Tag: guy molloy

WNBL20 Season Review – Melbourne Boomers

FOR the third consecutive season the Melbourne Boomers have been knocked out of the finals without reaching the big dance, even though head coach Guy Molloy and his formidable side exhibited a ferocious brand of basketball all season long, proving to be one of the WNBL’s toughest opponents. Along with their preliminary final defeat to the Townsville Fire, Melbourne’s title drought extends to a twelfth season.

Commencing season play with a superior 15-point win over their Sydney counterparts, the Sydney Uni Flames, the contest everyone one was waiting eagerly for was the first Melbourne Derby of the campaign between the Boomers and Southside Flyers.

Leading into the derby, Southside had already made a loud announcement to the league with a 42-point drubbing of the Bendigo Spirit in their previous outing, but Melbourne would unleash their season’s biggest weapon – their defence. Holding the Flyers to 72 points, the Boomers ran out with a convincing rout of their cross-town rivals by 17 and led into Round 2 at optimal form.

Melbourne’s undefeated start continued to three games after a hard-earned 62-56 win over the Perth Lynx, but the two-time defending champion Canberra Capitals put the first blemish on the Boomers’ record, thoroughly outperforming their foes by 17 points and holding them to just 50 points. Melbourne’s second round got worse as the Townsville Fire started to pick up numerous successful outcomes, defeating the Boomers 87-75 and weakening Molloy’s record to three wins and two losses.

The Boomers re-established their form in Round 3 with a 40-point win over the Adelaide Lightning, the only game of the week for the purple and gold, as they would relish a weeklong rest before undertaking a four-game Round 4.

To begin the week, Melbourne exacted their revenge on the Capitals (73-67) and cap off the season double over the Flames (86-64). The same could be said for the Spirit, going down to the Boomers by 32 (84-52) meaning that last season’s semi-finalists were one win away from an undefeated four-game week. This time it was not the case however, with Southside redeeming themselves from their early season encounter with the Boomers, edging out their old foes 94-79.

Two expected wins against the Lightning (76-55) and the Spirit (91-70) preceded a season-concluding loss to the Fire (64-70), all but confirming a postseason position, although not in the top-two following their loss to Townsville.

Being one of three teams to finish the season with a record of nine wins and four losses, it represented just how even things were at the top of the standings. Melbourne now had to batten down the hatches and get results given they had not earned a double chance by finishing third.

First up on the finals docket for Melbourne was Canberra, a team they split their two prior meetings with during the regular season. But it was plain and simple for the Boomers – defend, defend, defend, and that is what they did against the reigning premiers. Holding the Capitals to just 68 points, the Boomers ran away 10-point victors, ending the Caps three-peat bid and putting in motion a much-anticipated preliminary final against the Fire.

In a tightly contested clash that lasted all 40 minutes of play, Townsville continued to fend off a resilient Boomers outfit and with Shyla Heal running the show based on her remarkable 28-point performance, Melbourne just could not get ahead of the host-city side, losing out in the final seconds 62-65 and ending their season one win short of their main objective in making the Grand Final.

Once again it was the expected trio of WNBA champion Ezi Magbegor (15.4 points and 8.8 rebounds), Cayla George (14.2 points, 9.5 rebounds and 3.4 assists) and Maddie Garrick (10.5 points and 2.5 assists) that ran the show for Melbourne, however the addition of returning Boomer Tess Madgen (13.6 points, 6.2 assists and 5.4 rebounds) made Molloy’s core unit that much more potent throughout the entire season. But the late-season surge of Ashleigh Karaitiana (6.9 points and 1.8 rebounds) and consistency of Stella Beck (5.3 points and 2.5 assists) added another layer of depth to the WNBL20 roster. Furthermore, New Zealand Tall Fern Kalani Purcell (4.5 points and 3.7 rebounds) was able to add another successful season under her belt.

As a franchise, the Melbourne Boomers have an abundance of motivators amongst their ranks and because of the fact they have to wait another season to have a crack at that WNBL title once again, you can be dead serious that the club’s fire to get there is only burning brighter.

