Tag: Leilani Mitchell

Olympics review: Day 11 – Three of the higher four women’s seeds bow out in quarterfinals

THREE of the top four seeds following the group stage of the women’s basketball bowed out in upset quarter finals. Group winners, Spain and China both lost to France and Serbia who finished third and second in their respective groups, whilst Belgium – the highest finishing second side to earn a spot in the first pool – also bowed out, losing to Japan. The only result that went as expected was powerhouse United States rolling Australia in a battle of the top two nations in the world, but it ended up being a fizzer with a 24-point win going the way of the world number ones.

China (70) defeated by Serbia (77)

Serbia produced a memorable fourth quarter performance to run over the top of China in a come-from-behind win by seven points. Going ahead by two at the first break and at half-time, Serbia found itself in trouble when the Group C leader piled on 25 points to 14 to open up a nine-point advantage with a quarter to play, Lucky for the European nation, it was up for the task, pouring on 28 points to 12 in the lat stanza to win, 77-70. The teams were even across the board with basically nothing separating them on most stats, though Serbia were cleaner with 10 less turnovers (13-23), whilst scoring far more points in the paint (42-26).

Jelena Brooks scored a team-high 18 points, while Sonja Vasic (16 points, 10 rebounds) picked up a double-double, and Ana Dabovic (13 points, six assists) was the key facilitator. For China, Shao Ting managed the 17 points, six rebounds and five assists in a big effort for the losing side, whilst Han Xu (15 points, seven rebounds) and Li Yueru (12 points, six rebounds) were also busy across the match.

Australia (55) defeated by United States (79)

The top two nations in the world clashed, and it was the unbeaten world number ones who came up trumps, with United States putting Australia to the sword to win by 24 points, and end a disappointing Olympics campaign for the Opals. From the first tip-off it was clear the United States were on a mission, and the Gold Medal favourites never looked liked losing, piling on 26 points to 12 in the first term, the United States led by 21 at the main break. That blew right out to 29 by the final break, before Australia grabbed some consolation points in the final term to win it, but still lose by 24, 55-79. The United States were far more accurate (45 to 30 per cent from the field), had more rebounds (44-38) and assists (24-17), and punished Australia on points from turnovers (20-11), with a 17-point run coming at one stage.

Breanna Stewart led the way with 23 points, five rebounds and three assists for the United States, teaming up well with the likes of Brittney Griner (15 points, eight rebounds) and A’ja Wilson (10 points, four rebounds). Sue Bird (nine points, five assists) and Chelsea Gray (seven points, eight assists) were the key facilitators in the victory. Leilani Mitchell led the Australians with 14 points, six assists and three rebounds, followed by Cayla George (11 points, seven rebounds) in what was the Opals lowest score since the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

Japan (86) defeated Belgium (85)

The tightest match of the quarter finals came in a thrilling come-from-behind win from Japan that could have gone either way. The home nation led at quarter time over Olympic Games debutants Belgium by three points, but then found themselves down by a point at the main break and seven with a quarter to play. Storming home in an entertaining last quarter, Japan hit the front with 16 seconds remaining courtesy of a tripe from Saki Hayashi to go up by one, and whilst Belgium chewed up the clock to get the ball to Kim Mestdagh for the buzzer-beating attempt, it did not go in and the home nation advanced through to the final four with a one-point victory, 86-85. Belgium was more efficient from the field (51 to 47 per cent), though Japan had more three-point makes (14-11). The home team was beaten in most statistical areas, but dug deep and just found a way to win in the end by getting to the line more often and converting.

Yuki Miyazawa was the standout with a whopping seven of 13 makes from beyond the arc to total 21 points, three rebounds and two assists, leading the way with Maki Takada (19 points, four rebounds and two assists) aiding well. Himawari (12 points, seven rebounds) and Rui Machida (10 points, 14 rebounds) were the other two key players on court for the Japanese. Emma Meesseman was undoubtedly a standout for Belgium, amassing a double-double of 25 points, 11 rebounds and six assists, doing the bulk of the work with Mestdagh (24 points – seven of 11 from long-range – seven rebounds and five assists), while Julie Allemand (11 points, eight assists and four rebounds) was also impressive.

Spain (64) defeated by France (67)

World number three Spain joined Australia and Canada on the sidelines as top four nations out of the Olympics, falling to the fifth ranked France in an entertaining three-point contest. The French led by five points at quarter time, six at half-time and seven by the final change, holding the Spanish at bay to set up a huge final term. Spain came home with a wet sail, winning the term 16-12, and even having a three-point attempt off the hand of Maite Cazorla with four seconds remaining to tie the game, but it was not to be with France picking up the rebound and securing the victory. France was simply more efficient from the field (49 to 34 per cent accuracy), and had more assists (20-12). Spain topped the rebounds (38-36), dominating the offensive count (17-5), but it was France who won the defensive count (31-21) which contributed to the narrow 67-64 victory.

Martine Johannes was the key scorer for France with 18 points, five rebounds and four assists, teaming up with other double-figure scorer Gabby Williams (11 points, four assists and three rebounds). Alix Duchet (eight points, five assists) was important in distributing the ball on offence. For Spain, Astou Ndour hit 16 points and 11 rebounds in a massive double-double effort, while Cazorla (12 points), and Cristina Ouvina (11 points, five rebounds and three assists) also contributed throughout the game.

