Tag: Chris Lucas

WNBL20 Season Review – Adelaide Lightning

SUFFICE to say, it was not the Adelaide Lightning’s season after finishing sixth at the conclusion of WNBL20, serving as the only team from earlier this year to not make the postseason this time around, finishing with a record of five wins and eight defeats.

Preceding the first contest of their fixture, the Lightning were dealt a huge blow to their core unit with the announcement that Phoenix Mercury member, Alanna Smith would be absent for the six-week season due to injury.

But that did not stop Chris Lucas’ squad from ruining the Canberra Capitals’ start to their three-peat bid, toppling the two-time defending champions 85-73 in Mackay to kick off the competition. Following their upset win against the Capitals, the Lightning kept the momentum going to begin their season with a hard-earned win against fellow mid-table inhabitants the Perth Lynx, putting together a perfect start to the season after Round One.

Just when Adelaide started to look like a serious contender for the season, fortunes became reversed when the Queensland government put in place a mandatory quarantine for recently arrived individuals from South Australia, therefore affecting the Lightning’s schedule in Round Two.

After nine days of inaction, Adelaide made its return to the court but similar results would prove a lot harder to come by. Going down to the Melbourne Boomers by 40 points, Adelaide’s success took a dramatic turn for the worse. While they attained their third and fourth wins of the season against the Bendigo Spirit and the Sydney Uni Flames, it was noticeable that the Lightning struggled against top-tier teams.

Back-to-back games against the Southside Flyers in rounds three and four really showcased the difference between Adelaide’s style of play and that of the eventual minor premiers. Going down by 31 and 39 points in each clash, it set the tone for a rather uneventful run home despite still having a realistic chance at making the postseason at that stage.

However, after a 20-point defeat to the Capitals in their second battle of the season and a minuscule defeat against the Lynx, Adelaide’s season was hanging by a thread with an unfavourable sequence of opponents waiting in the distance for Round Five.

With the only positive result in the final round being knocking over the Spirit once again, Adelaide would fall to the Boomers for a second time, the Townsville Fire, and the Flames in their closing game of the season, solidifying themselves in the middle echelon of the standings.

Adelaide captain Steph Talbot, who was consistently leading her side in numerous categories each and every night, took home the Suzy Batkovic Medal, the league’s highest individual honour. Talbot averaged a whopping 18.2 points (third highest in WNBL), nine rebounds (third highest in WNBL), three assists, 1.9 steals (third highest in the WNBL) and 30.6 minutes per game (ninth highest in the WNBL) in what would one of the most dominant seasons for an individual across all categories in recent WNBL history.

Backing up Talbot was shooting guard Ally Wilson, who ranked first or second in areas like scoring, assists and minutes; averaging 11.3 points, 4.3 assists and 31.7 minutes in said categories. While on the whole, Adelaide as a unit was a class below the WNBL’s top four, individuals like Abigail Wehrung (average 11.3 points and 2.5 assists), Chelsea Brook (9.3 points and 4.4 rebounds) and Marena Whittle (8.7 points and 5.3 rebounds) provided substantial aid to their two leaders on multiple occasions throughout the team’s regular season fixture.

While Adelaide missed out on finals this season, a few upgrades to the secondary unit would be a much-needed benefit to next year’s side and their MVP in Talbot. Should Smith make a successful return to the side, anything is possible for the Lightning in WNBL21.

Melbourne weathers the Lightning, 21-point victory over Adelaide

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pic: WNBL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Boomers bounce back in style, stun Lightning by 40

AFTER back-to-back defeats, the Melbourne Boomers are again back on the right side of a result following a 40-point landslide win against the Adelaide Lightning in last night’s opening contest, 91-51.

The Boomers were not phased in the slightest by Adelaide’s extended rest period, opening the game up with an 8-0 run before Abbey Wehrung got the Lightning on the scoreboard three minutes in.

Picture-perfect shooting by Melbourne allowed them to create a decent margin by the end of the first quarter while keeping Adelaide to single digits in the process, leading 28-8 in what can be described as one of the best quarters so far this season for Guy Molloy’s team.