Heal drops 28 as Fire return to Grand Final

THIS season’s WNBL Grand Final will have a home-court advantage, after Townsville Fire squeezed out a three-point victory against the Melbourne Boomers in last night’s preliminary final, 65-62. The Fire have managed a complete flip from a season ago, going from wooden spoon recipients in 2019/20 to now facing the Southside Flyers tomorrow afternoon in what will be a must-see season decider.

Neither of the two teams were able to take command of the prelim in the opening period, but good shooting and some terrific finishing allowed Townsville to hold a solid five-point advantage with Shyla Heal exhibiting some good shooting early on with seven points after one quarter.

Kalani Purcell kicked off the second with her first basket of the contest in a see-sawing affair throughout the first half. But the second term provided little scoring and inconsistent offence with both teams locking down on defence. Winning the second quarter 12-11, Melbourne trimmed the deficit to four points in time for the main break meaning that the contest still hung in the balance.

Early on in the second half, more of Melbourne’s usual producers started to make a difference such as Maddie Garrick, Cayla George and Ashleigh Karaitiana. Guy Molloy’s squad found the majority of their points in the third thanks to Tess Madgen’s ability to facilitate the ball. But the Fire returned serve with a six-point scoring run to give themselves a temporary buffer at an important stage of the game with 10 minutes to go, leading 54-47 at three-quarter time.

The Boomers had a formidable mountain to climb and Heal’s layup to get the fourth going did not help Melbourne’s cause. However, the purple and gold continued to stick around in a game as important last night’s.

Having not made a dent in the margin and actually falling behind by as much as nine points, the Boomers kicked into desperation mode with less than five minutes remaining before coach Molloy deployed his starting five back onto the court to finish the game. The same could be said for Shannon Seebohm with the only exception being Megan McKay because of foul trouble, thus allowing Zitina Aokuso the chance to help close the book.

A layup for Karaitiana, two buckets from Ezi Magbegor and a fast break layup for Garrick, sparked eight unanswered points for the Boomers in their last roll of the dice cutting Townsville’s lead down to just one point. But two made free throws with 21 seconds from none other than Heal put the Fire up by three.

Melbourne’s flurry of threes in the dying moments were not enough to save the contest, meaning Townsville would head to the grand final for the sixth time in nine years, a feeling of success that Townsville’s faithful feared they would not have for the next few years.

Adding to her collection of impressive performances in WNBL20, Heal finished her night with 28 points, five rebounds and three assists, while fellow backcourter Lauren Nicholson played a full 40-minute game compiling 12 points and eight rebounds. Adding to this was Aokuso, accumulating 10 points and five rebounds, as well as WNBL legend Mia Murray providing a much-needed presence on the glass with eight boards.

Melbourne’s frontcourt was its primary producer last night, with Magbegor (19 points and nine rebounds) and George (15 points, 10 rebounds and five assists) putting up impressive statistics. Furthermore, despite no other Boomers gaining double-digit totals Madgen was instrumental yesterday even though the side could not get it done with nine points and six assists.

It is the end of Melbourne’s remarkable road, but Townsville’s triumph provides a first versus second seed grand final and a chance for the Fire to redeem themselves at the best possible moment. Even though the Flyers have two days of extra rest going into tomorrow, you can rest assured that the Townsville fans will provide their club with a massive chunk of adrenaline in 24 hours.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Melbourne find late-season form, rout Spirit 84-52

AFTER an even first quarter from both sides, the Melbourne Boomers ran away with Saturday’s only game in the remaining three quarters against the Bendigo Spirit, namely in the middle two periods where last year’s semi-finalists outscored their opponents 42-14, ultimately concluding matters 84-52 and extending their winning streak to four.

Given the Boomers’ red-hot form as of late, it did not shock many when Melbourne opened up the contest with a 7-0 run, which acted as a prelude to what would be a strong initial term for Guy Molloy’s squad.

Despite its opponent’s exceptional start to the game, Bendigo worked its way back into the contest leading into the first break. Backing their duo of Carley Ernst and Tessa Lavey, who had eight and six points respectively, the Spirit found themselves level with the Boomers 20-20 after 10 minutes of play, one of their best opening periods to date.