 

Picture credit: Reuters/Brian Snyder

Olympics review: Day 9 – Opals dominate second half to narrowly secure final eight spot

AUSTRALIA left it late but managed to grab a quarter finals spot in the Tokyo Olympics thanks to a huge second half, whilst Japan, United States and China all won their respective clashes yesterday.

Nigeria (83) defeated by Japan (102)

Japan moved into second place in its group with a 19-point triumph over Nigeria in a high-scoring performance. The home nation piled on 30 points to 22 in the opening term, then extended the lead to 13 points by the main break. Another high scoring term of 33 points to Nigeria’s 19, the margin blew out to 27 with a quarter to play, before the loser hit back to cut the deficit back to under 20, but Japan still saluted, 102-83. Nigeria scored at 54 per cent from the field to Japan’s 49 per cent, and led the rebounds (37-33), but the Japanese nailed a remarkable 19 long-range jumpers, and dominated the assists (34-26), as well as capitalised on points from turnovers (33-12).

Five Japanese players reached double-figure points, led by Saki Hayashi (23 points – seven of 11 from long-range – two rebounds and two assists). Yuki Miyazawa (19 points – five of eight from beyond the arc – and two rebounds) also found plenty of points, while Maki Takada (15 points, five rebounds and three assists) and Himawari Akaho (12 points, seven rebounds and five assists contributed in multiple ways. Victoria Macaulay (18 points) was the top scorer for Nigeria, with Oderah Chidom (13 points, seven rebounds and three assists) and Ezinne Kalu (11 points, six assists and three rebounds) the other two key scorers in the loss.

France (82) defeated by United States (93)

The other Group B match which enabled Japan to grab second spot was the Gold Medal favourites United States holding off a determined France by 11 points. The French needed to keep the deficit to under 15 points to guarantee themselves a place in the next round, and they did just that with a hard-fought effort. Actually leading by three points at quarter time, the French fell behind by six at the main break, cut the deficit back to four at the final change, before falling away in the last as the world number ones piled on 22 points to 15 to win, 93-82. The United States shot at a higher efficiency from the field (56 to 45 per cent) and despite having less rebounds (30-34), had more assists (30-22) and more points in the paint (46-30).

A’ja Wilson topscored for the United States with 22 points, seven rebounds and three assists, teaming up well with Breanna Stewart (17 points, seven rebounds and seven assists). Tina Charles (15 points, five assists and two rebounds) and Brittney Griner (11 points, three rebounds) were the other two double-figure scorers. Endene Miyem (15 points, four rebounds) was one of six double-figure scorers for France, as Sandrine Gruda (12 points, six rebounds), Marine Johannes (11 points, seven assists and two rebounds) and Gabby Williams (10 points, five rebounds and three assists) contributed across the court.

China (74) defeated Belgium (62)

In a battle of the undefeated Group C teams, China grabbed top spot in the group with a 12-point win over Belgium. Whilst Belgium’s huge points differential – thanks to the massive win over Puerto Rico – ensured it would advance through to the next stage and avoid the three group winners, the second placed side still showed plenty of fight. Leading by four points at quarter time, Belgium found themselves down by a point at half-time, and then China crept away in the second half, outscoring Belgium 36 points to 25 to win by 12, 74-62. China scored at 52 per cent accuracy from the field compared to Belgium’s 41 per cent, including seven of 16 to just two of 18. They also led the rebounds (37-29) in the win.

In an even team performance, Li Yueru was the top scorer with 14 points, as well as eight assists and four rebounds. Li Meng had 11 points and seven rebounds, with Pan Zhenqi (10 points, three rebounds) and Yang Liwei (10 points, four assists) also busy. For Belgium, Emma Meesseman had a match-high 24 points in a huge effort, to accompany her seven rebounds and two assists. Julie Allemand (12 points, three rebounds and four assists) and Kim Mestdagh (12 points, five assists and two rebounds) were the other key scorers for the losing side.

Australia (96) defeated Puerto Rico (69)

Australia came back from a disappointing first half against lowly Puerto Rico to storm to a 27-point win and grab a quarter finals spot by the skin of their teeth. Despite needing to win by at least 25 points, the Opals trailed by two points at quarter time and only led by a point at half-time. The world number twos finally clicked into gear with a dominant 23-8 third term, before skating home with momentum in a 28-17 final stanza to just get over the line, 96-69. It was not without a cheeky last second three-point attempt from Puerto Rico, which, if it had gone in, would have eliminated the Opals. Australia scored at a higher clip from the field (46 to 38 per cent), had more rebounds (47-34) and assists (32-15), and less turnovers (12-17) which enabled the Opals to score more points from turnovers (20-8).

Marianna Tolo was enormous with a double-double of 26 points and 17 rebounds – seven offensive – as well as four assists. Cayla George (19 points, seven rebounds and five assists) and Jenna O’Hea (15 points, five rebounds and four assists) combined for seven of the Opals’ 12 three-point makes. Leilani Mitchell (12 points, six assists) and Ezi Magbegor (10 points, four rebounds and two assists) were the others to hit double-figure points. Jazmon Gwathmey (26 points, six rebounds and two assists) was the top scorer for Puerto Rico, while Pamela Rosado (13 points, three rebounds and three assists), Jennifer O’Neill (12 points, four rebounds and two assists) and Ali Gibson (10 points, six rebounds) were the others to impress in the loss.

