also returned to her home country and will slot straight into the four spot with Lauren Scherf the other key starter for the Flames. Carly Boag (Finland) also returned home to Australia from Europe and will add to the strength of the side.

Melbourne Boomers have the known form and will be favourites in this game, but the Flames have a lot of unknown about them. That can work in their favour once they gel, and could be a dangerous team this season.

BENDIGO SPIRIT vs. SOUTHSIDE FLYERS
Thursday, November 12, 8/9pm (Townsville)

The final game of the first half of the round might be the most anticipated. Not necessarily due to the result, but more so to see the much anticipated starting five of the Southside Flyers. Last year’s runners-up have got enough Opals to open a jewellery shop, and they are favourites for the overall title. Some have suggested it could be the greatest line-up ever assembled, which could well be true which only adds to the pressure and intrigue. Bendigo Spirit will have the toughest assignment up first, with a much more inexperienced lineup compared to the Flyers.

The Spirit lost American Rebecca Tobin who chose to head to Romania, as well as Abbey Wehrung (Adelaide) and Shyla Heal (Townsville) who will all be big losses. They have signed up college returnee Georgia Pineau who should help provide some extra young talent to the team, as well as Amelia Todhunter and Piper Dunlop out of the NBL1 competition. Dunlop is a rising star and one to watch, whilst Mary Goulding has returned from Sweden, and Jennie Rintala crossed over from the Lightning. Paige Price adds some great young talent to the Spirit taking over from Heal, while the re-signings of Alicia Froling, Cassidy McLean and Tessa Lavey were crucial, with the latter also testing herself at AFL Women’s, but will be present in the hub.

Southside Flyers on the other hand went from strength to strength over the off-season. Losing crucial import Mercedes Russell to Turkey due to the no-imports rule, they set about re-signing everybody else. Jenna O’Hea, Rebecca Cole, Sara Blicavs, Aimie Clydesdale and Rebecca Pizzey all signed on in between a host of incredible signings. Steph Blicavs crossed from Adelaide, Rachel Jarry stepped up from NBL1, and Monique Conti came over from cross-town rivals the Boomers. But by far the biggest both physically and metaphorically was Liz Campage with the WNBA champion the biggest signing of the off-season and turning the Flyers into the standout team. The Flyers did lose a few, with Steph Reid going to Townsville, Louella Tomlinson heading to Adelaide and Kiera Rowe going to Sydney Uni, but the inclusions far outweigh the omissions.

It is hard to look past Southside in any game this season just about, and when they are coming up against an inexperienced Bendigo lineup, the Flyers are comfortably the favourites in this one.

Picture: WNBL

2020 WNBL season preview – Part 2: Finalists to line up for another crack at title

IN the second part of our two-part Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) season preview, we look at the four finalists from last year and where they stand. Expect them all to be there at the pointy end, getting stronger over the journey and making it a highly competitive season in 2020.

Southside Flyers

Without a doubt the premiership favourites and team to beat in the WNBL 2020 season. The Southside flyers have not only been able to retain key players, but added some elite talents with a starting five that could well be an international line-up. Over the off-season, they lost Mercedes Russell under the import rule, and then the experienced Louella Tomlinson to Adelaide Lightning. Steph Reid headed to Townsville Fire and both Anneli Maley and Kiera Rowe headed to Sydney Uni Flames.

Whilst those players provided great depth to the club, the Flyers brought in the biggest off-season coup of the lot, signing WNBA talent Liz Cambage to the roster. With Cambage an upgrade on an already elite Russell at the five, then adding in Stephanie Blicavs to join her sister at the club, as well as young gun Monique Conti, the Flyers were literally flying through the off-season. Aside from the inclusions, the Flyers re-signed almost their entire list, with Jenna O’Hea, Sara Blicavs, Rebecca Cole, Aimie Clydesdale and Leilani Mitchell among the key signings.

WHY THEY CAN WIN IT:

On paper there is littler doubt this team could win it, littered with a ridiculous amount of Opals. Their talent is unmatched and they deserve favouritism.

WHY THEY CAN’T WIN IT:

The only reason they might not is due to gelling reasons with such star power across the court. It is hard to imagine them struggling, and they will get to the finals alone on talent, but they will have a lot of top stars fighting for minutes which will be the envy of the competition.

