Tag: jenna o’hea

WNBL Free Agency: Heal and Tupaea become first to switch teams

TALENTED teenager Shyla Heal became the first Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) player to switch allegiances for the 2021 WNBL season. Amongst a high number of re-signings for the University of Canberra Capitals – six players re-signed to the reigning premiers – Heal moved from Bendigo Spirit to the Sunshine State to take a chance with Townsville Fire.

Speaking to Heal last week, the 18-year-old has the intention of nominating for next year’s WNBA Draft, and she is determined to have a strong season with the Fire alongside another talented youngster in Zitina Aokuso. In a breaking announcement today, Sydney Uni Flames point guard Tahlia Tupaea has also headed inland and signed on with the Capitals. The talented 23-year-old who has had her fair share of bad luck through injuries since debuting at the age of 15 – the second youngest in WNBL history – will look to have a clean run in the nation’s capital.

The other big talking point was Alanna Smith returning to Australia from College to line-up with Adelaide Lightning next season. She was drafted in the first round – eighth overall pick – in last year’s WNBA Draft to go to the Phoenix Mercury after graduating through Stanford.

Given the likelihood of Brianna Turner‘s unavailability – due to the league not having imports – the power forward position is Smith’s for the taking. It allows her to team up with Lauren Nicholson and Steph Talbot in the City of Churches to try and bring Adelaide a title after being on the verge of being a contender the last couple of seasons.

The Spirit might have lost Heal over the Free Agency Period, but have re-signed Demi Skinner and Tessa Lavey, whilst Jenna O’Hea put pen to paper for another season with Southside Flyers. The Capitals re-signed six players in a spree early in the period, with Maddison Rocci, Abby Cubillo, Alex Delaney and Keely Froling joining Kelsey Griffin and Marianna Tolo in the capital to try and mount a title defence.

Three players have also announced their retirement from the league with Adelaide’s Nat Hurst, Bendigo’s Gabe Richards and Sydney Uni’s Sarah Graham calling it a day.

Draft Central’s 2019/20 WNBL Top 10 Players: #2 – Brianna Turner

ONE of the WNBL’s fresh new faces to arrive over from the United States (US), Brianna Turner landed Down Under keen to expand her basketball knowledge and continue her development  thanks to a recommendation from her head coach at the Phoenix Mercury.

“In the WNBA, Sandy Bondello is my coach and she coaches the Australian National Team, I’ve heard nothing but good things [about the WNBL] which really attracted me,” said Turner. “I want to raise my basketball IQ and learn the details of the game.”

After a brief 21-minute stint against the Sydney Uni Flames in Round 1, Turner would flip the switch and begin playing at an extraordinary level of efficiency and production. Turner’s first major mark she would make on the WNBL, came in Round 3, as the Lightning sized up to a formidable Perth Lynx squad.

Regrettably for the Lynx, they had no answer for the Mercury-listee, as she dominated the rebounding conversation, hustling her way to 17 rebounds and 26 points. These kinds of performances became the norm for the 23-year-old, as she would terrorise the glass with her tenacity and discipline.

Rivalling Mercedes Russell as one of the premier frontcourt players in the League, Turner’s 10 double-doubles throughout the regular season would put her at the top of the rankings in several categories following Round 16 of the campaign.

Turner’s stat line would read an impressive 16.8 points (fourth in scoring), 10.7 rebounds (second in rebounds) and 2.4 blocks (league leader) per game. An All-WNBA Rookie and a NCAA Champion with Notre Dame, Turner is no stranger to success on the court, so it would come as no surprise that the Texan would take home an All-WNBL First Team selection and receive the Lightning’s Best and Fairest Award, capping of what was a well-rounded season individually.

As a team, the Lightning looked to the minor premier Southside Flyers for their semi-final matchup, after solidifying fourth spot in the standings with a record of 12 wins and nine losses. After concluding her season averaging a double-double, the pressure of the postseason didn’t seem to unnerve Turner in the slightest, as she would fall one rebound short of another double-double, accumulating 11 points, nine rebounds and five blocks in Game One.

Game Two and the threat of elimination would spur her on to an even greater extent, this time with the Power Forward/Centre racking up 25 points, 18 rebounds and four blocks. But like so many others before them, the combination of Jenna O’Hea, Leilani Mitchell and Russell would prove too much, as the Lightning would bow out of the finals in a two-game sweep.

