Tag: carley ernst

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: Week 3 Update

THE WNBL has had a very traffic-heavy third week in the league’s Free Agency Period, as five of the competition’s eight sides made roster updates, whilst the Adelaide Lightning announced earlier today that they will disclose their second (possibly third) signing this upcoming Monday.

Going through each team alphabetically, Draft Central outlines how the third week has panned out.

Adelaide Lightning

Almost two weeks prior to now, the Lightning organisation revealed their marquee signing of the WNBL21 season, with the acquisition of Australian Opal and member of the Phoenix Mercury, Alanna Smith.

Moving down the track to earlier today, Adelaide’s social media platforms teased the fact that on Monday June 29, the unveiling of their second and possibly third Free Agency signings will be made known to the public.

Bendigo Spirit

Known to carry a development philosophy throughout their club, the Bendigo Spirit further cemented that notion with the acquisition of 17-year-old Young Gun and University of Indiana-commit, Paige Price.

While Price spent all of last season as a development player with the Melbourne Boomers, getting just a couple of runs throughout the campaign, she’s eager to get some serious game time, as she signs with her former side’s country rivals.

But the rising star knows that she needs to work hard if she’s to earn additional minutes for next season under the guidance of Head Coach Tracy York.

“I am excited to be joining the Bendigo Spirit. I have spent a lot of time training and playing at Bendigo throughout my Vic Country experience, so I know the place well and feel comfortable in the environment and excited to be back in Vic Country.”

“There are no guarantees or promises from Tracy, but it is up to me now to earn any minutes.”

“I see the move to Bendigo as the next progression in my career and I’ve loved Tracy’s coaching style when I played under her for Australia at the FIBA Oceania Tournament so I am confident I will make the most of this opportunity,” she said.

Price is the sixth confirmed member for the Spirit next season, following the confirmations of Alicia Froling, Carley Ernst, Cassidy McLean, Demi Skinner and Tessa Lavey.

Melbourne Boomers

At the conclusion of her second season with the Melbourne Boomers, newly re-signed 20-year-old Ezi Magbegor was gifted the Betty Watson Australian Youth Player of the Year Award for a record setting second time of her career, which makes you understand why the club is ecstatic to welcome her back for a third fixture in WNBL21.

With the Seattle Storm set to debut Magbegor in the coming weeks for their shortened WNBA season, it provides the Opal an opportunity to really raise her benchmark of opposition, before coming back to the WNBL to help push for the franchise’s first title under the ‘Melbourne’ moniker in the club’s history.

In a brief statement to the club, Magbegor highlighted her confidence in the team that is set to take shape. “I’m excited to be going into my third year with the Boomers,” she said.

“With a lot of returning players, we’ve built a strong team and I am looking forward to getting on the court with the team and really working this season,” she added.

As per Melbourne’s signed players thus far, Magbegor joins the likes of co-captains Maddie Garrick and Cayla George, as well as Townsville’s Tess Madgen.

Perth Lynx

Shortly after it was divulged that All-WNBL First Team recipient Katie Ebzery and WA-local Darcee Garbin were to be playing in the red and black next season, it seems as though ‘home is where the heart is’ for much of the Lynx’s WNBL21 roster, as Ryan Petrik and his team signed returning Perth player and former WNBL Rookie of the Year recipient, Alex Ciabattoni.

Beginning her WNBL career in her home state of South Australia, Ciabattoni would cement a splendid rookie season with the Lightning, earning herself ROTY honours in the 2015/16 season. She would make the move out west for the 2017/18 season with the Perth Lynx, helping the team to a minor premiership and a 15-6 record. Following a semi-final upset to the Boomers, the 26-year-old Forward made the trip over to Italy to sign with Reyer Venezia (Serie A1), while also going on loan to Ponzano Basket during her overseas stint.

Heading back home to what Ciabattoni calls her “second home”, Petrik seems optimistic of what this Perth side is capable of as they move along in the offseason, given he knows what his latest signee’s skills bring to the table.

“Alex is someone who can do a little bit of everything and with the way the game is going that skillset is really valuable to us,” he said

“We know Chibba’s game really well and we’re confident that she has the ability to be a real weapon for us this season.”

Sydney Uni Flames

Following the signings of Australian Opal Lauren Mansfield and the fast developing Anneli Maley, the Sydney Uni Flames became the final team to enter the Free Agency conversation, as they confirmed more signings to come in the next couple of weeks.

Mansfield, who spent her previous season with the Lynx, provided herself with what was a very respectable season. Earning solid numbers in all of the major categories, Mansfield averaged 9.6 points, 4.5 assists, 3.1 rebounds and 1.6 steals (eighth highest in the WNBL) per game.

Heading into the twilight years of her career at the age of 30, Mansfield is still aiming to refine her game further, which she addressed following the announcement of her transfer. “After speaking with Katrina, who emphasised building a good culture with a mix of young talent and experienced players, I thought Sydney would be a great fit for the further development of my basketball career,” explained Mansfield.

The latter of the Flames’ two signings, Maley, who played for the Southside Flyers in WNBL20, projects an energy around her that motivates her teammates. This attracted Head Coach Katrina Hibbert to the 21-year-old, something her side will need if they are to improve upon their sixth-place finish from last season.

“She’s known for her athleticism, energy, effort, and rebounding abilities – just to name a few,” said Hibbert.

“I’m looking forward to welcoming her into our program this season as she is a natural leader through her approach to basketball on and off the court. It’s going to be wonderful to see her continue her development and continue to blossom under a style of play that will compliment her versatility.”

The two join Lauren Scherf as the Flames’ only contracted players to this stage.

Townsville Fire

The Fire family keeps getting bigger, as they signed Wasserburg Power Forward, Megan McKay, who is coming off a tremendous season in the German Bundeliga (top Basketball competition in Germany).

An alum of the notorious Saint Mary’s College Gaels in the U.S, McKay has an extensive history of playing against top-level competitors. This included averaging 16 points and eight rebounds per contest for Wasserburg in her most recent season overseas.

Having also represented Australia in U17’s, McKay is happy to be back at home competing in the WNBL.

Head Coach of the Fire Shannon Seebohm believes that McKay will fit in well with his frontcourt, given her abilities in and around the basket.

“She is a strong interior presence and a great rebounder. She will bring a lot of energy to our team and I am excited to see her play in the WNBL and show what she is capable of,” he explained.

