Tag: courtney woods

NBL 1 North wrap: Round 11

IN an unimpeded National Basketball League (NBL)1 North competition, there were some serious thrillers that played out across the men’s and women’s divisions in Round 11.

Men’s:

Townsville and Brisbane gave fans a Saturday night show after the two sides couldn’t be separated in regulation time. The back-and-forth contest was settled by a dominant overtime display from the Heat who came out 10-point winners, giving the home crowd plenty to cheer about at the StarFm Stadium.

Early on it was a tough battle, with Peter Crawford nailing a couple late threes to ensure the Heat led by five points at the first break. Ben Volkman and Nicholas Stoddart landed the first two blows for the Capitals to begin the second quarter as it remained tight before the Heat rallied late to lead 52-44 at half time. The third period was even, with Matthew Rees hitting a jump shot to stretch the Heat’s lead out to 11 points early on, and then the Capitals making some shots themselves to reduce the first half deficit by one heading into the final break.

A defence dominated last quarter saw both teams combine for just 28 points. Sam Froling led a block party with four massive rejections in the final term, while Jalen Patton-Croker and Crawford also had one each. The Capitals defence was strongest though restricting Townsville to just three made field goals for the quarter (10 points total). Didan Toto (two blocks, one steal) led the way showing off his defensive presence. While Brisbane didn’t make a heap of shots themselves, Stoddart’s two-pointer with 40 seconds remaining drew the scores level. A frantic last 30 seconds followed with the Heat’s Patton-Croker rejecting Stoddart, giving Ethan Betts a chance at a three-quarter court effort that only just missed, bouncing off the back iron and sending the game into an additional five-minute period. Overtime was a one-sided affair as the Heat started with a 12-0 run, and the Capitals were never able to pull themselves back into the contest. Froling added another two blocks to his name to assert his dominance at the rim, as the hosts went on to win the contest 100-90.

There were plenty of contributors for both teams on the night with Betts (12 points, 13 rebounds) and Froling (15 points, 12 rebounds, seven blocks) recording double-doubles for the Heat, while Volkman scored 14 points and 11 rebounds for the away team. Patton-Croker (23 points) and Crawford (19 points) led the scoring for Townsville, with Stoddart (22 points) and Jacob Wilson (19 points) the most prolific offensive options for the Capitals.

The following afternoon the Heat hosted Cairns, with Froling having another strong game scoring 30 points and gathering 11 boards, however the home side were outplayed in a solid second half performance by the Marlins, who were led by Cairns Taipans product Majok Deng (23 points, 12 rebounds) and Alex Loughton (22 points).

Sunday’s victory was the second of the round for the Marlins after they too defeated Brisbane 97-82 on Friday night. Stoddart (34 points) and Volkman (28 points) were big contributors for the Capitals, but they were outshone by Deng who exploded in front of the home crowd for a huge 46 points (20 of 27 field goals made), 16 rebounds (five offensive) and two blocks.

Meanwhile, the Gold Coast Rollers also recorded two victories in round 11, defeating Red City Roar and South West Metro Pirates to extend their unbeaten run to five games, and USC was the third side nailing a couple victories over the weekend. Rip City’s Tanner Krebs had 32 points in Saturday’s win against the Phoenix, and he added another 33 points in Sunday’s matchup against Northside.

Top of the table Logan Thunder defeated Southern Districts by 33 points and second-placed Mackay had a close game with Ipswich, eventually winning the contest 79-75.

ROUND 11 RESULTS:

Gold Coast Rollers 106 def. Red City Roar 91
Mackay Meteors 79 def. Ipswich Force 75
Cairns Marlins 97 def. Brisbane Capitals 82
Northside Wizards 107 def. Red City Roar 79
Rockhampton Rockets 71 def. by Ipswich Force 80
Logan Thunder 132 def. Southern Districts Spartans 99
South West Metro Pirates 84 def. by Gold Coast Rollers 114
Sunshine Coast Phoenix 99 def. by USC Rip City 106
Townsville Heat 100 def. Brisbane Capitals 90
Townsville Heat 74 def. by Cairns Marlins 90
USC Rip City 89 def. Northside Wizards 74

Women’s:

Round 11 action in the women’s draw was headlined by a clash between the two giants of the competition. Southern Districts Spartans and Logan Thunder both entered the round undefeated, with the Spartans having won all 11 of their games, while the Thunder had recorded 12 successive victories. The game did not disappoint either with both teams having their chances to take the number one spot in the competition. A big last quarter from the Spartans was the decisive factor as they ran over the top of the hosts to clinch a 12-point victory at the Bendigo Bank Cornubia Park Sports Centre.

