Tag: Kelly Wilson

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.

NBL1 expands north as national game grows

IN a landmark agreement between the National Basketball League (NBL), NBL1, Basketball Victoria and Basketball Queensland, the 2020 NBL1 competition will be split into two conferences. The current league – with the addition of new side, Mount Gambier Pioneers – will be renamed NBL1 South, while the new league featuring 26 new teams will be based in Queensland and called NBL1 North. The NBL1 North replaces the Queensland Basketball League (QBL) with 13 men’s and 13 women’s sides.

The 13 clubs that have been awarded licences in the NBL1 North are Cairns Marlins (men’s) and Dolphins (women’s), Townsville Heat (men’s) and Flames (women’s), Rockhampton Rockets (men’s) and Cyclones (women’s), Mackay Meteors (men’s) and Meteorettes (women’s), Southern District Spartans, Sunshine Coast Phoenix, University of Sunshine Coast Rip, Brisbane Capitals, Logan Thunder, South West Metro Pirates, Gold Coast Rollers, Ipswich Force and Toowoomba Mountaineers.

NBL Chief Operating Officer Andy Crook said it was an exciting time for Australian basketball.

“We are excited to announce the establishment of NBL1 North and NBL1 South conferences,” Crook said. “This is a genuine partnership between the NBL, Basketball Queensland and Basketball Victoria and we look forward to the great rivalries that’s set to develop between the conferences. “We are also in active discussions with Basketball South Australia, Basketball Western Australia and Basketball New South Wales about introducing the NBL1 concept in those states.”

NBL1 South will tip off on Saturday April 18 while NBL1 North will begin a week later on Friday April 24.

NBL1 South and NBL1 North will hold conference finals in August, before an NBL1 finals series will be played on the first weekend of September with conference champions from NBL1 South and NBL1 North at the State Basketball Centre in Victoria. Further details of the NBL1 finals series will be announced soon.

The NBL1 North logo will have a maroon colour while the NBL1 South logo will be navy blue, creating a connection between the conferences and their main state.

Basketball Queensland Chief Executive and Secretary Graham Burns said the major competition in the Sunshine State was looking forward to holding a highly recognised second tier competition.

“We can’t wait for the inaugural NBL1 North season and look forward to the growth the league will have under the NBL’s banner,” Burns said. “Basketball Victoria and the NBL did an incredible job with NBL1 in 2019 and we are thrilled to be involved and continue the positive momentum.”

Basketball Victoria CEO Nick Honey said the success of NBL1 last season showed the concept was adaptable across the country and he looked forward to the growth of the conference system.

“It’s exciting to see the next phase of NBL1’s expansion begin this year with NBL1 becoming NBL1 South,” Honey said. “From where Basketball Victoria and the NBL started last year, it’s brilliant to see the model expand to other states.”

Last year’s NBL1 competitions were won by Nunawading Spectres and Kilsyth Cobras in the men’s and women’s competition respectively. Geelong Supercats’ Demarcus Gatlin and Bendigo Braves’ Kelly Wilson were named the respective competitions’ Most Valuable Players (MVP).

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.

2019/20 WNBL Round 11 preview: Top four spots on the line to close out the year

FIVE Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) games will be played between Christmas and the New Year with the top of the table Southside Flyers to have a week off, while University of Canberra (UC) Capitals, Adelaide Lightning and Townsville Fire all play two games.

ADELAIDE LIGHTNING vs. UC CAPITALS
Friday, December 27, 7:00pm
Titanium Security Arena

In the first game post-Christmas, fourth placed Adelaide Lightning will be keen to bridge the gap between themselves and third spot on the ladder, UC Capitals. This top four clash could well determine if a spot in the top three is still up for grabs, or whether or not the reigning premiers can consolidate their position with the top two Victorian sides. For Adelaide, a win keeps the Lightning in touch with the top three, while a loss throws them back to a mid-table log-jam. These teams have played just once this season, with the Capitals getting up at home by seven points. With Kelsey Griffin missing last round, it was the likes of Keely Froling who stood tall, picking up 30 points and taking her average to 14.3 points per game as well as 6.8 rebounds. Kia Nurse has been a consistent scorer for the Capitals with 20.4 points per game, while Olivia Epoupa continues to rack up the stats across the board, averaging 8.3 points. 6.8 rebounds, 6.3 assists and 3.3 steals per game. For the Lightning, the damaging duo of Stephanie Talbot (16.0 points, 8.2 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.8 steals per game) and Brianna Turner (15.8 points, 10.3 rebounds, 1.8 blocks and 1.1 steals) have been the key players throughout the 2019/20 WNBL season.

MELBOURNE BOOMERS vs. TOWNSVILLE FIRE
Friday, December 27, 7:30pm
State Basketball Centre

In Victoria, Melbourne hosts Townsville in a bid to retain second spot on the table after snatching it last round. The Boomers host the Fire who are just about out of finals contention, winning just three games from 12 so far this season and are three games outside the top four. For the Boomers, grabbing a top two spot will be crucial in their hopes of making it one step further than last year, and have a 5-2 win-loss record at home, while Townsville is just 1-5 when on the road this season. In these side’s only other head-to-head, Melbourne got up by nine points up in Queensland, with them previously winning both fixtures at home in the 2018/19 season, albeit by a combined 10 points. One can expect this will be an exciting contest, with the likes of Boomers Lindsay Allen (16.4 points, 3.4 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 1.3 steals) and Cayla George (13.4 points, 8.8 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.5 blocks) leading the charge, while Ezi Magbegor has been in good form of late. Abby Bishop continues to dominate games for Townsville, standing up each and every week to average 16.5 points, 8.2 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 2.4 steals per game, while Darcee Garbin (14.3 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game) and Tess Madgen (11.6 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.1 steals) have also been strong performers.

BENDIGO SPIRIT vs. TOWNSVILLE FIRE
Saturday, December 28, 7:00pm
Bendigo Stadium

Townsville has less than 24 hours to turnaround from the contest against the Boomers in order to face bottom placed Bendigo Spirit up at Bendigo Stadium. It is fair to say a loss for the Fire here would rule them out of the finals race, and join the Spirit as the other team out of contention. Bendigo has a chance to draw within points difference of the Fire if it can get a good result here, but with nine consecutive losses, the Spirit have not had the start to the season they would have liked. The good news for Bendigo is they are better at home than on the road, winning both their games there, but they came early in the season, though Townsville are worse on the road with the 1-5 record. Carley Ernst was again prolific in the Spirit’s performance last round, averaging 10.5 points and 6.6 rebounds per game this season, while Demi Skinner has progressed from the bench to the starting line-up, averaging 10.2 points and 3.2 rebounds per game. Kelly Wilson is the other standout player this season for the Spirit, posting up numbers of 9.9 points. 4.0 rebounds, 5.6 assists and 1.4 steals per game. Bridget Carleton has been a valuable addition to the fire this season, with the Canadian putting up numbers of 11.4 points and 5.4 rebounds per game, while Belgium’s Julie Vanloo averages the 8.1 points and 3.6 assists.