CHANGES:

INS: Liz Cambage (International), Stephanie Blicavs (Adelaide), Monique Conti (Melbourne), Rachel Jarry (NBL1)
OUTS: Anneli Maley, Kiera Rowe (Sydney Uni), Steph Reid (Townsville), Louella Tomlinson (Adelaide), Mercedes Russell (International)
RE-SIGNINGS: Jenna O’Hea, Rebecca Cole, Sara Blicavs, Aimie Clydesdale, Leilani Mitchell, Rebecca Pizzey, Taylah Gilliam, Saraid Taylor, Amy O’Neill

POTENTIAL STARTING FIVE:

Bec Cole
Leilani Mitchell
Jenna O’Hea
Sara Blicavs
Liz Cambage

>> Southside Flyers team preview

PREDICTION: 1st-2nd

The Southside Flyers are the team to beat in season 2020, with talent across the entire court. Not only is their starting five ridiculously strong, but even their bench is clearly a class above any others. They are the standout team and it would take a brave person to back against them this season.

UC Capitals

The reigning back-to-back premiers were quick on the trigger to announce a host of re-signings at the start of the off-season to secure their line-up for a crack a at a three-peat. Whilst it was announced early that they would be without their Most Valuable Player (MVP) Kia Nurse, and Grand Final MVP Olivia Epoupa, they were able to secure everyone else. Only young gun Gemma Potter departed the club for College in the United States, whilst the big guns such as co-captains Marianna Tolo and Kelsey Griffin, Keely Froling and Maddison Rocci all re-signed.

In terms of their inclusions, the Capitals added some extra strength to the line-up with Tahlia Tupaea and Brittany Smart both making the move from Sydney Uni Flames. Hannah Kaser was the other WNBL player to switch allegiances, coming from Adelaide Lightning, while Jade Melbourne took the step up from the AIS and Ashley Taia earned a contract following her QSL season. Abby Cubilo, Alex Delaney and Mikaela Ruef were the other players to re-sign with the reigning premiers.

WHY THEY CAN WIN IT:

They have continuity in their team, they will have a fully fit Griffin and the team knows what it takes to win the title. They have done it twice back-to-back and the team is largely the same minus their couple of imports. If their young guns can step up, they are every chance.

WHY THEY CAN’T WIN IT:

Southside Flyers have brought in some imposing players, while Melbourne Boomers have not got any worse. It will be interesting to see if the Capitals can cover the loss of Nurse and Epoupa this season which will go a long way to determining their fortunes in 2020.

CHANGES:

INS: Tahlia Tupaea, Brittany Smart (Sydney Uni), Hannah Kaser (Adelaide), Jade Melbourne (NBL1), Ashley Taia (QSL)
OUTS: Kia Nurse, Olivia Epoupa, Gemma Potter (International)
RE-SIGNINGS: Marianna Tolo, Kelsey Griffin, Keely Froling, Maddison Rocci, Abby Cubilo, Alex Delaney, Mikaela Ruef

POTENTIAL STARTING FIVE:

Tahlia Tupaea
Maddison Rocci
Keely Froling
Kelsey Griffin
Marianna Tolo

>> UC Capitals team preview

PREDICTION: 1st-3rd

The UC Capitals are too good not to be there at the pointy end. They are a superb team, and whilst the Flyers will be hard to beat with all their firepower, expect the Capitals to give it a red hot crack and go for a three-peat. If they can play at the level they are capable of, they are the best chance of winning another flag.

Melbourne Boomers

The Melbourne Boomers have gone close the last couple of years, but have not been able to come away with any silverware. Remaining one of the most solid units over the off-season, the Boomers only lost a trio of young guns, whilst picking up a top talent from Townsville. Paige Price (Bendigo), Monique Conti (Southside) and Chelsea D’Angelo (Achilles, released) were the three main departures from the club, with the Boomers always relying on Australian talent, so the import rule did not impact them as much as other sides.

Madeleine Garrick, Cayla George, Ezi Magbegor and Kalani Purcell form a dominant four, and throw in the Fire’s Tess Madgen who has made the move to the Boomers, and Guy Molloy will head in with another title-contending unit. Antonia Farnworth, Penina Davidson, Stella Beck and Rachel Brewster re-signed as well as a number of state-league talents, including Tall Black shooter Ashleigh Karaitiana who could prove important coming off the bench.

WHY THEY CAN WIN IT:

The Boomers are a settled unit with very few changes to the side that has challenged the last couple of years. The addition of Madgen is a positive one, and it is hard to see them not at least giving it a crack, even if they do fall short again.

WHY THEY CAN’T WIN IT:

Southside and UC Capitals still have the firepower, though the Boomers might be on par with the Capitals given their losses over the off-season. The Flyers will be hard to beat on paper, but the continuity of the Boomers over a short season might help.