The first quarter was evenly poised as the Spartans heated up from beyond the arc, sinking five first quarter threes including three from Maddison Rocci alone. This would later prove to be a good scoring source for both team on the night as the Thunder shot 11 of 32 three pointers (34 per cent) and the Spartans made an impressive 15 three pointers from 32 attempts (47 per cent). At quarter time the scoreboard showed the visitors narrowly ahead by just three points. As the second quarter progressed it was much of the same with the home team trying to wrestle back the lead. The quarter went up a notch when Mikaela Cann sunk a triple at the 6.59-minute mark to spark a remarkable run of seven out of eight scores all coming from deep. Kalani Purcell’s field goal put the Spartans up by two points, before the last minute of the second term went without a basket. That meant Southern Districts entered half time with a 44-42 lead.

With neither side willing to give in, the battle continued to entertain fans as the two teams went blow for blow in the third quarter. Eight points to Carla Drennan in the last few minutes of the term helped the Thunder edge in front by two points heading into the final break. A blistering start to the last quarter from the Spartans had the home team under the pump early. Rocci, Nadeen Payne, and Ash Karaitiana all hit three pointers before a Purcell basket made it a 10-0 start in the visitor’s favour. Mikaela Ruef broke the Spartan’s run, but the Thunder couldn’t regain the lead, as Southern Districts came away with an 89-77 victory.

Cann (18 points, six assists) and Ruef (14 points, 16 rebounds, five steals) were impressive for Logan, while Payne (20 points), Rocci (21 points), and Madelyn Willey (21 points) were all offensive threats for the Spartans. Purcell was another contributor for the travelling team completing a double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds.

Elsewhere, the Gold Coast Rollers had a successful weekend with two victories. This included a 50-point slaughtering of Red City, led by Casey Samuels (29 points) on Friday night, and a much closer 64-60 victory against South West Metro Pirates on Saturday. The two wins has the Rollers sitting in sixth position. Up North, Townsville also added two wins to their name at home with a 28-point victory over Brisbane and a staggering 62-point demolition of Cairns. Mia Murray led the team on Sunday with 26 points, while all 11 of her teammates also scored in the win against the Dolphins. The loss for Cairns came after Friday’s home defeat to Brisbane, as they went down 75-99. USC Rip City had similar luck in round 11, losing both their matches to the Phoenix and Northside, the latter who also defeated Red City Roar 84-66 on Saturday. Courtney Woods was a key part of the Wizards’ success over the weekend scoring 29 and 23 points in their two wins.

ROUND 11 RESULTS:

Gold Coast Rollers 98 def. Red City Roar 48
Mackay Meteorettes 87 def. Ipswich Force 77
Cairns Dolphins 75 def. by Brisbane Capitals 99
Northside Wizards 84 def. Red City Roar 66
Rockhampton Cyclones 63 def. by Ipswich Force 87
Logan Thunder 77 def. by Southern Districts Spartans 89
South West Metro Pirates 60 def. by Gold Coast Rollers 64
Sunshine Coast Phoenix 62 def. USC Rip City 54
Townsville Flames 76 def. Brisbane Capitals 48
Townsville Flames 117 def. Cairns Dolphins 55
USC Rip City 78 def. by Northside Wizards 89

NBL1 North wrap: Round 3

THERE were a number of tight contests in the National Basketball League (NBL)1 North, particularly in the men’s division as we recap some of the big results and top individual performances from Round 3 of the competitions.

WOMEN’S:

Brisbane Capitals survived a scare from Northside Wizards to stand up in the final term and record a four-point win on the road. The Capitals trailed by five points at quarter time and four points at half-time, then drew level at the final break before scoring 22 points to 18 in the last term to record a victory by that exact difference – four points – 78-74. The win negated out the Capitals’ disappointing 16-point defeat to Sunshine Coast Phoenix the night before and moved them to an even 2-2 start to the season.

Meg Essex lead the way with 26 points and six rebounds, with Brooke Blair also influential thanks to her 20 points – including three of five from long-range – seven assists, three rebounds and two steals. Madison Woodford chipped win with 14 points, six rebounds, five steals and four assists in the win, whilst Anna Cameron had an off night in terms of shooting (one of seven from the field and five points total), but did rack up the 12 rebounds – five offensive – to help her team to the win. Audrey Fuller (four points, five rebounds and four assists) Stephanie Collins (two points, five rebounds and four assists) and Grace George (two points, five rebounds and two assists) could not find their range with shooting, but still contributed across the course of the match.

Suffering their second loss in three games, the Wizards still managed to have some standout players, lead by Courtney Woods who managed the 25 points – three of six from three-point range – nine rebounds and three assists. Regan McCarty notched up a double-double of 18 points – four of nine from long-range – 10 rebounds, four assists and two steals. Tiana Mangakahia had the 13 points, six assists, three rebounds and three steals, while Georgia Woolley (nine points, six rebounds, four steals and three assists) and Anais Kirvan (seven points, six rebounds) also had impressive numbers in the defeat.

In the other tight match, Logan Thunder knocked off South West Metro Pirates by eight points, winning all four quarters but in tight encounters. They kept their winning streak alive thanks to the likes of Ashley Taia (24 points, four rebounds), Mikaela Ruef (16 points, 14 rebounds, seven assists and five steals) and Mikaela Cann (15 points, five rebounds, five assists and two steals), while Amanda Johnson (21 points, 13 rebounds, three steals and two assists) and Kisha Lee (19 points, eight rebounds) tried hard for the Pirates.

