Tag: Katie-Rae Ebzery

Draft Central’s 2019/20 WNBL Top 10 Players: #5 – Katie-Rae Ebzery

ENTERING her 10th season in the Womens National Basketball League (WNBL), Katie-Rae Ebzery would prove to be one of the go-to players in what was one of the most underrated teams throughout the WNBL 2020 season.

In a rather nostalgic opening contest to the season against Ebzery’s former club – Sydney Uni Flames – she would tip off her season with an unselfish 10-point, seven-assist and four-rebound performance, thus getting the ball rolling on an otherwise multi-faceted campaign for the Lynx guard. One of Ebzery’s greatest strengths, which was presented over the course of the season, was her ability to distribute the ball at an effective pace, whilst keeping her turnover totals to an absolute minimum. Allowing two turnovers or less each night out, enabled the New South Wales-born player to accumulate an average of 2.3 giveaways per game, as she dished out an excellent average of 4.2 in regard to assists – 10th highest average in the WNBL.

Ebzery’s ability to facilitate her offence was one of her primary strengths for the duration of her campaign, but she also knew how contribute to the scoreboard in bunches, making her one of the most threatening guards in the competition. On 13 separate occasions, Ebzery would account for 15 points in a match, and for six of those encounters, she would account for 20. This ranked her amongst the elite scorers in the league, as after the 21-game season, the Perth star would rank sixth in the competition for scoring, averaging 16.3 points per game.

Like many others in Draft Central’s Top 10 Players of the Season, Ebzery has proven she is one of the most durable players in the entire WNBL. This was further evidenced by her 2020 track record, as she  maintained more than 33.5 minutes per game. Throughout her 21 appearances, she would also accumulate more than 40 minutes in a single game due to contests that required overtime to decide a result, which only adds to the impressiveness of her level of stamina.

With the Perth Lynx missing out on finals due to a season record of eight wins and 13 losses falling four wins behind the Adelaide Lightning, the WNBL saw it fitting to award Ebzery an All-WNBL First Team selection (first selection since 2016, second career selection), while she would also take out Perth’s Best and Fairest at the club’s awards night. What comes next for the 30-year-old is anyone’s guess, as at the conclusion of the 2019/20 season Ebzery became a free agent.

However, one thing is constant for the 2020 Olympic selectee, playing for the Opals in Tokyo is the penultimate goal for number five in this season’s WNBL Top 10.

“For me, it’s just an honour being able to represent my country,” Ebzery said. “I dreamed of that from a young age and any opportunity I get to do that, I do it with pride. “It’s never a question of whether I’m available. “Playing for Australia is the top of what we do.”

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.

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)

Griffin returns to help Capitals down Lynx and draw level in second

REIGNING premiers, the University of Canberra (UC) Capitals downed 2018/19 Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) finalists, Perth Lynx at the National Convention Centre to move equal with Melbourne Boomers in second. While the points differential is still a large separator, the Capitals are back in contention for a top two spot after stringing three consecutive wins together.

The Round 12 match was played on Wednesday night after it was initially cancelled due to the terrible smoke conditions in the nation’s capital. It was decided that a mid-week match would be appropriate for it to be played, and the teams did battle in the first Wednesday night fixture of the year. Perth was already out of finals contention despite being in clear fifth spot on the ladder, four games adrift of Adelaide Lightning. The Capitals on the otherhand were a game clear of the Lightning in third, and just a game off the second placed Boomers heading into the clash.

UC was the strong favourite, holding an 7-1 record at home, only beaten by top-of-the-table Southside Flyers so far this season, while the Lynx were 2-5 on the road going into the match. By the time the first buzzer sounded at quarter time, the score was as many had predicted, in favour of the Capitals. The home side led by 10 points at the first break, but credit to the Lynx who refused to give up and clawed back to a single-digit deficit by the main break.

All that hard work to have narrowed the gap was undone in the third, as the Capitals got back on top, scoring 25 points to 14 to lead by 17 at the final break, and while the visitors were again able to take the honours in the final term, could only cut the final margin back to 14 points in a 75-89 loss. The Capitals were missing Keely Froling after facial injuries last week, but welcomed back a champion in Kelsey Griffin to the fold. Unsurprisingly for someone who had not played since December 15, Griffin’s minutes were managed, playing just over 20 minutes for the match after starting on the bench.

