Tag: jessica kuster

2019/20 WNBL Team of the Week: Round 16

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

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

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

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

STARTING FIVE:

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

BENCH:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adelaide Lightning (75) defeated Perth Lynx (74)

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

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

UC Capitals (73) defeated Adelaide Lightning (71)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Melbourne Boomers (104) defeated Perth Lynx (75)

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

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

DC Medal Leaderboard:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2019/20 WNBL Team of the Week: Round 15

IN a short round of the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL), just four games were played and therefore it made for an even playing field with every player making the team having played one game. Of the individual performers who made the cut, two were from Perth Lynx, Adelaide Lightning and the University of Canberra (UC) Capitals, with one representative from four other sides, as Bendigo Spirit was the only team without a nominee for Round 15.

Perth’s Katie-Rae Ebzery was the easy choice to start as a guard following her terrific 28 points, six rebounds, two assists, three steals and three blocks as the only player across the competition who recorded at least two of each of the five main statistics. She is joined in the side by teammate, Ariel Atkins who picked up a double-double and is on the bench ready to provide support. Meanwhile in the forward half of the court, Adelaide Lightning’s Stephanie Talbot again made the side following a double-double with 16 points, 10 rebounds, six assists, three steals and one block, shooting at 61.5 per cent from the field. Talbot and partner-in-crime, Brianna Turner both impressed despite the Lightning’s loss, and earned spots in the 10-player side. The UC Capitals were the other side with two players on the team, as Kia Nurse and Marianna Tolo both filled out two of the bench spots in the guard and center positions respectively.

Back to the starting side, and the other guard is Southside Flyers’ Leilani Mitchell. She was surprisingly the only Flyer to make the side despite the impressive win, but shone the brightest across the board with 21 points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals, though it is fair to say Rebecca Cole, Sara Blicavs and Mercedes Russell were all unlucky to miss out after being considered. Ezi Magbegor slotted into the starting center position in a round where there were plenty of possible players for the spot, picking up 21 points, five rebounds, two assists and three blocks. Like the Flyers, the Boomers were unlucky not to have another nominee, though both Sophie Cunningham and Sara Blicavs were considered. The final starting spot went to Sydney Uni’s Jessica Kuster following the forward’s 17 points, six rebounds, eight assists, five steals and one block, and an impressive 66.7 per cent shooting efficiency from the field.

Rounding out the bench was UC Capitals’ Marianna Tolo in the center position, and Townsville Fire’s Bridget Carleton who slotted into the bench forward role. Those who were unlucky to miss out and were considered for a spot included UC Capitals’ Maddison Rocci and Kelsey Griffin, Bendigo Spirit’s Shyla Heal and Gabrielle Richards, Townsville Fire’s Darcee Garbin, and Perth Lynx’s Nadeen Payne.

STARTING FIVE:

G: Katie-Rae Ebzery (PL) – 28 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals, 3 blocks, 52.4 FG%
G: Leilani Mitchell (SF) – 21 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, 0 blocks, 57.1 FG%
C: Ezi Magbegor (MB) – 21 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 0 steals, 3 blocks, 60.0 FG%
F: Stephanie Talbot (AL) – 16 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals, 1 block, 61.5 FG%
F: Jessica Kuster (SU) – 17 points, 6 rebounds, 8 assists, 5 steals, 1 block, 66.7 FG%

BENCH:

G: Kia Nurse (UC) – 25 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals, 0 blocks, 45.0 FG%
G: Ariel Atkins (PL) – 16 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists, 0 steals, 0 blocks, 60.0 FG%
C: Marianna Tolo (UC) – 11 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 0 steals, 2 blocks, 44.4 FG%
F: Brianna Turner (AL) – 20 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 4 blocks, 53.3 FG%
F: Bridget Carleton (TF) – 16 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 steals, 0 blocks, 66.7 FG%

WNBL Round 15 review: Top three guaranteed after title contenders win big

THE top three sides have been decided in the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) after the top of the table Southside Flyers defeated Adelaide Lightning in a big round of action for the finals-bound teams.