The Thunder then went on to smash Northside Wizards by 48 points, piling on 34 points to nine in the third quarter to eventually win, 103-55 at home. Ruef (23 points, 17 rebounds) was the key player in the win as the Thunder proved far too good for Woods (18 points, seven rebounds, three assists and two steals) and her Wizards. In the Capitals’ Friday night loss to the Phoenix, Essex again tried hard with a dominant 27 points, nine rebounds and two assists, but her team could not contain Sunshine Coast and the likes of Kathleen McLeod (18 points, 10 assists and six rebounds), Jennifer Carden-Davis (24 points, six rebounds and two steals) and Amy Browne (19 points, five rebounds and two assists) in the 92-76 result.

In other results, Mackay Meteorettes, Townsville Flames and Southern District Spartans all continued their winning runs, picking up their third consecutive victories, whilst the Phoenix knocked off Red City Roar by 20 points to also move to a 3-1 record in the 2021 NBL1 North season.

ROUND 3 RESULTS:

Sunshine Coast Phoenix (92) def. Brisbane Capitals (76)
Northside Wizards (74) def. by Brisbane Capitals (78)
Rockhampton Cyclones (63) def. by Mackay Meteorettes (88)
Red City Roar (53) def. by Sunshine Coast Phoenix (73)
Cairns Dolphins (53) def. by Townsville Flames (92)
South West Metro Pirates (81) def. by Logan Thunder (89)
Southern Districts Spartans (92) def. USC Rip City (65)
Logan Thunder (103) def. Northside Wizards (55)

MEN’S:

Cairns Marlins ended Townsville Heat’s winning start to season, ending the Heat’s two-game unbeaten run with a six-point victory at home. The Marlins won 88-82, in what was a see-sawing contest. Cairns lead by two points at quarter time, before trailing by a point at the half. Townsville turned up the heat in the third term to extend the lead out to four at the final break, but a dominant final term by the home team – which saw them pile on 22 points to 12 – resulted in Cairns running away with an eight-point victory.

James Mitchell put up a strong 22 points, eight rebounds and two assists to be the top-scorer in the match, whilst Marlins’ teammates Deba George (18 points, two assists and two steals) and Anthony Fisher (13 points, four rebounds, three steals and two assists) and Ky Stattmann (15 points, eight rebounds and two assists) all hit double-figure points in the match. Alex Loughton (eight points, four rebounds), Curt Ahwang (seven points, three rebounds and two assists) and Aron Farmer (four points, nine rebounds) also managed some key contributions in the win.

Townsville had a number of even performers as well, lead by Josh Spiers (16 points, nine rebounds) and Ethan Betts (15 points, eight assists and five rebounds). Jalen Patton-Croker (14 points, four rebounds and four assists), Luca Yates (12 points, eight rebounds) and Matthew Rees (10 points, eight rebounds and four assists) also hit double-digit points in the match. Keegan Tudehope (eight points, five rebounds) and Peter Crawford (four points, five rebounds and two assists) were others who had impacts at different points of the match.

Mackay Meteors survived a scare from the winless Rockhampton Rockets to secure an 11-point win. Trailing by 23 points at the final break, the Rockets piled on 35-23 points in the last term to show what they are capable of, but it would not be enough, going down 85-96. Emmanuel Malou (23 points, 11 rebounds) and Jerron Jamerson (24 points, eight rebounds and eight assists) did all the damage for the Meteors, while Kon Anguik (15 points, nine rebounds, three assists and three steals) and Josh Wilcher (17 points, four rebounds and four assists) were among the best players for Rockhampton.

Northside Wizards ended Brisbane Capitals’ three-game winning streak with a 96-79 victory, picking up their second win in the process. Whilst the Capitals were coming off a seven-point win over Sunshine Coast Phoenix the night before, and the Wizards would end up going on to lose to Logan Thunder by 19 points the following day, it was Northside that came away with the 17-point win. Jesse Ghee put up 23 points, eight rebounds and five assists, teaming up well with Aiden Krause (16 points, eight rebounds, four assists and two steals) in the win. Nicholas Stoddart (23 points, five assists and five steals) and Jacob Wilson (17 points, seven rebounds) were the best scorers for the Capitals, as Ben Volkman (10 points, eight rebounds and seven assists) almost walked away with a triple-double.

Southern Districts Spartans also came away with a narrow win, defeating USC Rip City by just four points, 93-89. Noah Thomas (17 points, five assists and two rebounds) was the equal top-scorer, as both Josh Derksen (17 points, 10 rebounds, two assists and two steals) and Andre Ugrinic (13 points, 10 rebounds and three steals) walked away with double-doubles. Isaih Tueta (22 points, five assists and four rebounds) and Eric McAlister (21 points, nine rebounds) combined for 43 points in a good showing from the visitors.