The Capitals could afford to ease Griffin back into the competition with Marianna Tolo and Kia Nurse continuing their ripping form of late. Tolo picked up 22 points and nine boards, while recording three assists and two blocks, displaying a nice shooting effort with 73.3 per cent from the field. Nurse sank 20 points at a less accurate 34.8 per cent, but also recorded five assists and three rebounds. French import, Olivia Epoupa continues to tease with almost triple doubles, with her season as good as any other player in the competition. She finished with 12 points, eight rebounds, eight assists, three steals and one block.

Meanwhile Maddison Rocci‘s form over the past two weeks has been terrific with more minutes, picking up another 17 points, four rebounds and five assists in a season-best performance. She backed up from her 19 points,  three rebounds and one assist last week and is averaging the second most points in the team – behind Nurse – over the two games. While Griffin did only have the managed minutes, she could not help but have an impact, picking up nine rebounds to go with her eight points, as well as three assists, two steals and three blocks. Once she is back fully fit, watch out.

For the Lynx, Marena Whittle recorded a team-high 18 points off the bench, while Katie-Rae Ebzery continued her terrific form this season with 16 points, three rebounds and four assists. Ariel Atkins had 13 points and six rebounds, as Lauren Mansfield also managed double-figure points with 10, and four assists. Maddison Allen had 10 rebounds in a prominent effort off the boards, while Nadeen Payne had seven points and seven rebounds in the loss.

The Lynx now have to back up with a Friday night game against Bendigo Spirit in Bendigo, while the Capitals have a break until Sunday where they clash with Sydney Uni Flames in a special Australia Day meeting.

DC Medal: 3 – Marianna Tolo (UC), 2 – Olivia Epoupa (UC), 1 – Maddison Rocci (UC)

Looking at the Draft Central (DC) Medal Leaderboard, there are three players who could theoretically take out the award, with Southside Flyers’ Mercedes Russell, Melbourne Boomers’ Cayla George and Adelaide Lightning’s Stephanie Talbot the three possibilities. Talbot is six votes behind Russell, but has three games remaining, though would need both Russell and George (four games clear of Talbot) to have a couple of quiet games to round out the season. Before her injury, Griffin was right up there with the leaders, but has not been on the court enough to make up the difference. Mathematically speaking, Adelaide’s Brianna Turner could also take out the medal in a shared circumstance, if she polls three best on courts, and Russell does not poll a vote (with George polling no more than two).

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 – Olivia Epoupa (UC)
18 –
17 – Katie-Rae Ebzery (PL)
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), Marianna Tolo (UC)
11 – Keely Froling (UC), Leilani Mitchell (SF)
10 – Jenna O’Hea (SF), Ezi Magbegor (MB)
9 – Madeleine Garrick (MB)
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), Maddison Rocci (UC)

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.

2019/20 WNBL Team of the Week: Round 14

IN a Draft Central Team of the Week first, our starting five players are made up of just two sides – the University of Canberra (UC) Capitals and Adelaide Lightning. Both sides had huge wins on the weekend, with the Capitals downing the top two teams, while the Lightning smashed Townsville Fire. In the 10-player Team of the Week, the sides made up 60 per cent of the representatives, with one player from four other sides – Perth Lynx, Sydney Uni Flames, Southside Flyers and Melbourne Boomers. After disappointing losses, neither Townsville nor Bendigo Spirit had a player in the team this round.

The UC Capitals’ trio of starters are the three that had absolutely remarkable weekends considering the mounting injury toll with star, Kelsey Griffin still out and Keely Froling also injured near the end of the first game. They smashed the Flyers on the road in a stunning performance, and along with the overtime win over Melbourne, earned three players in the Team of the Week. Kia Nurse averaged a massive 28 points, five rebounds and one steal per game on the weekend, joined in the side by two players who posted double doubles. Marianna Tolo makes the side again in center after recording numbers of 17.5 points, 10.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.0 steals, while Olivia Epoupa had 11.5 points, 14.5 rebounds, 7.5 assists and 4.0 steals in a huge couple of games.