To add to the list of issues that the Lightning had to try and contain, Melbourne’s shot conversion rate was a significant one. The Boomers went 19 from 39 (48 per cent) throughout the opening half compared to 33 per cent shooting from Adelaide – numbers that would be the reason for the game’s 53-28 score line at the main break after two quarters.

Looking to repeat a successful first half, the frontcourt duo of Tess Madgen and Maddie Garrick looked to continue their production as they scored 14 and 13 points respectively in the opening 20 minutes of play. But, the job of containing Adelaide’s Opal forward in Steph Talbot was going to prove more of a challenge, as she sounded off on 10 points and three rebounds in the same amount of time.

Both sides slowed down offensively with the two teams combining for 26 points, but the uphill battle did not become any easier to manage for Chris Lucas’s outfit, as the Boomers looked to bounce back from two straight defeats prior to last night as extra motivation.

Leading by 17 with one quarter left, Melbourne just needed to stick to their routine and manage the clock, as a late charge did not seem likely of their opponents. Finally concluding matters last night, the Boomers convincingly outscored the Lightning 24 to 11 in the final term and holding their opponents to 51 points.

The Boomers knocked down field goals at a stellar pace all game, converting on 39 shots from 79 attempts (44 per cent), much higher compared to Adelaide’s average conversion rate of 31 per cent shooting. A plus-25 in rebounding for Melbourne coupled with a plus-13 in assists covered most of the important statistics related to the game that were considered necessary. In addition to this they doubled the amount of points that came from their bench players with 24 compared to Adelaide’s 12.

Marquee players from Molloy’s outfit put on impressive displays, stemming from the rebounding efforts of Cayla George (16 points and 15 rebounds) and Ezi Magbegor (11 points and eight rebounds), and then leading onto the scoring efforts made by Madgen (16 points and five assists) and Garrick (15 points and four assists).

On the flip side, Adelaide’s Ally Wilson submitted a team-high 13 points along with seven rebounds, whereas Talbot finished her night with a modest 12-point and seven-rebound performance.

Taking the contest by 40 points, the Boomers repositioned themselves back in the top four next to the Southside Flyers. But the team now have to wait a week before their next clash against the Canberra Capitals, and given too much time off, a win is anything but a sure thing. A different kind of wait beholds the Lightning, as they have less than a day to recover from their efforts last night, before taking on the winless Bendigo Spirit, who are yet to emerge triumphant after six meetings this season.

Townsville leave Spirit shocked, extend winning streak to four

Pic: WNBL

HOSTS and now the hottest team in the WNBL, the Townsville Fire have kept alive their winning streak in emphatic style by lathering on the points against the lowly Bendigo Spirit 99-51. The result symbolises the two most opposite teams in the competition in terms of form, with the Fire extending their streak to four and the Spirit losing their seventh game in as many contests.

Coming into last night’s contest on a three-game winning streak and in their home city, the Fire were not going to slow down even remotely early on in the contest. This would result in a dominant initial quarter for Head Coach Shannon Seebohm’s side.

Dictated by their smooth passing, six of Townsville’s players put the ball in the net after 10 minutes of play and combine for nine assists on their way to an encouraging 30-10 lead after the first quarter siren. This was topped off by Nadeen Payne’s triple on the buzzer providing an extra boost of momentum.

In a scrappier second term, both teams traded rare baskets in a more spaced out fashion, but as Bendigo started to make encouraging progress, Shyla Heal’s second three-pointer six minutes into the period seemingly halted any chance of a run to conclude the first half and thereby kickstarted the cascading display of points to follow.

However, a good first half followed Mary Goulding, as she waltzed her way to double-digit totals halfway through the game (10 points and two rebounds), but it was a minor footnote as Townsville had more than double the amount of total points that Bendigo had produced leading up to half-time, the score being 51-23.

Things went from bad to worse in the second half for the Spirit as they scored 17 points compared to the Fire’s 27 in the third quarter, which in turn saw the three-quarter time lead grow to 38 points and signify the inevitable win for Townsville before the fourth even began.