Meanwhile the Sunshine Coast Phoenix came away with two counter-contrasting tight results, losing to Brisbane Capitals by seven points on Friday night, before posting a five-point win over Red City Roar on Saturday. Jamaal Robateau averaged 28 points, six rebounds, 4.5 steals and 3.5 assists across the two games, as Nelson Kahler (15 points, nine rebounds) and Oscar Cluff (13 points, seven rebounds) also averaged some big numbers. Stoddart (26 points, four rebounds) and Wilston (16 points, six rebounds and three assists) were the best for the Capitals in that win, whilst Kian Dennis (34 points, five rebounds and four assists) and Kobe McDowell-White (28 points, five rebounds, five assists and three steals) did all the heavy lifting for the Roar, shooting a combined 11 of 18 from three-point range in the win.

In the other two games, Logan Thunder posted back-to-back wins with a 26-point victory on the road against South West Metro Pirates (107-81), before heading back home to win 93-74 over Northside Wizards to remain on top of the table with a 4-0 record in the opening three rounds of the NBL1 North season.

ROUND 3 RESULTS:

Sunshine Coast Phoenix (71) def. by Brisbane Capitals (78)
Northside Wizards (96) def. Brisbane Capitals (79)
Rockhampton Rockets (85) def. by Mackay Meteors (96)
Red City Roar (95) def. by Sunshine Coast Phoenix (100)
Cairns Marlins (88) def. Townsville Heat (82)
South West Metro Pirates (81) def. by Logan Thunder (107)
Southern Districts Spartans (93) def. USC Rip City (89)
Logan Thunder (93) def. Northside Wizards (74)

Picture credit: NBL1

WNBL semi-finals preview

WNBL semi-finals action begins tonight as the Melbourne Boomers and UC Capitals kick things off at Townsville Stadium, with the victor progressing through to the preliminary final. Meanwhile, ladder leaders Southside Flyers take on Townsville Fire later tonight with the winner through to the grand final.

UC Capitals v. Melbourne Boomers

A couple of familiar faces return to the finals fold with the UC Capitals and Melbourne Boomers gearing up for another finals campaign. Both sides are formidable forces that ooze class, composure, and plenty of smarts,  able to work their way out of tricky situations and barely have a bad game. It makes for an exciting clash between the two sides.

There has not been too much time between their last outing with the Melbourne Boomers getting the last laugh and walking away with a six-point victory just over two weeks ago. However, the Capitals are no easy beats and will be hoping to reverse those efforts with the back-to-back reigning premiers a force to be reckoned with each time they step out on court. The Caps have only won two of their past five outings while the Boomers have gone one better, sitting at three wins over their past five performances. Both sides are coming into the final off a loss and will be eager to flip the script and keep their finals dreams alive.

Looking at the statistical breakdown there are plenty of similarities between the two sides, with scoring no problem for either but the difference coming from where they score from. In terms of percentage the Boomers have the upper hand at both the three-point range and in overall field goal percentage – 33.3 per cent to 29.9 per cent and 43.3 per cent to 40.9 per cent respectively. The Caps are prolific in the paint, managing 496 for the season as opposed to 484 while they also have the upper hand when it comes to fast break points (105-73). On the other hand the Boomers make the most of turnover opportunities, nailing 189 points to 183. When it comes to rebounds the Capitals are above and beyond with 514 for the season while Melbourne managed 453.

There is no shortage of excitement machines for UC but it is Maddison Rocci who has really taken the step up this season, averaging a team high 16.2 points along with 3.4 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.0 steals. She is not alone though with Marianna Tolo another commanding presence out on court, averaging 11.4 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.9 assists – highlighting her ability to have an impact in all aspects. It is hard to go past the services of Kelsey Griffin with the forward able to find the basket and score, going at 45.3 per cent from the field and averaging 12 points, 7.8 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.2 steals. There are a host of other key contributors such as Keely Froling, Jade Melbourne, and Mikaela Ruef, who has proven her star power off the boards on more than one occasion.

The Boomers also have a number of livewires, none bigger than the exciting duo of Ezi Magbegor and Cayla George with the latter named in the All-WNBL First Team. Magbegor has taken another big step forward this season, averaging an impressive 14.8 points a game, 8.6 rebounds and 1.5 assists while also lending her hand on the defensive end with 1.1 blocks. Her partner in crime, George, is not far behind averaging 14.7 points, 9.2 rebounds, 3.4 assists, not to mention one block and 1.4 steals a game. Tess Madgen is another one to keep an eye out for with her explosive nature to record 14.2 points, 5.4 rebounds and 6.2 assists a game. Madeleine Garrick, Kalani Purcell and Ashleigh Karaitiana are others that are able to chime in and keep the scoreboard ticking over for the Boomers.

Southside Flyers v. Townsville Fire

Southside Flyers come into the semi-final against Townsville Fire with a real sense of vengeance having fallen short in the big dance last year and proven eager to make up for their missed opportunities. Boasting a stacked team with plenty of big names, the Flyers will be hoping to assert themselves early and pounce on the inexperienced and youthful Townsville outfit.