PERTH LYNX vs. UC CAPITALS
Sunday December 29, 1:00pm
Bendat Basketball Centre

Staying in the finals race last weekend, sixth placed Perth Lynx will hope to stand up against the reigning premiers, UC Capitals at home when the teams clash on Sunday afternoon. The Lynx are just half a game outside of fifth from Sydney Uni Flames, and a game and a half from fourth placed Adelaide Lightning as both those teams clash in Sydney later on in the afternoon. In this match, the Capitals will eye off second spot once against after Melbourne snatched it in Round 10. The Capitals have only played five games on the road, registering a 3-2 win-loss record, while the Lynx have split their home games at three wins and three losses apiece. In their only other encounter this season, the Capitals easily got the win at home, producing an 18-point win over the Lynx. Alison Schwagmeyer (16.3 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.1 assists) has been important for the home side this season, as have Katie-Rae Ebzery (14.7 points, 4.3 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 1.4 blocks) and Imani McGee-Stafford (11.0 points, 8.7 rebounds and 1.4 blocks). The Capitals have no shortage of contributors this season, with others who have been strong performers across the board including Marianna Tolo (11.0 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks), Maddison Rocci (7.1 points, 2.4 assists) and Gemma Potter (2.8 points, 1.2 rebounds) who have been involved in all games when available.

SYDNEY UNI FLAMES vs. ADELAIDE LIGHTNING
Sunday, December 29, 5:00pm
Brydens Stadium

To round out the weekend, Sydney Uni Flames will be eyeing off fourth spot with a do-or-die clash against Adelaide Lightning. Adelaide has first crack at retaining fourth spot courtesy of a match against UC Capitals on Friday night, but lose that and it is game-on here. The winner will secure fourth in that scenario, and while Sydney Uni’s points difference is a concern (minus 64), it has started to build some good form of late, winning both games last weekend, including an all-important victory over Southside Flyers. The Flames were able to topple the Lightning just a couple of weeks ago in Sydney and will be aiming to repeat the dose in this Round 11 match. Back in Round 1, Adelaide got the chocolates with a 10-point win in South Australia. Sydney holds a positive 3-2 record at home, while the Lightning are two from six when on the road. Alice Kunek has mirrored the team’s form as she racks up double doubles with ease, averaging 18.1 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game, teaming well with Jessica Kuster (12.6 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.2 steals). Colleen Planeta (15.7 points, 6.8 rebounds) has been constantly along the best and will leave a hole in the line-up after it was confirmed she injured her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in the Flames’ last game, while Alex Wilson (11.9 points, 3.3 rebounds and 4.9 assists) is always prominent. Talbot and Turner have been the key duo this season for the Lightning, but Lauren Nicholson (14.0 points, 2.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.6 steals per game) and Nicole Seekamp (11.6 points, 3.3 rebounds and 7.1 assists) are always carefully monitored by the opposition. A crucial game to close out the round and the year.

WNBL Round 10 review: Flames fire up in tight round of action

SYDNEY Uni Flames have kept their Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) finals hopes alive after back-to-back wins in Round 10 saw them move to within a game of fourth spot on the table. It was a different story for both Townsville Fire and Bendigo Spirit as the sides combined for three losses to be a couple of games behind the top six.

Bendigo Spirit (81) defeated by Sydney Uni Flames (88)

In a special Thursday night encounter, Sydney Uni Flames got up by just seven points over cellar dwellers, Bendigo Spirit on the road. The Flames overcame a half-time deficit of seven points, to post a 44-30 second half. The visitors took control in the third term, outscoring the home team by five to cut the deficit to two at the last change, before running away with it in the final quarter thanks to an impressive 24-15 term in the 88-81 victory. Jessica Kuster (20 points, seven rebounds, two assists and two steals) and Alice Kunek (20 points, six rebounds, two assists and one steal) both dominated the points for Sydney Uni, while Colleen Planeta contributed 14 points, four rebounds, three assists and two blocks. Lauren Scherf was also prominent off the boards with 12 rebounds to accompany her nine points. For the Spirit, Carley Ernst was the clear standout thanks to an equal game-high 20 points, as well as seven rebounds, five assists and two steals in the loss. Kelly Wilson (19 points, five rebounds, two assists and two steals) was not far behind, while Abigail Wehrung (15 points, four rebounds and two assist) and Marte Grays (11 points, six rebounds and two assists) also reached double-figure points.

DC Medal: 3 – Jessica Kuster (SU), 2 – Carley Ernst (BS), 1 – Alice Kunek (SU)

UC Capitals (76) defeated Bendigo Spirit (66)

Bendigo suffered its second loss of the weekend, this time up in the nation’s capital when the Spirit went down to the reigning premiers. The University of Canberra (UC) Capitals saluted in a 76-66 win, taking an early two-point lead at quarter time, then extending it to eight by half-time. To Bendigo’s credit the Spirit won the third quarter with a 17-16 effort, before the Capitals regained the momentum in the last term to extend its eventual winning margin out to 10 – the highest of the round. In the absence of 2018/19 Most Valuable Player (MVP) Kelsey Griffin, Keely Froling took control for the Capitals, posting a massive 30 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and two steals to be the standout player on court. Kia Nurse (16 points, six rebounds and two steals) and Marianna Tolo (13 points, nine rebounds, three assists, two steals and four blocks) were also prominent, while Olivia Epoupa continued her strong performance across the board thanks to eight points, 12 rebounds, five assists and three steals. Demi Skinner top-scored for the Spirit with 15 points, as well as five rebounds, while Wehrung had 13 points and three rebounds. Ernst only scored the five points in the match, but recorded 11 rebounds.

DC Medal: 3 – Keely Froling (UC), 2 – Marianna Tolo (UC), 1 – Olivia Epoupa (UC)

Townsville Fire (77) defeated by Perth Lynx (82)

Perth Lynx grabbed a crucial win in the scheme of the finals race, knocking over fellow bottom three side Townsville Fire on the road to move a game and a half clear of the Fire heading into Christmas. The home side was up and about early, taking a three-point lead into quarter time, before Perth hit its straps in the second term to cut the deficit back to one point. Townsville continued to lead throughout the game, extending the margin back out to three by the last change, before the Lynx saved their best to last with a powerful 23-15 final quarter to secure the all-important 82-77 victory. Ariel Atkins top-scored for the winners with 16 points, four rebounds, two assists and one steal, while Katie-Rae Ebzery (15 points, six rebounds, three steals and three assists) was productive across all areas. Nadeen Payne (11 points, six rebounds) was busy off the boards, while Marena Whittle (12 points, three rebounds) and Alison Schwagmeyer (11 points, three rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocks) both provided relief off the bench. For Townsville, Abby Bishop was absolutely enormous in a bid to drag her side over the line. She contributed a game-high 18 points and 16 rebounds, while also picking up four assists, three steals and a block. Bridget Carleton (17 points, three rebounds), Darcee Garbin (14 points, nine rebounds and three assists), Tess Madgen (12 points, seven rebounds and five assists) and Julie Vanloo (11 points, seven rebounds) all shared the load, but the team recorded 17 turnovers to 10 to ultimately cost them the game despite dominating the rebounds, 42-30.