Stay tuned for more WNBL Free agency updates.

WNBL Free Agency: Madgen back to Melbourne, Bendigo contract details

WEEK 2 of the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) Free Agency period has kick-started with a bang, as it was announced Monday morning that former Melbourne Boomers captain, Tess Madgen, is set to return to her former club for the WNBL 2020/21 season. Furthermore, Draft Central can confirm the contract details of the Bendigo’s signees so far during the offseason.

Melbourne adds a former captain to the 2021 squad

Australian Opal, Tess Madgen, who is coming off a solid second season with the Townsville Fire, averaged respectable numbers across the board for Shannon Seebohm’s side throughout all 21 games.

Putting up 12.1 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.6 assists each time out on the floor for the Fire, Madgen proved herself to be one of the leading all-around forces in Australia’s top flight. She would also prove to be one of Townsville’s most reliable scorers too, as she also maintained a 39.5 per cent clip from the field.

Following Melbourne’s announcement that their former leader would be making the move down south to cooler climates, Madgen praised the club as a whole, speaking highly of the Boomers’ organisation from top to bottom.

“I am super excited to be back playing for the Boomers,” said Madgen.

“From the board, the employees, the coaching staff to the playing group it is obvious to see there is a great culture and vibe and I am really looking forward to being part of that again, it feels like a homecoming for me.

“The club has a great history, being the longest running female professional sports team in Australia and that says a lot about it as a club.

“I am excited to build on a great season the Boomers had last year and can’t wait to get to work with the girls,” she added.

Madgen, who spent time with the Phoenix Mercury (USA) and AZS UMCS Lublin (Poland), has shown nothing but improvement since recovering from an old anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury and will look to be a prominent leader in Guy Molloy’s squad next season.

The move comes just days after current captain, Maddie Garrick announced that she too would sign the dotted line for Melbourne’s 2020/21 season.

Bendigo’s signings details

While Carley Ernst and coach Tracy York enter the second year of their respective contracts, the Bendigo Spirit’s administration has told Draft Central that their signings Demi Skinner, Tessa Lavey and Cassidy McLean have all agreed on one-year contracts for the 2020/21 season during the free-agency period.

NBL1 South women’s team summary: Waverley Falcons

IN light of the COVID-19 global pandemic, the National Basketball League (NBL)1 South Conference has been cancelled this year. As such, while Draft Central intended to do a preview on all teams leading up to the delayed start, it will instead be a team summary from last season and what they might look to improve on for 2021. Today’s edition looks at Waverley Falcons womens side that reached the finals, but bowed out in the first week

2019 in Review:

Finished: 7th (lost in elimination final)
Wins: 11
Losses: 9
Home: 5-6
Away: 6-3

What went right:

  • Won a remarkable eight consecutive games to end the regular season
  • Only lost three games by double-digits
  • Free-throws (77.8 per cent, ranked fourth overall)
  • Rebounds (offensive 13.4 per game, ranked second overall and 41.1 total, ranked fourth overall)
  • Assists (17.8 per game, ranked equal fifth overall)
  • Had five players average double-figure points

It was a real mixed bag for Waverley Falcons in season 2019. They had a lot of positives to take out of the season, and plenty of improvements which are fixable with work. Their win-loss record was no doubt the strangest of the competition with 11 wins and nine losses, but eight of those wins came consecutively at the back-end of the year. It was a tale of two halves for the seventh placed side that reached finals, but were bundled out by Nunawading Spectres. They only lost three games by double-digits which showed they were close despite the losses mounting up early in the season, and statistically had five players average double-figure points. In terms of team stats, they ranked second overall for both offensive and total rebounds, and inside the top five for assists and free throw shooting.

What went wrong:

  • Lost six of the first seven and nine of the first 12 to put them on the back foot
  • Scoring (74.4 points per game, and two-point accuracy 43.1 per cent, both ranked 14th overall)
  • Turnovers (15.9 per game, the fourth most overall)
  • Discipline (18.2 personal fouls per game, the third most overall)

Playing catch-up basketball is never ideal, but that is what the Falcons had to do in order to play finals. They won the last eight games and only scraped into the finals series due to losing nine of the first 12 matches – including six of the first seven – which normally would rule you out of finals but the Falcons refused to throw in the towel and rewarded for it. Statistically the Falcons needed to up their scoring, ranked 14th overall in the competition for total points and two-point percentage. They did have five players average more than 10 points per game, but two of those combined for 19 total games and only one started every match. They also finished in the top five for both turnovers and personal fouls, something that can often come with pressure and tight games, which the Falcons experienced regularly.

Top Players:

Kelly Bowen

A shining light and consistent performer week-in, week-out. Bowen averaged 13.6 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.7 steals, topping her side in both rebounds and steals for the season. Most impressively, she was able to play every game, only one of two players to start in each match and had the highest efficiency rating of anyone on the team. While her accuracy was lower than her teammates at 33.4 and 23.3 per cent for two and three-point shooting respectively, she was often marked by a defender when attempting to shoot such was her prestige in the competition.

Tegan Cunningham

The dual sport athlete entered the fray on the back of a solid AFL Women’s season with Melbourne and instantly had an impact. She finished the season playing 18 games for the Falcons and the team was better for it. She was predominantly a player who would get close to the basket and potentially earn the foul where she finished off from the free-throw line 85.2 per cent of the time. By season’s end, Cunningham would average 14.1 points, 7.2 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1. steals.

Carley Ernst

The Falcons would have loved to have had Ernst for more than just 10 games, because her half-season was one to remember. In that time she averaged 16.5 points, 7.6 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.7 blocks, becoming a secondary facilitator to Sam Donald – the only other consistent starter. She was a solid from three-point range with a 34.8 per cent efficiency from long-range, while knocking down 40.3 per cent from inside the arc.

Young Gun:

Nyaduoth Lok

The Falcons were a relatively experienced outfit, with Lok the only teenager coming into the season. While the then 18-year-old did not start in a game, she managed to get on court 17 of a possible 21 games, and put up decent numbers of 4.8 points and 2.2 rebounds from limited minutes. Despite standing at 180cm and not having the experience of other players, she was able to receive enough fouls to go to the line for 25 attempts, nailing 24 of them for an elite efficiency of 96 per cent.

Christmas list for 2021:

Continuity. They might have finished low down on the scoring side of things, but when they could get all their starting five on the court, they look the goods. Winning eight consecutive games to end a season is no fluke and if they can get some continuity it will bring greater consistency.