The last time these two sides met it was the Flyers who took home the chocolates, downing the Fire by a convincing 24 points while also winning by a similar margin the time before in Round 2. In fact, the Flyers have a pretty good record against Townsville; claiming victories in all five of their past encounters, an area the Fire will be hoping to correct in this semi-final to progress through to the next stage. In terms of current form, the Flyers are on a staggering seven-game winning streak and have no intentions of slowing down while Townsville has managed four wins in its past five appearances.

The Flyers are scoring machines, averaging a whopping 96 points per game credit to their plethora of options that can attack the rim and do so at a high accuracy. Conversely, the Fire only manage 81 points per game and will have to try and shut down Southside if they are any chance to keep up with them. Field goal percentage is another strength of the Flyers, sitting at 51.1 per cent with the Fire converting at 45.6 per cent. They also have the upper hand when it comes to three-point accuracy 43.1 to 34.6 but Townsville is pretty reliable when sent to the charity strip, managing a 74.4 per cent clip as opposed to the Flyers’ 71.7 per cent. Aside from shooting the Flyers are incredibly strong when it comes to blocks, registering 31 more than the Fire (52-21) and also reign supreme in assists (343-214) and steals (126-96). However, the Fire have the upper hand on the rebounding front (508-471) and will be hoping to make the most of their efforts off the board.

Despite missing out on the League MVP there is no denying that the acquisition of Liz Cambage has been influential on the Flyers outfit. The star center is a menace off the boards and a commanding force overall, able to hit the scoreboard with great ease in averaging 23.6 points and 8.2 rebounds each time she steps out on court. However, she is not a lone hand with the likes of Sara Blicavs just as much of a handful given her innate ability to pop up when needed and deliver at a high standard, thanks to her 14.5 points, 7.3 rebounds 2.2 assists and 1.2 steals per game averages. Rebecca Cole is another one that is able to ply her trade for the Flyers, averaging 14.5 points per game, 2.2 rebounds, 4.5 assists each time she steps out on court. Teammates Jenna O’Hea and Leilani Mitchell are also are also crucial cogs for the Flyers and will have to fire if they are to get over the top of Townsville in their semi-final clash.

Townsville will be looking to the likes of Lauren Nicholson an Shyla Heal to lead the way for them from start to finish. Nicholson has been a revelation since joining the club this season with her ability to find the rim really coming to the fore, averaging 18.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.4 assists an 1.4 steals each game. Further court time for Heal has worked wonders for her basketball ability with the youngster averaging 15.2 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.2 assists making her one to watch in this clash. Fellow youngster Zitina Aokuso is another exciting prospect that can sense the moment and knows how to deliver recording an average of 9.5 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.2 assists. Nadeen Payne is a handy option for the Fire as is Stephanie Reid and Courtney Woods highlighting the amount of depth the club has.

Boomers make light work of Spirit

IN an all-Victorian affair it was the Melbourne Boomers that came out on top against Bendigo spirit claiming a 21-point victory (91-70). The Boomers had control from the opening minute of the game and are building some strong form heading into the back end of the season and heading into finals. The Spirit once again had moments of magic but were unable to keep that intensity at the same level for their full four quarters as they suffered their thirteenth straight loss to round out their 2020 campaign.

A 28 to 17 opening term pretty much told the story as Melbourne seemed to have the ball on a string and Bendigo struggle to find any answers. Scoring somewhat evened up in the second term as Bendigo managed to nail 17 points to the Boomers 21 however that was still enough for Melbourne to continue to build on their already growing lead. That tail continued into the second half with Melbourne outscoring Bendigo 26 to 20 in the third term before it was level pegging’s in the last term but it was a little too late as the damage has already been done.

Shooting percentage was relatively even for both sides, however Melbourne had a higher clip sitting at 48 per cent after converting 38 of their 78 attempts. Bendigo on the other hand had less opportunities to the basket but still managed a 43 per cent conversion rate nailing 28 of their 64 attempts. Two point range seemed to be the sweet spot for the Boomers with 26 of their 46 attempts falling to sit at 56 per cent as opposed to Bendigo who only managed 47 per cent. Melbourne was slightly more accurate from downtown sitting at 37 per cent while Bendigo slotted eight of their 22 attempts at 36 per cent. Melbourne outclassed Bendigo just about on every front recording 45 rebounds to 33, 25 assists to 15, six steals to five and also registered less turnovers for the night with 10 to compared to 14. With the starting five doing majority of the work for Boomers it was the bench depth from Bendigo that seemed to have an impact nailing 36 points compared to 32 however it was still not enough to get them over the line.

The victors had a number of scoring options with five players hitting the double digit mark when it came to point scoring. Stella Beck led the way with 17 points, two rebounds and four assists highlighting her ability to have an impact when on court. Ezi Magbegor was the next best with the youngster impressing in her 20 minutes on court to convert 16 points at an impressive 70 per cent from the field while also amassing eight rebounds and two assists in a strong showing. In her 250th game, Maddie Garrick was also another prominent option on court knocking back 16 points eight assists and five rebounds four of which were defensive while Izzy Wright also chimed in with a handy 12 points, seven rebounds and two assists. Penina Davidson was the only other Melbourne Boomers player to register double digits recording 10 points and four rebounds for the night in an all round solid team effort.