The Fire were able to cap off a complete game by winning the final quarter in addition to the previous three, falling one point short of the century mark, but 48-point winners nevertheless.

Townsville emerged victorious in virtually every aspect of the game with the exception of blocked shots, as Bendigo gained the advantage 6-3 in that respect. More importantly, the Fire’s shooting at an exceptional level was their main proponent in the win. Finishing with a clip of 47 per cent, it dwindled the Spirit’s shooting efficiency of 32 per cent. The Fire also bested their opponents in rebounding (42-35) and assists (27-15), as well as forcing 26 turnovers from Tracy York’s roster.

A slow second half individually depleted Goulding’s numbers by the final whistle as she would not score again after half-time for the Spirit. Bendigo’s next highest contributor was Jennie Rintala, who amassed 10 points off the bench with four rebounds. Meanwhile, Tessa Lavey and Carley Ernst were almost absent from the contest, stringing together just nine points between them.

Four out of five of Townsville’s starters reached scoring figures over 10 points, with the Fire’s frontcourt duo of Payne and Megan McKay exhibiting their shooting consistency. Payne sunk six three-pointers to get her 18 points and seven rebounds, while McKay accounted for 18 points and eight rebounds.

Bendigo will square off with the Adelaide Lightning later today as both sides are in dire need of a victory, whereas Townsville have a hefty four-day break before heading to Cairns to try their hand again at defeating the Southside Flyers.

WNBL20 Team Preview – Adelaide Lightning

IN the final of Draft Central’s WNBL20 team previews in lieu of the opening tipoff, we look at one of the two teams set to kick off the campaign tonight in the Adelaide Lightning, as Chris Lucas’ side will look to make the top-four for the third time in as many years, despite losing their marquee signing in Alanna Smith a few weeks ago due to injury.

Despite Smith’s unfortunate absence, the Lightning still maintains an arsenal of weapons at their disposal, none more so than their appointed Captain for the next six weeks Stephanie Talbot. Concluding her 2019/20 season, the nine-year-veteran cemented herself as one of the competition’s premiere players after averaging 13.8 points, 8.7 rebounds and 4.9 assists throughout 21 games. These numbers would lay the foundation for a list of accolades, as Talbot received an All-WNBL Second Team nomination and a selection to next year’s Australian Opals squad, further establishing her with the reputation to lead Adelaide into WNBL20.

Aiding Talbot in the team’s frontcourt are two very dynamic forwards in Chelsea Brook, a rising star amongst WNBL bigs, and 32-year-old Louella Tomlinson, who has seen it all experience-wise and provides a facilitative defensive role. Perceived as the embodiment of the South Australian basketball system, Brook has been representing her home state with an abundance of gusto, earning bulk minutes and producing more solid numbers each season. Tomlinson, who considers herself an efficient passer and defensive presence will look for a more stable role under Lucas’ rotation, as the 2012 champion has had a hectic career in terms of location with her past clubs. Backing up these two is WNBL debutant Ella Batish, who came out with an impressive 2019 NBL1 season with the Sandringham Sabres, averaging 9.1 points and 4.5 rebounds. Despite missing out on this year’s NBL1 campaign with the Frankston Blues, Batish remains excited for the upcoming six weeks hoping to make a difference on the boards and bolster the Lightning’s defensive prowess.

Smith’s injury announcement was not the only loss for Adelaide during the pre-season, as NBL1 Central superstar Jasmin Fejo also announced she would be watching the season from home due to the birth of her first child, and as a result it provides a chance for other guards to put their skills on display. One to keep an eye on is Alex Wilson, who is hot off the heels of a tremendous season with the Sydney Uni Flames, averaging 10.8 points, five assists and almost four rebounds a game. A product of Adelaide’s Eastern Mavericks NBL1 side, Wilson will be excited to don her home-city colours once again after almost a decade away in both Townsville and Sydney.