Being the third and final Lightning player on Draft Central’s Top 10 WNBL Players of the season, there was plenty to celebrate in South Australia in 2020. Perhaps if Turner makes a return to Chris Lucas’s squad next season, then maybe Adelaide can make it one step closer to the franchise’s first championship in more than a decade.

Draft Central’s 2019/20 WNBL Top 10 Players: #6 – Jenna O’Hea

The second out of the three Southside Flyers to make Draft Central’s Top 10 players of the 2020 season belongs to former WNBA prospect and club-captain, Jenna O’Hea, and the turbulent season that the 32-year-old would undertake. To begin her campaign, O’Hea would put up solid numbers across the board, scoring a combined 50 points in her opening three matches of the season, whilst also averaging seven rebounds and five assists.

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The former Los Angeles Sparks and Seattle Storm player’s powerful progression throughout the season would aid the newly formed Southside Flyers franchise that arose out of the Dandenong Rangers of old and in their inaugural season as a team, the league would be put on notice. As the Flyers won their opening six games of the season and twelve of their first thirteen, it seemed as if no one was able to touch this team from South-Eastern Victoria. But, when everything seemed to be working out for the championship favourites, their leader would go down with a season-ending wrist injury in Round 13 against the Melbourne Boomers.

Despite the narrow victory over their cross-town rivals and their season record improving to 14 wins and three losses, the Flyers’ eventual Grand Final opponents, the UC Capitals, would demolish the side in Round 14, which may have very well set the tone for the series sweep at the start of March. With O’Hea missing out on the final four contests of the 2020 campaign, she would conclude the regular season with very respectable numbers. These included 13.7 points, 5.2 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.5 steals per game.

Given many pundits had stated that the Traralgon-born forward was unlikely to make it back to the postseason, O’Hea was able to suit up for the Grand Final series against the Capitals. Despite the severity of the two-time WNBL champion’s injury, she would soldier on, playing both games of the series with similar minutes compared to her regular season, whilst matching up on the 2019/20 WNBL MVP, Kia Nurse. Averaging 11 points and seven and a half rebounds, O’Hea was unable to make a sizeable imprint on the series despite her productive numbers, as the Caps would defend their title on their home floor thanks to their depth and big plays down the stretch late in games.

Although a disappointing end to the season for the Flyers’ captain, the two-time WNBL All-Star was honoured to be given a spot on the WNBL All-Star Five and is looking forward to moving through what has been a topsy-turvy 2020 thus far.

“2020 has certainly been a mix of emotions for me in terms of my basketball, however it is important to keep it in perspective and remember how lucky I really am,” O’Hea said. “And now with the changes to our lives due to the coronavirus crisis, we all appreciate so many of the things we may have taken for granted. “We are all living through a time that has not been experienced before, we are all in this together so maybe it is just another part of the 2020 roller coaster. It is a reminder to be thankful for the opportunities that we have and to make the most of them.”

In addition, O’Hea eagerly waits for a distant 2021, where she looks to represent the Opals once again in the Tokyo Olympic Games, possibly postponing her retirement from basketball until after then.

NBL1 South Women’s team summary: Melbourne Tigers

IN light of the COVID-19 global pandemic, the National Basketball League (NBL)1 South Conference has been cancelled this year. As such, while Draft Central intended to do a preview on all teams leading up to the delayed start, it will instead be a team summary from last season and what they might look to improve on for 2021. Today’s edition looks at Melbourne Tigers’ womens side that showed some promise but could not maintain consistency throughout the year with a lot of close losses.

2019 in Review:

Finished: 12th
Wins: 8
Losses: 12
Home: 5-6
Away: 3-6

What went right:

  • Competitive throughout with seven of the 12 losses being single-digit defeats
  • Started solidly with a 5-4 record
  • Blocks (4.5 per game, the best in the competition)
  • Louella Tomlinson’s season

Melbourne had a mixed bag of a season that had little consistency, but there was still optimism for the future despite an 8-12 record. The Tigers only had five double-digit losses, indicating for the most part they were in the game. They started solidly with a 5-4 record from nine matches and with Louella Tomlinson on fire throughout the year, they were able to work hard defensively to remain in the contest. They were the top blocking side in the NBL1 competition, averaging 4.5 per game, which helped them win in low-scoring contests and remain close when losing. Young guns, Monique Conti and Kasey Burton also impressed throughout the season with strong performances and the highest volume points and almost a double-double respectively.