Scoring proved to be hard to come by for Bendigo however the ever reliable Tessa Lavey was up to the challenge leading her side with 16 points and just falling short of a double-double with nine assists and eight rebounds with all of the rebounds defensive. Carley Ernst failed to make a splash while on court only managing two points in an unusual showing for her however the likes of Mary Goulding stepped up to the plate and secured 12 points and three rebounds. Amelia Todhunter was another that managed to ply her trade notching up 10 points in what was a difficult performance.

The Boomers now look to Townsville on Sunday while the Spirit bid farewell to their season.

Townsville end Lightning’s finals hopes

Shyla Heal in action for Townsville. Picture credit: Albert Perez/Getty Images

Townsville came out with a point to prove, downing Adelaide in convincing fashion by 29 points as they gear up for a finals berth. It is been an up and down season for the Lightning while Townsville have enjoyed a rapid rise up the ladder and once again showcase their ability to score and score quickly in a dominant performance. Although the chances were slim, the loss automatically seals the deal on Adelaide’s fate of playing finals with the Lightning now ruled out in Townsville securing their position in the top four.

The Fire came out with some real heat in the opening minutes of play highlighting their ability both in offence and defence to score and pile on the pressure as shown with the 28 to 11 point opening term. The second quarter was not much better for the Lightning who seemed to be caught on the backfoot only managing 11 points again as their half time total mounted to 22, while the Fire had a whopping 47 creating a handy 25 point buffer. The Lightning well and truly upped the ante in the third term going toe-to-toe with Townsville before once again falling off the boil in the final term.

Townsville oozed an element of composure and most importantly accuracy with ball in hand sitting at an impressive 57 per cent from the field, nailing 40 of their 70 attempts while Adelaide did not have the same luck averaging a mere 39 per cent from the field. The Fire also starred within the arc shooting at a 63 per cent clip while the Lightning were somewhat wayward at 47 per cent. The main difference came from around the perimeter with the victors slotting nine of their 21 attempts at 42 per cent as opposed to Adelaide who struggled to find their radar at 28 per cent. Townsville had the upper hand when it came to rebounds (37-34) and also claimed the ascendancy when it came to assists (19-13).

There were plenty of key contributors for Townsville across the night, none bigger than guard Lauren Nicholson who absolutely starred with her 21 points at 71 per cent accuracy along with her four rebounds, four assists and one block. Megan McKay also found her groove knocking back 19 points, seven rebounds and two assists in a strong showing while Stephanie Reid proved to be an impact player off the bench managing 17 points, two rebounds and three assists. Although down on her lofty standards, youngster Shyla Heal still bobbed up for her moments of magic with 10 points, seven rebounds and two assists to her name while the only player to reach double figures was Courtney Woods who slotted 12 points for the night.

Scoring was hard to come by for Adelaide, with captain Steph Talbot struggling to find her mojo and only walking away with nine points, five rebounds and an uncharacteristic four turnovers. Abigail Wehrung was the leading points scorer for the Lightning sinking 15 at 60 per cent while Marena Whittle also threw her weight around to collect 14 points and five rebounds. Despite only managing two points for the game Louella Tomlinson proved to be a handy option off the boards with five rebounds while Charlie Smith also had an impact with her five boards and four steals.

Townsville are set to lock horns with Melbourne on Sunday while Adelaide have the final game of the home and away season against Sydney Uni Flames.

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.

Fire and Flames bring the heat, Townsville staves off late Sydney charge

AFTER a regrettable loss to the UC Capitals two days ago, the Townsville Fire have repositioned themselves in the winner’s column again, after a scrappy 81-78 win in their home opener last night against the Sydney Uni Flames.

Despite a late charge from the Flames, “The Battle of the Inferno” was at a high temperature in all four quarters, but it was a younger and quicker Fire outfit that came out triumphant.

The Fire were without their anchor in Zitina Aokuso to start their game as Megan McKay filled the role alongside Mia Murray, Nadeen Payne, Shyla Heal and Lauren Nicholson. Meanwhile, the Flames had their usual five on the floor for tip-off in Lauren Mansfield, Alison Schwagmeyer, Anneli Maley, Nat Burton and Lauren Scherf.

It was Heal that got Townsville off the ground with five of the Fire’s first 10 points, whereas Sydney Uni’s spread of scoring options took over their offensive production for the majority of the first quarter with multiple names getting on the scoresheet early on.

But the Fire’s core unit with the help of Stephanie Reid and Courtney Woods would take control of the contest in the later stages of the first term, getting their lead out to double-digits seven minutes in thanks primarily to Payne’s potency from deep.

Capitalising on all five of their first-quarter free-throws and 12 points in the paint compared to the Flames’ eight, the Fire etched a 26-19 lead at the first intermission, 11 of those coming by way of Payne in a quarter where she would not see the bench.