A more refined player in her own right, Marena Whittle has crossed over from the Western Australia border to provide her versatility to the Lightning. Known for her utility-based skillset and leadership qualities, Whittle has long held the tag of a “Sixth Man”, and the 26-year-old is keen to shake this notion. Averaging over 10 points per game last season, as well as 4.8 rebounds and an assist, it can be widely agreed upon that Whittle is ready for a more major role in the roster.

Rounding out the Lightning’s 10-player squad are guards Abbey Wehrung, who made the trip west from Bendigo and 3X3 national team member Carlie Smith, while Lucas has injected some NCAA talent into the line-up as well, with Boston College graduate Taylor Ortlepp and Oregon Duck Morgan Yaeger. Brooke Basham and Aimee Brett finalise the team as the two Development Players for the season.

WNBL Player Spotlight – Adelaide Lightning – Chelsea Brook

AS we have done at Draft Central for the past six weeks, Fridays are reserved for the League’s best-known centers. Today is no different, as we conclude the Adelaide Lightning’s Player Spotlight series focusing on 22-year-old big Chelsea Brook and how her performances last season have helped her develop to this point with WNBL21 around the corner.

A native to South Australia and raised in the town of Truro, a 70-minute drive north-east of Adelaide, Brook is a prime example of the players that emerge through the South Australian junior circuit.

Beginning her career at the tender age of four, Brook was encouraged to begin playing primarily thanks to those she is closest to according to a piece released by the club last month. “My family had a huge influence on my basketball career, I was involved in our local Barossa Valley association from the age of four. My parents would coach my older sister’s team and I would fill in and always be out at trainings joining in,” Brook said. “They pushed for me to play District Basketball with the Norwood Flames and would drive me to Adelaide twice a week so I could play, throughout my SA Country Basketball career they would give up their weekends to drive me to state trainings and tournaments all around South Australia and ensured I had every opportunity to be successful.”

Playing with a wide array of South Australian talent, Brook was lucky enough to be a member of the Australian World Uni Games side that took home gold in Taiwan and Japan. In addition to this, she would also accomplish something that has rarely been done in South Australian basketball history. Following a successful 2018 SA Premier League campaign for the Sturt Sabres, Brooke earned the Halls Medal, the state’s highest individual honour for a female basketballer – as a teenager.

Based on last season’s WNBL numbers, Brook’s progression continues to suggest improvement after averaging seven points, 2.7 rebounds and converting over half of her shot attempts (51.5 per cent) in 2019/20. The fifth-year player has been working on a more consistent three-point threat and hopes her added work on this asset will come to fruition in under a month when league action resumes.

“I would describe my playing style as a stretch forward, in the offseason I’ve definitely tried to improve my consistency of outside shooting and I think that is something that I can bring to the Lightning this upcoming season,” Brook added.

Brook is nothing less than excited to be back in her home-town side for another season and to help head coach Chris Lucas and her teammates find immediate success this season, “I feel really excited and blessed to be able to return for my fifth season with the Lightning, I love having the opportunity to play under Chris again and be able to be involved with the Lightning community and supporters who continually come out and support us,” noted Brook.

WNBL Player Spotlight – Adelaide Lightning – Alanna Smith

THE Adelaide Lightning have set the benchmark high already after tagging Alanna Smith as their “biggest WNBL signing since Suzy Batkovic a decade ago”. This comes after Smith has excelled at every possible turn despite only being 24.

A Stanford University alum, Smith averaged close to 12 points per game (11.9), six rebounds and a block and a half each time out on the floor over her four seasons of NCAA play. Following her successes in California, the accomplishment of a lifetime would come across the Tasmanian-born star, as the Phoenix Mercury selected Smith as the eighth overall pick in the 2019 WNBA draft.

In what was an introductory rookie season, Smith appeared in 18 games throughout the 2019 campaign averaging a point and two rebounds, while also missing her final 14 games due to an ankle injury. She did however take on a more prominent role in Sandy Brondello’s side during the 2020 “Wubble” season, maintaining almost 16 minutes each game and improving her statistical averages to 6.1 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.2 assists.