Again, the Boomers strung together another sizeable scoring run to start the second, concocting 14-straight points over the opening five minutes of the period and really separating themselves from this season’s likely wooden-spooners after an even first term.

Cayla George made her impact visible in the later stages of the first two quarters, accumulating 13 points, five rebounds and three assists as she led the charge in gaining her side a 38-23 half-time score line.

But with Tracy York’s side converting on just a single field goal in the second, it allowed Melbourne to take control of the contest and secure the driver’s seat in the process, thanks to individual efforts like Ezi Magbegor and Ashleigh Karaitiana’s in the first half.

Putting their advantage over 20 points in the penultimate period, the Boomers run to the finish line became relatively uneventful as they gave their secondary unit an abundance of court time in the second half.

Coach Molloy’s bench held their own to conclude the third, extending their side’s lead to 28 points at the turn of the third with Bendigo totalling just 11 points in the third quarter, and 14 total points over the two middle stanzas.

While the Boomers rested their star players, the Spirit did the same as we got to see some up and coming talent show off their quality from both squads. Melbourne would eventually topple Bendigo by 32 points and stretch their winning streak to four matches.

Quite simply, Melbourne blew Bendigo out of the water following the opening quarter and maintained a substantially high shooting percentage, converting on 41 per cent of its attempts (33/80), whereas the Spirit managed a meek 27 per cent on the night. Additionally, coming out superior on the boards with a plus-24, the Boomers destroyed their counterparts on the glass.

George would only add two more points to her 15 in total, while Penina Davidson made the most of her increased court time with 15 points of her own in almost 16 minutes of game time. Magbegor would finish with a humble 12 points and 10 rebounds, while Izzy Wright (nine points and five rebounds) and Kalani Purcell (nine points and three rebounds) were the team’s next highest contributors.

In a quiet night across the board for the Spirit, not one individual would compile more than eight points by the final buzzer, as Ernst earned her team-high eighth point before half-time and gathered seven rebounds in the process. Demi Skinner rounded out her afternoon with seven points, meanwhile 17-year-old rising star Piper Dunlop tallied a season-best seven points and three rebounds.

Both sides make their returns to the court later today as all eight teams are scheduled to play in Sunday’s Round 4 action. Bendigo will open up proceedings against the Sydney Uni Flames, where the Spirit have only a couple more chances to get into the winner’s column before the season’s end. The Boomers have their work cut out for them when they size up the Southside Flyers, who did not play a particularly good brand of basketball in their last meeting – a memory they will look to rectify this time around. More importantly it will set the tone for both teams with finals play just around the corner.

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.

Mansfield’s first quarter sets the tone, Flames fan Spirit 100-63

THE Bendigo Spirit have once again suffered a debilitating outcome, going down 63-100 against a red-hot Sydney Uni Flames outfit in Saturday’s opener, who exploded out of the gates with a 34-point first quarter.

Neither team made any alterations to their Starting Fives, with Bendigo lining up Tessa Lavey, Ameilia Todhunter, Mary Goulding, Alicia Froling and Carley Ernst. Meanwhile, the Flames stuck with the formation of Lauren Mansfield, Alison Schwagmeyer, Anneli Maley, Nat Burton and Lauren Scherf.

Both teams were coming off demoralising season opening losses to two of the top ranked sides in the competition, so both sides made the most of their chances early. The Spirit knocked down five of their opening eight attempts, as the Flames stacked it on at the free-throw line, making their opening six attempts from the charity strike, which added to 14 points in the initial four minutes of the contest for side.

It was newly signed recruit Mansfield that led the way for Sydney Uni’s ridiculous efficiency in the first quarter leading to a 34-25 lead, as she would contribute 14 points to the Flames’ 34 throughout the opening 10 minutes. Schwagmeyer also added eight points of her own to the side’s numbers that gave them the solid nine-point buffer after one.

The Flames picked up where they left off, as Burton used her uncanny ability to find the loose ball to convert on two straight attempts in the first minute of the second term. But the Spirit replied in turn, as Ernst hit her third three of the game as Coach Tracy York’s side looked to wind back the early double-digit deficit.