 

The quarter finals are now decided, with the top two in the world going head-to-head in the United States and Australia, while Spain and France, China and Serbia and Japan and Belgium lock horns in the other quarter finals.

 

Picture credit: AP

Olympics review: Day 6 – China hands Australia devastating loss

AUSTRALIA Opals were handed a huge upset by China to keep them winless so far in the Olympics while the US continued to roll on this time notching up victory against Japan.

Belgium (87) defeated Puerto Rico (52)

It was a one-sided affair as Belgium reigned supreme over Puerto Rico claiming a 35-point win. Belgium won every quarter with their best performance coming in the second as the kept Puerto Rico to a mere eight points while piling on 20 of their own. They were in complete control and did not relent on their pressure and constant attack to keep the scoreboard ticking over. Belgium imposed themselves in all aspects of the game especially when it came to field goal percentage shooting at 52 per cent compared to a lowly 24. They also had more rebounds (54-33) and assists (28-11) but coughed up the ball more than Puerto Rico (20-13).

It was another stellar performance by Emma Meesseman who impressed all over the court racking up a double-double with her 26 points and 15 rebounds. She was the lynchpin for Belgium while Hanne Mestdagh also got busy with her 18 points at 60 per cent from the field. Kim Mestdagh was also in fine form for Belgium producing 15 points in her 25 minutes of court time along with six rebounds, two assists and a steal. Julie Allemand was the other one that bobbed up with a handy 10 points, six rebounds, seven assists and two steals. Jazmon Gwathmey led the charge for Puerto Rico with her 20 points albeit at 37 per cent from the field while also reeling in five rebounds. Jennifer O’Neill was solid with her nine points, two rebounds and one assist while India Pagan made her presence felt with her six points in just nine minutes.

USA (86) defeated by Japan (69)

After somewhat of a slow start, the USA managed to ride home and claim victory over Japan in convincing fashion. Down by two points at quarter time USA flipped the script in the second term to notch up 21 points while keeping Japan to just the 10. They managed to keep the foot on the pedal throughout the third while they really ramped it home in the final quarter 21 to 16. Field goal percentage proved to be the difference once again with the US converting at 54 per cent while Japan only managed 35 per cent. The United States also had more rebounds 48 to 33 and racked up a whopping six blocks to zero in the win.

A’Ja Wilson continued her merry way with 20 point and 10 rebounds highlighting just explosive she is with ball in hand while Breanna Stewart proved she was not here to muck around slotting 15 points at 60 per cent from the field while also reeling in a whopping 13 rebounds, 12 of which were defensive. Brittney Griner left her mark with her 15 points and five rebounds as Jewell Loyd chimed in with 12 points. Maki Takada was the topscorer for Japan producing 15 points and three rebounds in her 32 minutes while teammate Saki Hayashi managed 12 points. Monica Okoye was the only other player to make it out of single digits with her 11 points in 15 minutes of action.

France (87) defeated Nigeria (62)

France got the chocolates over Nigeria with a commanding 25 point win. France raced out to the lead in the opening quarter creating a six point buffer and continued to fire in the second term with 26 points 215. Nigeria continued to ply their trade but were a step off the pace as France increased that heart margin at three quarter time. Statistically it was a lot closer than the scoreboard would suggest as France had the higher field goal percentage at 50 per cent compared to 35 and more rebounds 45 to 32 but had more turnovers 15 to 13 proving Nigeria were careful with ball in hand.

The number 13 proved to be the magic number for France as four players such as Alix Duchet, Marine Johannes, Endene Miyem and Gabby Williams managed 13 points. Williams also notched up nine rebounds and four assists in the win. Sandrine Gruda did one better draining 14 points and fell just short of a double-double with her nine rebounds. For Nigeria it was Promise Amukamara that did the heavy lifting with her 11 points and three rebounds as Ezinne Kalu got busy with 10 points in 32 minutes.

China (76) defeated Australia (74)

China secured the two-point win in controversial fashion with Yueru Li handed two free throws after the buzzer to steal the win. It had been a topsy turvy game from the get-go with Australia unable to really assert their dominance on China as they skipped out to an eight point lead at quarter time. Although the Opals fought their way back into the contest they never looked in control with China once again pulling away in the third term with a 17 points to nine quarter. In fact the lead got out to as many as 11 points midway through the fourth before back-to-back triples from Jenna O’Hea levelled the scores with less than two seconds on the clock. But it was not to be as China triumphed in an emphatic win.

China was in the driver’s seat for much of the match as Siyu Wang piled on 20 points at 67 per cent accuracy from the field while her conversion from the charity stripe was even better slotting seven from nine at 78 per cent. She also managed three rebounds and five assists. Yueru Li not only clunked the sealer but managed 12 points, seven rebounds and five assists in the win while teammate Meng Li also got busy with her 11 points and seven assists. Liewei Yang was the only other player to reach double-digits with her 10 points, two rebounds and two assists. For Australia it was inaccuracy that cost them as Ezi Magbegor led the charge with her 15 points, four rebounds and one assists. O’Hea was the next best with her 11 points at 57 per cent from the field, while Cayla George managed 10 points, five rebounds and three assists before being fouled out of the game in the final second. Both Katie Ebzery and Leilani Mitchell worked tirelessly for their nine points but managed a mere 18 and 33 per cent respectively from the field.