Bendigo Spirit (66) defeated by Perth Lynx (89)

Perth Lynx locked in fifth spot on the ladder for all the unlucky spot is worth, downing Bendigo Spirit on the road by 23 points The Lynx have missed out on finals this year, but are determined to finish the 2019/20 season off strong, posting a big win over the Spirit, which could have been even larger had it not been for a fourth quarter comeback. The visitors led by four points at quarter time and all but ended the game with a second quarter blitz, piling on 31 points to 13 to race out to a 22-point lead at the main break. They kept up the intensity to again run away with it in the third and build on the lead to push it out to 33 points. With the game over at the last change, Bendigo managed to gain back some of the deficit with a 19-9 last term, but it was far too little, too late and lost, 66-89. Katie-Rae Ebzery scored a game-high 28 points, six rebounds, two assists, three steals and three blocks in a standout performance, while Ariel Atkins (16 points, 10 rebounds and four assists) picked up a double double. Nadeen Payne (13 points, nine rebounds and two steals) came close to a double-double, while Marena Whittle (18 points, six rebounds) was impressive coming off the bench. For the Spirit, Shyla Heal top-scored with 17 points, eight rebounds and two steals, with Gabrielle Richards (16 points, seven rebounds) the other key player for the losing side. Abigail Wehrung (14 points) and Tessa Lavey (12 points, five assists) both reached double figures, but there were not enough contributors across the board.

DC Medal: 3 – Katie-Rae Ebzery (PL), 2 – Ariel Atkins (PL), 1 – Nadeen Payne (PL)

Townsville Fire (68) defeated by Melbourne Boomers (79)

Melbourne Boomers picked up the win they had to have, with an 11-point victory over bottom two side, Townsville Fire. The Boomers were up by a point at quarter time, but found themselves facing a two-point deficit at the main break, and four-point deficit by the last change. The home crowd was up and about with the possibility its team could cause an upset and help knock the Boomers out of the top two, but instead Melbourne put the foot down in the last quarter, piling on 28 points to 13 to run away with the contest, 79-68. Ezi Magbegor scored a team-high 21 points, five rebounds, two assists and three blocks in the win, well aided by fellow big, Cayla George who sank 19 points, as well as six rebounds, four assists and two steals. Sophie Cunningham was the other Boomer to reach double-figure points with 15, also recording six rebounds and four assists on the night. Madeleine Garrick only had the three points, but made her time count with seven rebounds, three assists and three steals. For the Fire, Bridget Carleton helped herself to 16 points, six rebounds, five assists and four steals in a dominant performance. Darcee Garbin had 13 points, seven rebounds and three assists, while Micaela Cocks (12 points, two rebounds and two assists) and Tess Madgen (10 points, five rebounds) also reached double-figure points.

DC Medal: 3 – Ezi Magbegor (MB), 2 – Cayla George (MB), 1 – Sophie Cunningham (MB)

Southside Flyers (81) defeated Adelaide Lightning (69)

While the Southside Flyers position was hardly under threat at the top of the table, they gained a handy mental edge over Adelaide Lightning with a 12-point win at Dandenong Stadium on Saturday. The Flyers will take on the Lightning in the first week of the WNBL Finals and will play two games at home, meaning the Lightning will need to win at least one there if they are to upset a Victorian team for the second consecutive season (after doing it to Melbourne Boomers last season). On the weekend, the Flyers burst out of the blocks to race to a 15-point lead at quarter time, and 17-point lead by the main break. To the Lightning’s credit, they did not give up, fighting back to narrow the gap marginally to 15 again, before cutting into it by three to eventually bow out with a 12-point defeat, 69-81. Rebecca Cole led from the front for the Flyers, posting up 28 points, two rebounds and five assists, while Leilani Mitchell had 21 points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals in an impressive performance. Sara Blicavs‘ ripping form of late continued with 13 points, nine rebounds, two assists and two steals, while Mercedes Russell had lower numbers than previous matches, but still managed a handy 15 points, five rebounds and two assists in the win. Brianna Turner was the top scorer for the Lightning, reaching 20 points, eight rebounds, two assists and four blocks as she tried to drag her team over the line. Stephanie Talbot picked up a double double with 16 points 10 rebounds, six assists and three steals in an unbelievable playmaking effort, while Nicole Seekamp (16 points, five assists, two rebounds and two steals) was also impressive in defeat.

DC Medal: 3 – Leilani Mitchell (SF), 2 – Rebecca Cole (SF), 1 – Stephanie Talbot (AL)

UC Capitals (82) defeated Sydney Uni Flames (66)

The University of Canberra (UC) Capitals’ recent form continued on Sunday with a comfortable 16-point win over Sydney Uni Flames at the National Convention Centre. The win meant the Capitals are ready to pounce if Melbourne Boomers slip up in the final round, though the WNBL Finals clash between the pair is locked in. On the weekend, the Flames got the early jump on their highly fancied rivals, leading by three points at the first break, before the Capitals took control with a 21-12 second term to move six points clear at the half. The Capitals continued that form with a 19-13 third term to extend the lead out to 12 by the final break, and finished off with a 23-19 final quarter to run out 82-66 winners. Kia Nurse put up 25 points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals on the day, while Kelsey Griffin continued her recovery from injury coming off the bench to reach 20 points, seven rebounds, two assists and two steals. Maddison Rocci again was prolific with 15 points at 62.5 per cent from the field, as well as four rebounds and a massive five steals. Marianna Tolo (11 points, seven rebounds, four assists and two blocks) and Olivia Epoupa (four points, four rebounds, eight assists and four steals) also contributed in the win. Brittany Smart (21 points, three rebounds and two blocks) and Jessica Kuster (17 points, six rebounds, eight assists and five steals) were the two key scorers for the Flames, while Lauren Scherf helped off the boards with seven points, eight rebounds, three assists and two blocks in the loss.