CHANGES:

INS: Tess Madgen (Townsville), Eliza Wright, Hope Terdich, Rachel Antoniadou (NBL1), Ashleigh Karaitiana (QSL)
OUTS: Paige Price (Bendigo), Monique Conti (Southside), Chelsea D’Angelo (Achilles)
RE-SIGNINGS: Madeleine Garrick, Cayla George, Ezi Magbegor, Kalani Purcell, Antonia Farnworth, Penina Davidson, Stella Beck, Rachel Brewster

POTENTIAL STARTING FIVE:

Maddie Garrick
Tess Madgen
Ezi Magbegor
Kalani Purcell
Cayla George

>> Melbourne Boomers preview

PREDICTION: 1st-4th

The Melbourne Boomers are a tough team to beat, and it will take the best of the Flyers and Capitals to get it done. They are certainly among the top sides in the competition, and whilst the Flyers are deserving favourites, the Boomers have enough talent to step up in big games.

Adelaide Lightning

Even though the Lightning might be lower down on this list, there is genuine hope they can repeat their last two season and make finals. The loss of veteran, Lauren Nicholson would have hurt the Lightning, with Steph Blicavs the other massive out for the Lightning. Both players headed off to the east coast to play with Townsville and Southside, though the one benefit is that Blicavs missed last season due to her pregnancy, so effectively Nicholson is the only starting five net out. The other two that were due to come in but have since had to be released were state league talent Jasmin Fejo (pregnancy) and college graduate Alanna Smith (ankle) who would have provided some excitement. Natalie Hurst (retired), Jessie Edwards (Perth), Jessie Rintala (Bendigo) and Hannah Kaser (UC Capitals) were the others to depart.

The Lightning have brought in some vital experience though, with Sydney Uni’s Alex Wilson expected to slot into the guard spot alongside Perth’s Marena Whittle making that a pretty handy, and most importantly steady duo. Steph Talbot and Chelsea Brook provide some strength and consistency through the forwards, and whilst Brook might start as the five, bringing in another veteran in Louella Tomlinson from Southside means Brook might slide to the four. Abby Wehrung is a pretty handy sixth player, with some impressive state leaguers in Carlie Smith and Ella Batish also joining, and a quartet of international young talents in Taylor Ortlepp, Morgan Yaeger, Brooke Basham and Aimee Brett returning to Australia.

WHY THEY CAN WIN IT:

Despite losing Nicholson and Blicavs, the damage to the team from last season that was effectively done was just Nicholson out, and a mix of youth and experience in. They have enough versatility to get the job done and bringing in veterans helps steady the team and allow them to gel quicker. This season should be more competitive and could allow for some upset wins.

WHY THEY CAN’T WIN IT:

In a short season it still will take a little time to gel and adding extra talent to the starting five is great, but it will be interesting to see how they fare against the top three teams. They need a lot to go right to knock them off.

CHANGES:

IN: Marena Whittle (Perth), Taylor Ortlepp, Morgan Yaeger, Brooke Basham, Aimee Brett (International), Louella Tomlinson (Southside), Carlie Smith (QSL), Alex Wilson (Sydney Uni), Abby Wehrung (Bendigo), Ella Batish (NBL1)
OUT:  Lauren Nicholson (Townsville), Jessie Edwards (Perth), Jessie Rintala (Bendigo), Steph Blicavs (Southside), Hannah Kaser (UC Capitals), Natalie Hurst (retired)
RE-SIGNED: Steph Talbot, Chelsea Brook

POTENTIAL STARTING FIVE:

Alex Wilson
Marena Whittle
Steph Talbot
Chelsea Brook
Louella Tomlinson

>> Adelaide Lightning team preview

PREDICTION: 4th-6th

Overall the Lightning are not to be underestimated. There is every chance they force their way into the four. In a short season with a quick turnaround between games, it will be interesting to see how they first gel, and secondly deal with the body management given some of their older talents. Still an outside contender.

2020 WNBL season preview – Part 1: Bottom four sides looking to force their way into finals.

IN the first of our two-part Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) season preview, we take a look at the four teams that missed out on finals last season and where they might land. Both the Townsville Fire and Sydney Uni Flames have made some exciting changes to their line-ups, whilst Bendigo Spirit has remained relatively stable, and Perth Lynx lost a lot of starters making it a challenging year. Here is how they are shaping up for the 2020 season and where we think they might finish.