Summary:

The Waverley Falcons might have exited the 2019 NBL1 finals earlier than they would have hoped, but to get there altogether was a remarkable achievement considering where they were at the mid-point of the season. They showed determination to fight their way back into contention, and with some luck and consistency in 2021, they could be a big riser next season.

Draft Central’s Top 10 2019/20 WNBL memorable moments: #9 – Bendigo breaks road drought

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 nine, an upset in the final round of the season that meant a lot to the competition’s last placed side.

#9 Bendigo Spirit breaks road drought with win over Townsville Fire

It took until the final round of the year, but Bendigo Spirit finished the 2019/20 WNBL season on a high with a victory against Townsville Fire. Up until that point, Bendigo had not won a road trip all season, and indeed the last victory when travelling was November 18, 2018 when the Spirit triumphed over 2018/19 WNBL wooden spooners, Sydney Uni. That day the team was different, with Natalie Hurst and Rebecca Tobin combining for 11 points each in a low-scoring team effort during the 67-55 victory. This season, Hurst had moved on and Tobin only managed the seven games. Instead it was Carley Ernst leading the way with the forward picking up a double double in the Spirit’s win over Townsville Fire on February 1, some 441 days later.

Ernst led all the major statistical areas, picking up team-highs in points (26), rebounds (10), assists (seven) and steals (two) to spur her team onto victory. Tessa Lavey picked up an equal team-high seven assists to go with 21 points and four rebounds, while former Perth Lynx young gun, Shyla Heal had 14 points, five rebounds and five assists in the win. To show just how much the Spirit had changed in that 15-month period, Abigail Wehrung was the only player to be on court for both away wins. In 2018, she had nine points, three rebounds, three assists and two blocks, while in the most recent victory, she had five points, five rebounds, two assists and one block, but was far more accurate with her field goal percentage. Whilst in the scheme of the season, Bendigo still finished on the bottom of he table and Townsville escaped the wooden spoon, it was a nice way for the Spirit to finish off the season. Credit has to be given to Christina Boag in the loss though, with the Fire talent picking up 22 points, 15 rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks in a clear standout performance for her side. Both teams will be looking to rise up the ladder in the 2020/21 season.

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

2019/20 WNBL season review: Bendigo Spirit

IT was a case of new faces, same story, for the Bendigo Spirit during the 2019/20 Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) season, with the side fortunate to not finish on the bottom of the ladder after having a few bumps along the way.

Ladder: 7th
Win-loss: 5-16

This season for Spirit was categorised by fresh faces. Recruiting so many players, it was almost a completely new line-up from last year. To go with this brand new roster, the Spirit brought in a brand new coach in Tracey York. But with new faces came the issue of key old names missing, such as 2018/19 leading scorer, Nadeen Payne who left to join the Perth Lynx, along with Marena Whittle. The Lightning acquired Natalie Hurst while the Flyers grabbed Louella Tomlinson, and Jessie Rennie left for the USA. Nevertheless, Spirit was able to bring in Tessa Lavey and Carley Ernst from Dandenong Rangers, Shyla Heal from Perth and Kelly Wilson from Canberra. The Spirit also picked up Kasey Burton from Melbourne, and Marte Grays from the USA as their final piece for what was a chaotic offseason. Yet with so many fresh faces came very little team chemistry as the Spirit finished second last, again. But even with such an uncharted roster, a winning culture would surely be set as long as the team was captained by Wilson, or so was thought. Fresh off winning the NBL1 MVP for the Bendigo Braves, putting together 19.3 points, 10.5 assists, 6.4 rebounds and 2.0 steals a game, the Spirit were optimistic about their chances. But their dysfunction went far beyond a lack of common bond among players.

Rebecca Tobin, Spirit’s best player from last season, looked to have taken her game to the next level when playing in the NBL1, averaging 16.3 points, 12.8 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.6 blocks per game from 15 matches. However misfortune would follow as Tobin was sidelined after a knock to the head during a training session right before the season. Playing just a third of the season, Tobin would only average 8.3 points a game. This would be a massive factor for what was certainly a derailed season. Placing in the bottom two in both steals and blocks per game, while also being second in turnovers, the Spirit simply struggled defensively. The side’s concentration on bringing in new players this season instead of building up last season’s combinations ultimately proved to be their downfall, with the changes on court falling short from expectations.

The Spirit had a very tough schedule to begin the season, playing seven teams that would make the playoff across their first eight games. It was not exactly the fairytale story Gabe Richards wanted to end her career on. A two-time champion who wore the Bendigo Spirit uniform for almost every season the Spirit has been alive in the WNBL, her presence will be sorely missed. However the torch may be in the hands of new recruit, Shyla Heal, who by all standards had a breakout season. Daughter of Australian basketball legend, Shane Heal, Shyla was expected to be a key contributor from the jump, learning from the more experienced players, her role was initially about being the spot up shooter in the offence. But at only 18 years of age, she put the league on notice and led her team in points per game with 12.1. Definitely a player to follow, who will not only be the Spirit’s franchise player, but maybe one day the face of the league.

2019/20 WNBL Team of the Week: Round 16

ALL eight Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) teams are represented in our Draft Central WNBL Team of the Week for Round 16, with Melbourne Boomers and Adelaide Lightning recording two players each in our 10-player team, while the other six sides had one representative each.

Adelaide’s damaging duo of Stephanie Talbot and Brianna Turner again produced some huge numbers, as Talbot averaged 14.0 points, 8.5 rebounds and 6.5 assists over the weekend, while Turner put up numbers of 12 points and 18 rebounds. They have found a way up either end of the court, while Melbourne’s Cayla George and Ezi Magbegor both fill out the center positions. While Magbegor picked up a clear double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds, it was George’s almost triple-double of 24 points, 12 rebounds, nine assists, three steals and two blocks that was absolutely outstanding.

There were plenty of double-doubles in our Team of the Week this week with Christina Boag standing up in a disappointing loss for Townsville Fire, recording 22 points, 15 rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks to be named as a starting forward. Rounding out the starting five, University of Canberra (UC) Capitals’ key scorer, Kia Nurse made the team once again with 28 points, nine rebounds, three assists and two steals to her name in Round 16.