DC Medal: 3 – Kia Nurse (UC), 2 – Jessica Kuster (SU), 1 – Kelsey Griffin (UC)

DC Medal Leaderboard:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WNBL Round 14 review: Capitals make stand with top two scalps

IN what could well be a memorable round in hindsight come the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) finals series next month, the University of Canberra (UC) Capitals have made a stand by knocking off the top two sides. The now-fourth placed Capitals, along with the former-third placed Adelaide Lightning who also had a huge win, showed they are not making up the numbers and would be pushing for a top two spot in the final two rounds.

UC Capitals (76) defeated Melbourne Boomers (75)

The third last round of the WNBL could not have opened with a better game after two genuine title contenders went toe-to-toe until the reigning premiers emerged victorious following a one-point overtime thriller. The UC Capitals had to fight hard against Melbourne Boomers to keep their top two chances alive, sinking the Boomers in the first overtime by a point in what had been a see-sawing match to that point. The Capitals led by six points at quarter time, but the Boomers clawed their way back after that, reducing the margin to five by half-time, and then one by the final break before levelling the scores at the last buzzer. Despite the momentum of the past three quarters being with Melbourne, it was UC that stepped up and won thanks to a basket from an injured Keely Froling with great defence stopping the Boomers in the dying seconds of the match during the 76-75 Capitals’ win. Despite having a broken nose and cheek which was confirmed after the match following a collision with Sophie Cunningham in the fourth term, Froling played out the game posting 12 points, nine rebounds and two assists. She ably assisted the damaging duo of Kia Nurse (23 points, seven rebounds) and Marianna Tolo (22 points, nine rebounds), while Olivia Epoupa picked up eight points 16 rebounds, seven assists and six steals in a ridiculous effort from the French guard. For the Boomers, Cunningham reached a team-high 22 points, while Stella Beck (17 points, four rebounds) and Ezi Magbegor (14 points, four rebounds) were busy, as was Cayla George (eight points, eight rebounds, two assists and two blocks). Unfortunately for Froling, she will miss at least three weeks of action, bringing her up to the start of the WNBL finals series.

DC Medal: 3 – Olivia Epoupa (UC), 2 – Marianna Tolo (UC), 1 – Kia Nurse (UC)

Adelaide Lightning (77) defeated Townsville Fire (60)

Over in Adelaide, the Lightning consolidated their third spot with an important 17-point win over bottom two side, Townsville Fire. It was a shared effort by the Lightning who burst away after an even first term. Neither team could be split at quarter time, but it was all Adelaide after that as the Lightning piled on 18 points to 11 in the second term and extended that lead to 14 by the final break. They did not stop there, winning the last term 16-13 to run out 77-60 victors in front of their home fans at Titanium Security Arena. Adelaide’s forward duo of Stephanie Talbot (16 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and three blocks) and Brianna Turner (15 points, nine rebounds, three assists and two blocks) again led the way as all starting five members reached double-figure points on the night. Lauren Nicholson (14 points, seven rebounds), Nicole Seekamp (12 points, four rebounds and nine assists) and Kathryn Westbeld (10 points, five rebounds) all provided presences off the boards, as Chelsea Brook got in on the action with eight points of her own off the bench. It was not as evenly spread for the Fire, with Tess Madgen leading the way thanks to 19 points, seven rebounds and four assists, while Darcee Garbin (16 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks) picked up a double-double after her work rebounding the baskets. Julie Vanloo reached double-figure points with 10, as well as two rebounds and three assists, while Bridget Carleton (six points, six rebounds) and Christina Boag (eight points, six rebounds) tried hard.