Townsville Fire

After a season to forget in 2019/20, Townsville Fire will be gearing up to rise off the canvas and up the WNBL ladder. They added some much needed experience to their starting five line-up and it would not be completely irrational to think that last year’s wooden spooners could make the finals. In fairness, the Fire have lost some quality players who were either starters, or getting considerable minutes, with Abby Bishop released mid-season last year, and Bridget Carleton and Julie Vanloo forced out due to the WNBL’s import rule. Darcee Garbin headed to Perth and Tess Madgen moved to Melbourne, but the ins have been just as impressive.

The Fire have brought in experienced guard Lauren Nicholson who could make a deadly combination of experience and youth in the back court with young gun, Shyla Heal. The duo join Perth’s Nadeen Payne as exciting additions to the starting line-up, whilst tall Zitina Aokuso is effectively a new inclusion to the line-up after missing all of last year. Throw in Mia Murray who returns after a two-year stint off and the entire Townsville Fire starting five is brand new. That means they could completely shock everyone, or struggle to gel, but either way it makes it an exciting time. Others who have joined include Southside Flyers Steph Reid and Lara McSpadden from Sydney Uni, whilst Aliza Fabbro and Kate Gaze re-signed with the Fire. Megan McKay, Courtney Woods and Kelsey McDermott have all returned from overseas, whilst Sharna Thompson showed enough in Tasmania’s SBL to be given a shot on a list.

WHY THEY CAN WIN IT:

They have a great blend of youth and experience, and there is enough talent to suggest they could go all the way. Going from wooden spooners to premiers is near-impossible, and they might not have the experience that some do, but the likes of Nicholson, Murray and Payne will be important.

WHY THEY CAN’T WIN IT:

Five starters, five fresh faces. That will be difficult to gel and they get a baptism of fire up first against title favourites Southside Flyers. In a shortened season a lot of the young legs could prove the difference in between making finals and not.

CHANGES:

IN: Shyla Heal (Bendigo), Lauren Nicholson (Adelaide), Nadeen Payne (Perth), Megan McKay, Courtney Woods, Kelsey McDermott (International), Steph Reid (Southside Flyers), Lara McSpadden (Sydney Uni), Sharna Thompson (TAS SBL)
OUT: Tess Madgen (Melbourne), Darcee Garbin (Perth), Bridget Carleton, Julie Vanloo, Abby Bishop (International)
RE-SIGNED: Mia Murray (returns after two seasons), Zitina Aokuso, Aliza Fabbro, Kate Gaze

POTENTIAL STARTING FIVE:

Lauren Nicholson
Shyla Heal
Mia Murray
Nadeen Payne
Zitina Aokuso

>> Townsville Fire team preview

PREDICTION: 4th-6th

It is every expectation the Fire avoid the bottom two, and they will be in the mid-table logjam with the Lightning and Flames to try and secure a finals spot. Regardless of where they finish, the Fire could well be the most exciting team in the league with plenty of upside to go with consistency and do not be shocked if they surprise a lot of teams with their run.

Sydney Uni Flames

The Sydney Uni Flames finished sixth last season, but were still five wins outside the top four. Expect that gap to close in 2020, but it will just be how much it can close as to whether or not the Flames can make finals. Sydney Uni still appears to have more about them than the bottom two predicted teams with Bendigo and Perth having either not gained much or lost too much respectively, whilst the Flames have added some talented players to the roster. In terms of their outs, Alice Kunek, Tahlia Tupaea and Jessica Kuster have departed, as have Brittany Smart and Lara McSpadden. With a mix of starters and depth gone, the Flames needed to go on a recruiting spree.

They opted to bring in some familiar pairings with Lauren Mansfield and Alison Schwagmeyer from Perth Lynx which was a big coup for the club. Then they recruited Southside Flyers’ duo Anneli Maley and Kiera Rowe with the pair hopeful of seeing more court time this season. A big inclusion was veteran Opal, Natalie Burton who could play at the four or the five working in tandem with the ever-crucial Lauren Scherf. Twins Carly Boag and Christina Boag, and Funda Nakkasoglu also returned from overseas, while Shanae Greaves and Madeleine O’Hehir both re-signed as well. Sherrie Calleia returns coming off an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury to rejoin the team.

WHY THEY CAN WIN IT:

There are enough pieces in the team to form a competitive unit, and they have enough of a mix of bigs and smalls to challenge. The back court duo of Mansfield and Schwagmeyer will already have the connections, as will Maley and Rowe, so there will be less time needed to gel on the court.