What went wrong:

  • Struggled on the road with just three wins from nine games
  • Won just three of the last eight games
  • Scoring (72.9 points per game, ranked 15th overall and 41.8 per cent two-point accuracy and 70 per cent free-throw accuracy ranked 16th overall)

The season just simply did not quite go to plan for the Tigers, with scoring being the biggest issue. They averaged the 72.9 points per game which ranked 15th overall, and when they did get their chances, they averaged just 41.8 per cent and 70 per cent from the two point range and free-throw line which put them in the bottom three sides. While having Jenna O’Hea for longer than three games would have made a massive difference, the Tigers still struggled on the road with just three wins from nine games and finished the season in disappointing fashion with just three wins from eight games after being in finals contention mid-season.

Louella Tomlinson

The standout performer on the team, Tomlinson’s experience was vital in leading her side throughout the year. In the absence of O’Hea, Tomlinson did the bulk of the damage across the board, recording team-highs in rebounds (10.6), assists (5.1) and blocks (3.5). Playing in 17 of her team’s 20 games, Tomlinson finished the year with a double double average thanks to 16.3 points to accompany her double-figure rebounds total. Like her teammates, Tomlinson’s accuracy could improve, but by sheer weight of numbers she was a dominant performer in an inconsistent side.

Monique Conti

The pocket rocket showed that another season of AFL Women’s football did not slow her round ball abilities as a key player in the Tigers outfit. Despite standing at sub-170cm, Conti still put up big numbers of 20.4 points, as well as 4.8 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 1.4 steals. What set her aside from her teammates was Conti’s ability to drill the long-range shot, with 33.8 per cent efficiency, and a team-high 53 total makes from outside the arc.

Kasey Burton

The versatile up-and-comer had a really promising season in terms of her ability to pad plenty of stats and have an impact across the court. She came close to a double double thanks to 9.8 points and 8.3 rebounds. Alongside that, Burton also picked up 2.5 assists and 1.5 steals per game, being the only member to start in every single game last season. She was another contributor from long-range with 25 successful makes, though coming at a 28.4 per cent accuracy. Teaming up with Conti, the pair has the ability to be a real damaging duo of the future.

Young Gun:

Katie Bugden

The then 21-year-old managed to play in 16 games and start 10 of those, stepping up with an increased role than what might have been initially expected. In that time she produced an average of 8.5 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 0.9 steals per game and a solid all-round performance. Her shooting accuracy could improve with just 37.4 per cent from two-point range and two from 23 when it came to three-point range. Her experience from being a starter so often will give her confidence going into 2021.

Christmas list for 2021:

Another shooter or two. The Tigers had a clear deficiency in the scoring department, certainly in terms of both volume and accuracy. Throwing in an additional player who can average double-figure points would be a huge acquisition, and getting someone of O’Hea’s quality to play for a full season could be the difference between finals or not.

Summary:

The Melbourne Tigers have plenty to work on for the future with a number of areas that could improve for 2021. They have a good core of players and some really talented youth prospects coming through the ranks who could be set for more court time in the season ahead. While they need to tweak their ability to score, the Tigers were good at stopping shots, and had plenty of reasons to be pleased with aspects of the way they played.

Draft Central’s Top 10 2019/20 WNBL memorable moments: #6 – Back-to-back overtime thrillers shape finals series

WITH no basketball on for the foreseeable future due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we look at the brighter side of the sport that brought plenty of memories throughout the 2019/20 Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) season. Over the next couple of weeks we will countdown Draft Central‘s Top 10 memorable moments from the season. Some are individual events, others are season views, and even a couple are decisions that panned out for the better. Today we continue with number six, looking at back-to-back overtime games in Round 13 and 14 that ultimately shaped the WNBL finals series at the expense of the Melbourne Boomers.

#6 Heartbreak for Melbourne Boomers as Flyers and Capitals both win in overtime

They might have been five days apart, but Melbourne Boomers’ back-to-back losses in overtime against fellow top three sides, Southside Flyers and University of Canberra (UC) Capitals in January ultimately shaped the finals series. With the Boomers needing a win to remain clear of the sides, as history would tell us that a victory could have handed them the extra home final against the Capitals. They went down 2-1 in the semi-finals and lost the two on the road, while winning at home, something that might have altered the WNBL Finals Series. They finished on the same amount of wins, but the head-to-head which went in the Capitals’ favour thanks to the heart-breaking 76-75 loss at the National Convention Centre in Round 14 proved to be the ultimate dagger to the heart. That game, along with the Round 13 thriller at the State Basketball Centre (which saw the Flyers defeat the Boomers 75-73) shaped the top three and locked in the finals spots even with a couple of weeks remaining.