The bench featured a number of players who have been in the team before, with Perth Lynx’s Ariel Atkins and Bendigo Spirit’s Tessa Lavey making up the two guards, while Southside Flyers’ Sara Blicavs and Sydney Uni’s Jessica Kuster slotting into the forward spots. There were a number of unlucky omissions in the side for this week, including UC duo, Kelsey Griffin and Marianna Tolo, Bendigo duo, Shyla Heal and Carley Ernst, Adelaide’ Nicole Seekamp – who was injured in the Lightning’s first game – Sydney Uni’s Lauren Scherf, and Southside Flyers’ Mercedes Russell.

STARTING FIVE:

G: Kia Nurse (UC) – 28 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 0 blocks, 39.1 FG%
G: Stephanie Talbot (AL) – 14.0 points, 8.5 rebounds, 6.5 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.5 blocks, 37.0 FG%
C: Cayla George (MB) – 24 points, 12 rebounds, 9 assists, 3 steals, 2 blocks, 57.1 FG%
F: Brianna Turner (AL) – 12.0 points, 18.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 0.0 steals, 2.0 blocks, 32.1 FG%
F: Christina Boag (TF) – 22 points, 15 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks, 58.5 FG%

BENCH:

G: Ariel Atkins (PL) – 20.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 4.0 steals, 0.0 blocks, 53.3 FG%
G: Tessa Lavey (BS) – 17.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 6.5 assists, 2.5 steals, 0.0 blocks, 58.3 FG%
C: Ezi Magbegor (MB) – 15 points, 12 rebounds, 2 assists, 0 steals, 1 block, 50.0 FG%
F: Sara Blicavs (SF) – 18 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals, 0 blocks, 100.0 FG%
F: Jessica Kuster (SU) – 18.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 2.5 steals, 1.5 blocks, 59.3 FG%

WNBL Round 16 review: Capitals secure second with final round win

THE University of Canberra (UC) Capitals were able to stand up when it counted and secure second spot ahead of the Melbourne Boomers – the Capitals’ opponents in the upcoming 2019/20 Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) finals series. The other spots were already locked in prior to the final round, with Southside Flyers earning the minor premiership and will face fourth placed Adelaide Lightning in the other semi-final. Perth Lynx, Sydney Uni Flames and Townsville Fire avoided the wooden spoon with Bendigo Spirit’s last round win over the Fire falling three points short of leaping off the bottom of the table.

Sydney Uni Flames (78) defeated Bendigo Spirit (68)

A strong final quarter saw Sydney Uni Flames get the points in their final home game of the WNBL season, securing a 10-point victory over Bendigo Spirit. The Flames raced out of the blocks early to gain the advantage and lead by eight points at the first break. Desperate to get off the bottom of the ladder, Bendigo fought back to cut the deficit to just one point at the main break. They then took the ascendancy from that quarter into the third, taking the lead by two and looking good with 10 minutes to play. Sydney Uni finished the stronger of the sides, putting the foot down and pleasing the home crowd with a 20-8 final term to win, 78-68. Brittany Smart was strong with 22 points, three rebounds and four steals, well aided in the starting side by Jessica Kuster (16 points, nine rebounds, three assists, three blocks and two steals). Lauren Scherf was important off the boards with 12 points, eight rebounds as well as four assists, while Alex Wilson came agonisingly close to a double-double or even a triple-double with 10 points, nine rebounds, eight assists, two steals and two blocks. Shyla Heal stood up in defeat for the Spirit with 17 points and four rebounds, while Abigail Wehrung (15 points, five rebounds and three assists) and Tessa Lavey (14 points, five rebounds, six assists and four steals) were also prominent.

DC Medal: 3 – Jessica Kuster (SU), 2 – Alex Wilson (SU), 1 – Brittany Smart (SU)

Adelaide Lightning (75) defeated Perth Lynx (74)

In an important game for confidence, fourth placed Adelaide Lightning survived a thriller against fifth placed Perth Lynx. The Lightning led early by three points at the first break, but the Lynx kept in the contest with a 21-20 second term to cut the deficit back to two, and by the final break scores were level. With nothing separating both sides keen for a win, the Lightning stepped up in the crucial final quarter to win, 75-74 and finish at home on a high prior to finals. Brianna Turner put up a ridiculous 24 rebounds to go with 16 points, three assists and two blocks, hauling her side across the line when it counted. Stephanie Talbot was unsurprisingly impressive again for the home team, posting numbers of 13 points, five rebounds and four assists, while Nicole Seekamp helped herself to 17 points, five rebounds, eight assists and three steals. Kathryn Westbeld showed off her talents in the starting side with six points, seven rebounds and three assists for the Lightning. Nadeen Payne picked up a double-double for the losers, recording 11 points and 10 rebounds as well as three steals. Maddison Allen had 15 rebounds to go with four points and three blocks. From a points perspective, Ariel Atkins and Katie-Rae Ebzery both recorded a team-high 16 points.

DC Medal: 3 – Brianna Turner (AL), 2 – Nicole Seekamp (AL), 1 – Nadeen Payne (PL)

UC Capitals (73) defeated Adelaide Lightning (71)

The UC Capitals gained a hard-fought but important win over the Lightning ahead of the WNBL finals series. While the pair have opposite semi-finals in a fortnight, the Capitals were able to hold firm against a side that started strongly, and hold them off by two points at the National Convention Centre. The Lightning led by two points at quarter time, but the Capitals regained control at a place that has become a fortress this season for them, taking the lead by a point at the main break. They extended that out to two by the last change but the Lightning refused to go away. Both sides threw everything they had in the final quarter, and in the end they could not be separated, which meant the home team got up by the three quarter time margin of two points, 73-71. Kia Nurse had another night out on the scoresheet with 28 points, nine rebounds, three assists and two steals, while Kelsey Griffin returned to the starting line-up and had 10 rebounds, two steals and three blocks to go with seven points. Maddison Rocci again picked up double-figure points with 16, as well as two rebounds and two steals. Marianna Tolo‘s good form also continued, having 13 points, six rebounds, three assists and four blocks. For the Lightning, Talbot picked up a double-double with 15 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists, and while Turner did not reach the feat, finished the weekend with an average of 18 rebounds following another huge game on the boards with 12, as well as eight points, two assists and two blocks. Lauren Nicholson had an impressive 16 points, three rebounds and four assists, while Westbeld picked up 10 points, two rebounds and three assists.