Photo credit: Eric Gay

2021 Olympics preview

THE Olympics rolls around every four years, or in this case five given the current climate with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. But with that it provides an opportunity for the best athletes and basketballers to culminate in one spot and represent their country. With players stemming from all different leagues and countries expect an action packed couple of weeks of high class basketball both in the men’s and the women’s. Draft Central takes a look at some of the standout players from each nation and potential medallists.

Men’s:

Group A:

Iran
France
USA
Czech Republic

It is fair to assume that the US will once again take out top spot in Group A with the nation renowned for its basketball excellence and sheer star power. The US currently hold the number one ranking in the world, and will be keen to keep that tradition running with a convincing performance in the group stage but will be tested against the likes of France who are likely to give the US a run for their money. Iran and Czech Republic are on the lower end of the FIBA standings but that does not mean they will not be tough competitors.

When looking at top performers it is hard to go past the services of Kevin Durant who has tasted his fair share of success both on the national and international stage. Durant has received a wealth of accolades such as MVP awards in the NBA to being named in the All-NBA team. But one thing he is yet to secure is the coveted gold medal and this could be his opportunity for the US. Playing alongside the likes of Damian Lillard, the up and coming Jayson Tatum and Draymond Green, America are nicely poised to push for a gold medal. Having just won the NBA title with Milwaukee Bucks expect the likes of Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton to have a real fire in their belly to keep that winning momentum happening and to add to their growing trophy cabinet. Rudy Gobert will be the main player in focus for France given his reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year while Nicolas Batum is also a livewire. Tomas Satoransky has proven that he can be a match winner for Czech Republic and will need to unlock that level of heroics throughout the Olympics to give his side a chance.

Group B:

Australia
Germany
Italy
Nigeria

The Boomers have enjoyed a rapid rise over the past couple of years and have showcased their dominance in their past couple of outings with a huge upset win over the US. With this level of momentum and victories already against the likes of Nigeria expect Australia to lead the way in Group B and secure top spot. Nigeria are currently 22nd in the world and will be hoping to increase their standings, while Italy is nicely poised in 10th and will be eager to string together some strong consecutive performances to assert themselves on the contest.

There will be plenty of key contributors across the board but when looking at the Boomers there are a couple of standouts with flagbearer and fan favourite Patty Mills likely to set the court alight. Expect the San Antonio Spurs representative to set the tone with his constant hustle, speed and drive across the court while Joe Ingles is another one to keep an eye on given his NBA experience. Chris Goulding and Jock Landale have been in fine form coming off premiership glory with Melbourne United in the NBL. Throw in the likes of NBA draft hopeful Josh Giddey and the Boomers are shaping up nicely to be real gold medal contenders if they are able to put out consistent high level performances. It has been a while since Germany have competed in basketball but Washington Wizards guard Isaac Bonga will be hoping to make an impact, while for Italy keep an eye out for the experienced Nicolo Melli. Nigeria have eight players currently in the NBA highlighting the extreme depth the nation has, making for an exciting pool of action.

Group C: 

Argentina
Japan
Spain
Slovenia

Group C is going to create plenty of intrigue with the host nation, in Japan the lowest ranked country heading into the event. It is the first time that Japan has competed in basketball since 1976 and they will be hoping to improve their output this time around. However it will not be easy up against the likes of Spain who hold second spot in the FIBA rankings, while Argentina are also no easy beats given their fourth placed ranking. Expect the contest between Argentina and Spain to be enthralling as the two nations go head-to-head in order to secure the number one position in the group.

There is no denying that Luka Doncic is the main draw card for Slovenia with the guard an imposing figure in the NBA and likely to bring that attitude into the Olympics. Expect Doncic to carry the weight of his nation and lead from the front to give his country a chance to propel past the group stage. For Japan, Yudai Baba will hoping to use his NBL experience to full advantage when he takes the court, while both Rui Hachiamura and Yuta Watanbe are also imposing figures both in stature and game play. Watanbe stands at six foot nine inches, and will not be overwhelmed by the bigger bodies credit to his three years with the Toronto Raptors in the NBA. All eyes will be on Argentinian veteran Luis Scola who is suiting up for his fifth Olympics campaign while Spain are littered with match winners. For Spain they have a couple of tried and tested campaigners that will be eager to lead the way with Marc Gasol and his brother Pau Gasol more than capable of hitting the scoreboard while Ricky Rubio should not be underestimated.

Prediction:

Gold medal: Australia
Silver medal: USA
Bronze medal: Spain

Women’s:

Group A:

Korea
Serbia
Canada
Spain

Group A is the most stacked pool with three nations inside the top 10 all competing. With the men not qualifying for Serbia the hopes of a nation rest on the shoulders of the women’s team. Serbia are more than capable of dominating and have proven that time and time again. But the pool is littered with top contenders as Spain are no slouches and in fact sit higher in the FIBA rankings currently holding onto third spot while Canada is hot on their heels sitting in fourth spot. The battle for prime position will go right down to the wire.

Regulars at the Olympics, Canada will be hoping that their big names such as Kia Nurse and Natalie Achonwa are able to step up to the challenge and pave the way. Nurse is no slouch and has a wealth of accolades to her name having played both in the NBL and NBA. For Spain, expect the likes of Astou Ndour to lead the way given her WNBA experience if she is to assert herself on the competition.