In the Boomers-Flyers match, Melbourne got off to a great start to lead by four points at quarter time, five at the main break and six by the final change. Unfortunately a slip up in just one quarter can cost at the elite level, and it proved the case with Southside winning the final term 20-14 to draw level and force overtime. There, the Flyers took it out with an 8-6 overtime to win 75-73, despite a double-double from Ezi Magbegor (24 points, 12 rebounds, two steals and three blocks) and a cameo from Cayla George (13 points, nine rebounds, five assists and two steals). Instead it was four players recording 15 points or more for the Flyers, with Mercedes Russell (21 points, 11 rebounds and two steals) the top player, as Leilani Mitchell (21 points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals), Jenna O’Hea (19 points, six rebounds, two assists and four steals) and Rebecca Cole (15 points, five rebounds, six assists and two steals) all shared around the spoils.

Five days later it was instead the Boomers playing catch-up in a scoreline that was eerily similar to the first game. The Capitals raced out of the blocks to lead by six points – the same score as the final term in the previous match – before the Boomers roped them in over the next three terms to not only draw level, but go up by six points with 43 seconds remaining. An unsportsmanlike foul in between a couple of baskets saw the Capitals drag it back level at the final buzzer. Unfortunately for Melbourne, it was a similar story as the Caps’ reigned supreme with a 10-9 overtime to win 76-75. Kia Nurse (23 points, seven rebounds) and Marianna Tolo (22 points, nine rebounds) dominated, as Keely Froling (12 points, nine rebounds) was solid and Olivia Epoupa was the best across the entire court picking up a ridiculous eight points, 16 rebounds, seven assists and six steals. For the Boomers, it was Stella Beck (17 points, six rebounds and three assists) and Magbegor (14 points, four rebounds) who shared the load with top scorer, Sophie Cunningham (22 points, two rebounds). As hindsight would show, this game ultimately helped the Capitals win the semi-finals series and go back-to-back in the 2019/20 WNBL season.

Top 10 WNBL 2019/20 moments countdown so far:

#10 – Ezi Magbegor wins second Rookie of the Year award
#9 – Bendigo Spirit breaks road drought
#8 – Mercedes Russell stars in debut season
#7 – Southside’s flying first season
#6 – Back-to-back overtime victories shape finals series

Draft Central’s Top 10 2019/20 WNBL memorable moments: #7 – Southside’s flying first season

WITH no basketball for the foreseeable future due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we look at the brighter side of the sport that brought plenty of memories throughout the 2019/20 Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) season. Over the next couple of weeks we will countdown Draft Central‘s Top 10 memorable moments from the season. Some are individual events, others are season views, and even a couple are decisions that panned out for the better. Today we continue with number seven, with the competition’s newest side – rebranded from the Dandenong Rangers – having an impeccable first season that came close to making history.

#7 Southside Flyers stunning first WNBL season under rebrand

In a fresh rebrand, Southside Flyers looked to include more of the region outside of Dandenong from the previous Rangers’ side that in its own right had been quite impressive through the WNBL. In at number seven for our countdown, we look at the Flyers’ first season in the competition. While the minor premiers ultimately fell short of the top prize, there was plenty to celebrate in season 2019/20. They finished top of the table comfortably (with a 17-4 win-loss record), and then went on to win both their semi-finals to advance through to the Grand Final Series. Whilst both games were thrillers against the reigning premiers, University of Canberra (UC) Capitals, it was not to be, bowing out in the final game of the season.

In our last countdown we noted how impressive Mercedes Russell has been averaging a double-double per game, but equally important were the likes of Rebecca Cole, Sarah Blicavs, Jenna O’Hea and Leilani Mitchell. Both O’Hea and Mitchell had joined the club from rival organisations to form a formidable starting five that was hard to top. Add in the youth of Anneli Maley and Kiera Rowe, and the importance of Aimie Clydesdale off the bench, and the Flyers had a really strong squad as a whole. While they were not able to get the chocolates in the end, they really made life difficult for the opposition and it showed in the end result of a minor premiership and grand final.