DC Medal: 3 – Kia Nurse (UC), 2 – Stephanie Talbot (AL), 1 – Maddison Rocci (UC)

Townsville Fire (69) defeated by Bendigo Spirit (89)

It might have mattered little in the scheme of the WNBL finals series, but the result of this game meant plenty to both sides. In a battle of the bottom two sides, Bendigo Spirit needed to win by 23 points in order to leap off the bottom of the ladder and overtake Townsville Fire. Both teams have had disappointing seasons this year, but Bendigo was yet to win on the road so Townsville started as strong favourites at its home court. It was the Braves that quietened the crowd early, leading by six points at quarter time and held a 12-point lead by the main break. Sensing a blowout, the crowd was nervous but the Fire responded to match it with the Spirit and only concede an extra point in the third term. Bendigo needed to win the last by 10 points in order to grab seventh spot on the table, and it did all it could in that quarter, piling on 24 points though it would not be enough, running out a comfortable 20-point winner but falling short of sentencing Townsville to the wooden spoon. Carley Ernst was simply sensational for the Spirit, scoring 26 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists in an almost triple-double effort. Lavey was her partner-in-crime with 21 points, seven assists and four rebounds, while Heal also reached double-figure points from the starting line-up with 14, as well as five rebounds and five assists.  Coming off the bench, Gabrielle Richards picked up 11 points and six rebounds in the win. For the Fire, Christina Boag had a memorable game to round out the season, picking up huge numbers of 22 points, 15 rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks. Darcee Garbin (14 points, six rebounds and three assists) and Micaela Cocks (11 points, five assists) also reached double-figures, while Tess Madgen had seven rebounds and four assists, but only five points.

DC Medal: 3 – Carley Ernst (BS), 2 – Christina Boag (TF), 1 – Tessa Lavey (BS)

Southside Flyers (78) defeated Sydney Uni Flames (61)

The ladder-leading Southside Flyers got the job done on Saturday with a 17-point win over Sydney Uni Flames at Dandenong. While top spot was never in doubt for the league’s newest side, the Flyers finished off the season in style to prepare for the WNBL finals. Meanwhile the Flames were unable to cause an upset, though they did have a promising final term, scoring 21 points to 11 to stop what looked like a complete annihilation brewing. At the final break, Southside led by 27 points after winning each of the first three quarters by six, four and 17 respectively, completely dominating the third term. They were able to give valuable court time to some of their younger players, and gave Ringwood Hawks’ utility, Jacqueline Trotto a debut. Sara Blicavs was strong for the winners, picking up a team-high 18 points, eight rebounds and six assists to be the clear standout for the Flyers. Mercedes Russell had 17 points and three rebounds, while Anneli Maley played her best game of the season off the bench with 11 points and six rebounds, Rebecca Cole had 10 points, three rebounds and three assists to also reach double-figure points. For the Flames, Kuster was a lone hand up the scoring end with 21 points, six rebounds, two assists and three steals, the only visiting player to surpass 10 points. Scherf and Madeleine O’Hehir both had nine points on the night, but it was a lean performance from the team in the Flames’ last match of the season.

DC Medal: 3 – Sara Blicavs (SF), 2 – Jessica Kuster (SU), 1 – Mercedes Russell (SF)

Melbourne Boomers (104) defeated Perth Lynx (75)

From an almost-blowout to an actual blowout, Melbourne Boomers took no chances, convincingly putting Perth Lynx to the sword in the second against fifth clash. They never looked like losing this match, piling on a whopping 32 points to 14 in the opening term, and by half-time the margin was out to 23 points. The home fans were up and about wile the visiting fans were hoping for the final buzzer, as Melbourne continued its strong control in the second half, winning that half by six points. Perth to its credit managed to stem the bleeding in the half, particularly in the last term, while Melbourne gave some of its bench players more time to spread the load and manage them ahead of the post-season series. Cayla George had a big day out with one assist away from a triple-double, posting up 24 points, 12 rebounds, nine assists, three steals and two blocks in the big win, while Ezi Magbegor also recorded a double-double thanks to 15 points, 12 rebounds and two assists. Madeleine Garrick (17 points, three assists) and Sophie Cunningham (10 points, two rebounds) performed well, while Kalani Purcell (17 points, six rebounds, three assists and two steals) was sensational off the bench in her best performance of the season. For Perth, the Lynx had just 26 rebounds on the night, with Atkins and Marena Whittle both picking up eight apiece, as well as combining for 41 points in an otherwise low-statistical night. Ebzery could also hold her head high after 15 points and two assists.

DC Medal: 3 – Cayla George (MB), 2 – Ezi Magbegor (MB), 1 – Ariel Atkins (PL)

DC Medal Leaderboard:

32 – Cayla George (MB)
31 –
30 – Mercedes Russell (SF)
29 –
28 –
27 –
26 – Stephanie Talbot (AL)
25 –
24 –
23 – Brianna Turner (AL)
22 – Kelsey Griffin (UC)
21 – Kia Nurse (UC)
20 – Katie-Rae Ebzery (PL)
19 – Olivia Epoupa (UC)
18 –
17 –
16 – Lindsay Allen (MB), Alice Kunek (SU)
15 – Ezi Magbegor (MB)
14 – Alison Schwagmeyer (PL), Leilani Mitchell (SF), Jessica Kuster (SU)
13 – Abby Bishop (TF)
12 – Colleen Planeta (AD), Darcee Garbin (TF), Marianna Tolo (UC)
11 – Keely Froling (UC), Carley Ernst (BS)
10 – Jenna O’Hea (SF), Sara Blicavs (SF)
9 – Madeleine Garrick (MB)
8 – Bridget Carleton (TF), Tess Madgen (TF), Rebecca Cole (SF)
7 –
6 – Imani McGee-Stafford (PL)
5 – Tahlia Tupaea (SU)
4 – Kelly Wilson (BS), Sophie Cunningham (MB), Ariel Atkins (PL), Tessa Lavey (BS), Nicole Seekamp (AL)
3 – Rebecca Tobin (BS), Lauren Nicholson (AL), Shyla Heal (PL), Mareena Whittle (PL), Alex Wilson (SU)
2 – Crystal Langhorne (AD), Micaela Cocks (TF), Chelsea Brook (AD), Lauren Mansfield (PL), Julie Vanloo (TF), Christina Boag (TF), Maddison Rocci (UC), Nadeen Payne (PL)
1 –  Anneli Maley (SF), Stella Beck (MB), Abigail Wehrung (BS), Kathryn Westbeld (AD), Lauren Scherf (SU), Brittany Smart (SU)

2019/20 WNBL preview: Round 16 – The final frontier

AFTER 15 rounds and three and a half months, the final round of the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) season is here. The 2019/20 run home was somewhat anti-climatic with the four finalists decided well out from the conclusion. Second and third spot can still change depending on results from the round, while the bottom four sides have pride on the line in Round 16.