Carly Boag made the first move of the second with a pull-up three to quickly cut the deficit to four, as Coach Katrina Hibbert looked to hit Townsville where it hurt from behind the arc. Halfway through, the Flames drew level at 32 points apiece, but Woods and Reid played pivotal roles in the first half knocking down much needed triples to maintain the side’s lead, while Scherf continued to dominate down low with 13 points through the first 20 minutes of play.

Heal continued to lead the way for Shannon Seebohm’s squad with 13 points of her own in the first half with Payne backing her up with 11 points, putting Townsville up 47-43 at the main break, as the squad shot an incredible 56 per cent conversion rate with bench players accounting for 15 points in this time.

Starting off the second half, both sides would get some shots off successfully in a very even third quarter. However, Sydney Uni slowly worked their way in the contest again after a momentary lapse to conclude the first half. A few buckets by Scherf tied up the contest five minutes into the third phase and a single free-throw from Maley gave the Flames their first lead of the night since the opening period, which would only last until the next possession.

Nevertheless, the see-sawing affair continued in the penultimate quarter, concluding with the score 63-59 in what was preparing for a hotly contested final 10 minutes between two talented sides.

Seven-straight points by way of the two surprises of the night in Woods and Reid, put Townsville ahead by 11 in an instant, thus putting the Fire in the driver’s seat in front of a raucous home fan base with six minutes remaining.

A three from Scherf halfway through the fourth put a glimmer of hope in Sydney Uni’s eyes and a late barrage from the Flames would soon follow, getting to within one point in the dying seconds. But Heal’s two made free throws with a few seconds remaining would ice the game and cement Townsville’s victory last night, 81-78.

Statistical leaders for the victors included Nicholson, who off the back of a strong second half completed her game with 17 points and three rebounds, while her backcourt companion Heal would accumulate 15 points and six assists. Payne (14), Reid (11) and Woods (10) each contributed double digit totals to the Fire’s scoring.

On the flip side, Scherf’s season-high 25-point, nine-rebound performance coupled with Schwagmeyer’s 23-point effort allowed the Flames to stay in the contest, while Maley’s 10 points and 14 rebounds continued her individual season as one of the WNBL’s most prolific board getters.

The Fire bounced back from their close loss to the Canberra Capitals in their last outing, but now have a mammoth challenge awaiting them in two days, the Southside Flyers. The Flames, who were originally set to face the Adelaide Lightning that same night, now get an extended four-day rest before lining up against the Caps on Saturday night.

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

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

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

* Game times are local/AEDT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Picture: WNBL

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

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

Townsville Fire

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

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

WHY THEY CAN WIN IT:

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

WHY THEY CAN’T WIN IT:

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

CHANGES:

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

POTENTIAL STARTING FIVE:

Lauren Nicholson
Shyla Heal
Mia Murray
Nadeen Payne
Zitina Aokuso

>> Townsville Fire team preview

PREDICTION: 4th-6th

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

Sydney Uni Flames

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

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

WHY THEY CAN WIN IT:

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

WHY THEY CAN’T WIN IT:

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

CHANGES:

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

POTENTIAL STARTING FIVE:

Lauren Mansfield
Alison Schwagmeyer
Anneli Maley
Natalie Burton
Lauren Scherf

>> Sydney Uni Flames team preview

PREDICTION: 4th-7th

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

Bendigo Spirit

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

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

WHY THEY CAN WIN IT:

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

WHY THEY CAN’T WIN IT:

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

CHANGES:

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

POTENTIAL STARTING FIVE:

Amelia Todhunter
Tessa Lavey
Demi Skinner
Alicia Froling
Carley Ernst

>> Bendigo Spirit team preview

PREDICTION: 7th-8th

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

Perth Lynx

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

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

WHY THEY CAN WIN IT:

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

WHY THEY CAN’T WIN IT:

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

CHANGES:

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

POTENTIAL STARTING FIVE:

Katie Ebzery
Alexandra Sharp
Alex Ciabattoni
Darcee Garbin
Jessie Edwards

>> Perth Lynx team preview

PREDICTION: 6th-8th

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

WNBL20 Team Preview – Townsville Fire

TO begin Draft Central’s team previews before the 2020 season kicks off next Wednesday, we look at a Townsville Fire squad raring to explode out of the gates following a less than impressive campaign the previous season. Fire head coach, Shannon Seebohm has made several key changes to his line-up in preparation for the upcoming condensed season, as Townsville looks to make a postseason push in what will be a hotly contested competition.

A number of familiar faces make long-awaited returns to the side, with one of those being 194cm-tall center Zitina Aokuso, who makes her comeback to the Fire after missing out on last season due to an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury. Aokuso’s size, dominance down low in the post and ability to shoot the rock makes her one of the country’s most exciting frontcourt prospects across all eight teams this season. Her most recent performances back in the 2019 NBL1 South season with the Geelong Supercats saw Aokuso account for 15.9 points, 8.6 rebounds, 2.4 assists and a block per game.