Adelaide Lightning’s damaging duo of Stephanie Talbot and Brianna Turner round out the side in the starting forward spots. Talbot put up 16 points, 10 rebounds, three assists, three blocks and one steal against the Fire, shooting at 53.8 per cent from the field. Her partner-in-crime Turner had 15 points, nine rebounds, three assists and two blocks in the big win. Nicole Seekamp also made the bench to make it three for the Lightning, and equal most with the Capitals in the side. The four remaining spots went to players of other sides, with Perth guard Katie-Rae Ebzery and Sydney Uni center Lauren Scherf in the side, as well as forwards from the top two sides in Sara Blicavs and Ezi Magbegor who put out two consistent performances for one win and one loss each.

Among those players in consideration and unlucky not to make the cut were Bendigo duo, Tessa Lavey and Carley Ernst, Townsville duo Tess Madgen and Darcee Garbin, Southside duo Rebecca Cole and Mercedes Russell, Adelaide’s Lauren Nicholson, Perth’s Marena Whittle and Melbourne’s Cayla George.

STARTING FIVE:

G: Olivia Epoupa (UC) – 11.5 points, 14.5 rebounds, 7.5 assists, 4.0 steals, 0.0 blocks, 30.8 FG%
G: Kia Nurse (UC) – 28.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.0 blocks, 43.2 FG%
C: Marianna Tolo (UC) – 17.5 points, 10.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.0 steals, 1.5 blocks, 57.7 FG%
F: Stephanie Talbot (AD) – 16 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steals, 3 blocks, 53.8 FG%
F: Brianna Turner (AD) – 15 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 0 steals, 2 blocks, 31.3 FG%

BENCH:

G: Nicole Seekamp (AD) – 12 points, 4 rebounds, 9 assists, 0 steals, 0 blocks, 45.5 FG%
G: Katie-Rae Ebzery (PL) – 17 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 0 blocks, 46.2 FG%
C: Lauren Scherf (SU) – 14 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals, 2 blocks, 35.7 FG%
F: Sara Blicavs (SF) – 14.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.5 blocks, 39.3 FG%
F: Ezi Magbegor (MB) – 19.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 0.0 steals, 0.0 blocks, 73.9 FG%

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 preview: Round 12 – Finals race set to narrow

IT is make or break time in the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) this round, with finals well and truly on the line. If the results go the way as planned, there could be as much as a four-game gap between fourth and fifth making it incredibly difficult for the sides outside the finals spots to force their way into the top four.

PERTH LYNX vs. SOUTHSIDE FLYERS
Friday, January 3, 6.30pm
Bendat Basketball Centre

In one of three Friday night games, a well-rested Southside Flyers returns to WNBL action against a Perth Lynx side that has been steadily improving after a mid-season slump. The Lynx have hardly made Bendat Basketball Centre a fortress this year, but remain stronger at home than on the road which is where their troubles have come from. The Flyers are coming off a rare loss, going down to Sydney Uni Flames back on December 21, which was their last game prior to the Round 12 clash. They are sitting pretty on top of the table, two games clear, and after missing a couple of key players in that game, will be keen to bounce back with an important win here. These teams have played twice so far this season, with Southside getting up at home both times, including in Perth with an 82-68 triumph back on November 29. Alison Schwagmeyer has been a force this season off the boards for the Lynx, leading their points scoring with 16 per game in 2019/20. Katie-Rae Ebzery and Lauren Mansfield have also provided plenty with their movement across the court despite both being sub-180cm. Mercedes Russell missed the last game for the Flyers, but has been superb this year, averaging just about a double-double when it comes to points (16.1) and rebounds (9.9), to be the standout center in the competition. Jenna O’Hea also missed the last game, with the Opals star another standout player this year for the top-of-the-table side. Southside head into this contest as strong favourites, but you can never discount the Lynx.