SYDNEY UNI FLAMES vs. BENDIGO SPIRIT
Thursday, January 30, 7pm
Brydens Stadium

There is only realistically pride on the line for these two sides in one of two Thursday night encounters. For the Flames, a win would secure sixth spot on the ladder, given seventh placed Townsville is only a win behind and also takes on wooden spoon-bound Bendigo Spirit. The Spirit will need to win their two remaining matches if they are to overtake the Fire, sitting a win behind as well as a 35-point differential from seventh to eighth. A loss here guarantees Bendigo the wooden spoon. Sydney Uni has won both previous matches against the Spirit, winning by five and seven points on the road, and now return home for the third and final head-to-head. Bendigo have not defeated the Flames since November 18, 2018, so will need to produce a special effort to get across the line and pick up win number five. Considering they are also yet to win on the road from eight encounters does not spell confidence. Jessica Kuster played well last time for the Flames, and is averaging 12.4 points and 6.5 rebounds after starting 17 of a possible 19 games. Along with Brittany Smart who earned her first start last round and put up 21 points, three rebounds and two blocks, the American duo could be quite a handful for the Spirit defenders. Tessa Lavey and Kelly Wilson are two of the guards likely to be tasked with trying to limit their influence, with Lavey averaging 9.5 points, 3.3 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game, while Wilson has put up numbers of 8.4 points, 4.1 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game. Sydney Uni should lock up sixth with a solid win here.

ADELAIDE LIGHTNING vs. PERTH LYNX
Thursday, January 30, 7pm
Titanium Security Arena

Adelaide Lightning have a tough final couple of weeks, going down to Southside Flyers last round, and now face fifth placed Perth Lynx and reigning premiers, University of Canberra (UC) Capitals in Round 16. The Lightning are at home, and have a 7-3 record there, while Perth have been a little shaky on the road, winning three of a possible nine games when travelling. Both teams have a positive points differential, with Perth having already secured fifth spot last round by winning. They cannot catch the Lightning in fourth, but would round off a good year if they can upset two finalists – they face Melbourne Boomers on Saturday – in the last round of the season. In their previous encounters, Adelaide has won both times, winning over in Perth by four points back in October, before making it two wins with a 10-point home victory over the Lynx in December. The Lightning have had their injury concerns this season, but have tended to rely on a couple of players in Brianna Turner (16.3 points, 9.8 rebounds) and Stephanie Talbot (14.9 points, 8.6 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.1 blocks). While others have stepped up at times, those two have been among the best in the league and often been the difference in matches. The Lynx have just been inconsistent, with their stars on paper not quite aligning on the same night. Katie-Rae Ebzery is the exception, with the Australian Opal being a ray of consistency all season long, posting numbers of 16.4 points, 4.7 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 1.5 steals per game. American, Alison Schwagmeyer has predominantly come off the bench but has been solid as well with 15.3 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game. Adelaide have been more consistent and should win here, although Perth have impressed over the past month.

UC CAPITALS vs. ADELAIDE LIGHTNING
Saturday, February 1, 5pm
National Convention Centre

After a two-day gap, Adelaide plays its final game of the season, against a hungry UC Capitals determined to sneak into second spot on the ladder. The Capitals also need Perth Lynx to cause an upset on Saturday night against Melbourne Boomers based on the fact that the points differential between the Capitals and Boomers is 74, and would need two massive margins to have any hope of toppling them if both sides win. If the Capitals get up here, then they will watch with earnest later that evening to see if they will have one or two home finals in the first week of the WNBL finals series. The Lightning also have plenty to play for even though they might not physically be able to move up the ladder. The last thing the South Australian side needs is a couple of losses heading into finals, especially one against a finals-bound side. If both these teams cause upsets against their Victorian opponents in the semi-finals – as Adelaide did last year – then they will face off in the decider. This year Adelaide has tended to be the side that was better than the rest, but still a clear fourth side in the competition. Knocking off the Capitals on the road – who have only lost to the top of the table Southside Flyers there – would be a massive confidence booster, though the Lightning are 4-5 when travelling. In the two clashes this year, they have been split, with the respective home teams winning. The last time they played in Canberra, the Capitals got up in a close one, 90-83, though that was all the way back in Round 1. Adelaide won by 10 points in late December back on its home court. Despite injuries this year, last year’s Most Valuable Player (MVP), Kelsey Griffin is working back into form coming off the bench, scoring 20 points and seven rebounds.  Kia Nurse (21.0 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.4 steals) has been a scoring machine all season, wile Olivia Epoupa (8.2 points, 7.9 rebounds, 6.8 assists and 3.2 steals) just fills up the stats sheet with great versatility. Aside from the damaging duo of Turner and Talbot, Nicole Seekamp and Lauren Nicholson can hold their heads high this season, putting up consistent numbers at different times during the season, while Chelsea Brook is an impact player off the bench. The Capitals will be too strong here, and with what is on the line, expect them to take no prisoners in front of a home crowd.

TOWNSVILLE FIRE vs. BENDIGO SPIRIT
Saturday, February 1, 6pm
Townsville Stadium

In what has ultimately been a disappointing season for both these teams, the final match for them ends up being a bottom two clash. Townsville Fire host Bendigo Spirit just to solidify seventh spot on the table, with the only chance of moving up (or losing their spot) is if Bendigo defeat Sydney Uni Flames on Thursday night. If the Flames get up, then neither of these sides can move, and Bendigo ends the season on the bottom of the table, regardless of result. The Spirit are yet to win a game on the road, having lost here back in early December when they went down by 14 points. Bendigo did manage to grab a rare win just before the New Year, defeating the Fire at home by a point in a tight contest. Townsville are only 3-6 at home, but are still likely to get the job done here given Bendigo’s inability to win on the road this season. Townsville heads into the clash with a three-game losing streak, while the Spirit are at three, and will be four if they go down to the Flames on Thursday. For the home side, Bridget Carleton has proven to be a great recruit this season, averaging 11.6 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game. Darcee Garbin (14. points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.1 steals) has also been solid, as has Tess Madgen (12.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.6 assists). The Fire have just not had the offensive connection that other sides have, with just one player averaging more than four assists per game. Bendigo is in the same boat, with only Wilson and Lavey managing more than two assists per game, while Carley Ernst (11.6 points, 6.6 rebounds) and Abigail Wehrung (11.1 points, 2.6 rebounds) have been the two scorers to average double-figure points this season. Townsville to win at home, but will be a sombre affair knowing the reality of the season.