Slowly but surely the star duo of Lavey and Ernst hustled on with their side’s offensive output, minimising Sydney Uni’s lead down to as little as seven points before the end of the first half. However, Shanae Greaves’ bucket with less than a minute remaining in the second put the lead back at 11 points heading into the main break. Bendigo’s tandem would each obtain 11 points by this stage with Lavey in particular dishing out seven assists and grabbing five rebounds through 18 minutes of play.

While the Flames continued to find points after Mansfield’s first quarter, Sydney Uni’s 45 per cent shooting as a team as well as their 11 made free-throws were the main factors in their 51-40 advantage at the mid-way point.

After a scoreless second from Mansfield, she started the third off remedying her scoring drought with her fifth three, which was followed up with a Scherf jumper quickly distancing the two teams by 16 points. Furthermore, the former Lynx prospect continued to shred Bendigo’s defensive schemes, concluding the third with 24 points under her belt and helping the Flames to a convincing 80-54 lead with the final 10-minute phase yet to play.

Bendigo’s woes continued into the fourth, scoring a mere nine points to round out Saturday’s opener. But Sydney kept rolling in their scoring totals, capping off a 49-point second half with 20 more in the fourth, as the Flames polished off Bendigo in emphatic fashion 100-63.

Sydney Uni’s team scoring numbers reflected their mountain of point, shooting 43 per cent from the field and adding 20 free-throws to those shots that missed their marks. Headline outings for the Flames consisted of Mansfield (24 points, five assists and four rebounds), Schwagmeyer (12 points and three rebounds) and Funda Nakkasoglu (14 points off of two threes).

While the highlights were few and far between for the Spirit, who now head into next week winless from their two opening games, Bendigo moved the ball well. This came especially from Lavey, who flirted with a triple-double yesterday tallying 15 points, 10 rebounds and six assists. Ernst produced noticeable numbers as well with 14 points, while young gun Paige Price put on a display of her own with 11 points in 14 minutes of court time.

The Spirit face the two-time defending champion Canberra Capitals to begin Round 2, hoping to keep their opponents under 100 points for the first time this season. On the other hand, Sydney Uni has little time to dwell on yesterday’s triumphs, going up against the Southside Flyers later today.

Boomers hammer home from deep, make statement win over Southside

Cayla George in action against Southside Flyers. Picture credit: WNBL

Everyone knew that winning a WNBL title was not going to be a walk in the park, but not many would have predicted the Southside Flyers going down in only their second game of the season. But this was indeed the case, as the Melbourne Boomers’ exemplary range was enough to strike down the international-level squad.

With both sides maintaining their Starting Fives, the Boomers had Maddie Garrick and Tess Madgen handling the ball with Stella Beck, Ezi Magbegor and Cayla George filling the remaining slots. For the Flyers it was the same five as their first game, Bec Cole and Leilani Mitchell in the backcourt, and Jenna O’Hea, Sara Blicavs and Liz Cambage down low and on the wing.

The Melbourne derby started with a blistering pace from both squads, scoring the majorities of their points early in the offence from fast-break points. But midway through the first quarter a 7-0 run from the Flyers would gift them control of the encounter before the teams’ secondary squads got their shift in the second half of the first.

Two of the best benches in the WNBL were able to show off what they were made of with Southside able to stave off a potential opening quarter comeback from the Boomers to close out a 22-12 lead at the first break.

Melbourne coach Guy Molloy employed his side to play one stop at a time and with this mindset, the Boomers would climb back into the contest six minutes into the second quarter. The side’s captain in George made several great plays including a spot-up three to make it a one-possession game on a 9-0 run.

Despite numerous instances where the Boomers looked like possibly stealing the lead before half-time, Southside’s depth prevented them from doing so. This coupled with Cambage’s second quarter double-double and Cole’s 11 points allowed the Flyers to hold their noses in front at the main break, 40-35, whereas George had 13 points and five rebounds of her own through two terms.

Continuing to hammer Cheryl Chambers’ fortress, a Madgen three would give the Boomers a short-lived lead halfway through the third, which was quickly overturned by Mitchell’s corner three on the next play. This time Melbourne would not waiver in their determination to take control of the possible Grand Final preview, as George nailed her second three-pointer of the game before handing the duties over to the bench.