TOWNSVILLE FIRE vs. ADELAIDE LIGHTNING
Friday, January 3, 7.00pm
Townsville Stadium

With a line now all but put through their name for season 2019/20, Townsville Fire host their first game of 2020 on Friday night in a bid to try and wreck the Lightning’s chances of making finals. The Fire have slipped to three consecutive losses, including a disappointing one-point loss to Bendigo Spirit which all but ended their hopes of making finals this season. Five games adrift of the fourth placed Lightning makes it difficult given the time remaining in the season, but there is still plenty to play for in the last month. For Adelaide, it is much higher stakes, needing a win to retain the breathing space ahead of Sydney Uni and Perth who have both been sniffing around for that all-important top four position. The last time these two teams met was back in October, when Adelaide triumphed up in Townsville with an 86-68 victory. The Lightning will be hoping for much of the same in this clash, having won just one of the three encounters from the 2018/19 WNBL season. The two standouts for the Lightning are Stephanie Talbot and Brianna Turner. Talbot is averaging more than 16 points and eight rebounds per game, whilst getting close to a couple of steals and more than a block per game in a strong all-round effort. Turner on the other hand is a rebounding machine, averaging a double-double of points and rebounds, whilst providing a great defensive option close to the defensive basket, blocking opponents’ shots almost twice per game. For the Fire, Abby Bishop has had an outstanding season, and while her game last round was quiet by her standards, she still averages a team-high 15.9 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.2 steals per game. Darcee Garbin (13.4 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.1 steals) and Tess Madgen (12.1 points, 5.9 rebounds and 3.7 assists) are handy contributors, while Bridget Carleton picked up a double-double last round and averages 11.5 points and 5.7 rebounds per game following her 19 and 12 respectively last round. Adelaide should get the win here, as the Lightning have a good record in Townsville, though the Fire would love to cause a few headaches for the visitors.

BENDIGO SPIRIT vs. UC CAPITALS
Friday, January 3, 7.00pm
Bendigo Stadium

In the third and final game of the Friday night trio, reigning premiers UC Capitals travel to Bendigo to take on the last placed Spirit. Whilst finals is out of reach for the potential wooden spooners, last round was a positive when the Spirit snapped a nine-game losing streak to down Townsville Fire. The Capitals have been able to make the best of an absence of Kelsey Griffin who is currently out due to an ankle injury. Last round’s win against Perth Lynx showed the Capitals have the depth to match it with anyone, as Olivia Epoupa, Marianna Tolo and Keely Froling all picked up double doubles. These sides have played twice in the past month, with the Capitals naturally getting up both times given the Spirit’s form of late. The wins were by 25 and 10 points respectively, though the Spirit will hope to ride on last week’s performance and put in a much better effort at home than the December 6 drubbing. The Spirit have three players averaging more than 10 points per game this year, with Carley Ernst leading the way with 11.4 as well as 6.5 rebounds. Demi Skinner (10.6 points, 3.3 rebounds) and Abigail Wehrung (10.3 points, 2.4 rebounds) have been busy this season, while Kelly Wilson (9.3 points, 5.6 assists, 4.1 rebounds and 1.4 steals) has been a balanced contributor. Coming off an important confidence-boosting win at home last week, the Spirit have had all three of their wins in Bendigo, with a 3-5 record there. The Capitals have been a little more shaky on the road with a 4-3 record, but should get the job done against the bottom side. Given what is on the line, being level with the Boomers in second spot, it is crucial for the Capitals to make up the 32-point differential between them and the second placed Melbourne to try and push their way into the top two.

ADELAIDE LIGHTNING vs. SOUTHSIDE FLYERS
Sunday, January 5, 1.00pm
Titanium Security Arena

Playing their second game of the round and back-to-back games on the road, Southside Flyers head to Adelaide where they take on Adelaide Lightning at Titanium Security Arena on Sunday afternoon. The Lightning crucially held onto their top four spot last round, triumphing in style over reigning premiers, UC Capitals, and would love nothing more than a win against Southside Flyers here. These two teams have faced in South Australia this season already, with the Flyers getting up 91-85 back on December 1. After such a long break between games, it will be interesting to see how Southside pulls up in a second match two days after the first. Adelaide also plays its second game of the round, and will have more travelling to do, heading home from Townsville after the Friday night match, but will at least be at home for the match. Along with Talbot and Turner who have been the two standouts this year, Lauren Nicholson and Nicole Seekamp have shared in more than 25 points, six rebounds and nine assists between them. They are among a starting five that all average a steal per game, while Chelsea Brook has shown she is capable of putting up solid numbers when called upon to do so. The Flyers might have missed two of their top stars back in Round 10, but the likes of Rebecca Cole, Leilani Mitchell and Sara Blicavs ensures the league’s newest rebranded side has no problem with depth. Anneli Maley might not have a lot of points to her name, but she provides good rebounding depth off the bench and will be one who continues to be an option coming onto the court throughout games. The Flyers can almost secure top spot, and one would think a top two spot, with back-to-back victories in this round.