DC Medal: 3 – Abby Bishop (TF), 2 – Katie-Rae Ebzery (PL), 1 – Darcee Garbin (TF)

Southside Flyers (79) defeated by Sydney Uni Flames (86)

The biggest upset of the round came on Saturday night when the Sydney Uni Flames took down ladder leaders, Southside Flyers at Dandenong Stadium. The Flames secured back-to-back wins and moved to within a game of fourth spot with the seven-point triumph, winning two of the quarters but making it count with a fast start. Sydney Uni raced out of the blocks to pile on 24 points to 16 in the opening term, then survived a second term fightback by the Flyers to still lead by seven at the main break. That lead went back out to eight heading into the final quarter, and again the visitors weathered the storm in the last term to eventually take home the chocolates, 86-79. Kunek was best on court with a double-double effort thanks to 27 points, 11 rebounds and four assists, while Planeta stood tall with 20 points, five rebounds, two assists and two blocks. Alex Wilson came close to a double-double herself with 12 points, nine assists, three rebounds and three steals, while Kuster (11 points, six rebounds and three steals) and Tahlia Tupaea (11 points, six rebounds and four assists) also reached double-figure points. Sara Blicavs was the standout for the losing side, adding 23 points and nine rebounds in the absence of Mercedes Russell and Jenna O’Hea, while Leilani Mitchell (18 points, three rebounds and eight assists) and Rebecca Cole (13 points, five rebounds and four assists) were also busy across the night.

DC Medal: 3 – Alice Kunek (SU), 2 – Colleen Planeta (SU), 1 – Sara Blicavs (SF)

Melbourne Boomers (66) defeated Adelaide Lightning (57)

A fast start by Melbourne Boomers helped the home side secure an important nine-point win at the State Basketball Centre yesterday. The Boomers needed to secure the points against fourth placed Adelaide Lightning in order to gain some breathing space in the top three, and also leapfrog UC Capitals in the process. They did just that, piling on 20 points to 13 in the opening term, then extended the lead with a 15-12 second quarter to head into half-time with a 10-point advantage. Adelaide fought back to cut the deficit to seven once again at the final change, before Melbourne regained the upper-hand and scored 16-14 in the last quarter to win, 66-57. Lindsay Allen was strong with 22 points, six rebounds, teaming well with Ezi Magbegor who picked up a double-double after 16 points, 10 rebounds and three assists. The Boomers shared court time across the board with 10 players getting a run on the court, and had contributions from Sophie Cunningham (seven points, four rebounds and three assists) and Kalani Purcell (nine points, four rebounds and two blocks). Adelaide had a couple of standouts once again, with both Brianna Turner and Stephanie Talbot picking up double doubles. Turner recorded 19 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks in the loss, while Talbot had 15 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and two blocks. Outside of the duo however, the next highest point-scorer was Nicole Seekamp with seven, as well as five assists and two rebounds, but also picked up nine turnovers. The loss meant the Lightning still marginally hold onto fourth spot ahead of the Flames, but only by a game.

DC Medal: 3 – Ezi Magbegor (MB), 2 – Lindsay Allen (MB),  1 – Brianna Turner (AL)

DC Medal Leaderboard:

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

2019/20 WNBL weekend preview: Round 10 – Flames and Fire need to ignite in pre-Christmas round

IN the final Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) round prior to Christmas, there is plenty at stake for sides, with some last chances to stay in touch with the top four, and the opportunity for top sides to gain a vital advantage over title contenders heading into the new year.

BENDIGO SPIRIT vs. SYDNEY UNI FLAMES
Thursday, December 19, 7:00pm
Bendigo Stadium

In a standalone game in Bendigo on Thursday night, two bottom three sides battle it out in what could well be the last chance for these sides to remain in contention for a finals spot. The Spirit will travel up to Canberra the next day to take on the Capitals on Saturday, but will be keen to break their seven-game losing streak with a victory over Sydney Uni Flames. For the Flames, it will be about bouncing back from the disappointing loss to Townsville that resulted in the Flames slipping to sixth on the ladder. Now two and a half games from fourth, the Flames really need to win this one against the last placed side. In their one previous matchup this season, Sydney Uni got up in Bendigo by five points back on November 29. The Spirit hold a 2-4 record at home, while the Flames are only 1-6 when on the road. Bendigo has an even team across the board, with Carley Ernst having a big game last round, and now averaging 10.2 points and 6.2 rebounds, while Demi Skinner has shown she can come off the bench or play a role in the starting team, averaging 10.5 points and 3.2 rebounds this season. An important player who has been building nicely is Rebecca Tobin, with the forward-centre averaging a double-double of 8.3 points and 10.2 rebounds per game. For the Flames, Alice Kunek has been a scoring machine this season, averaging 17.2 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game. American duo, Colleen Planeta (15.5 points, 7.2 rebounds) and Jessica Kuster (12.2 points, 6.6 rebounds) have both been prominent on the attack and off the boards for Sydney Uni. Bendigo has its best chance to win in some time, but Sydney Uni’s only win on the road came in Bendigo, so the Flames will be feeling confident.

 

UC CAPITALS vs. BENDIGO SPIRIT
Saturday, December 21, 5:00pm
National Convention Centre

Coming off the game against Sydney Uni, Bendigo heads to the nation’s capital to face the University of Canberra (UC) Capitals on Saturday evening. In the side’s only other clash this year back in Round 8, the Capitals got up comfortably by 25 points, 91-66. At home, the Capitals are near-unbeatable, losing their first game to ladder leaders, Southside Flyers last round and will be hungry to bounce back and add another win to their current 5-1 home record, the second best of any side this season. The Spirit are yet to win on the road, which does not bode well for the side, with Bendigo needing a massive effort to try and topple the reigning champions in this game. Some Bendigo players that will need to assist those who have been strong this season are guards Tessa Lavey (9.8 points, 3.4 rebounds and 4.3 assists) and Kelly Wilson (9.4 points, 3.7 rebounds and 6.3 assists), while American import, Marte Grays (6.8 points, 4.1 rebounds) is another one to keep an eye on. The Capitals have no shortage of talent on the roster, with the scoring machine in Kia Nurse (20.8 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.7 assists) leading the way. The 2018/19 WNBL Most Valuable Player (MVP), Kelsey Griffin had a quiet game last round with just four points, but is averaging a double-double of 16.6 points and 11.4 rebounds per game. Keely Froling has enjoyed a mix of starting and coming off the bench this season, with 12.9 points and 6.5 rebounds, while Marianna Tolo has been one of the top centers this season, posting up 10.8 points and 6.2 rebounds from 10 games. The UC Capitals will head into the game as heavy favourites and one can only expect they come out on top in this one, especially with what is on the line. However, if Bendigo do not collect a win this round, a line can be put through the Spirit’s finals chances.

 

TOWNSVILLE FIRE vs. PERTH LYNX
Saturday, December 21, 6:00pm
Townsville Stadium

Heading north on Saturday night, Townsville Fire hosts Perth Lynx in a battle of two sides that grabbed relieving wins on the weekend just gone. Townsville got up over Sydney Uni, while Perth took down Melbourne Boomers. Now travelling to the other side of the country, the Lynx will hope to reverse the result from earlier in the season, when Townsville flew home with the points in a 93-88 win in Perth. At home, Townsville is two wins from five encounters, but Perth has proven to be even more shaky on the road with a 1-5 away record thus far this season. A win for Perth would see the Lynx move to within one and a half games of fourth spot, while a loss for Townsville would seemingly all but rule the Fire out of the finals race. A win however, and the Fire would draw level with Perth and only be points difference away from that fifth spot. Despite a quiet weekend last weekend, Abby Bishop has been the key player for the Fire, averaging 16.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 2.3 steals per game. A couple of forwards who have really hit their straps over the past month are Darcee Garbin (14.3 points, 6.3 rebounds) and Bridget Carleton (11.5 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.7 assists). Add in Tess Madgen (11.5 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.7 assists) and the Fire have an underrated quartet of scorers. The Lynx also have an even spread across the board with some great depth on offer, but have been unlucky with many games just not falling their way. Alison Schwagmeyer continues to impress off the boards with 16.8 points and 6.6 rebounds per game, while Katie-Rae Ebzery is strong across all areas with 14.7 points, 4.2 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 1.3 steals per game. Imani McGee-Stafford failed to score last round, but put up double-digit rebounds, and has averaged 9.5 rebounds per game to accompany her 11.5 points. Lauren Mansfield is the other player flying under the radar, averaging 10.2 points, 3.1 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game. Perth will start favourites, but this game will go down to the wire.