DC Medal: 3 – Stephanie Talbot (AD), 2 – Brianna Turner (AD), 1 – Tess Madgen (TF)

Sydney Uni Flames (62) defeated by Melbourne Boomers (76)

Melbourne bounced back from their heartbreaking one-point loss at the hands of the Capitals to rebound with a 14-point win on the road against Sydney Uni Flames on Saturday night. The Boomers got off to an ideal start in the match, leading by three points at quarter time and then extending the lead out to seven by the main break. Sydney Uni managed to stem the bleeding in the third stanza, but the visitors went all out in the last term, piling on 15 points to eight to run away with the contest, 76-62. Magbegor led from the front with a game-high 25 points, five rebounds and four assists, while George (14 points, eight rebounds, five assists and two steals) and Madeleine Garrick (13 points, four rebounds, seven assists and four steals) picked up some big numbers across the board. Coming off the bench, Monique Conti was busy with six points and four assists in a playmaking role, while Beck also reached double-figure points with 10, accompanying her two rebounds and two blocks. For the Flames, Brittany Smart showed her talent off the bench posting a team-high 18 points as well as three rebounds, while Lauren Scherf‘s dazzling form continued with a double-double of 14 points, 11 rebounds, three assists, three steals and two blocks in a huge effort despite the loss. They were the only two players to reach double-figure points as Jessica Kuster (six points, nine rebounds) and Alex Wilson (five points, six assists) both had inaccurate games on the scoring front but worked tirelessly.

DC Medal: 3 – Ezi Magbegor (MB), 2 – Cayla George (MB), 1 – Lauren Scher (SU)

Bendigo Spirit (76) defeated by Southside Flyers (91)

Southside Flyers’ remarkable season continued with a 15-point win over cellar dwellers Bendigo Spirit on the road. Heading into the match these teams were at opposite ends of the ladder and it showed in the first three quarters as the Spirit could not quell the fired-up Flyers. Southside burst out of the blocks to add 24-15 in the first term, and by half-time the margin was a whopping 16 points, The trend continued into the third with a 24-17 term to open up a 23-point advantage before Bendigo gave its home fans something to smile about with a solid final term to cut the deficit back to 15 but fell short 76-91. Rebecca Cole led the way for the Flyers with 22 points, five rebounds and five assists, while Mercedes Russell‘s double-double season continued with 13 points, 12 rebounds and two assists on the night. Also racking up plenty of points were Leilani Mitchell (19 points, three rebounds, four assists and two blocks) and Sara Blicavs (18 points, eight rebounds and two assists) in a strong starting five effort. Coming off the bench, Kiera Rowe was efficient with eight points at 75 per cent from the field. For the Spirit, Tessa Lavey was the dominant points-scorer with 20, as well as three rebounds, three assists and two steals, while Carley Ernst (15 points, five rebounds, two assists and two blocks), and Abigail Wehrung coming off the bench (15 points, six rebounds) were also strong. After a big point-scoring effort last round, Shyla Heal only managed the four, but picked up a team-high eight rebounds on the night.

DC Medal: 3 – Rebecca Cole (SF), 2 – Mercedes Russell (SF), 1 – Sara Blicavs (SF)

Perth Lynx (95) defeated Townsville Fire (62)

Finals might be out of the question for last year’s fourth placed side, but it did not stop the Perth Lynx making a huge statement at the Bendat Basketball Centre on Sunday evening. The Lynx smashed fellow bottom four side, Townsville Fire on the way to a 33-point shellacking in front of home fans, winning three of the four quarters and putting in one of the most dominant 10-minute terms all season. The Lynx led by six points at quarter time and were out to a 13-point lead at the main break. Townsville reeled the home team back in by three to cut the deficit to 10 at the last change before Perth put the foot down in a one-sided affair seeing them slam home 37 points to 14 and blow the game out of the water in a massive 95-62 win. Alison Schwagmeyer came off the bench to lead the way for the winners, posting 21 points and four rebounds, while Marena Whittle (17 points, four rebounds and two assists) also provided great cover when injected into the game. Katie-Rae Ebzery was the Lynx’s best, picking up figures of 17 points, eight rebounds and two assists, while Lauren Mansfield (14 points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals) and Nadeen Payne (10 points, six rebounds) also picked up double-figure points. For the Fire, it was Garbin who picked up the points, registering 19 points and five rebounds on the night, while Carleton had a double-double of 12 points and 12 rebounds, and Madgen had 10 points, five rebounds and two assists.