UC CAPITALS vs. PERTH LYNX
Sunday, January 5, 2.00pm
AIS Arena

Two sides who go at it for a second time in Round 12 are the UC Capitals and Perth Lynx who head to Canberra to face-off at AIS Arena from 2pm on Sunday. The Capitals return from Bendigo to host the clash, while the Perth cross to the eastern seaboard after a home game on Friday night. Depending on the Capitals’ result against Bendigo – which in fairness to the Spirit is expected to be a win against the bottom side – UC could well go outright second with a second victory here. The Boomers play a few hours later against the Flames in a day that if both sides win, the finals race is just about decided. Given the Capitals’ 6-1 record at home and Perth’s 2-5 record on the road, it is clear to see which team is favourite heading into this clash. Also taking into account the fact the Capitals knocked off the Lynx by a comfortable 17 points in the last outing just a week earlier – in Perth – showed they have the form and confidence to knock over the sixth placed side. There are a lot of permutations this round, but if Adelaide Lightning get the win over Townsville as expected and the Lynx lose both games, it would mean the Lynx must chase down a five-game deficit outside the top four with just four rounds remaining. It will be the third time these teams have faced off with the 17-point win to UC actually the lesser of the two victories from the reigning premiers in this head-to-head. The Capitals also won by 18 points in Canberra back in November. While the double-double trio caught headlines last round for the Capitals, you cannot forget the impact Kia Nurse has each and every week, averaging a handy 20.3 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.1 steals per game. The other starter is Maddison Rocci who has been flying under the radar with more than seven points and almost three assists per game. Add in Gemma Potter who has received court time every game to average almost three points and a rebound per game, and the Capitals have some youth coming through the ranks. Perth would hope to piece together a much better performance this week against the Capitals and along with Schwagmeyer and Ebzery, they need more consistency standing up each week. Imani McGee-Stafford and Ariel Atkins are a couple of American imports who show signs of breaking games open and the former is averaging 10.6 points and 8.4 rebounds, while the latter is 9.8 and 4.6 respectively. With Mansfield and Nadeen Payne also putting up solid numbers and Marena Whittle coming off the bench, the Lynx have the talent, they just need to build greater consistency, particularly on the road. This will be a tough game to win but give them a world of confidence if they can pull it off.

SYDNEY UNI FLAMES vs. MELBOURNE BOOMERS
Sunday, January 5, 5.00pm
Brydens Stadium

In a game that will likely have some big ramifications for the finals race, fifth placed Sydney Uni Flames take on top two side, Melbourne Boomers. With the UC Capitals having the luxury of already having played two games prior to this tip-off, the Boomers could find themselves fighting for second spot in this game. The Flames have shown they are capable of knocking off some serious talent, taking down the Flyers in Round 10, but will still be hurting from the loss of Colleen Planeta for the season. The Boomers will have an eye on the WNBL finals considering their season, and with their depth will be favourites in this one. These sides have only played once thus far this season, with the Boomers getting up by 13 points at home. They have not played in Sydney since October 21, 2018, where the visiting side also got the chocolates on that day in an 87-75 triumph. Neither of these sides have played earlier in the round, so earn a nice break heading into this final game of Round 12. Alice Kunek is the Flames’ leading points scorer, and will share the load left by Planeta with Jessica Kuster and Alex Wilson who both average double-figure points. Lauren Scherf is an underrated player coming off the bench with seven points and eight rebounds per game, and could be the one who stands up and consolidates her starting spot with Tahlia Tupaea rounding out the five. The Boomers also have plenty of firepower across the court with Lindsay Allen and Cayla George averaging more than 30 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists and three steals between them. Sophie Cunningham, Ezi Magbegor and Madeleine Garrick are the other three regular starts, all of whom average double-figure points. Last round was the first time the Boomers had a different starting five, with Cunningham absent, and Antonia Farnworth stepping up to play that role. Expect Melbourne to go all-out to try and hold onto second spot, but Sydney Uni will be keen to cause yet another upset.