 

SOUTHSIDE FLYERS vs. SYDNEY UNI FLAMES
Saturday, December 21, 7:00pm
Dandenong Stadium

After a game in Bendigo on Thursday night, Sydney Uni turns its attention to the ladder leaders and red-hot Southside Flyers who have only dropped one game in seven at home. The Flyers are yet to lose to anyone outside of the UC Capitals, and they even sought revenge on that debt owed with a win over the Capitals last weekend. The Flames on the other hand remain to look shaky, with last year’s wooden spooners having made noticeable improvement, but are still an outside chance of finals, needing to win at least one game this weekend to remain in the finals race realistically. Victory, and a loss to Adelaide Lightning the next day would move the Flames to within half a game of fourth spot, but a loss – or even worse two losses – and a win to the Lightning could see them drop back to a massive four and a half games behind. The Flyers have had a remarkable season, their first since the rebranding of the Dandenong Rangers. Mercedes Russell has been an overwhelming success, as the American import continues to dominate in center with 16.1 points and 9.9 rebounds per game. Rebecca Cole has proven to be a reliable scorer week-in, week-out averaging 16.0 points, 2.9 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.4 steals per game, while Sara Blicavs has averaged 6.5 rebounds to go with her 13.8 points. Add in Jenna O’Hea (14.4 points, 4.7 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 1.6 steals) and Leilani Mitchell (15.4 points, 3.8 rebounds, 5.7 assists and 1.3 steals), and the Flyers have an impeccable starting five. Every player in the starting side averages at least a steal per game, showing their willingness to run both ways and remain alert throughout the contest. For the Flames, they do have those impressive numbers from the likes of Planeta, Kuster and Kunek, while Alex Wilson (12.3 points, 3.4 rebounds and 4.5 assists) is another player continuing to play her role throughout the season. Forward-center, Lauren Scherf (6.4 points, 8.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists) is one who always causes headaches around the defensive boards. Southside Flyers will head in as strong favourites in this one, with the Flames’ task made all the more difficult by being on the road.

 

MELBOURNE BOOMERS vs. ADELAIDE LIGHTNING
Sunday, December 22, 5:00pm
State Basketball Centre

In the final game prior to Christmas, Melbourne Boomers will be keen for an early present with a victory over fourth placed Adelaide Lightning. After a loss on the road to Perth Lynx last weekend, Melbourne could maintain second spot with a victory here, though a loss would see them likely drop to third with the UC Capitals facing the bottom side in Bendigo Spirit. The stakes are just as high for Adelaide, a side that has been in some good form over November, sitting fourth, but almost on its own with two games adrift of the Capitals in third, and two and a half games clear of Perth in fifth. A win, and the Lightning ease the pressure on the chasing teams, as well as add pressure on the top three sides, but a loss would hurl them back to the mid-table logjam. At home, Melbourne is 4-2, while the Lightning is 2-3 on the road this season. The last time these side met, Melbourne got the win in South Australia by 14 points back on November 22. Cayla George has been instrumental for the Boomers this season, rarely playing a bad game and posting up 14.0 points, 9.3 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.6 blocks per game. George and her partner-in-crime in the blocks department, Ezi Magbegor (11.1 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.2 blocks) deny the opposition scoring chances close to the basket. Lindsay Allen (15.9 points, 3.2 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 1.2 steals per game) is the leading scorer for the Boomers this season, while Madeleine Garrick (11.9 points, 3.7 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.6 steals) flies under the radar with solid performances. For the Lightning, the damaging duo of Stephanie Talbot (16.1 points, 8.0 points, 4.0 assists and 2.0 steals) and Brianna Turner (15.5 points, 10.2 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 1.8 blocks) were both phenomenal last round and gone to another level as the season has progressed. Lauren Nicholson is never far from the action, averaging 14.7 points, 3.0 rebounds and 2.4 assists, while Nicole Seekamp‘s playmaking ability (12.0 points, 3.4 rebounds, 7.3 assists and 1.1 steals) creates a point of difference within the side. Melbourne will be confident at home in this game, but Adelaide is known to cause upsets, and the Lightning could make a move to head into Christmas with a win on the board.

2019/20 WNBL weekend preview: Round 9 – Top three clash to end round on a high

A MASSIVE clash between Southside Flyers and University of Canberra Capitals on Sunday caps off a split round of Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) action which sees the Flyers and Townsville Fire open the round on Friday night, then back up with second games. Plenty is on the line in the other games between Adelaide Lightning and Bendigo Spirit, and Perth Lynx and Melbourne Boomers.

SOUTHSIDE FLYERS v. TOWNSVILLE FIRE
Friday, December 13, 7.30pm
Dandenong Stadium

In the opening game of the round, top of the table Southside Flyers host bottom two side, Townsville Fire at Dandenong. The Fire leapt off the bottom of the table last round following a nice win over the now cellar dwellers, Bendigo Spirit by 14 points. The Fire had won just one of the eight games prior to that victory, and still remain with just two wins from nine games – the complete opposite to Southside enjoying a four-game winning streak for 10-1 ladder leaders. The matchup will be the third time these sides have clashed this year, and the Flyers have unsurprisingly won both, winning by nine points in Round 1 over the Fire, before completely taking control in the second game on November 23, scoring 91-59. Mercedes Russell will once again be a key player in the center for Southside, averaging 16.4 points and 10.1 rebounds per game and likely to be the difference on court. Leilani Mitchell (16.2 points and 6.0 assists) and Rebecca Cole (15.9 points and 3.8 assists) have been important in the guard positions for the favourites, while Townsville has had some strong individual performances from its forwards. Abby Bishop has been the shining light in season 2019/20 for the Fire, averaging 18.8 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 2.4 steals per game. Darcee Garbin is coming off an impressive performance last week and will be hoping to add to her 12.7 points and 5.8 rebounds per game, and help Townsville cause a huge upset. Both these teams play a second game in Round 9 on Sunday in different states, so management will be key.