A strong left-handed layup by Tall-Fern Penina Davidson and a buzzer-beating scoop layup by Beck marked a strong end to what was an out-and-out third phase for Molloy’s roster, as they led by seven at the final break.

Southside’s fourth quarter comeback quest began with a nice post-move and mid-range jumper by Cambage to make the game a shootout between two top teams. Leading the charge was Madgen, who made it rain in the fourth with two pivotal triples to keep the Flyers at bay.

Two more threes from Beck and Ashleigh Karaitiana – her fifth for the night – with less than two minutes to play put the exclamation mark on what was nothing short of a phenomenal shooting night from the Boomers. Melbourne walked away with their confidence sky high, trumping the Flyers 89-72 and upsetting the title favourites.

While both sides shot tremendously, the Boomers shooting 41 per cent and the Flyers shooting 40 per cent, Melbourne made the difference from beyond the arc shooting a total of 16 threes compared to Southside’s four. The same trend could also be found in turnovers, as Molloy’s women forced 16 turnovers, five more than Chambers’.

George turned it up last night with 24 points, eight rebounds and four assists, while Karaitiana shot the lights out from deep obtaining all 18 of her points from behind the three-point-line. Madgen was also a major factor in the same setting, knocking down five threes to go with her 24 points, nine rebounds and five assists. The only concern is that the 30-year-old seemed to roll her ankle severely late in the fourth quarter, forcing her to exit the game early.

Looking to bounce back to their dominant ways in less than 24 hours, the Flyers could not support Cambage’s 24 points and 19 rebounds despite leading comfortably at half-time. Cole and Sara Blicavs each accounted for double-digit totals with 13 and 11 points respectively.

Melbourne can look forward to a well-earned rest day at the top of the standings, as the Boomers head to Mackay on Monday to face off with the Perth Lynx.

Madgen makes a Booming return, Melbourne knock off Flames in Thursday opener

WITH the mission being to win a championship for the first time since 2011, the Melbourne Boomers are on the right track to start their WNBL20 campaign, with a 15-point victory over the Sydney Uni Flames, 85-70.

A 14-point score difference in the second and third quarters proved to be the difference in the end, as the Boomers’ main weapons found their strokes after the first quarter break.

Melbourne’s starting five was as expected with Cayla George and Ezi Magbegor going shoulder-to-shoulder in the Boomers frontcourt with Maddie Garrick, Tess Madgen and Stella Beck filling the spots outside the perimeter. But many were keen to see how Flames Head Coach Katrina Hibbert lined up her squad for the opening tip. Time would divulge the line-up as being Lauren Mansfield, Alison Schwagmeyer and Anneli Maley running the backcourt, and former Opal Natalie Burton defending the rim with Lauren Scherf.

Early rebounds from George paved the way for the opening points of the contest with Madgen making her return to the Boomers official, putting up the initial two points of the game down the lane. The ensuing play throughout the remainder of the first period would be rather even in terms of scoring, with the Flames edging their noses in front for nine of the first ten minutes.

Coach Guy Molloy made his first rotation change six minutes into the first by injecting Kalani Purcell and Ashleigh Karaitiana, which shifted momentum following a layup and a charge from the pair. With less than a minute to play in the first, Beck would drill a three to return the lead to Melbourne and conclude proceedings in the opening 10 minutes, putting the score at 17-15 in favour of the Boomers.

Following a relatively quiet first quarter from both sides, the first score of the second came after two minutes with Purcell capitalising on good aggression to the rim. But the Flames hit back quickly with Carly Boag earning herself an And-One and Mansfield tying it up shortly after with a triple of her own.

Magbegor went through 14 minutes of play without putting her name on the scoresheet, but she quickly bucked that trend with an And-One to reassert her team’s control giving her side a 40-34 buffer. In the twilight minutes of the second quarter Melbourne’s Opals started to shine through, as the combination of Madgen and George put their skillsets on display by putting a double-digit cushion between the two teams.

Madgen, who led the game in scoring heading into halftime with 70 per cent shooting would compile 15 points along with four rebounds and help the Purple and Gold to a comforting 43-31 lead. Meanwhile, Garrick was next up on deck with eight points and George had a rebound for every first-half-point of her own, producing six points and six rebounds in 20 minutes of play.