Top 10 WNBL 2019/20 moments countdown so far:

#10 – Ezi Magbegor wins second Rookie of the Year award
#9 – Bendigo Spirit breaks road drought
#8 – Mercedes Russell stars in debut season
#7 – Southside’s flying first season

2019/20 WNBL season review: Southside Flyers

IN their inaugural season since changing their name to the Southside Flyers the girls in blue proved they were one to watch immediately making a name for themselves as a real powerhouse in the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL). The Flyers made it all the way to grand final but stumbled at the final hurdle going down in both matches unfortunately putting a dampener on otherwise a good start to the franchise.

Ladder: 1st (Runners-up)
Win-loss: 17-4

The Flyers were impressive in front of a home crowd recording eight victories at home from a possible 11 games, however it was their ability to win on the road that made them even more daunting. Southside made it nine from 10 away at home highlighting just how damaging they can be in any environment. From Round 1 the newly formed team had a real aura about them claiming convincing wins going on a six-game winning streak before running into trouble against eventual premiers in Round 6. They flexed their muscles against top four side in Melbourne Boomers with a hard-fought seven point victory in the early stages while also showing that they had the ability to mix it with the best downing UC Capitals in Round 9.

They claimed the minor premiership credit to their impressive season but it is fair to say that the Flyers will be disappointed they did not take home the silverware going down two and three points respectively in the grand final series against UC Capitals. They showed their ability to prevail in the close matches getting over the line in both semi-finals against Adelaide Lightning to move through to the grand final but simply could not generate enough scoring power to upset the reigning premiers.

The Flyers had no shortage of stars across the court, with four players averaging double digits in points scored showcasing just how deadly their attacking unit was throughout the season. Rebecca Cole led the way with a team-high average of 16.8 points per game, with import Mercedes Russell not far behind with 16.7 and falling just short of a season average double-double with 9.7 rebounds per game. Russell was a real playmaker for the Flyers and played a whopping 22 games for the season showcasing her durability and reliability consistently able to have an impact. Opals duo Leilani Mitchell and Jenna O’Hea both played major roles in the Flyers dominance with the two combining to be a formidable force. Despite only standing at 165cm Mitchell averaged 15.9 points per game along with a team-high 5.3 assists showcasing her ability to create opportunities to hit the scoreboard. O’Hea did not skip a beat making the move from the Boomers to cross-town rivals downing 14.1 points a match while also making her presence felt off the backboards with 4.9 rebounds a game. Sometimes overshadowed by her teammates, Sara Blicavs played a good support role for the Flyers with the 189cm forward able to hit the scoreboard with an average of 13.5 points and seven rebounds per game. While the Flyers had a wealth of A-class players the likes of Louella Tomlinson and Aimee Clydesdale will be hoping to lift their load if they are to go one better next season.

All in all, it was a comprehensive season for the Flyers who will be licking their lips ahead of the 2020/21 season if they can keep their list together and gain more support from their second tier players.

2019/20 WNBL season review: Melbourne Boomers

IT was a solid season for the Melbourne Boomers who made it all the way to finals, but fell at the last hurdle against a rampaging University of Canberra (UC) Capitals. While they were strong at home winning seven out of 10 games, their ability to win on the road made them a formidable outfit notching up eight wins. Despite their best efforts it was simply not enough to take the final leap into the grand final.

Ladder: 3rd
Win-loss: 15-6

Before the beginning of the season, Boomer fans were up and about. Coming off a playoff run that ended in the semi finals, Melbourne added a whole lot of talent to the roster in hope to go one better and claim that all elusive premiership. Stella Beck was coming off a noteworthy NBL1 season collecting 10 rebounds a night, making her a handy inclusion in the side. Boomer fans were similarly eager to find out if Americans, Sophie Cunningham and Rachel Brewster, were up for the challenge and ready to guide their side to victory. Both coming out of American colleges, the WNBL would certainly be quite the adjustment. Fans were also looking forward to seeing the development of Antonia Farnworth, who had some much needed experience with the Hawks in the NBL1. Although, one question that was never answered all season was how would Paige Price go in an WNBL game. The six foot tall, 16 year old ‘prodigy’ got moved up to the senior level after a great season in the NBL1 with the Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence averaging 7.8 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. But the rising star only entered one game for limited minutes. With such a fresh roster, the Boomers did have to say goodbye to some key contributors such as former captain Jenna O’Hea, who took her talents to Southside, as well as Stephanie Talbot who departed for the Lightning. Richmond AFLW star Monique Conti left midway through the season to focus on her football club leaving a sizeable hole in their roster considering the impact she had off the bench. They also parted ways with Sarah Boothe and Jazmin Shelley, both in pursuit of playing overseas. 