ADELAIDE LIGHTNING v. BENDIGO SPIRIT
Sunday, December 15, 1pm
Titanium Security Arena

Heading west to South Australia, the fourth placed Adelaide Lightning are narrowly clinging to a finals position at this point of the season, just one and a half games clear of Sydney Uni, and two and a half games clear of Perth and Townsville. Whilst it may seem comfortable, Adelaide is three games away from the top three, and had a couple more losses than any of the sides about it. Having left the door to the top four ajar with a loss to Sydney Uni last week, Adelaide must simply rebound with a victory at home against this season’s cellar dwellers. Bendigo dropped to the bottom of the table with a sixth consecutive loss last weekend, going down to previous ladder carriers, Townsville. With the equal most games played in the league at 11, Bendigo must find a way to flick the switch and make a run from this point, with its season on life support if a change does not happen soon. The positive for Bendigo is that one of its wins did come against Adelaide, getting up by 13 points earlier in the season, before going down by 28 points in a forgettable performance on the road. Stephanie Talbot has been a consistent player for the Lightning this year, posting up 16.0 points, 7.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.0 steals per game, sharing the load off the boards with Brianna Turner (14.8 points, 9.9 rebounds). Lauren Nicholson (15.2 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.3 assists) has also been prominent as expected, while the introduction of Kathryn Westbeld (11.3 points, 5.0 rebounds) over the past three games has helped. The Spirit have one of the most even teams across the board, with no one standout player. Their highest scorer is Tessa Lavey, averaging just 10.7 points, as well as 3.6 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game. Kelly Wilson (9.6 points, 3.7 rebounds and 6.4 assists) and Rebecca Tobin (8.3 points, 10.0 rebounds and 2,0 assists) are others who have had some seriously dominant moments, but it is just piecing it all together.

PERTH LYNX v. MELBOURNE BOOMERS
Sunday, December 15, 1pm
Bendat Basketball Stadium

Continuing the trip west down the highway, Perth Lynx host Melbourne Boomers in Western Australia with last year’s finalists season slowly slipping away. The Lynx have to see this as a must-win, losing their past four games and winning just three from 11 to sit two and a half games adrift of fourth spot. The good news for Perth is, two of its wins have come at home, though it has hardly been a fortress, dropping three games at the same time. For the Boomers, the road trip holds no fears, recording four wins from five games when travelling and they only have to look to last week for form when Melbourne got up over Perth by nine points at the State Basketball Centre. The last time these two sides played in Perth was last season, when the Lynx got up by 14 points. Alison Schwagmeyer has been superb for the Lynx this year, averaging 16.9 points and 6.6 rebounds per game, teaming up well with fellow Americans Imani McGee-Stafford (13.8 points, 9.6 rebounds) and Ariel Atkins (9.7 points, 4.7 rebounds) when they played. Katie-Rae Ebzery has also been a reliable option at the guard position, averaging 14.5 points, 4.2 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game this season. The Boomers have had plenty of contributors across the list, with Cayla George being enormous as one of the bigs, averaging 14.0 points, 9.2 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game. Lindsay Allen (16.8 points, 3.4 rebounds and 5.5 assists) and Madeleine Garrick (12.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.1 assists) are others

TOWNSVILLE FIRE v. SYDNEY UNI FLAMES
Sunday, December 15, 1pm
Townsville Stadium

In what will be Townsville’s second game of the round, the Fire will be hoping to burn brighter and faster than their opponents when Sydney Uni Flames come to town. Back-to-back wins for Townsville will be crucial in keeping the faint hope of finals alive, but it will be a tough ask given Sydney Uni have a top four spot on the line with a win. The points difference is too great to immediately leapfrog Adelaide Lightning into a finals position, but the Flames will need to win to keep touch with the top four given the Lightning also play the bottom of the table Bendigo Spirit. These two sides have only clashed the once thus far in season 2019/20 with Sydney Uni getting up by nine points at home on November 7. Last season when the Flames finished on the bottom, Townsville won all three head-to-head encounters and will hope to channel that energy for this game. Aside from Bishop’s impact and Garbin’s recent form, Tess Madgen (11.8 points, 5.9 rebounds and 3.8 assists) and Bridget Carleton (10.9 points, 5.1 rebounds) are the other two Fire players who average double-figure points this season. For the Flames, Alice Kunek averages a team-high 17.9 points per game as well as 4.1 rebounds and 3.5 assists. Colleen Planeta‘s best is as good as anyone else in the competition with the American posting up 16.4 points and 7.4 rebounds, slightly more than American teammate, Jessica Kuster. The forward has sank 12.6 points and 6.5 rebounds per game, but has shot at a deadly 60.2 per cent from the field. Sydney Uni will be favourites in this game, but Townsville has its season on the line in this clash.

UC CAPITALS v. SOUTHSIDE FLYERS
Sunday, December 15, 5pm
National Convention Centre (Canberra)

The best game has been saved until last with third placed University of Canberra (UC) Capitals hosting top of the table Southside Flyers in the nation’s capital on Sunday evening. The Capitals are the only side to have penetrated the otherwise unflappable defence of the Flyers, winning 91-72 on the road in one of the performances of the year. It gives the Capitals great confidence coming into this clash now they return home, while for Southside, there is perhaps further motivation on top of getting the win by levelling the two teams head-to-head for this season. The Capitals’ starting five is superb, and with the success that has come, they have started blooding some youngsters as well. Kia Nurse (21.6 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.8 assists) is the key scorer, while Kelsey Griffin (17.9 points, 11.3 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 2.3 steals) is once again a Most Valuable Player (MVP) contender. Olivia Epoupa (8.1 points, 6.1 rebounds, 6.3 assists and 3.2 steals) is not a huge scorer but just contributes across all areas, while Gemma Potter has come off the bench every week gaining valuable minutes for future development. A couple of others for the Flyers who have been important up the forward end are Sara Blicavs (14.9 points, 6.6 rebounds) and Jenna O’Hea (14.6 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.7 assists) rounding out a strong starting five with Russell, Mitchell and Cole, even with the bulk of the scoring only come from those players. The Capitals depth might see them turn the tables on Southside, and have a six-game winning streak themselves, but one thing is for sure, this game is going to be a cracker.

2019/20 WNBL weekend preview: Round 8 – Ladder defining clashes to impact WNBL

ROUND 8 of the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) will be yet another big one with Southside Flyers looking to continue their hot form and keep their margin out in front with the Melbourne Boomers hot on their tail in terms of ladder position. Meanwhile up the other end Townsville Fire will be hoping to reverse their recent form and get a win on the board.

Bendigo Spirit vs University of Canberra Capitals

After a close Friday night loss for the Bendigo Spirit, now pushing their losing streak to five, Kelly Wilson and the Spirits are hoping to turn things around against the firing Canberra Capitals who are coming off an impressive four game win streak. But this game might not be as won and done as the WNBL ladder might suggest with the Capitals well aware that the Bendigo Spirit give their all and are no easy task to take down. This will be a memorable game for the Capitals as they get to go up against their championship point guard from last season, Wilson. Former school teacher and WNBL legend played for the Canberra Capitals for a historic six seasons and will be familiar with the Capitals playbook and style leading to exciting matchup. 

The Spirit will be looking to the likes of Wilson along with Marte Grays to lead the way in attack and hit the scoreboard while Abigail Wehrung can also have an impact when on court thanks to her accuracy from the three-point range. But the Capitals are just as littered with key players across the court in the likes of Kia Nurse who has had no issue finding the net and is their leading points scorer. Kelsey Griffin and Keely Froling are also instrumental across the court able to get back defensively and attack the scoreboard with their exciting style of play.

Adelaide Lighting vs Perth Lynx

Both teams are coming off a loss to the Southside flyers, meaning the clash between Adelaide Lighting and Perth Lynx will be an incredibly competitive match up on Friday night. Both teams have lost three of the last five matches, and are sitting next to each other on the ladder in third and fourth spot respectively. They have most productive scorers in the entire league in Crystal Langhorne (Adelaide Lighting) and Alison Schwagmeyer (Perth Lynx), making for a must watch game. While the Lynx were to say at the least embarrassed by the Flyers, as opposed to the close ending between the Lighting and Flyers, the Lynx were coming off two games the previous round and will definitely be well rested for this cut throat game. 