Group B:

Nigeria
Japan
France
USA

The US will be eager to maintain their number one status and take out the top of the table for Group B. They are renowned for their depth and talent but will have to be on their a-game up against the likes of France who have proven to be real fighters. Japan will be hoping to do their nation proud and create a couple of upsets, while Nigeria sit 17th in the world but are more than capable of causing upsets aplenty.

USA have the weight of the nation on their shoulders as they look for their seventh straight gold medal at these Olympic games. Littered with star players across the court the US will be hoping that the likes of Ariel Atkins, Breanna Stewart and Sylvia Fowles are able to step up to the plate and dominate. As one of the most experienced heads out on court expect Sue Bird to have a huge influence on team USA when things get heated. France will be hoping that they are able to rally together to generate some real momentum with the likes of Marine Johannes at the helm.

Group C:

Australia
Puerto Rico
China
Belgium

Australia would be quietly confident heading into the group stage of the Olympics having knocked off the US only weeks earlier and with a head full of steam. The Boomers are locked into second spot on the world standings with Belgium likely to be their toughest competitors in the early stages given they are ranked sixth. China are no easy beats and will be hoping to hit their straps to rise up the ladder while Puerto Rico will be hoping to leave nothing in the tank and make a name for themselves.

The Opals will be without the services of Liz Cambage but that will not stop them as the likes of Ezi Magbegor and Bec Allen look set to take the reins. Throw in the likes of Steph Talbot and Leilani Mitchell and Australia have a strong cohort of players able to impose themselves on the contest and score easily. Having qualified for their first Olympics expect the likes of Belgium representative Emma Meesseman to lead the way credit to her WNBA experience and finals credentials.

Prediction:

Gold medal: USA
Silver medal: Australia
Bronze medal: Canada

 

Photo credit: Basketball Australia

WNBL20 Season Review – Southside Flyers

IT was nothing but heartbreak for Cheryl Chambers and her Southside Flyers at the start of 2020. But after an even harder year that saw a WNBL season like no other, the Flyers can feel nothing but pure elation after they overcame the Townsville Fire to finally be crowned WNBL champions following six weeks of dominance.

Following the acquisitions of numerous elite talents, nobody was more excited to get WNBL20 underway than Southside, and unfortunately for the Bendigo Spirit, their heads were up first on the chopping block. As expected, the Flyers were to win their season-opener by an emphatic 42-point margin, setting the tone for the rest of the League evoking a sense of determination for the club.

A minor hiccup followed, however, to end Round 1 when Southside shockingly fell by 17 to the Melbourne Boomers, but one bad result would not linger in the minds of the Flyers for long, trouncing Sydney Uni Flames the next day, 99-72. A good momentum starter leading into Round 2.

Not for the first time this season, the Flyers would go undefeated for an entire week. First up for week two of the season were the Fire, who put up a valiant effort in the first of the two teams’ four encounters but fell 101-89 on this particular night. The latter of the week’s matchups were the Perth Lynx, who barely cracked 70 points against the Southside defence in what was a complete whitewash. The Flyers drubbing the West Australian side by 46 points.

Bad memories started to resurface from last year’s failures, when the Flyers once again fell to Paul Goriss and his Canberra Capitals by a whopping 23 points in Cairns, but this loss would mean a lot more to last year’s runners-ups, keen not to make the same mistakes as last season.

Kicking off what would be the longest winning streak of the season, another 40-point win over Perth reaffirmed the notion it was Southside’s season to lose. The Flyers then really started to kick up their margins of victories to end Round 3, beating Townsville by 24 (94-70) and then the Adelaide Lightning by 31 (110-79).

Two more double-digit victories in Round 4 over the Lightning for a second time and the Boomers built up even more steam within the Southside engine room with a round still to play, but coach Chambers’ main focus by this stage was to keep her side injury-free heading into the postseason.

A narrow four-point win over the Flames (81-77) secured the side their minor premiership, which preceded a much-needed revenge victory over the Capitals (101-82) to conclude their WNBL20 campaign with an impressive 11-win and two-loss record.

Setting up a semi-final with the Fire in a contest that would mean a Grand Final spot for the victor, the Flyers chose not to beat around the bush. Instead they burned it down, adding another double-digit triumph to their collection despite Townsville’s best effort, toppling the underdogs 106-93 and earning a spot in the big dance.

After four days off, Southside met with the season’s hosts in Townsville for a fourth time after the Fire knocked out the Boomers in the preliminary final thanks to their second chance opportunity.

Relying on the extraordinary effort made by WNBL veteran and WNBA superstar Leilani Mitchell paired with an efficient second half and returning captain in Jenna O’Hea, Southside reached the promised land, defeating the hometown side for a final time (99-82) and leaving the North Queensland hub as WNBL champions.

When the announcement was made that Liz Cambage was going to join the Flyers, it was not unexpected that she would be a major producer for the team. But nevertheless, she made an enormous contribution over the course of the season, leading the league in scoring with 23.5 points per game and blocks with 1.7 per contest, as well as averaging 8.7 rebounds in the process (ranked fourth league-wide), which resulted in an All-WNBL First Team selection and an MVP nomination. Next to Cambage in the All-WNBL side was Sara Blicavs, leading the team in minutes with 28.7 per game, averaging 13.5 points and 7.3 boards per game additionally.