DC Medal: 3 – Katie-Rae Ebzery (PL), 2 – Alison Schwagmeyer (PL), 1 – Marena Whittle (PL)

Southside Flyers (74) defeated by UC Capitals (98)

The Perth-Townsville game was not the only statement made by a WNBL team on Sunday night, with reigning premiers UC Capitals making sure the competition had not forgotten about what they were capable of in season 2019/20. Despite missing both Kelsey Griffin and Keely Froling to injury, the Capitals banded together and produced a remarkable performance on the road against the premier team of the competition this season. They made their intentions clear from the get-go with a 30-20 opening term and by half-time, the home crowd was silenced as the Capitals led by a whopping 18 points. While many would have forgiven them for not running out the game given the extra rotations for youth, the Capitals stepped it up, scoring a further 21-14 in the third term to lead by as much as 25 at the final break before Southside managed to get some respect back with a 20-19 final term in what was a horror showing, going down 74-98. Nurse was unbelievable posting a round-high 33 points to go with three rebounds and three assists, while Epoupa (15 points, 13 rebounds, eight assists and two steals) and Tolo (13 points, 12 rebounds, six assists, two steals and two blocks) both picked up double-doubles. Maddison Rocci thrived with season-high points of 19, as well as three rebounds and two steals, while Alex Delaney also impressed with 13 points and two rebounds. For the Flyers, Russell had a strong game of 18 points and 10 rebounds, while Blicavs had another good performance of 10 points and eight rebounds. Mitchell (14 points, five assists) was the other prominent scorer for the losing side.

DC Medal: 3 – Kia Nurse (UC), 2 – Olivia Epoupa (UC), 1 – Marianna Tolo (UC)

DC Medal Leaderboard:

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

2019/20 WNBL preview: Round 14 – Make or break round for Capitals

CLASHES against the top two sides makes Round 14 of the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) a belter for the University of Canberra (UC) Capitals. Aside from those couple of thrilling contests, Adelaide Lightning is still looking to keep a step ahead in third, while the Boomers and Flyers hope to solidify their top two spots ahead of finals.

UC CAPITALS vs. MELBOURNE BOOMERS
Friday, January 17, 7pm
National Convention Centre

Opening up the weekend is a huge top four clash between reigning premiers, UC Capitals and Melbourne Boomers. With a four-game gap between fourth and fifth, the Capitals are secure in the knowledge they will play finals, but will hope to win this game to draw one win closer to the top two Boomers. Finishing fourth means the Capitals will not be able to host two home finals in the series, and will be travelling for the majority of the time – predominantly to Victoria. If they can win, then it leaves the race for second wide open, as the Southside Flyers look to have secured top spot on the WNBL table. In the two previous meetings the teams are one win apiece with the Boomers thrashing the Capitals by 35 points back in Round 3, before the Capitals earned a hard-fought three-point win a couple of weeks later. The Capitals have proven to be near-impossible to beat at home with a 6-1 win-loss record there, though the Boomers are just as impressive on the road with six wins from eight encounters. In the absence of injured star Kelsey Griffin, Keely Froling has stood up of late to be a bonafide starter, posting 14.4 points and 7.4 rebounds per game this season, teaming well with the equally impressive Marianna Tolo (13.8 points, 7.9 rebounds and 1.7 blocks). Tolo will be particularly important to try and quell the influence of Cayla George and Ezi Magbegor of whom the pair of forward-center’s combining for 26 points and 15 rebounds.

ADELAIDE LIGHTNING vs. TOWNSVILLE FIRE
Friday, January 17, 7pm
Titanium Security Arena

Down in South Australia, third placed Adelaide Lightning will be keen to take advantage of the result from the Capitals-Boomers clash and either move one win closer to Melbourne or one win further away from UC. The season is done and dusted for Townsville who sit four and a half games outside of fourth spot. The Fire will still be keen to have a strong finish to the year and push for fifth spot, and back-to-back wins over Round 14 would likely see them achieve that spot, albeit temporarily. The Lightning are fairly strong at home with a 6-3 win-loss record, while the Fire on the road have been shaky to say the least, winning just two of nine attempts this season. Both of the clashes between these sides in the 2019/20 season have been in Townsville with the Lightning easily taking the wins both times thanks to margins of 18 and 26 points respectively. Brianna Turner (16.2 points, 9.9 rebounds and 1.9 blocks) has been a ray of consistency this season, combining well with the all-round efforts of Stephanie Talbot (14.8 points, 8.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.0 blocks per game). Nicole Seekamp has been steadily building in the guard position, while the inclusion of Kathryn Westbeld in replacing Crystal Langhorne as a forward has been a positive one. For the Fire, Abby Bishop has missed the last few games but it has not hurt the Fire who have recorded back-to-back wins and jumped off the bottom of the table. Tess Madgen (12.3 points, 5.4 rebounds) and Darcee Garbin (14.1 points, 6.2 rebounds) have been quite handy for the team over the course of the season.