A quiet first two periods for the Flames saw Mansfield (seven points) and Scherf (six points) leading their roster in the scoring totals, whereas Schwagmeyer was embracing her new role as a starter with five points and a triplet of assists.

Magbegor started the second half picking up steam, knocking down three free-throws and a put-back layup to get Melbourne off on the right foot in their pursuit of a Game One win. On the other hand, a disjointed Sydney Uni offence struggled to convert early in the third quarter. Mansfield, however, came through after three minutes to get her ninth point of the contest.

Midway through the third phase, Molloy’s squad would crack the 20-point-lead mark with five minutes left in the third thanks to a 12-2 start succeeding half-time, as he made the most out of his starters – namely 30-year-old Madgen and her 22 points in 25 minutes, and Magbegor who had a double-double prior to the third intermission for the Boomers, who were up 64-48 with 10 minutes to play.

While the fourth seemed like a formality, the Flames put up a scrappy end quarter to bring the margin back to a respectable number. Sporadic highlights from secondary prospects like Funda Nakkasoglu and Shanae Greaves brought the deficit back to 15, but the damage had already been inflicted by last season’s third seed, as Melbourne coasted home to a dominant 85-70 triumph.

Shooting 47 per cent overall as a team compared to Sydney Uni’s 32 per cent, Melbourne were on another level when it came to putting points up on the scoreboard. A plus-13 on the boards summed up the Boomers’ performance (48-35), as a season-opening win seemed imperative to the team even before the first whistle.

In her return to the side for the first time in five seasons, Madgen put on a clinic during her 33 minutes of court time. She found her mark on ten field goals, which in-turn led to 23 points, five assists and four rebounds on the night. Magbegor had a quiet first half which led to a resounding second, resulting in a 16-point and 11-rebound performance for the 21-year-old, whereas Garrick left the floor with 14 points of her own. George accounted for eight points and nine rebounds.

The Flames will need to move on quickly and revert back to the basics if they are to bounce back in two days against the Bendigo Spirit, but Sydney Uni had some solid performances, nevertheless. Mansfield recorded a team-high 17 points off the back of three triples, while Scherf led the way in rebounds with seven next to her 10 points. But surprisingly in her return to the WNBL, Nakkasoglu came up big with 12 points comprising of two three-pointers and 100 per cent accuracy from the charity strike (6/6).

After a long time away from the city she admires, Madgen noted post-game how much she was looking forward to playing for Melbourne once again, “I love Melbourne, I love the Boomers and we have got a great team,” said Madgen. “[We have] a lot of really good players and a great coaching staff. It has been a long preseason so it is really good to be out there and play,” she added.

Two days from now, the Boomers size up their cross-town rivals the Southside Flyers in what will be a battle of raw talent on both sides, as two of the best clubs in the country go at it head-to-head in Townsville’s Saturday night double-header.

Picture: WNBL

Flyers reinforce notion as “team-to-beat”, thrash Spirit by 42

Liz Cambage made a successful return to the WNBL on Thursday. Picture credit: WNBL

This year’s championship-favourites proved why they hold that title last night in a 40-minute demolition job of the Bendigo Spirit. The Flyers’ international-calibre depth was on display throughout all four quarters led by their marquee signing Liz Cambage and her “hit squad” of long-time Opals, lashing Bendigo 102-60.

Southside’s star-studded line-up was as expected with Leilani Mitchell and Bec Cole in the backcourt being supported by Jenna O’Hea, Sara Blicavs and Cambage. For the Spirit, Amelia Todhunter, Tessa Lavey, Mary Goulding, Alicia Froling and Carley Ernst got the nod to start the contest.

Froling and Mitchell got the scoring going for their respective teams, but two minutes in, Cambage made her presence known with seven-straight points, setting in motion an early advantage to the Flyers.

Cole got her range going five minutes in with a three-pointer, but Lavey and the Spirit proved pesky opponents in the infancy stages of the game. Despite this, former Opal Rachel Jarry put a dent in Bendigo’s ploy with a three and a jumpshot to extend Southside’s first-quarter lead, which was followed up by a last-second layup from Aimie Clydesdale to conclude a 60 per cent shooting first quarter of play with the Flyers up 22-12.