Now, Smith sets her sights on North-Queensland where in less than four weeks she will participate in her second hub competition in the same year. But she seemed nothing less than excited to make her long-awaited homecoming to the Australian competition when the announcement became public on June 10, where she noted her admiration for head coach Chris Lucas.

“I know Chris really well, I knew there was a vacancy on the (Lightning) roster in the four-spot (power forward) and I spoke with a few people who have played for Adelaide before,” Smith said. “I only heard really good things and I am keen to get there and be part of an awesome organisation.”

The Lightning will have on display possibly the best forward combo in the entire WNBL. Stephanie Talbot, who was selected to the All-WNBL Second Team last season and ranked amongst the best in statistical categories such as rebounds, assists and minutes played, will be a key player for Smith to rely upon within coach Lucas’ WNBL21 rotation.

Expanding upon this, Talbot – like Smith – is a WNBA-level talent, having been a member of the Phoenix Mercury, Minnesota Lynx and now the New York Liberty. Speaking to this point, perhaps some additional wisdom can be bestowed up Smith in preparation for the next WNBA campaign.

A number of these factors could see the two mid-twenty-year-olds feed off one another and see drastic improvements as a result for both parties. This can be seen as nothing other than a positive, as Lightning supporters hope to see their team reach the semi-finals once again and possibly go a step further.

WNBL Player Spotlight – Adelaide Lightning – Steph Talbot

AFTER what was an excellent WNBL20 season for the off-guard/forward Stephanie Talbot, which culminated in an All-WNBL Second Team selection and finishing fifth amongst rebounders throughout the competition, the 26-year-old is ready to compete in her second straight season as a member of the Adelaide Lightning with the WNBL set to commence November 12.

A former Melbourne Boomer prior to last season, Talbot was a cornerstone piece in Chris Lucas’s side during the 2019/20 campaign. Earning a ridiculous quantity of statistics throughout the fixture, she lathered the points on as well as her rebounds. At the conclusion of the regular season, Talbot’s stat line would read 13.8 points, 8.7 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 1.6 steals per game. To add even more numbers to her myriad of statistics from last season, she converted on 39 per cent of her attempts and shot 74.6 per cent from the free throw line as well.

Following a successful first season back at the club for the first time since 2014, it only makes perfect sense that Talbot keeps her rise to superstardom in one place for now, as she links up with fellow WNBA prospect Alanna Smith. The two-forward combo of Talbot (New York Liberty) and Smith (Phoenix Mercury) will cause frequent headaches for opposition teams as both players exhibit lethal two-way tendencies.

While the Katherine-born star does not explode for points often, you can guarantee that she will contribute a solid amount each time, as Talbot accumulated double-digit points totals in 17 of her 21 contests in WNBL20, whilst recording a season-high 25 points against the Southside Flyers back at the start of December.

Furthermore, Adelaide’s nine-year veteran will have more obligations to look forward to than just the upcoming national competition. Talbot received praise for her recent efforts after being offered a playing position in the upcoming Opals squad bound for the Tokyo Olympics next year.

Having already represented the country at events like the 2018 Commonwealth Games (Gold Medal) and the 2018 FIBA World Cup (Silver Medal), Talbot only needs the Olympics to be crossed off to complete the three national feats in Australian basketball.

With the days counting down quicker and quicker until the start of WNBL21, Adelaide will start to make their final preparations before heading up north to Queensland, where hopefully the Lightning can return to the postseason again, after their semi-final exit last time round thanks to the Southside Flyers.

WNBL Player Spotlight – Adelaide Lightning – Marena Whittle

NOT many players have been shopped around in the WNBL as much as Marena Whittle, as the 26-year-old prepares to represent the Adelaide Lightning this November in WNBL21. The Victorian-born utility will also join her fourth club in as many seasons hoping to build upon her last stint with the Perth Lynx.

Often referred to as a utility prospect, Whittle poses a reputation that allows her to be able to play proficiently at virtually any position within a line-up. Despite this however, she has endured a compilation of injuries in the early years of her professional career, especially during her debut season with the Townsville Fire. In addition, at Bendigo, Whittle suffered a minor Achilles injury which is just another example of the bad luck that the North Dakota State alum has endured to this point.