SYDNEY UNI FLAMES vs. MELBOURNE BOOMERS
Saturday, January 18, 5pm
Brydens Stadium

In what will be a quick turnaround for the Boomers, Melbourne heads from the nation’s capital to Sydney for a match against Sydney Uni Flames. A couple of wins could see them draw level with Southside Flyers, but a couple of  losses all but rules them out of a run for top spot. Not only could that be the case, but both third placed Adelaide and fourth placed UC would be on the Boomers case heading into the final two rounds of the season. Sydney Uni have won three of eight at home, while the Boomers are confident on the road and will start favourites despite the short turnaround. Player management will be crucial for the visiting side over the weekend as the Boomers have one eye on the finals series. In the two matches this year, Melbourne has brought home the chocolates on both occasions, winning by 13 points in Melbourne before toppling Sydney Uni by 23 points on the road. For the Flames to win they will need to be at their best, led by Alice Kunek (18.9 points, 4.9 rebounds and 3.0 assists) and Jessica Kuster (12.5 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 1.1 blocks). Lauren Scherf had a standout game last season and is averaging eight points and eight rebounds per game, and will need another huge one to topple the likes of George and Magbegor. Restricting the Boomers’ bigs will be key to victory, though Sophie Cunningham (11.2 points, 3.8 rebounds) and Lindsay Allen (15.3 points, 4.9 assists) are a couple of Americans who continue to cause headaches for the opposition.

BENDIGO SPIRIT vs. SOUTHSIDE FLYERS
Saturday, January 18, 7pm
Bendigo Stadium

In the most anticipated one-sided game of the round, top takes on bottom when Southside Flyers travel up the highway to face Bendigo Spirit. The Flyers have had a superb first season in the WNBL after the rebrand from Dandenong Rangers, sitting two games clear with 14 wins from 17 games, while Bendigo has struggled at times with just four wins from 13 games. The one positive heading into this match is the fact that all four of Bendigo’s wins have come at home, though Southside are 8-1 on the road. In their two previous encounters this season – both at home for Southside, the Flyers have won by eight and 13 points. Bendigo’s Carley Ernst is the key rebounder in the side, picking up 6.7 boards a game to accompany her 11.8 points. Kelly Wilson (8.9 rebounds, 6.1 assists and 4.1 rebounds) and Tessa Lavey (8.8 points, 3.4 rebounds and 3.8 assists) are others who have had strong seasons despite the unfavourable results for the Spirit. The Flyers have had no shortage of contributors, and Mercedes Russell has set the tone as the premier center in the competition, averaging a double-double of 16.9 points and 10.1 rebounds per game. Rebecca Cole (16.7 points, 3.2 rebounds and 3.7 rebounds) and Leilani Mitchell (15.9 rebounds, 3.5 rebounds and 5.6 assists) are others have worked hard, playing as important guards in the ladder-leading side.

PERTH LYNX vs. TOWNSVILLE FIRE
Sunday, January 19, 2pm
Bendat Basketball Centre

In one of two Sunday games, Perth Lynx play their first game of the round against a Townsville Fire side travelling across the border after their clash against the Lightning on Friday night. The Lynx would need incredibly favourable results to have any chance of making finals, sitting four games outside of the top four with just two rounds remaining. Realistically it is beyond last year’s finalists, though ensuring they do not finish in the bottom two would also be a huge motivation to win this match. The Lynx are 4-5 at home, while the Fire are only 2-7 on the road so expect the Lynx to be favourites without being a sure thing – especially considering Townsville toppled them back on November 2 in Western Australia by five points before Perth sought revenge with a five-point win of their own up in North Queensland. Perth has a number of players who have produced solid performances throughout the year, with an even team performance rather than standout individuals. Katie-Rae Ebzery (15.6 points, 4.5 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 1.4 steals) has led the way from the likes of Alison Schwagmeyer (15.4 points, 5.8 rebounds) and Lauren Mansfield (9.7 points, 4.6 assists). While the Australian cohort of the Fire have been up and about, the international imports in Bridget Carleton (11.6 points, 6.1 rebounds) and Belgian Julie Vanloo (8.8 rebounds, 4.2 assists) have also contributed this year.