Bendigo came out of the opening intermission with a focused intent, following five-straight points from Ernst. But for every bit of headway the Spirit made, Southside’s depth undid their work again and again. This problem was further compounded by a 14-0 Flyers run topped off by an O’Hea corner three and in the blink of an eye, the score sat at 43-19 halfway through the second.

To wrap up the first half, both sides exhibited their secondary units, as Southside continued their lead upwards thanks to individuals like Stephanie Blicavs and Monique Conti, as the half time score would read 30-56 in favour of the Flyers.

Headlining their ridiculous efficiency through two quarters (63 per cent conversion rate) were the Southside starters, as the team’s core unit spread out the scoring load up until the midway point of the contest. More specifically, Cambage led the way with 13 points and three rebounds next to her frontcourt partner in crime Sara Blicavs, who totalled eight points and eight rebounds after 20 minutes.

Spirit Head Coach Tracy York relied heavily on her marquee duo in Ernst and Lavey, as the two combined for 33 minutes and 18 points in the first half, whereas Froling hustled her way to seven rebounds.

Bendigo enjoyed a rare scoring stint in the third term with an 8-2 run three minutes into the second half, lighting a small fire under the squad. Unfortunately for the Spirit, more of the same from Cambage was to follow, as she used her size and her strength to bully all opponents defending her around the rim.

Southside continued their barrage from deep thanks primarily to Steph Blicavs and Jarry in the third quarter alone, even including Development Player Saraid Taylor on the action as she polished off a triple with a minute remaining in the championship quarter. Clydesdale almost made the quarter better, getting off a last second three-pointer just milliseconds after the buzzer had sounded.

A foregone conclusion long before the fourth quarter, the Flyers ran out Thursday night’s closer with a complete four quarter performance, outscoring the Spirit 22-13 in the fourth, cracking the 40-point lead mark with 102 seconds to play and achieving 100 team points on the game with 40 seconds left, culminating in a head-to-toe 102-60 rout of Bendigo.

Looking at both teams statistically, the Spirit would get the better of the Flyers in free-throw percentage, but virtually every other aspect of the game belonged to Southside. Most noticeable from last night’s victors was their accuracy from the field, as last year’s runners-ups converted on 38 baskets from 71 attempts (53 per cent). This also included 13 threes from 26 assists in what was nothing less than a one-sided affair.

In just 20 minutes of play, Cambage would set a game-high total in points with 19, while Sara Blicavs continued to uphold her reputation as a rebounding machine with a double-double performance of 17 points and 12 boards. Cole (12) and Mitchell (10) also secured double digits, as Conti impressed off the bench with her fast-paced style of play and silky handles – she finished with nine points and three rebounds.

Knowing full well that they face the Sydney Uni Flames in a couple of days, the Spirit have the chance to bounce back from what just transpired. Some positives could be taken away from last night, especially from specific individuals. Ernst earned herself a solid 16-point and seven-rebound effort, whilst Froling made her first contest back since her injury a respectable one on the glass, finishing with four points and 11 rebounds. In what was a lacklustre shooting night for the captain, Lavey’s eight points from 18 per cent accuracy will be a night to forget, as she prepares herself to lead the Spirit into Saturday’s clash.

In her post-game interview, Sara Blicavs pointed to the team’s eagerness to get back on the floor as their primary motivator in what was a total team effort, “I think we were just excited to get back on the court you know?” said Blicavs.

“We are obviously from Victoria, so we have been in lockdown for about six months and we have not played a game since the Grand Final in March, so we were just eager to get out here.

“We were a little bit nervous; but I think pre-game we got a lot of our energy out which was good, and we came out on court and executed,” she finalised.

WNBL fans have to wait for Saturday night in what will be a meeting of two behemoths, with the Flyers taking on the Melbourne Boomers who are coming off a convincing win against the Flames. A true test of strength will be showcased, as we gain insight into what a possible Grand Final matchup could look like.