Other Opals to make mention of included of course Bec Cole (15.5 points and 4.3 assists), Rachel Sporn medallist in Mitchell (11.2 points and 6.7 assists) and O’Hea (11 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.4 assists) amongst plenty of other contributors off the bench – rounding out one of the best starting fives and benches to ever grace a WNBL season.

It can be universally agreed that no other team deserved to emerge out of WNBL20 as champions more than the Flyers’ franchise. Looking down the track, whether all of Southside’s individuals return to defend their crowns happens or not in WNBL21, they certainly have a tough act follow from this season – that is for sure.

WNBL20 Season Review – Townsville Fire

BESIDES being the most improved team in WNBL20 by a country mile, this season’s hosts, the Townsville Fire performed at an exceptional rate over the entire six weeks, culminating in two All-WNBL team selections, a Coach of the Year, a Sixth Woman and a Youth Player of the Year recipient, as well as a Grand Final opportunity. After receiving the wooden spoon at the start of this year, the Fire improved at a rapid rate and despite missing out on the final piece of silverware will take plenty of positives out of their campaign.

After a busy offseason to say the least, a new look Fire squad took the floor in Mackay during mid-November, to commence the long-awaited season with a determined mindset. This was shown against the Perth Lynx in Townsville’s season-opener as the hub hosts ran away with a 25-point triumph. But it did not take long for the Fire to realise that this season’s competitors were not to be taken lightly, losing their second contest of Round 1 to the defending champion Canberra Capitals (67-78).

Round 2 of the season fixture for the Fire proved to be a pivotal point in the campaign for head coach Shannon Seebohm and her squad, as they had to work their way through a four-game week. After a successful three-point result over the Sydney Uni Flames, Townsville got to test their mettle against the WNBL’s top-contender in the Southside Flyers, but to no avail going down to the league’s benchmark side 89-101. Fortunately for the Fire, they performed well in their remaining games that week against both the Bendigo Spirit twice and the Melbourne Boomers, placing their record at five wins and two losses entering the middle portion of the season.

Going down again to the Flyers to conclude Round 3, Southside proved to be more than a nuisance as the season continued, with Townsville unable to find the solution to slow down the Flyers’ offence. While Seebohm and his side showed lapses throughout their season, it was their ability to repeatedly bounce back from negative results that helped in the long run.

A two-game split in Round 4 against the Lynx (75-84 loss) and the Capitals (84-71 win) put the Fire well within finals eligibility with the last round still yet to be played, but with a top-two seed still hanging in the balance.

Knocking off Adelaide Lightning in convincing fashion 95-66, Townsville now had the chance to steal the second seed in WNBL standings at the end of the season. To get to that goal, the Fire just scraped away with a six-point win over the Boomers and leapfrogged the Melbourne-based side in the process, nabbing the second-seed at the last possible moment.

The Fire found themselves face-to-face with a team they had yet to defeat during the season and one of the most talented domestic line-ups in Australian basketball history, Southside. That streak of defeats to the Flyers unfortunately continued for the Sunshine-State team, going down in the second semi-final of the day 93-106, meaning next up would be a win or go home preliminary final against the Boomers once more.

In a meeting drowned in defence, neither Townsville nor Melbourne would manage to accumulate over 65 points, as shooting efficiency was few and far between. Luckily for the hosts, they kept their noses in front for the majority of the encounter withstanding onslaught after onslaught from the Boomers. Eventually conquering Melbourne 65-62 and setting up the franchise’s first grand final in little more than three seasons.

For all of Townsville’s players, it was a dream come true to compete for a WNBL title in front of their home crowd at Townsville Stadium. But their final hurdle would be the most difficult to combat and overcome, given that the Fire had not been able to beat Southside in any of their three previous meetings throughout the campaign.

Despite having four players reaching double-digit totals in what was for the most part a tightly knitted affair, the Flyers’ marquee players made their presence felt. A near-perfect second half for the Flyers, as well as a performance to remember from Leilani Mitchell would be enough to silence their opponents 99-82 at the final buzzer, ending the Fire’s prominent season and redeeming themselves after last year’s Grand Final failures – breaking the hometown fans’ hearts in the process after a gallant year.

MVP-candidate, member of the All-WNBL First Team and new signing for Townsville, Lauren Nicholson reminded everyone why she is a force to be reckoned with averaging 18.9 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.7 assists. Next to her is perhaps one of the biggest success stories this season for another new signing in Shyla Heal. Heal ended her WNBL20 with averages of 16.7 points, 4.9 rebounds and 3.4 assists and being named this season’s Australian Youth Player of the Year.

Other standouts included Sixth Woman of the Year, Zitina Aokuso (9.6 points and 5.5 rebounds), Nadeen Payne (8.5 points and 6.3 rebounds) and Megan McKay (7.3 points and 5.9 rebounds).

In a season that could have gone either way because of the major roster changes that were made before the season even began, Seebohm did an exemplary job alongside his coaching staff merging numerous personalities together to work as a collective unit. With Seebohm signing a two-year extension, the future possibilities for this Townsville side are limitless.