After just coming short of playing in the grand final, the new faces added a certain level of confidence that the team could get over the line in 2020. Led by one of the most decorated and experienced coaches in WNBL history, Guy Molloy had a challenge on his hands. With O’Hea gone, the team had Madeleine Garrick to look up to as team captain. All season long, the Boomers were in good hands as the two-time WNBL champion could not be left open, draining 52 three pointers. Garrick was a major reason why the Boomers were first for steals in the league, swiping the ball off opponents 1.8 times a night, which was only tied with Cayla George. Ezi Magbegor, George and Cunningham would make up a stellar trio on offence, all averaging over 11 points a game. But Lindsay Allen would be the recognised star of this season. At only five foot eight, Allen starred averaging 14.8 points a night, the team’s most. The Boomers have plenty of depth, with more than one choice on the fast break, but this abundance of options can be costly at times with players looking to share the load rather than just take control. Renowned for their team like mentality it was sometimes their downfall, often over sharing the ball which resulted in turnovers. 

But the Boomer’s might just have their future superstar already.  At only 20-years-old, and standing at six foot four, Magbegor won Youth Player of the Year this season, for her second time. An award handed to the most outstanding young player in the league. The award has been given to the likes of four-time MVP, Lauren Jackson which if that is any indication, means big things ahead for Magbegor who is only at the beginning of her career. The scoring load was evenly shared between their stars as reflected in the league scoreboard with no player making it inside the top 10 points scorers for the season but that did not stop them from marching into finals and snatching one win off eventual premiers, the UC Capitals. Melbourne had a season for the ages and while the finals loss will linger it is fair to say that the Boomers are well and truly building towards something if they can keep that winning momentum going heading into season 2020/21. 

2020 WNBL: Kia Nurse hits three pointer to secure Capitals’ ninth flag

WITH only 22 seconds left to win the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) Grand Final, Kia Nurse nailed arguably the most important three pointer of her career to run out 71-68 winners. In what will go down as one of the most memorable and clutch moments in WNBL history, the Canberra Capitals were in dire need of a star as the Southside Flyers were up but fell with just over 20 seconds left. Nurse, as usual, rose to the occasion surmounting her legacy as one of, if not the greatest players in WNBL history.

The first half was all about one player and one player only, Rebecca Cole who dropped a whopping 21 points in just the first half. It seemed Cole’s hot hand carried over the whole team who finished the half with 49 per cent shooting accuracy, going 6/13 from long range compared to the Capitals who could only shoot a disappointing 36 per cent. It looked like the Capitals’ winning streak at home going all the way back to October 2018, was now at jeopardy. Down 10 at halftime, previously trailing by 16, one must believe that Capitals coach Paul Goriss must have had the speech of all speeches as they outscored the Flyers 21-9 in the third quarter. They shut down Cole who would only score just two more points for the game, they started hitting it from deep, and they locked down defensive rebounds. 

When Marianna Tolo gave the Capitals their first lead of the game, adding to a remarkable 15 point run, the momentum had officially switched, but the Capitals were far from victors. The two teams traded shots in the fourth quarter, as the lead changed several times. But when league MVP, Kelsey Griffin stole the ball and passed to Nurse, all fans were standing in anticipation. Breaking free, Nurse nailed a three point shot from the top of the key to put the Capitals ahead 71-68. The Flyers looked to their team’s leading season scorer, Cole who had been on a tear in the first half but had recently gone cold. Driving to the basket, Cole threw up a contested shot that bounced off the rim to be rebounded by none other than Nurse. Fouled instantly she went straight to the free throw line and surprisingly missed the first, bouncing in and out of the basket. With little time left, it could be argued Nurse missed the second intentionally as making it would have given the Flyers time to recuperate and draw up a play in a timeout. Although, the Capitals height came in favourably once again, as Tolo sealed the rebound and hence sealed the game.