SOUTHSIDE FLYERS vs. SYDNEY UNI FLAMES
Saturday, February 1, 7pm
Dandenong Stadium

To finish off their year, the top of the table Southside Flyers will be hoping to win in front of a home crowd against Sydney Uni Flames. The last time these sides met at Dandenong, Sydney Uni caused a boilover, with the Flames’ disappointing road record of 3-7 surprisingly including the minor premiers (as well as wooden spooners, Bendigo twice). The game in question came on December 21, when the Flames took the chocolates by seven points. Earlier in the season back in Round 2, Southside Flyers defeated the Flames by 13 points on the road. With a 7-3 record at home, the Flyers are very solid there and will want to finish off the season in style with a big win over a side that found a weakness last time the team’s clashed. Rebecca Cole has been the leading points scorer for the Flyers, averaging 17.2 points per game, while Mercedes Russell has put up a double-double this season of 16.6 points and 10 rebounds. Leilani Mitchell has enjoyed her move south from the Capitals, also being a key contributor, one of five players to average more than 13 points per game this season. Sydney Uni will head into the clash as massive underdogs, but have been able to provide some minutes to players off the bench once the season had slipped away, with the likes of Sarah Graham (18 games), Lara McSpadden (14) and Kimberley Hodge (five) all coming off the bench in each of their games. This will be a tough one for the Flames to repeat, coming into the round with a five-game losing streak, but they will be confident to knock over the Flames two days prior. The Flyers are a hard team to beat and finished top of the table for a reason, so expect them to take this game out.

MELBOURNE BOOMERS vs. PERTH LYNX
Saturday, February 1, 7pm
State Basketball Centre

The final game of the WNBL regular season pits top two side, Melbourne Boomers up against fifth placed Perth Lynx. The Boomers simply have to win this game because a loss could see them slip to third spot on the table. Luckily they will know where they stand with the third placed UC Capitals taking on the Adelaide Lightning earlier in the day. If as expected the Capitals get up in that clash, then they will temporarily take second spot. Melbourne has to win this game to lock up second spot again, with a far superior points difference. If they lose and slip to third, it means they will face the Capitals in Canberra, twice, which is something no side wants to do given the Capitals’ 9-1 record with a loss to Southside Flyers the only blemish. By winning this match, Melbourne gets the two home finals, and can try and utilise the 6-3 home record to best effect. In saying that, the Boomers had the same opportunity against the Lightning last year and lost in Game 1, going out in straight sets. Melbourne defeated Perth by nine points here in early December, before facing off a week later back in Perth where the Lynx returned the favour. Perth are also playing a second game two days earlier, so it will be interesting to see how they manage the load in the final round and the confidence they take from that clash. This season has been about Melbourne’s big duo of Ezi Magbegor (13.2 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.1 blocks) and Cayla George (14.4 points, 8.3 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.3 blocks) who hold the key to both offensively and defensively hurting opposition teams. The Lynx have a number of players who can stand up and match them off the boards or around the court, with Ariel Atkins (9.9 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.6 steals) and Nadeen Payne (10.3 points, 4.5 rebounds) among those who have the talent to impact a contest. Melbourne has to win to give itself a realistic chance of the WNBL title, and lock up second spot, so expect them to do just that, in a competitive game.

2019/20 WNBL Round 15 preview: Capitals and Lightning look to make charge

IT is now or never for the two sides just outside the top two positions on the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) ladder with the University of Canberra (UC) Capitals and Adelaide Lightning needing victories if they are to force their way into the favourable finals spots. The season might be over for four teams, but pride is still on the line, and they can still impact the finals series with some upsets in the penultimate round of action.

UC CAPITALS vs. PERTH LYNX
Wednesday, January 22, 7pm
National Convention Centre

The standalone Wednesday night fixture is the re-scheduled Round 12 game between University of Canberra (UC Capitals) and Perth Lynx, which was delayed due to the recent heavy smoke plaguing the nation’s capital three weeks ago. With just two rounds to go, the WNBL deemed it was the right time and safe enough with the forecasted weather, for the game to go ahead. With Perth already scheduled for a Friday night game, the match had to be at least a couple of days earlier hence the Wednesday night time slot. This game will really add an extra element to the WNBL Round 15, with the Capitals able to put pressure on the top two sides. While the points differential means they cannot overtake the Boomers on one win alone, it moves them to within one victory of overtaking them. A loss however, and they could slip to fourth with an upset win for the Adelaide Lightning over Southside Flyers. So far this season the Capitals are 7-1 at home with only the Flyers having found the key to victory, and are coming off two vital wins over the Boomers and Flyers in Round 14. For the Lynx, the season might be over with a three and a half gap deficit to the Lightning, but they are the best of the rest and are the leading side to finish fifth on the table. In the two clashes thus far, the Capitals have got up by comfortable margins of 18 and 17 points in November and December respectively. Kia Nurse is coming off a 33-point game against the Flyers and now averages 20.8 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game, while Marianna Tolo has stepped up in the absence of teammates with 14.2 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game in the center, while Maddison Rocci benefited from a step-up in time and role to post 19 points in the Capitals’ win in Round 14. Perth will hope to take greater advantage of a Capitals side missing Kelsey Griffin and Keely Froling, with Katie-Rae Ebzery ever-consistent this season, posting 15.7 points, 4.7 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 1.4 steals per game. Nadeen Payne (10.3 points, 4.1 rebounds) and Lauren Mansfield (9.9 points, 3.4 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.8 steals) are the other two Lynx players who have started every match and will be crucial in the match.