Everyone will be watching the matchup at the forward position between Schwagmeyer and Kathyrn Westbeld who only recently joined Adelaide. It will be interesting to watch if Westbeld can clamp Belger and hold her to single digits like she has done to many other WNBL superstars. However the Perth Lynx are more than competent in the defensive end, holding the top two players in blocks per game in Imani McGee-Stafford (2.3 BPG) and Maddison Allen (2.2 BPG). These twin towers will make it difficult for Langhorne to get to the basket, but may struggle to stop her as she is an elite three-point shooter who is yet to miss a single three this season. Additionally, Stephanie Talbot could have another great game as she is coming off a 25 points, two assists, eight rebound night. 

Southside Flyers vs Melbourne Boomers

Although it is still early in the season, the urgency and importance of getting a ‘W’ after this clash is fully understood by both teams because this just might be a preview of the grand final. Southside Flyers and Melbourne Boomers, both sit first and second on the ladder and the rivalry will once again be ignited with no fan certain of the outcome given the closeness and similarity of both sides. These two juggernauts have met before, in Round 4 in Dandenong with Southside coming out on top by just seven points. To make that more impressive, they did this coming off a back to back round.

However while Southside have five players averaging over 13 points a game, they still lack depth, something Guy Mollow, coach of the Melbourne Boomers, can exploit. The last time these two teams battled, the Flyers only had six players to put points on the board. While this is definitely not worth panicking over, as they do hover at the top of the WNBL ladder with only one loss, come finals, what can be seen as trivial factors can be the exact one percenters that cost them the win or loss. Being a two time WNBL coach of the year, it will be interesting seeing what adjustments Mollow makes to exhaust the Flyers main players, forcing them to rely more heavily on their less offensively gifted bench. Mercedes Russell is a scoring machine for the Flyers along with Rebecca Cole and Leilani Mitchell who are both known for their prolific shooting. But the Boomers are not to be out done with the likes of Cayla George and Lindsay Allen forming a damaging duo. 

Sydney Uni Flames vs Adelaide Lighting

Coming off their second game of Round 8, the Adelaide Lighting are set to host the Sydney Uni Flames in what will be an exciting contest. With just one spot between the two with the Lighting at the fourth seed and the Flames at the sixth, and now halfway through the WNBL season, every game matters in terms of finals and this is no different. Both teams have been on rocky roads recently, winning two of their last five match ups and are hoping to turn things around against similarly talented competition. Having already played in the very first match to commence the 2020 WNBL season, obviously the two teams are now much different having improved in different ways. But the main takeaway from that game was clearly Lauren Schref pulling down a whopping 17 rebounds along with Colleen Planeta dropping 30 points, both for the Uni Flames, yet their commendable efforts still did not result in the win. 

However this game is too far back to be used as data to predict a winner as the Uni Flames are not reliant on these two players dropping figures like that to win (although it does not hurt). Instead the Flames are reliant on being a high volume, high percentage shooting team. Similarly, the Adelaide Lighting are counting on shooting a lot of two point shots, close to the paint. This is mostly due to Langhorne leading the league in rebounds and second in points with dynamic duo partner Nicole Seekamp dishing the rock and leading the league in assists. 

Townsville Fire v. Bendigo Spirit

In a bottom of the ladder clash the Townsville Fire will be hoping to improve their season and get another win on the board while in their second game of the round, the Spirit will be aiming to make it two from two and put their opponents away early. Both sides have been relatively inconsistent but have shown that they can match it with the best pushing sides to their limit making for an enthralling match-up. Both sides are relatively even across the court but given it is the second game of the round for Bendigo, Townsville should try and capitalise on their fatigue and pile the pressure on.

The Fire will be looking to the likes of Abby Bishop to lead the way thanks to her ability to find the basket with ease and cause havoc from anywhere across the court. Tess Madgen is also another crucial member for Townsville able to hit the scoreboard as well as dish off crafty assists thanks to her vision and general basketball nous. Darcee Garbin is another one that can hit the scoreboard while also being able to do the defensive things well in particular her rebounding ability. For the Spirit their second tier players will have to lift their game to help out the likes of Wilson and Carley Ernst.

Melbourne Boomers v. Perth Lynx

This game will bring plenty of excitement with the second placed Boomers playing host to the fifth placed Perth Lynx who will be hopping to leapfrog up the ladder and stay in contention for a top four spot. The Boomers have only lost two games for the season compared to Lynx who have dropped six showcasing Melbourne’s ability to prevail in close contests. Both teams will be faced with their second game of the round making it imperative for each side to make the most of their chances when pushing forward.

The Boomers have a plethora of players that can stand up under pressure when the heat is on, especially scoring machine Allen, but youngster Ezi Magbegor is an exciting prospect. Magbegor oozes class thanks to her point scoring ability and strength defensively to pick up the rebound. Monique Conti is another one that is renowned for her ability to pop and have an impact while Madeleine Garrick is accurate from three-point region. Perth’s Schwagmeyer is their most influential player often touted as the barometer and will have to have a big one if her side is to get over the line against the second placed Boomers. Katie Ebzery is a prolific points scorer working in tandem with Schwagmeyer while Ariel Atkins is handy off the bench.

WNBL Round 6 review: Top three move two games clear

BACK-to-back wins over the weekend to Melbourne Boomers, and victories to Southside Flyers and University of Canberra (UC) Capitals meant the top three in the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) moved two games clear of fourth. The other game saw Perth Lynx keep their finals hopes alive with an important win over Sydney Uni Flames.

Adelaide Lightning 57 defeated by Melbourne Boomers 71

Melbourne secured a vital road win against fourth placed Adelaide Lightning to gain a bit of separation inside the top three. The Boomers trailed by three points at the first break, but hit back with a 17-8 second term, and went on with it from there, restricting the Lightning to just 30 points in the last three quarters, while piling on 57 themselves to run away with a 71-57 victory. Lindsay Allen was the top scorer with 20 points, six rebounds, five assists and one steal, while Ezi Magbegor picked up a double double in her best performance of the year with 13 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks. Cayla George (13 points, seven rebounds, four assists, three steals and three blocks) was superb, while Penina Davidson had 11 points and nine rebounds off the bench. For the Lightning, Nicole Seekamp sank 15 points, two rebounds and three assists, while Brianna Turner (10 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks) and Chelsea Brook (10 points, five rebounds) were the other two players who reached double figure points. Stephanie Talbot tried hard with seven points, nine rebounds, three assists and two steals, but ultimately the home side could not put enough points on the board.

DC Medal: 3 – Lindsay Allen (MB), 2 – Ezi Magbegor (MB), 1 – Cayla George (MB)

Sydney Uni Flames 82 defeated by Perth Lynx 91

Perth finally snapped its four-game losing streak with an important nine-point victory over Sydney Uni – the side it last beat all the way back in Round 1. The Lynx edged ahead in the second term after an even first quarter, but then added 23 points to 18 in the third to lead by 10 at the final break. The Flames hit back to cut the deficit back to nine, but it would not be enough in the end. Alison Schwagmeyer produced another stunning game, picking up a double double with 25 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and one steal to be best on court, while Katie-Rae Ebzery returned from Opals duties to post 20 points, three rebounds and three assists in the win. Ariel Atkins continued her good start to her WNBL career with 12 points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals off the bench. Maddison Allen was also strong with 12 points, six rebounds and two blocks. For the Flames, Colleen Planeta was the best with 16 points and nine rebounds, while Alex Wilson shared the top scorer billing with 16 points, three rebounds and nine assists. Lauren Scherf (14 points, five rebounds, four assists and two blocks) and Jessica Kuster (13 points, nine rebounds) were the other two key scorers for the home side.