Southside Flyers claim premiership glory

SOUTHSIDE Flyers have notched up their inaugural premiership since being rebranded with a 17-point victory over Townsville Fire on Sunday afternoon (99-82). After taking out the minor premiership it was only fitting that the Flyers also walked away with the final piece of the puzzle – a premiership ring – after a dominant 2020 WNBL season. Despite not walking away with the chocolates, the Fire will hold their heads high, pushing the Flyers all the way and enjoying a rapid rise up the ladder throughout the condensed season.

Having met only days before it was always going to be a tough battle and the first quarter was proof of that with neither side able to be separated at the first break sitting at 22 points apiece. Play commenced with none other than Liz Cambage out of the middle however it was Townsville Fire’s Lauren Nicholson that landed the first blow nailing a layup. It was not long before Sara Blicavs made her presence felt converting at the charity strip and evening things up early in the piece.

The Fire pushed out to as much as six points ahead in the first five minutes before the Flyers found their groove and Cambage was subbed out due to foul trouble in the opening few minutes. Rebecca Cole levelled the scores with just over six minutes of play left in the term showcasing just how much of a tight game the fans were in for. This back and forth nature continued for most of the term with both sides trading blows and unable to arrest any sort of momentum given the high pressure nature the game was being played under. Nicholson was playing her part for the Fire leading the charge both off the boards and on the scoreboard while Leilani Mitchell sensed the occasion and stepped up to the plate with a couple of consecutive jump shots.

With scores tied at the first break the Flyers steadily built ahead in the second term opening up a two point lead off the back of some Mitchell magic. The Southside Flyers representative seemed to have her own ball out there, displaying her impressive range and relative accuracy. The term started with Zitina Aokuso hitting a jump shot and stealing the lead for the Fire before Mia Murray also got involved in the action to extend the lead to four points.

But that did not last long with Mitchell and Cole chiming in and playing their part for the Flyers. The lead ebbed and flowed as the Flyers created a handy four point buffer before Townsville once again fought back to reduce the deficit and steal the lead. It was a high intensity term with no player able to catch their breath with  Jenna O’Hea impressing and nailing a triple before Blicavs also added her two cents worth to the tally. Nicholson continued her dominant ways while Stephanie Reid also got busy with a jump shot to get her side back within touching distance.

Two points separated the sides at half-time but it was clear that the Flyers came to play in the third quarter really putting the foot down. Known as the premiership quarter Cambage started to inflict some serious pain with a couple of much needed baskets while Blicavs proved to be a handful. If it was not Cambage attacking the rim it was Mitchell with the two causing chaos and finding the basket with relative ease to keep the scoreboard ticking over and the Fire at bay.

Townsville went three minutes without a score such was the defensive pressure of the Flyers while they managed to slot six points of their own and extend the margin to eight points. Shyla Heal started to get involved in the action nailing a handy jump shot while Aokuso also found the basket moments later but the pattern had started to become clear with the Fire unable to keep up with the steam train that was Southside.

With the silverware in sight it was clear that the Flyers were not about to let go, coming out with a higher level of intensity and real sense of determination. The Fire threw everything they had at the Flyers with Nicholson and Heal combining to cut the margin to nine and cause a couple of scares but that was short lived as the minor premiers held their nerve. Rachel Jarry was in good form and that showed making the most of her free-throws while Mitchell continued to star. Cole had a day out in the final term of play nailing a triple and relishing the opportunity to go to the line while Townsville simply did not have enough firepower to compete.

It is no surprise Mitchell walked away with Player of the Match honours with 31 points, four rebounds and five assists in an impressive showing for the Flyers. Cole also impressed throughout the game with 22 points shooting at 70 per cent from the field while also accumulating three assists, five steals and two rebounds. Cambage was quiet but still had an impact collecting 14 points, five rebounds while Blicavs managed seven points , nine rebounds and three assists.

Nicholson was once again they go to player for the Fire walking away with 20 points, seven rebounds and four assists while Payne also had an impact with 14 points, six rebounds and two assists. Heal was down on her usual output but still managed 11 points and seven rebounds.

Southside torch Fire, advance to second straight Grand Final

IN the WNBL’s new postseason format, the Southside Flyers have earned the first spot in the Grand Final series after a well-fought win against an extraordinarily resilient Townsville Fire squad, taking the contest 106-93. As a result, the Fire compete again in a day’s time against the Melbourne Boomers who eliminated the Canberra Capitals in yesterday’s opening meeting thanks to their second chance seeding.

If you thought the Flyers were going to get off to a hot start, that would be an understatement, as Southside made their opening 10 field goal attempts in front of a raucous Townsville crowd. More surprisingly, however, was that the Fire trailed by just a couple of possessions.

But proficient scoring got better for Southside, knocking down three consecutive threes, stringing together a 14-2 run to finish the side’s 41-point opening quarter and putting themselves ahead of Townsville by 16 in what was perhaps one of the best 10-minute stretches of play in WNBL history. In addition, both Leilani Mitchell and Bec Cole accumulated 11 and 10 points respectively in that time.

Kate Gaze commenced the second quarter with a triple for the Fire, hoping to put a spark in her team’s mindset early on, but who else other than Cole to answer back with a three of her own, immediately shifting momentum back to Southside.