Southside’s lack of roster depth was a crucial aspect of this game as they did not have a single bench point the entire game, even with Aimie Clydesdale playing 32 minutes but only having a disappointing two assist three rebound game. Clearly fatigue played a role as the Capitals had 17 points off turnovers, most coming in the second half. It was evident how exhausted the Flyers were by watching their sloppy defence, finishing the game with 21 fouls. This foul trouble forced the Flyers to bench some of their more important players like Jenna O’Hea who picked up her third foul four minutes before half time, forcing her to ride the bench. Although Cole who finished the game with 23 points, three rebounds and four assists in only 26 minutes, went quiet in the second half mostly due to incredibly tight defence which opened the floor offensively, sadly the rest of the team struggled to pick up the slack. 

Although Nurse’s dagger from three turned the game, and Tolo’s rebound was the final icing on the cake, it was Olivia Epoupa who left the grand final with the Rachael Sporn Grand Final MVP medal, collecting 16 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds. In what was likely her last game in the WNBL, suspected to play in her native country-France, her last dance for Australia was unforgettable. Luckily the Capitals were still able to rise even with last year’s grand final MVP Kelsey Griffin having a quiet five point, one assist, 13 rebound night. Nurse not only delivered in the dying minutes but was sensational from the very beginning putting up 18 points accompanied with Tolo’s 19 point, 12 rebounds performance. 

Capitals won their ninth flag in unbelievable fashion, filled with plenty of twists and turns to go back-to-back. Epoupa, along with Nurse and Griffin will go down in the record books as some of the greatest to play in the league, forming their legacy in front of a ecstatic home crowd of 4481 at the AIS Arena.

Capitals a win away from glory as Flyers look to repeat history

BOTH Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) teams know that there is a maximum two games left in the season, and for the University of Canberra (UC) Capitals, there is no better time to strike than tonight. The reigning premiers came from behind in Game 1 to upset the Southside Flyers on the road and get up by just two points in an enthralling contest. It put the Capitals 1-0 up and turned the tables on the favouritism for the title, given both sides’ ability to create a fortress out of their home court. UC Capitals in particular have been unbelievably dominant at AIS Arena, winning all bar one game at the venue.

That one blemish is what the Flyers will hold onto in this match as indeed it was the Southside team that toppled the Capitals in the nation’s capital. On that night, Southside got up by five points, coming from three points down at the final break to win 70-65. Rebecca Cole shot a game-high 21 points, while Mercedes Russell finished with a double-double of 17 points and 10 rebounds. Former Capital, Leilani Mitchell (15 points, seven rebounds) was also prolific in the win, while Marianna Tolo (16 points, six rebounds) and Kia Nurse (13 points, five rebounds) were the prominent scorers in the losing side, while Olivia Epoupa (11 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and four steals was the best on the court for the Capitals.

Fast forward to last week, and the Capitals turned the tables on the minor premiers, claiming an 82-80 win at the State Basketball Centre, breaking a four-game winning streak by the league’s top side. Though it was not the first time it had happened, because the previous loss for the Flyers was again a defeat at the hands of UC, and again on Southside’s home court. That time it was much uglier with a 24-point win, but last week’s victory has more relevance, and there was not much between the sides by the final buzzer.

Cole again was the top scorer in the match, putting up 23 points as well as recording seven assists, two rebounds and two blocks, while last year’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) Kelsey Griffin was back to her best with a stunning 18 points, 12 rebounds and two assists. She combined well with the 2019/20 MVP Nurse, who sank 18 points herself and collected five rebounds and two assists. Tolo (15 points, four rebounds and four assists) and Epoupa (14 points, nine rebounds, six assists and four steals) were also busy around the court. Aside from Cole, the Flyers shared the points around with Mitchell (15 points, five rebounds, five assists and two steals) and Russell (13 points, nine rebounds) busy, as was Jenna O’Hea who returned to the court after an injury layoff to put up numbers of 14 points and six rebounds. Despite injuring her hand, up-and-coming young gun Maddison Rocci has said she will fight through the pain in Game 2 to try and win back-to-back titles.

The game tips off from 7.30pm at AIS Arena tonight with the UC Capitals strong favourites to sweep the series. The Flyers have had too good of a season to go down without a fight however, and this promises to be a ripping contest. Both these teams would be deserving favourites in the clash, but given UC’s record at home, it is hard to see them losing.