DC Medal: 3 – Alison Schwagmeyer (PL), 2 – Katie-Rae Ebzery (PL), 1 – Colleen Planeta (SU)

Townsville Fire 59 defeated by Southside Flyers 91

Southside Flyers bounced back from their first loss of the WNBL season with a big statement over cellar dwellers, Townsville Fire. Sitting at opposite ends of the ladder, the Flyers piled on 30 points to 19 in the opening term, then proceeded to win all four quarters in a one-sided, dominant display. Never letting up, it was clear to see that Southside is one of the title contenders, producing such an effort on the road. Jenna O’Hea (21 points, seven assists and two steals) and Rebecca Cole (20 points, four rebounds, two assists and two steals) were the key scorers, while Mercedes Russell continued her dominant start to the season with an impressive 17 points, nine rebounds and two assists. It was hard to find the top player for the Flyers with Sara Blicavs also picking up a double double thanks to 12 points, 13 rebounds and four assists, while Leilani Mitchell had eight assists and three rebounds to go with her 13 points. Abby Bishop was the clear standout for the Fire with 20 points and eight rebounds, while Micaela Cocks (10 points, three rebounds and three assists) was the other player to reach double figures in what was a disappointing loss for the home side.

DC Medal: 3 – Mercedes Russell (SF), 2 – Sara Blicavs (SF), 1 – Jenna O’Hea (SF)

Bendigo Spirit 59 defeated by Melbourne Boomers 75

Rounding out a good weekend for the Boomers, Melbourne took home the points on the road against Bendigo Spirit in a 16-point win. The Spirit started strongly to lead by three points at the first break and half-time, before the Boomers took over to lead by the same margin with a quarter to play. They built on that momentum in the final term to post 24 points to 11 and run away with the contest in a margin that was not completely accurate of the game’s tightness. Allen was again the team’s top scorer with 17 points, four assists and two steals in the win, while Madeleine Garrick stepped up to contribute 12 points, six rebounds and two steals. Magbegor (10 points, seven rebounds and two steals) and George (10 points, six rebounds, six assists, two steals and two blocks) were also prominent across the board. For the Spirit, Abigail Wehrung was a lone hand in the scoring department with 13 points, as well as two rebounds and two assists, while Kelly Wilson picked up nine of her team’s 16 assists, though had seven of her side’s 27 turnovers. Rebecca Tobin was the dominant player off the boards with 15 rebounds to accompany her six points, four assists and two steals.

DC Medal: 3 – Cayla George (MB), 2 – Lindsay Allen (MB), 1 – Madeleine Garrick (MB)

UC Capitals 84 defeated Perth Lynx 66

Reigning premiers, University of Canberra (UC) Capitals finished strongly at home to run over the top of Perth Lynx and maintain touch with Melbourne and Southside in the top three. The Lynx surprised the home crowd in the opening term to lead by a point at quarter time, before the Capitals piled on 23 points to 16 in the second term. Perth got back on top in the third to reclaim the lead by two points at the final break. Like any good side on the ropes, the Capitals found a way to breakthrough and eventually piled on the points in the final term, sinking 32 points to 12 to run away with an 18-point win in a game where – like the previous one – the final margin did not accurately reflect how close the game was. Kelsey Griffin was unbelievable with 19 points, 15 rebounds, three assists and two blocks, while Marianna Tolo (12 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and three blocks) also picked up a double double, Kia Nurse played her best game for the season in terms of overall impact and not just points, picking up 18 points, seven rebounds and six assists, while Maddison Rocci also impressed with 13 points, three rebounds and three assists. Coming off the bench, young gun Gemma Potter scored nine points and had two assists. For the Lynx, Lauren Mansfield scored a game-high 23 points, as well as five rebounds, four assists and two steals, while Schwagmeyer added another 19 points and seven rebounds to her season totals. Nadeen Payne (10 points, 10 rebounds) picked up a double-double, while Atkins had six points, five rebounds, three steals and three assists.

DC Medal: 3 – Kelsey Griffin (UC), 2 – Kia Nurse (UC), 1 – Lauren Mansfield (PL)

DC Medal Leaderboard:

16 – Kelsey Griffin (UC)
15 – Cayla George (MB),
14 – Mercedes Russell (SF)
13 – Lindsay Allen (MB)
12 –
11 –
10 – Brianna Turner (AL), Alison Schwagmeyer (PL)
9 –
8 – Katie-Rae Ebzery (PL)
7 – Leilani Mitchell (SF), Abby Bishop (TF), Colleen Planeta (AD), Jenna O’Hea (SF)
6 – Keely Froling (UC), Stephanie Talbot (AL), Kia Nurse (UC)
5 – Alice Kunek (SU), Tahlia Tupaea (SU), Olivia Epoupa (UC)
4 – Imani McGee-Stafford (PL), Kelly Wilson (BS)
3 – Carley Ernst (BS), Rebecca Tobin (BS), Sara Blicavs (SF), Madeleine Garrick (MB),
2 – Crystal Langhorne (AD), Micaela Cocks (TF), Rebecca Cole (SF), Chelsea Brook (AD), Ezi Magbegor (MB), Lauren Mansfield (PL)
1 – Bridget Carleton (TF), Lauren Nicholson (AL), Sophie Cunningham (MB), Jessica Kuster (SU), Nicole Seekamp (AL), Tess Madgen (TF), Ariel Atkins (PL)

2019/20 WNBL weekend preview: Round 6 – Top four clash to tip-off round

AFTER a weekend off with many players stepping up to Australian Opals’ duties, the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) is back with Round 6 tipping off on Friday night. The Melbourne Boomers and Perth Lynx play two games across the weekend to try and break up the mid-table gap between fourth and fifth.

ADELAIDE LIGHTNING v. MELBOURNE BOOMERS
Friday, November 22, 7pm
Titanium Security Arena

In one of two games to open Round 6 of the WNBL, Adelaide Lightning hosts Melbourne Boomers for the first time in the 2019/20 season. The top four clash could have big ramifications for both the winner and loser, with the winner to take outright third and keep in touch with the top two, while the loser will slip at least a game behind third and possibly two games behind the top two, while remaining only a game ahead of the ensuring bottom four sides. The last time these sides played was in January this year which saw the Boomers get the points in Adelaide, the third time they had won during the season after narrow wins in Melbourne in the two previous encounters. The Lightning won their last contest and will head in with the form compared to the Boomers who after winning four consecutive games, have suffered back-to-back losses. The interesting fact within the game is Adelaide is yet to lose at home from two matches, while Melbourne is yet to suffer a defeat on the road from the same amount of games.