WHY THEY CAN’T WIN IT:

The top three teams still seem that touch above, and whilst the net improvement is there, it will still need a lot to go right to cause and upset and claim the title. They are in the hunt, but more of an outsider at this stage.

CHANGES:

IN: Anneli Maley, Kiera Rowe (Southside), Lauren Mansfield, Alison Schwagmeyer (Perth), Funda Nakkasoglu, Natalie Burton, Carly Boag, Christina Boag (International)
OUT: Jessica Kuster (retired), Tahlia Tupaea, Brittany Smat (UC Capitals), Lara McSpadden (Townsville), Alex Wilson (Adelaide), Alex Kunek (International)
RE-SIGNED: Lauren Scherf (contracted), Shanae Greaves, Madeleine O’Hehir, Sherrie Calleia

POTENTIAL STARTING FIVE:

Lauren Mansfield
Alison Schwagmeyer
Anneli Maley
Natalie Burton
Lauren Scherf

>> Sydney Uni Flames team preview

PREDICTION: 4th-7th

The Sydney Uni Flames are one of six teams that could genuinely win it, and they have got a nice balance of talent across the court. It will be tough to upstage the likes of Southside Flyers, but the Flames have been known to cause upsets and could push here.

Bendigo Spirit

Bendigo Spirit has lost a number of crucial players over the off-season with veteran Gabrielle Richards retiring, Rebecca Tobin forced out due to the import rule, Abbey Wehrung heading to Adelaide and young gun Shyla Heal moving to Townsville. Those four outs will sting, but fears for Bendigo’s season may not be that bad considering their re-signings and some handy inclusions.

Centring her team around Carley Ernst, Tracy York brought in Paige Price from Melbourne and Piper Dunlop from the NBL1 to provide the potential lost by Heal’s departure. Add in New Zealand-born forward Mary Goulding and college graduate Georgia Pineau as well as Adelaide Lightning’s Jennie Rintala, and the side has some depth. Cassidy McLean has had an extra 12 months to recover from an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury, while Demi Skinner, Tessa Lavey and Alicia Froling will all be crucial cogs in the team, with Shelby Britten also an important re-signing.

WHY THEY CAN WIN IT:

Bendigo does have stability despite the outs, and have brought in some up-and-coming talents who have potential. If the seasoned stars can produce, and the inclusions lift, anything is possible.

WHY THEY CAN’T WIN IT:

Just seem that rung below the top few teams on overall talent, though could use the season to also provide vital court time to the young ones coming through. Given they could not crack into finals last season and have lost more than they have gained in terms of known quantity, it will be a challenge.

CHANGES:

IN: Paige Price (Melbourne), Piper Dunlop, Amelia Todhunter (NBL1), Mary Goulding, Georgia Pineau (International), Jennie Rintala (Adelaide)
OUT: Shyla Heal (Townsville), Abbey Wehrung (Adelaide), Rebecca Tobin (International), Gabrielle Richards (retired)
RE-SIGNED: Carley Ernst (contracted), Demi Skinner, Tessa Lavey, Cassidy McLean, Shelby Britten, Alicia Froling

POTENTIAL STARTING FIVE:

Amelia Todhunter
Tessa Lavey
Demi Skinner
Alicia Froling
Carley Ernst

>> Bendigo Spirit team preview

PREDICTION: 7th-8th

The Spirit have finished bottom three the past three seasons and it looks likely to continue, though the goal would be to be competitive in every match. York is always looking to bring through the Bendigo youth which will set the Braves up for another successful dynasty like years gone past.

Perth Lynx

The Lynx have had the most challenging off-season with five of their top six players choosing to explore their options in free agency, with four heading to the east coast and WNBA talent Ariel Atkins ruled out due to the import restrictions. It left incoming coach Ryan Petrik a little hamstrung when it came to options, but he has brought in Darcee Garbin from Townsville with some WNBL experience, as well as a host of international young guns returning home.

Unfortunately due to personal reasons and mental health respectively, Sami Whitcomb and Maddison Allen both had to withdraw from the North Queensland hubs which meant the Lynx grabbed some additional players from the WA State Basketball League. The Lynx also signed Emma Clarke late who could well slot right into the starting five, alongside Garbin, captain and Opal Katie Ebzery, and international duo, Alex Ciabattoni and Alexandra Sharp. Though in that scenario the Lynx lack a little height, so Adelaide’s Jessie Williams could provide that as a natural center. They do have the flexibility with local talents in Mackenzie Clinch-Hoycard and Ashleigh Isenbarger able to play the four or the five to allow Garbin to remain at the four.