Not only will Aokuso have the responsibility of guarding the paint, but she will also be aided by Townsville local Nadeen Payne at the power forward position and 21-year-old Lara McSpadden off the bench who made the move from the Sydney Uni Flames during the offseason. Rounding out the frontcourt is 23-year-old Megan McKay, who returns from a season overseas in Germany averaging 16 points and eight rebounds.

Perhaps one of the biggest signings of the Free Agency period regarding developing young players came out of the Bendigo Spirit, with Shyla Heal making the move up north for a more consistent starting role, which Seebohm was willing to provide the 19-year-old. With Heal set to headline the backcourt next to former Adelaide Lightning star Lauren Nicholson, who was also acquired by the Fire during Free Agency, Townsville exhibits a strong core unit full of exciting individuals. Adding to this, the experience of two-time WNBL champion and 2015 Rachel Sporn Medallist in Mia Murray will look to act as the glue in making this team function efficiently during what will be a hectic season. Meanwhile, Kate Gaze enters her fourth season with the Fire, as the fellow two-time WNBL champion looks to engage with a more prominent role in Seebohm’s rotation this campaign, after what was a relatively quiet year for the 30-year-old.

The Fire’s bench consists of some potent shooters throughout their secondary unit, as three-point accuracy will prove to be a valuable asset to the side over the next six weeks. Courtney Woods, who was signed to a two-year-deal at the club, became the all-time program record holder for career three-pointers made at Northern Illinois University with 323 made triples. Stephanie Reid, who played for the Frankston Blues in the 2019 NBL1 South competition, averaged 21.6 points and 6.3 assists while shooting 41 per cent from beyond the arc.

Coach Seebohm is happy to have a clean slate once again following last season’s five-win and 16-loss record, and he is proud of the efforts that he and his staff have made during the extended offseason to put themselves in the best position to start the season.

“Last season we had a lot of games that I feel we probably could have won,” Seebohm told Draft Central. “It was obviously a tough year, but I think going into this season and having versatile players who can do a little bit of everything and play multiple positions, we want to get up and down the floor a bit more and hopefully get a few more stops to help run off of our defence, but I’m really excited about the group that we have put together.”

Aliza Fabbro and Sharna Thompson take the team’s roster number to 12, with the duo acting as the side’s development players for the upcoming fixture.

Season Opener for the Townsville Fire – Wednesday November 11th – 8:00pm (AEDT) vs Perth Lynx @ McDonald’s Mackay Multi-Sports Stadium, Mackay 

2020 QSL team review: Northside Wizards

IN a series wrapping up the 2020 Queensland State League (QSL) season, we take a look back at each of the 12 clubs in both the men’s and women’s competitions and how they performed across the season. We continue our review series with Northside Wizards that managed to pick up six wins between the two sides.

Men’s:

Position: 10th
Wins: 2
Losses: 9
For: 786
Against: 949

The men’s team started off the season in the best possible fashion, picking up an 11-point win over North Gold Coast Seahawks. From there though, the season fell away picking up just one win in 10 games – a 38-point thrashing over last placed Toowoomba Mountaineers – to finish with a 2-9 record.

Cameron Thew was the standout performer all season and was one of only three players to run out in all 11 games. Thew averaged team-highs in points (15.1) and rebounds (9.2), while also collecting 2.4 assists per game. Jacob Arthur was the other Wizards player to record double-figure points with 10.4 per game to go with 2.0 rebounds and 1.3 assists, while James Ringholt (eight games), had 8.1 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.0 assists. Others who stood out include Zach Williams-Hook (7.1 points, 4.2 rebounds), Luke Stewart (6.8 points, 5.0 rebounds and 5.1 assists) and Mitch Elliott (6.0 points, 5.9 rebounds and 2.8 assists).

Women’s:

Position: 8th
Wins: 4
Losses: 7
For: 814
Against: 904

The women’s side also kicked off the season with a win against the Seahawks and then proceeded to have heartbreaking losses that could have ultimately changed the course of their year. Single-digit defeats at the hands of RedCity Roar (four points) and Brisbane Capitals (one) either side of a five-point victory over USC Rip City proved the Wizards could have started the season 4-0. Back-to-back wins over Toowoomba Mountaineers and South West Pirates gave them hope to reach the finals with a 4-2 record (could have been 6-0), but they fell away with four losses to finalists in the last four matches to bow out with a 4-7 season record.

Steph Reid was unbelievable all season and one of the big performers for the Wizards. Unfortunately she could only play seven games for Northside, knocking down 24.4 points, 4.6 rebounds and 5.9 assists in an all-round starring role. Courtney Woods also managed the seven games and was instrumental with 25.1 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.7 assists, while Regan Turnour-McCarty played every match for 13.4 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.6 assists. Saskia Gunness (10.0 points, 5.0 rebounds) only played the six games, while Georgia McCarron (5.4 points, 8.7 rebounds) was another who played every game and produced big numbers off the boards.

Picture: Brad Anderson