Brianna Turner has been a key player for the Lightning this season, averaging 17.3 points, 9.3 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.2 steals, while working well in tandem with Lauren Nicholson (17.0 points, 2.7 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.5 steals). Stephanie Talbot is also enjoying a purple patch of form, sinking 14.3 points, 6.8 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.8 steals in season 2019/20. For the Boomers, Lindsay Allen has been the key player with 18.3 points, 3.5 rebounds and 6.0 assists per game, while Cayla George is averaging a double double from her six matches, thanks to 16.0 points and 10.2 rebounds per game. Madeleine Garrick is an underrated player on the Boomers side, comfortable across most areas with a 10.2-point, 3.0-rebound, 2.7-assist and 1.2-steal average.

Adelaide is in good form so will head in as favourites, but Melbourne are due to bounce back so it will be an incredibly tight contest.

SYDNEY UNI v. PERTH LYNX
Friday, November 22, 7pm
Brydens Stadium

It is still early days in the season, but both Sydney Uni and Perth would realise the importance of getting a ‘W’ in this clash. After making the finals last year, Perth sits fifth, two wins outside the top four and having only won two games from six starts. Both of those were at home which is all the more important for them to break their road trip record with a win here. For Sydney Uni, they just need a win, sitting with a far worse points difference than Perth (-69 to +11), and having lost an extra game with two wins from seven starts. Both their wins have come at home so that is a positive for the Flames, though the fact they lost to this Lynx outfit in the last start is less positive. A win would see the Flames propel themselves into fifth temporarily, and at least move within a game of fourth spot.

Alice Kunek (17.9 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.9 assists) and Colleen Planeta (14.9 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.1 blocks) have been the two staples in the Flames’ outfit week-in, week-out, while Tahlia Tupaea (10.1 points, 3.1 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.3 steals) has also started in all seven games. Jessica Kuster is one who has stepped up throughout the season, with the 188cm forward sinking 10.4 points and 5.9 rebounds, as well as a block per game. For Perth, Alison Schwagmeyer has been enormous all season, pumping out 17.8 points and 7.2 rebounds per game, only bettered in that department by Imani McGee-Stafford (14.7 points, 8.7 rebounds and 2.3 blocks). Katie-Rae Ebzery has also been a phenomenal passer this year, averaging 7.5 assists and 4.2 rebounds to go with her 16.0 points and 1.5 steals.

Perth Lynx should breakthrough for their first on the road win, but the Flames could make a statement with a win here.

TOWNSVILLE FIRE v. SOUTHSIDE FLYERS
Saturday, November 23, 6pm
Townsville Stadium

Sitting at polar ends of the WNBL ladder, the panic button would have been pressed for the Fire who have just one win from six attempts, while the Flyers are in the opposite position with just one loss from seven games. There will still be fire in the belly from the visiting side however, with the Flyers going down to UC Capitals by 19 points in Round 5 to reduce their stranglehold at the top of the table to just one game. The Flyers are unbeaten from two tries on the road, while the Fire are yet to win in front of their home fans. There is no better occasion to celebrate their first win in front of a passionate crowd than downing one of the title contenders. It will be far from easy though and the Flyers will be keen to atone for last round and hit the court with a bang. These sides last played back in Round 1, with Southside coming out nine-point winners at Dandenong.

Abby Bishop has been a real star for the Fire, posting up 20.2 points, 8.6 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.2 steals per game, the clear standout for the side in an otherwise disappointing start to the year. The issue has been consistency, with Tess Madgen (12.8 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.5 assists), Darcee Garbin (12.0 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.7 steals) and Bridget Carleton (11.2 points, 4.8 rebounds) all contributing. The Flyers on the other hand have had the same five starters every week, and allowed all bar two players to take the court in each of the seven games. Mercedes Russell has been the recruit of the off-season, with the 198cm center posting 15.6 points and 10.3 rebounds per game, complimenting the likes of Leilani Mitchell (15.9 points, 3.7 rebounds, 6.3 assists and 1.6 steals) and Rebecca Cole (14.9 points, 3.0 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.6 steals) perfectly.

It is hard to look past the ladder leaders in this game with Southside predicted to add another win to the tally, but as the Fire showed in Round 1, they can be competitive in most games.

BENDIGO SPIRIT v. MELBOURNE BOOMERS
Sunday, November 24, 2pm
Bendigo Stadium

Bendigo Spirit return from a long break at home against Melbourne Boomers who are coming off their second game for the round. Returning from no doubt a thrilling clash in Adelaide, the Boomers will be pumped up for the clash, but might also be sore compared to the fresh Spirit. A strong start is crucial for the home side given they might have the legs to outrun them in the end, though the Boomers are third for a reason and will be difficult to topple. If the Boomers go down to Adelaide it will be three consecutive losses, while the Spirit also enter the game with back-to-back losses and will be keen for a victory. Considering Bendigo is 2-1 at home it may be a great opportunity to get a victory, but Melbourne are unbeaten on the road prior to this round. The last time these sides faced was in Round 2, with an earlier clash in Round 1 – both of which were won by the Boomers. A third meeting in seven rounds will end their head-to-head fixturing for the season and Bendigo will be desperate to get a win back on their metropolitan counterparts.

Kelly Wilson (11.1 points, 3.1 rebounds and 6.4 assists) and Carley Ernst (10.7 points, 8.0 rebounds) have been the two key players in the Spirit line-up, though Marte Grays has been a welcome inclusion to the side with 10.0 points and 5.6 rebounds. Tessa Lavey has also proven to be a key playmaker in the front court with 4.3 assists to go with her 9.4 points and 3.4 rebounds per game. While the Boomers have slipped up in the past two matches, they remain a strong side across the board, with Allen, George and Garrick just three of their strong contributors. Sophie Cunningham (12.0 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists) and Ezi Magbegor (10.7 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.3 blocks) are two others averaging double-figure points this season.

Melbourne should take home the win here, though Bendigo knows how important this victory is in the context of its season.

UC CAPITALS v. PERTH LYNX
Sunday, November 24, 5pm
National Convention Centre

The final game of the round will have equally as important ramifications on the season with the second placed University of Canberra (UC) Capitals hosting Perth Lynx at the National Convention Centre on Sunday evening. The Capitals will have the longest wait of any side in the competition having not played since November 9 and will have a 15-day gap between matches, while the Lynx will be coming off a Friday night clash against Sydney Uni Flames. Mathematically if the Lynx can win both games, they are back in contention with the top four sides and adding a bit of points difference would not go astray either. But for the Capitals, coming off a fresh win over Southside Flyers, the reigning premiers will be keen to keep the streak going and add to their three-straight wins of late. Yet to lose at home they will be difficult to beat, while the Lynx are yet to win on the road and will be keen to take home a pair of victories when they travel to NSW/ACT this round.

The reigning premiers have a multitude of stars across the court with Kia Nurse (20.3 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.6 assists) the scoring machine working well once again with Kelsey Griffin (16.9 points, 11.3 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.6 steals). Keely Froling has been a strong performer this season putting up numbers of 16.1 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.6 assists, while Olivia Epoupa (8.9 points, 6.3 rebounds, 6.4 assists and 4.0 steals) has been a huge addition to the already impressive outfit. For the Lynx, much has been spoken about the regular starters, but Ariel Atkins has been important since landing in Australia, playing two games off the bench for an average of 13.5 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists, while Lauren Mansfield has also showed her clean hands with 9.8 points, 3.3 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 1.8 steals.

The Capitals are strong favourites and hard to beat at home so it will be difficult to see them losing, but the Lynx will hope that they bring form throughout the weekend and stage a massive upset.