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

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

Southside Flyers

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

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

WHY THEY CAN WIN IT:

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

WHY THEY CAN’T WIN IT:

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

CHANGES:

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

POTENTIAL STARTING FIVE:

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

>> Southside Flyers team preview

PREDICTION: 1st-2nd

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

UC Capitals

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

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

WHY THEY CAN WIN IT:

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

WHY THEY CAN’T WIN IT:

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

CHANGES:

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

POTENTIAL STARTING FIVE:

Tahlia Tupaea
Maddison Rocci
Keely Froling
Kelsey Griffin
Marianna Tolo

>> UC Capitals team preview

PREDICTION: 1st-3rd

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

Melbourne Boomers

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

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

WHY THEY CAN WIN IT:

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

WHY THEY CAN’T WIN IT:

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

CHANGES:

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

POTENTIAL STARTING FIVE:

Maddie Garrick
Tess Madgen
Ezi Magbegor
Kalani Purcell
Cayla George

>> Melbourne Boomers preview

PREDICTION: 1st-4th

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

Adelaide Lightning

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

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

WHY THEY CAN WIN IT:

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

WHY THEY CAN’T WIN IT:

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

CHANGES:

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

POTENTIAL STARTING FIVE:

Alex Wilson
Marena Whittle
Steph Talbot
Chelsea Brook
Louella Tomlinson

>> Adelaide Lightning team preview

PREDICTION: 4th-6th

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

WNBL20 Team Preview – Melbourne Boomers

FOR a team that has not won a WNBL championship in almost a decade, the Melbourne Boomers have an abundance of momentum, as the league gets ready to compete in a season that will be characterised as a sprint to the finish – something the Boomers’ roster are well equipped to do.

Boomers head coach Guy Molloy has once again bestowed his trust in co-captains Cayla George and Maddie Garrick to lead his side out over the next six weeks, given their experience and overall class. Leading the frontcourt by example, George remains one of the premiere centers in the competition, due to her deceptively quick hands and never-ending endurance. This bodes well for her when sizing up against taller opponents and it was the main factor for George’s season averages (14.3 points, 8.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists) last season.

On the flipside, Garrick headlines a talented backcourt that has essentially remained the same over the offseason period, despite the loss of import guard Lindsay Allen. Garrick will look to bolster her squad as she looks to be fully recovered for Round 1 next week after undergoing ankle surgery roughly three months ago. She is also coming off a solid 2019/20 campaign putting up totals of 11.1 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.1 assists each time she hit the floor.

A major talking point for defences in the upcoming season, however, is the rapid development of 21-year-old Ezi Magbegor. Not only has Magbegor shocked the Australian basketball community after winning a WNBL title in her rookie season with the Seattle Storm, but the young gun bears an unshakeable attitude to self-improvement. An attitude that saw her maintain an average of 13 points, 6.6 rebounds and an assist and a half last season.

Not only do the Boomers have a familiar face returning to their ranks, but also a potential new addition to their leadership council, with 30-year-old Tess Madgen returning to the Victorian side after four seasons away overseas in Europe and up in Queensland with the Townsville Fire.

Looking to the supporting cast, a large part of Molloy’s squad are numerous New Zealand Tall Ferns, and given Molloy’s recent appointment to the New Zealand International side’s top coaching job, he will be killing two birds with one stone. The Tall-Ferns included in the side are returning players Kalani Purcell (4.3 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.1 assists), Toni Farnsworth (2.7 points and 1.4 rebounds), Penina Davidson (2.1 points and 2.0 rebounds), Stella Beck (5.8 points, 2.4 rebounds and 1.0 assist) and most recently Ashleigh Karaitiana.

Remaining individuals looking to stand out over the next six weeks are former Dandenong Ranger, Rachel Antoniadou, and Izzy Wright, who returns to the WNBL after a few years away from the court, but still competing in the NBL1 during the meantime co-captaining the Nunawading Spectres.

Rounding out the 12-player side for the Boomers is Rachel Brewster, who will prepare for her second season as a Development Player with the club following previous stints at the Spectres as well, while the second of the two development players for Melbourne is 2012 WNBL champion, Hope Terdich.

Season Opener for the Melbourne Boomers – Thursday November 12th – 7:00pm (AEDT) vs Sydney University Flames @ Townsville Stadium, Townsville