WHY THEY CAN WIN IT:

It would be a backs-against-the-wall effort under new coach and experienced assistant coach Petrik. They have unpredictability on their side and with a lot of college talent, opposition teams will have to adjust to some likely fast-paced an exciting basketball.

WHY THEY CAN’T WIN IT:

There are too many outs with great experience and the ins, whilst having the potential to reach some impressive levels, there are just too many unknowns at this stage. With some bad luck over the off-season it will be tough for them to challenge the top teams, but expect them to get better as the season rolls on.

CHANGES:

IN: Darcee Garbin (Townsville), Alex Ciabattoni, Alexandra Sharp, Emma Clarke (International), Jessie Edwards (Adelaide), Ashleigh Isenbarger, Kayla Steindl, Mackenzie Clinch-Hoycard (SBL)
OUT: Nadeen Payne (Townsville), Lauren Mansfield, Alison Schwagmeyer (Sydney Uni), Marena Whittle (Adelaide), Ariel Atkins (Import/Turkey)
RE-SIGNED: Katie Ebzery, Nes’eya Parker-Williams, Taylah Burrows, Jewell Williams

POTENTIAL STARTING FIVE:

Katie Ebzery
Alexandra Sharp
Alex Ciabattoni
Darcee Garbin
Jessie Edwards

>> Perth Lynx team preview

PREDICTION: 6th-8th

It is always tough to put any team last but some side had to land there, and after heartbreakingly missing out on finals last season following their impressive season before, it looks like the Perth Lynx were in for a tough year. Whilst they have brought in some great young talent both local and abroad returning home, the outs hurt plain and simple.

WNBL20 Team Preview – University of Canberra Capitals

A NUMBER of teams throughout the WNBL have made major signings to upgrade their squads, but the two-time defending champion University of Canberra Capitals have done the opposite, with the exception of replacing imports and filling up the secondary unit.

There is a reason that Capitals’ head coach Paul Goriss has kept most of his core unit the same – that is because Canberra remain the “big kids on the playground”. Despite teams like Melbourne Boomers, Southside Flyers and Townsville Fire looking like heavy favourites for next season, a level of respect needs to be owed to the nine-time WNBL champions and that is what Draft Central will look at in this edition of WNBL20 team previews.

Canberra’s backbone of their roster, Kelsey Griffin and Marianna Tolo have long been known as the most knowledgeable and most skilled frontcourt-duo in recent WNBL history. Signifying the durability and consistency of both, the combo is set to be a reliable contributor on the boards for yet another campaign. Griffin, who missed out on a chunk of last season due to injury, still managed 15 points, 10.8 rebounds and over two assists per game in her litany of solid performances. Meanwhile, more of the same came from Tolo, accounting for 14.6 points, 7.6 rebounds and two assists of her team’s stats each game during the same stretch of time.

The depth of his frontcourt was a major focus point for Goriss leading up to the next six weeks, and it took a major dive when citizenship status complications arose for Mikaela Ruef prior to the start of last season. But these issues have since been resolved, as Ruef is ready to ball after an impressive campaign in the Queensland State League (QSL), averaging 22.9 points and 18.8 rebounds with the Logan Thunder. Backing her up is Keely Froling, who was a crucial piece to the Caps’ rotation following Griffin’s injury last season. Putting up averages of 12.2 points and 6.9 rebounds per game, she rounds out an impressive collection of forwards for Canberra.

Another individual that showed up to the QSL season was Maddison Rocci, with the newly nominated Australian Opal leading the competition in scoring with USC Rip City, averaging 32.5 points per game. In addition to these numbers, the 22-year-old continues to increase her production in the WNBL, thus making her a must-see guard that is rising through the ranks with a noticeable confidence in her game. Consolidating Goriss’ main weapons is the newly signed Flames guard, Tahlia Tupaea, who embodies a unique presence whenever she steps on the floor. Unquestionably one of the strongest guards across all eight sides, Goriss noted in his interview with Draft Central how much he dreaded facing Tupaea over the course of last season.

Adding to the team’s familiarity are two re-signings that occurred during Canberra’s Free Agency signing blitz, in Alex Delaney and Abby Cubillo, who provided the side valuable aid off the bench in gaining their latest WNBL title. Furthermore, the Capitals employed the services of Hannah Kaser, who replaces Gemma Potter due to NCAA obligations, and 35-year-old veteran Brittany Smart from Sydney, who adds a cluster of experience to the original 10-player unit.