SOUTHSIDE FLYERS vs. UC CAPITALS
Sunday, January 19, 5pm
Dandenong Stadium

The match of the round could well be the final game of the weekend. The top-of-the-table Southside Flyers make the trip up to Canberra following a night clash with Bendigo Spirit the day before, to take on the UC Capitals in a ladder-defining clash. The Flyers can lock up top spot with a big weekend, while a couple of losses could see the Boomers pounce on top spot. Arguably the Capitals have even more to lose if they go down in their clashes against the top two sides because it would rule them out of a top two spot and a double home final. These sides have played twice this season with the Capitals winning on the road to hand Southside its first loss back in early November, before the Flyers knocked off the Capitals in their only loss at home. While Southside seldom lose at home, the Capitals have shown the formula to do it, and it could be a thrilling contest. The forwards have been good at providing some strong rebounding and point-scoring abilities with the likes of Jenna O’Hea (14.1 points, 4.9 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 1.7 steals) and Sara Blicavs (13.6 points, 6.8 rebounds) leading the way for the Flyers. The Capitals have an equal amount of enviable depth with other starters Kia Nurse (19.9 points, 3.8 rebounds), Olivia Epoupa (7.8 points, 7.3 rebounds and 6.6 assists) and Maddison Rocci (7.6 points, 2.5 assists) all crucial in combining for a successful team this season.

2019/20 WNBL Team of the Week: Round 13

IT was an even round of action in the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL), with the 10 players in our Draft Central Team of the Week spread between seven of the eight sides. Only reigning premiers University of Canberra (UC) Capitals did not have a representative this week, with Adelaide Lightning, Townsville Fire and Sydney Uni Flames all having two representatives.

Adelaide Lightning had two starters in our Team of the Week, with Nicole Seekamp filling out a guard spot after 11 points, six rebounds, 11 assists and two blocks, joining Brianna Turner in the side who posted 23 points, 11 rebounds, two assists, two steals and four blocks, also shooting at 75 per cent from the field. Townsville’s Julie Vanloo is the other guard in the side after averaging 14.5 points, six rebounds and eight assists across two games, while teammate Bridget Carleton has earned a spot on the bench following a double-double. The other side with two players is Sydney Uni, with the Flames’ Lauren Scherf starting as center following 16 points, 10 rebounds, two assists, two steals and three blocks, while Alice Kunek sank an equal round-high 30 points and earned a spot in the bench.

The final member of the starting five is Bendigo Spirit’s Shyla Heal who despite her side losing, posted 30 points, six rebounds and three steals at 68.8 per cent from the field. Looking to the bench, Perth Lynx’s Katie-Rae Ebzery is the other guard, while Ezi Magbegor slots into a forward role. In the center, regular Team of the Week nominee, Mercedes Russell has earned a place in the side. There were plenty of players unlucky not to make the side, including Southside Flyers’ trio, Leilani Mitchell, Rebecca Cole and Jenna O’Hea, UC Capitals’ duo Keely Froling and Marianna Tolo, Adelaide’s Kathryn Westbeld, Bendigo’s Carley Ernst, Townsville’s Tess Madgen, Sydney Uni’s Jessica Kuster and Melbourne’s Cayla George who all put up solid performances throughout the round.

STARTING FIVE:

G: Nicole Seekamp (AD) – 11 points, 6 rebounds, 11 assists, 3 steals, 0 blocks, 36.4 FG%
G: Julie Vanloo (TF) – 14.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, 8.0 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.0 blocks, 47.4 FG%
C: Lauren Scherf (SU) – 16 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 3 blocks, 53.3 FG%
F: Brianna Turner (AD) – 23 points, 11 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 4 blocks, 75.0 FG%
F: Shyla Heal (BS) – 30 points, 6 rebounds, 0 assists, 3 steals, 0 blocks, 68.8 FG%

BENCH:

G: Alice Kunek (SU) – 30 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals, 0 blocks, 50.0 FG%
G: Katie-Rae Ebzery (PL) – 14 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals, 0 blocks, 45.5 FG%
C: Mercedes Russell (SF) – 18 points, 11 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals, 1 block, 61.5 FG%
F: Bridget Carleton (TF) – 14.0 points, 10.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.0 steals, 1.0 blocks, 42.9 FG%
F: Ezi Magbegor (MB) – 19.0 points, 10.0 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 1.5 steals, 1.5 blocks, 58.6 FG%

2019/20 WNBL Round 13 preview: Boomers and Flyers to go at it again

WITH the finals within reach the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) is about to ramp up with a host of key match-ups headlining Round 13, none bigger than the clash between Melbourne Boomers and Southside Flyers.

ADELAIDE LIGHTNING v. MELBOURNE BOOMERS
Friday, January 10, 7:05pm
Titanium Security Arena

It will be a blockbuster opening to Round 13 with the Adelaide Lightning hosting the in form Melbourne Boomers who have shown they have skill to boot. The Lightning have rallied in recent weeks claiming four of their last five wins much like the Boomers, making for a hotly contested game. The Boomers currently sit second on the ladder but a loss here could see them potentially drop down the ladder, meaning the Lightning have a lot to play for. Both sides are relatively evenly matched when it comes to points scored, but Melbourne could find themselves in a world of hurt if they do not get on top of Adelaide early when it comes to points scored from fast breaks. With the likes of Lindsay Allen and Cayla George leading the way the Boomers have a plethora of options when it comes to damaging the scoreboard. Madeleine Garrick can also post her fair share of points making the Boomers a deadly counterpart once they get going. Lucky enough for the Lightning they have a pretty stacked line-up with the likes of Brianna Turner a points scoring machine. Turner along with Lauren Nicholson and Stephanie Talbot can do a wealth of damage to trouble not only the scoreboard but so too the Boomers.