BENDIGO SPIRIT vs. PERTH LYNX
Friday, January 24, 7pm
Bendigo Stadium

Backing up from Wednesday night’s game, Perth travels south to meet Bendigo Spirit on Friday night. The Lynx will have a huge chance of collecting a win over the bottom placed side, even though they have struggled on the road with a 2-5 record that could be 2-6 by the game’s tipoff. Bendigo have been much stronger at home than away, winning four of 10 at home whilst not winning a game while visiting. The teams have played twice this season and the last time they met in Bendigo, the Spirit got up by 12 points in a great win. Perth sought revenge in the Round 13 match however, knocking over Bendigo by 19 points in Perth. Neither of these sides can make finals, but a win for the Spirit would move them closer to the Fire with the bottom two sides facing off in the last round, while the Lynx can gain some separation on the bottom three sides. Bendigo has just the two players who are averaging double-figure points with Carley Ernst and Abigail Wehrung recording 12 and 10.9 points per game respectively. Ernst also averages 6.6 rebounds per game, while Wehrung has been an inspiration coming off the bench. The Spirit have had just two players start every game, with Tessa Lavey (9.4 points, 3.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists) and Kelly Wilson (8.9 points, 4.2 rebounds, 6.1 assists and 1.4 steals) providing the best playmaking abilities in the team. For the Lynx, they would love to have Imani McGee-Stafford and Ariel Atkins both up and firing in the one team, with the American duo providing great support of the boards; McGee-Stafford leading the team with 8.4 rebounds per game.

TOWNSVILLE FIRE vs. MELBOURNE BOOMERS
Saturday January 25, 6pm
Townsville Stadium

Tipping off the Saturday night proceedings, seventh placed Townsville Fire host top two side, Melbourne Boomers in a bid to desperately improve from last round. The Fire were well beaten in both their matches and it does not get any easier here against a genuine title contender. At home the Fire are 3-5, while the Boomers are strong on the road with a 7-3 record and not afraid of winning in front of a hostile environment. On the two occasions the teams have faced off this season, Melbourne got up on both occasions, defeating Townsville by nine points back on October 27, and 16 points two months later. The Fire have missed Abby Bishop since she was mutually released from her contract, with the consistent performer averaging 15.9 points, 7.6 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 2.1 steals per game from 14 games prior to her departure. In her absence, Darcee Garbin (14.5 points, 6.3 rebounds) and Tess Madgen (12.5 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.7 assists) have carried the load, while Bridget Carleton gets around the court and provides great offensive and defensive plays for the Fire. The Boomers have been steadily building over the season with lots of depth coming off the pine, and this game is a chance to try and gain some separation on the Capitals after the Boomers went down to the reigning premiers last week. A win would also move them closer to Southside setting up an unlikely charge for top spot if results go their way. Sophie Cunningham has been impressive of late, averaging 11.4 points and 3.7 rebounds per game, while the towering duo of Cayla George and Ezi Magbegor – who combine for 26.8 points and 14.8 rebounds – will also be a handful for the Fire in this game.

SOUTHSIDE FLYERS vs. ADELAIDE LIGHTNING
Saturday, January 25, 7pm
Dandenong Stadium

The other Saturday night game might be the most touted of the round, with a top four clash on offer and a result that will directly affect the finals make-up. If the Southside Flyers can get up over the Adelaide Lightning, expect the league’s newest rebranded side to take the minor premiership given the two-game gap on the second placed Boomers. At the same time, the Lightning will be almost certainly resigned to fourth spot, and meet the Flyers in the first week of finals, which could well happen anyway. However if the Lightning get up, then it opens the door for all top four sides, with the Lightning keeping the pressure on the third placed Capitals, while the Boomers could be knocking on the door of top spot with the Flyers potentially slipping up. These sides have played twice – both in Adelaide – with the Flyers getting up on December 1 by six points, before the Lightning returned the favour in Round 12 with an 11-point victory in front of home fans to all but lock up a top four spot. Now out at Dandenong, the Flyers are a difficult team to beat, having only lost to the Capitals twice and Sydney Uni once at home. The Lightning are 50 per cent on the road with four wins from eight games, but will have gained confidence from the big win last round. Mercedes Russell has been a star all season for the Flyers, pumping out numbers of 16.7 points and 10.2 rebounds per game in the center position, well aided by the likes of Rebecca Cole (16.6 points, 3.3 rebounds and 3.8 assists) and Leilani Mitchell (16.0 points, 3.3 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 1.4 steals), while Sara Blicavs has been the side’s top player in the last few weeks. For the visitors, Brianna Turner and Stephanie Talbot continue to create headaches for the opposition, combining for 31 points, 18.5 rebounds and three blocks per game. Lauren Nicholson has also been a consistent contributor for the Lightning, as has Nicole Seekamp who has stepped up in the past month.

UC CAPITALS vs. SYDNEY UNI FLAMES
Sunday, January 26, 5pm
National Convention Centre

Depending on Wednesday and Saturday nights’ results, the UC Capitals could be battling for second spot with a win here against the Sydney Uni Flames. The Capitals need to defeat Perth Lynx and for Townsville to upset Melbourne, which granted is unlikely based on the Fire’s recent form and the Boomers’ ability to get the job done. However if it happens then it opens the door for the Capitals to access second spot with a win, and depending on the other Saturday night encounter between the Flyers and Lightning, might even give the reigning premiers a sniff at top spot. If the Lightning and Fire win, the Capitals could move to within one game of top spot, sitting pretty in second on the WNBL table. However, back-to-back losses this round would see the Capitals drop back below the Lightning in fourth spot. They are 7-1 on the table at home, while the Flames are 3-6 when on the road so they will need to defy the recent season history to cause an upset. The Flames are a much improved side on last year’s wooden spoon effort with Sydney Uni looking safe from that fate again in 2019/20. These teams have played twice this season, with the Flames causing a boilover back on October 27 with a six-point win over the Capitals, before UC clicked into gear a week later with a smashing 25-point victory. Olivia Epoupa is a versatile player who defies her 165cm height to be a real influence off the boards with 8.1 rebounds per game to accompany her 6.7 assists and 3.2 steals in a truly impressive effort. Along with Alex Delaney – who got her first start – and other youngsters in Gemma Potter and Abby Cubillo – who are getting vital time off the bench – the Capitals have plenty of depth to fill in for the injured Griffin and Froling. The Flames have had some strong contributors themselves this season, with Alice Kunek (18.9 points, 4.9 rebounds and 3.0 assists) leading the way, while Jessica Kuster (12.1 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.1 steals) and Alex Wilson (11.2 points, 5.1 assists and 3.4 rebounds) have been strong, Lauren Scherf is also building some nice form of late and will be hard to stop in the center.