The Capitals-faithful learned on Tuesday what their full roster would look like following the club’s announcement of their two Development Players, Ashley Taia and Jade Melbourne. Taia averaged 11.5 points per game alongside Ruef for the Logan Thunder, whereas Melbourne sits as a promising young prospect, currently a scholarship holder at Basketball Australia’s Centre of Excellence.

Season Opener for the University of Canberra Capitals – Wednesday November 11th – 6:00pm (AEDT) vs Adelaide Lightning @ McDonald’s Mackay Multi-Sports Stadium, Mackay

WNBL Free Agency Update: Boomers and Capitals

WITH Australian basketball set to hopefully commence in the coming months, Draft Central revisits the Women’s National Basketball League’s (WNBL) Free Agency movements. We begin with two of last season’s top offences. Firstly, the third placed Melbourne Boomers who exited in last season’s semi-finals, then followed by two-time defending champion University of Canberra Capitals.

MELBOURNE BOOMERS

After their semi-final exit in WNBL20, it was evident that Guy Molloy’s squad was on the right track to challenge for the WNBL title. But with the Boomers’ championship drought coming up on its tenth season and the pandemic preventing last season’s imports from returning, Melbourne’s extra signings hope they can take next season’s team to the penultimate step.

The champions of 2010-11, made their immediate offseason intentions known early, quickly re-establishing their core group before teams could react. The first of which were their leaders and captains in Cayla George and Maddie Garrick, indicating that the purple and gold are once again looking at making a serious title run. This coupled with the re-acquisition of one of Australia’s best young talents in Ezi Magbegor, who is currently battling her way through her rookie WNBA season with the Seattle Storm, the Boomers have themselves a talented central unit.

Further adding to their experience, the return of Tess Madgen to the Boomers after more than four seasons up north with the Townsville Fire, will provide an elite-level mentoring group for the abundance of young talent that sits within Melbourne’s current roster.

The majority of the Boomers’ actions during this year’s signing period have been re-signings. Other familiar faces to return include Tall Ferns captain, Kalani Purcell, as well as fellow New Zealand internationals Toni Farnworth, Penina Davidson and Stella Beck. The last of Molloy’s re-signees is Development Player and Nunawading Spectre sharpshooter, Rachel Brewster, as she continues to improve at an astronomical rate.

New to the State Basketball Centre are fresh signings in Izzy Wright and Hope Terdich. Wright, who has in the past contributed to the Perth Lynx and Logan Thunder, took a couple of years away from the WNBL to focus on stability outside of the sport, and is now ready to compete in the league once more. The final piece of the 12-player puzzle, is 34-year-old Terdich, who most recently played a major role in the Diamond Valley Eagles’ NBL1 squad, is no stranger to success. After winning the WNBL Championship with the 2011/12 Dandenong Rangers, she looks to aid this objective once more with their cross-town rivals.

Contracted:

Chelsea D’Angelo (Will not play in WNBL21 due to ruptured Achilles tendon)

Re-signed:

Maddie Garrick
Cayla George
Ezi Magbegor
Kalani Purcell
Toni Farnworth
Penina Davidson
Stella Beck
Rachel Brewster

Signed:

Tess Madgen
Izzy Wright
Hope Terdich

 

UC CAPITALS

Referring back to the old adage, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, Paul Gorris has done little to alter his title-winning formula, with only two signings from other clubs due to next season’s import preventions, particularly the absentees in Kia Nurse and Olivia Epoupa.

The bulk signings of six title-winning players indicated what was to ensue, as captains and leaders Marianna Tolo, Kelsey Griffin and Keely Froling will lead their side for another season. Following up with newly selected Australian Opal, Maddison Rocci, opposing teams will have their hands full outside the perimeter when she is on the floor. This was evident in numerous impressive outings in the Queensland Basketball League in the last month. Rounding out the six early signings were Abby Cubillo and Alex Delaney. Cubillo, who earned Canberra’s Rising Capital Award last season in her first year since being elevated from a Development Player position, will re-join her cohort, whereas Delaney makes her return to the team that she too helped win their last two chips.

After obtaining their early selections, Gorris’ staff did not need to look far for their two new additions, as the Capitals poached 23-year-old point guard Tahlia Tupaea (to replace Epoupa) and 34-year-old veteran Brittany Smart (to replace Nurse) from cross-town rivals, the Sydney Uni Flames.