TOWNSVILLE FIRE v. UC CAPITALS
Friday, January 10, 7:05pm
Townsville Stadium

The Townsville Fire have struggled for consistency throughout the 2019/20 season as opposed to reigning premiers the UC Capitals who have left their mark on the competition. Despite dropping a few games here and there the Capitals, despite a shock loss last week against the lowly ranked Spirit, have been hailed as a team to watch with their best hard to stop. Headlined by Kia Nurse, UC have scoring prowess and class across the board while Keely Froling and Marianna Tolo are no slouches able to consistently hit the scoreboard. It is not only their work in the points department but ability to gather the rebound or dish off assists that makes the Capitals a damaging opponent.  Although the Fire do not have the same depth as their competitors they have their own key players in Darcee Garbin and Abby Bishop. Both players are known for their ability to put points on the board and if they can get enough of the ball early will help to set up a good foundation for the game. Townsville and Canberra are both coming off losses and will be looking for redemption but given the Capitals have that extra bit of star power it will be an uphill battle for the last placed Fire.

SYDNEY UNI FLAMES v. TOWNSVILLE FIRE
Sunday, January 12, 1:05pm
Brydens Stadium

The fifth placed Sydney Uni Flames are set to take on the Townsville Fire who will have played their second game in as many days. The Flames have worked their way up the ladder and will be looking to consolidate on their recent form against the struggling Fire who have only notched up three wins so far. Despite the Flames dropping their last two games they still have a wealth of key players that can have an influence and help dictate the flow of the game. The Flames would be well aware that if they lose this match it could be the end of their albeit slim finals hopes. Alice Kunek has been a scoring machine for the Flames leading the way with a whopping 292 points so far this season and while she had a quiet game last week she will be looking to bounce back. Teammates Colleen Planeta and Jessica Kuster are just a couple of other game changers for the Flames with their dynamic style of play. For the Fire the usual suspects in Bishop and Garbin will have to step up but expect the likes of Bridget Carelton to have an impact.

PERTH LYNX v. BENDIGO SPIRIT
Sunday, January 12, 1:05pm
Bendat Basketball Stadium

It will be a battle of the two lower placed teams with Perth Lynx playing host to the Bendigo Spirit on Sunday. The Spirit will be riding high after notching up a surprise win against the Capitals last round and will be aiming to replicate that strong showing once again. Bendigo have had an up and down season this year but a win here could see them leapfrog their opponents on the ladder. On the other hand, Lynx will be holding on tight to ensure they do not drop down the ladder with the end of season quickly approaching. Kate Ebzery and Alison Schwagmeyer have been the shining light for the Lynx able to win a game off their individual performance. Schwagmeyer has posted some hefty totals throughout the year and will have to pull out all the stops to get over the top of the Spirit who are on a two-game winning streak. Imani McGee-Stafford is another player that can tear games wide open making her an ominous threat for the Spirit. But Bendigo should not be worried with the likes of Carley Ernst a handful to control. Ernst can apply plenty of scoreboard pressure while Shyla Heal has continued to develop as the season has worn on making for an intriguing battle.

MELBOURNE BOOMERS v. SOUTHSIDE FLYERS
Sunday, January 12, 5:05pm
State Basketball Centre

The final game of the round is set to finish with a bang with one versus two. The Boomers will be suiting up for their second game of the round, while the Southside Flyers will be hoping to capitalise on their opponent’s fatigue. Having not played since last round the Flyers will be hoping to exploit any potential cracks in their cross-town rivals and get some separation on top of the ladder with a win. Southside are littered with a wealth of game changes in the form of Rebecca Cole and Mercedes Russell. Both players can knock back some lofty totals with Cole dropping 30 points in one game last week highlighting her sheer explosiveness if left unattended. Other key players such as Leilani Mitchell and Sara Blicavs pose a dominant threat for the Boomers given their ability to flick a switch and cause an impact. The Boomers have the firepower to inflict some pain on the Flyers with Ezi Magbegor, George and Allen all able to have an influence while dual athlete Monique Conti offers plenty of skill. With stacked line-ups and relatively even statistics across the board it will be an enthralling game for all involved.