But seemingly a half-glass full individual, Whittle hopes that these bumps in the road have only strengthened herself as a player to this point as she looks to inspire the next wave of emerging basketballers, “I love being a role model to the younger generation, I think it’s very important to set a good example and to make sure they know that anything is possible,” Whittle said.

No stranger to competitive levels of basketball, Whittle refined her craft as a junior with the Nunawading Spectres from the age of four in the hotly contested Victorian basketball scene where many of the nation’s top basketballers originate from. This, followed by various state basketball tournaments, led her to the United States where she played her full four years of NCAA basketball. Averaging 11.3 points and 7.9 rebounds at North Dakota State, Whittle became a pivotal piece of the Bison’s roster from her freshman to her senior years, thus laying the foundations for the player WNBL fans see today.

Last season was particularly a highlight for Whittle, as she excelled in many aspects of the game during WNBL20. Being a standout player in the Perth Lynx’s secondary unit, she maintained substantial averages of 10.3 points, 4.8 rebounds and an assist each game. But after playing all 21 games throughout last season’s campaign, Whittle is ready to make the next step in the relatively early stages of her career, which is evident by the Most improved Player of the Year that was bestowed upon Whittle by the Lynx organisation.

“I am looking to create a diverse leadership role on court and to shake the tag of being a 6th man. I am keen to get into a starting role and looking at this unique season ahead, I think there are many opportunities for local players to step it up,” Whittle noted.

Soon to be working alongside marquee players like Whittle, Alanna Smith, Stephanie Talbot and Chelsea Brook, head coach Chris Lucas has the core weapons needed to size up to many of the other sides throughout the WNBL competition, which is set to kick off in just over four weeks’ time.

WNBL Player Spotlight – Adelaide Lightning – Jasmin Fejo

PERHAPS one of next season’s breakout young guards, Jasmin Fejo will look to take the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) by storm when she signs on as a rostered player for the Adelaide Lightning next season. Fejo will rely on her pace and speed when she sizes up against some of the Australia’s elite basketballers after displaying numerous impressive stints in the NBL1 Central division over the last few years.

Beginning her play at Portside Christian during her high school days, Fejo earned a coveted spot for South Australia Metro in 2017 at the National Under 18 Championships, which preceded competing in the same tournament’s Under 20 age bracket later down the track. Following what was a stellar junior circuit for the 20-year-old, it was time to take her journey to the next stage and start to transition to the professional level.

Back in 2016, it was announced that former WNBL legend Rachel Sporn would ply her mentoring traits to a new basketball academy, to help progress the next wave of South Australia’s finest ballers. Fejo was a part of that squad for a few years. In the meantime, Fejo started to refine her game competitively in South Australia’s state-wide competition, the Premier League.

Perhaps her best night on record with the West Adelaide Bearcats came in 2019, where Fejo produced a career-high night from the field, accumulating 40 points in a single game against the South Adelaide Panthers. This performance was indicative of her season as a whole, as Fejo rose to prominence throughout the 2019 season. Awarded the Merv Harris for being the best player under 21 years of age in the competition, she was also be awarded an All-Star Five selection to round out a spectacular 2019 year whilst shooting an exemplary 42.7 per cent leading to 15.6 points per contest.

Major aspects of Fejo’s game are her quickness and her ability to get out on the fast-break and cause substantial damage before the opposition defence even has the chance to get set. For Fejo herself, she knows what her strengths can offer to the Lightning and she is excited to be able showcase this to head coach Chris Lucas.

“I can get up in the lanes of the offence team, also using my speed and court supervision to blow past players and bring my teammates into the game,” Fejo said. “I would describe my playing style as aggressive, not selfish, and hard-working so I am always willing to put my body on the line for the team.”

Following the ongoing contracts of both Steph Talbot and Chelsea Brook as well as the signing of WNBA superstar Alanna Smith, Fejo became the fourth known member of the Lightning’s squad for WNBL21. The Adelaide faithful are hopeful that the debutant can produce in what will be an unprecedented season up in North Queensland come November 12.