Smart, who has a cache of professional experience, hopes to bestow some of that on her younger soon-to-be peers, after successful stints in Belgium and Sweden before joining the Melbourne Boomers. For Tupaea, her career arrived before her at the tender age of 15, shaping her into one of the most mature and experienced players for her age and forging an iron-clad bond to the Flames. The pinnacle of her career, however, was being selected in the 2017 Draft to the WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx, with the goal of someday donning the uniform in the seasons to come.

Awaiting the decision on whether the UCLA Bruins will compete in NCAA play for 2020/21, Gemma Potter remains a conditional re-signee for the Capitals, meaning that Mikaela Ruef’s two-year extension sums up Gorris’s squad for next season. The signing of Ruef comes after the US-born forward was granted Australian permanent residency. The delay from her immigration paperwork was the reason why the 29-year-old was unable to play during last season.

Contracted:

 Nil

Re-signed:

Marianna Tolo
Kelsey Griffin
Keely Froling
Maddison Rocci
Abby Cubillo
Alex Delaney
Mikaela Ruef
Gemma Potter (Conditional upon NCAA decision to play)

Signed:

Tahlia Tupaea
Brittany Smart

WNBL Free Agency: Nicholson to join Fire and George back in Boom Town

SINCE Tuesday afternoon, the WNBL has had its hands full with big moves in its second week of the Free Agency period. Former Defensive Player of the Year (2018/19) in Lauren Nicholson has joined what is starting to look like a serious contender in the Townsville Fire, while former Perth Lynx star, Sami Whitcomb, is set to return to the west after an overseas stint in France.

In addition, WNBL veterans Cayla George and Brittany Smart have stated their intentions for the upcoming season, with George staying put in “Boom Town” for a third consecutive season and Smart making the move to the nation’s capital to suit up in Paul Gorris’ side.

Nicholson, who has long been praised for her defensive ability, was awarded the Adelaide Lightning’s club Defensive Player of the Year Award this past season adding to what has been a very successful WNBL career to this point.

Following the move Tuesday, Nicholson lines up next to the likes of young guns Zitina Aokuso and Shyla Heal, as well as Mia Murray in Shannon Seebohms bid to bring glory back to the far-north following a sub-par 5-16 record in WNBL20.

At a glance, Nicholson was a productive force for the Lightning last season, as she helped her side to a fourth-place finish after 21 games. She would average a consistent 14.2 points per contest, while earning her keep in the rebounding and steals categories, averaging 3.4 and 1.4 in the respective categories.

In Townsville’s media release, the location of the move and the community love for the team were the critical factors in the 27-year-old’s decision, “I am so excited about the move to Townsville and joining the Fire next season, every time I come to Townsville, I love the community feeling, the crowd and its supporters are certainly the loudest and most passionate in the league. I can’t wait to get the feeling of playing at the stadium, with them supporting me, wearing the Fire colours, it will be awesome to be a part of,” said Nicholson.

Out by the Indian Ocean, the Perth Lynx have initiated their announcements regarding next season’s signees, as Whitcomb will don the red and black for the first time since the 2017/18 campaign.

Following a WNBA championship with the Seattle Storm and two seasons with French powerhouse, Basket Lattes, Whitcomb brings an abundance of success and experience to newly signed head coach, Ryan Petrik’s side.

Whitcomb averages over 20 points per game to this point in her WNBL career, as the backcourt prospect will prove to be a handful for opposing sides with the goal of helping the Lynx return to the postseason.

Down in Victoria, the Melbourne Boomers announced that co-captain George (next to Maddie Garrick) would be staying at the club for another year, as the 31-year-old WNBL Hall of Fame inductee will be a part of Guy Molloy’s 2020/21 squad.

Completing her WNBL20 season with averages of 14.3 points, 8.5 rebounds and four assists per game, George continues to ride a string of successful seasons in the Purple and Gold as the Boomers can look to both their team leaders for next season’s affairs.

Looking to the nation’s capital, where Gorris has added some more experience to the defending champs, as Smart has signed on for a one-year contract in the ACT, according to the club.

Coming off a minimised season (seven games), Smart would still maintain almost 10 points per game in the games she would participate in, indicating there is more to be offered by the 35-year-old.

Smart enters her sixth season in the WNBL and will look to be a guiding force for the Caps, as they look to make history and win three consecutive championships for the first time since the Adelaide Lightning dynasty of 1994-96 led by Rachael Sporn.

Draft Central can also confirm that the following Canberra signings during the Free Agency period have all agreed to one-year contracts for the 2020/21 season, per the Capitals administration.

Marianna Tolo, Kelsey Griffin, Keely Froling, Maddison Rocci, Abby Cubillo, Alex Delaney and Tahlia Tupaea.