While Townsville did a decent job of slowing Southside’s roll, the task of reducing their deficit was proving to be an even tougher task. Funnily enough though, Townsville showed some real persistence concocting a 13-2 run in the closing stages of the first half and reducing the distance to single figures. Winning the second quarter 27 to 19, Townsville’s impressive spurt before the main break provided the home crowd with some hope at a pivotal point in the meeting.

Back to the Flyers, they had three players over 10 points with Cole and Mitchell leading in scoring with 15 points apiece, whereas Liz Cambage collected her eleventh point shortly before the midway point of the contest. Meanwhile, youngster Shyla Heal (15 points and four assists) was carrying her side’s fightback next to MVP nominee Lauren Nicholson (13 points and five assists) with Townsville holding the swing of the game at half time.

A slower brand of basketball briefly came to the fore in the third, but scoring eventually picked up in the second half. Controlling the play and tempo of the game helped Cheryl Chambers and her team put a double-digit distance between the two opponents once again. However, a Heal buzzer-beater to end the third signalled a pulse in the Fire roster, down 74-86 with a quarter to go.

Townsville showed tremendous resilience against the Flyers all the way through the fourth quarter, but Shannon Seebohm’s unit just could not climb the mountain, getting to within seven points of Southside. But the minor premiers walked away 13-point winners in the end putting up an enormous 106-point total.

Managing a 52 per cent conversion rate, it was Southside’s game to lose and it just was not the Fire’s night on the whole. While Townsville shot the ball more efficiently than their opponents, the Flyers topped the Fire in almost every other category.

Following a massive second half, Cambage ended the night as the game-high scorer with 31 points and 18 rebounds in what was a mammoth effort against the center-combo of Megan McKay and Zitina Aokuso. Additionally, Cole accumulated a massive 22 points in under 28 minutes of play, whereas Mitchell (19 points and 10 assists) and Aimie Clydesdale (12 points and six assists) each put up valuable totals.

Heal (30 points, six assists and six rebounds) and Nicholson (30 points, seven assists and four rebounds) had memorable efforts last night with each All-WNBL selectee compiling team-highs of 30 points each. Aokuso (11 points and six rebounds) was the only other Townsville player with over 10 in the game.

For the second year in the row Southside will suit up in the WNBL’s season-decider on Sunday afternoon, looking to redeem themselves after last season’s season sweep against the Capitals. They await the winner of Friday night’s preliminary final between the Fire and the Boomers with an extended period of rest to their advantage.

WNBL semi-finals preview

WNBL semi-finals action begins tonight as the Melbourne Boomers and UC Capitals kick things off at Townsville Stadium, with the victor progressing through to the preliminary final. Meanwhile, ladder leaders Southside Flyers take on Townsville Fire later tonight with the winner through to the grand final.

UC Capitals v. Melbourne Boomers

A couple of familiar faces return to the finals fold with the UC Capitals and Melbourne Boomers gearing up for another finals campaign. Both sides are formidable forces that ooze class, composure, and plenty of smarts,  able to work their way out of tricky situations and barely have a bad game. It makes for an exciting clash between the two sides.

There has not been too much time between their last outing with the Melbourne Boomers getting the last laugh and walking away with a six-point victory just over two weeks ago. However, the Capitals are no easy beats and will be hoping to reverse those efforts with the back-to-back reigning premiers a force to be reckoned with each time they step out on court. The Caps have only won two of their past five outings while the Boomers have gone one better, sitting at three wins over their past five performances. Both sides are coming into the final off a loss and will be eager to flip the script and keep their finals dreams alive.

Looking at the statistical breakdown there are plenty of similarities between the two sides, with scoring no problem for either but the difference coming from where they score from. In terms of percentage the Boomers have the upper hand at both the three-point range and in overall field goal percentage – 33.3 per cent to 29.9 per cent and 43.3 per cent to 40.9 per cent respectively. The Caps are prolific in the paint, managing 496 for the season as opposed to 484 while they also have the upper hand when it comes to fast break points (105-73). On the other hand the Boomers make the most of turnover opportunities, nailing 189 points to 183. When it comes to rebounds the Capitals are above and beyond with 514 for the season while Melbourne managed 453.

There is no shortage of excitement machines for UC but it is Maddison Rocci who has really taken the step up this season, averaging a team high 16.2 points along with 3.4 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.0 steals. She is not alone though with Marianna Tolo another commanding presence out on court, averaging 11.4 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.9 assists – highlighting her ability to have an impact in all aspects. It is hard to go past the services of Kelsey Griffin with the forward able to find the basket and score, going at 45.3 per cent from the field and averaging 12 points, 7.8 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.2 steals. There are a host of other key contributors such as Keely Froling, Jade Melbourne, and Mikaela Ruef, who has proven her star power off the boards on more than one occasion.

The Boomers also have a number of livewires, none bigger than the exciting duo of Ezi Magbegor and Cayla George with the latter named in the All-WNBL First Team. Magbegor has taken another big step forward this season, averaging an impressive 14.8 points a game, 8.6 rebounds and 1.5 assists while also lending her hand on the defensive end with 1.1 blocks. Her partner in crime, George, is not far behind averaging 14.7 points, 9.2 rebounds, 3.4 assists, not to mention one block and 1.4 steals a game. Tess Madgen is another one to keep an eye out for with her explosive nature to record 14.2 points, 5.4 rebounds and 6.2 assists a game. Madeleine Garrick, Kalani Purcell and Ashleigh Karaitiana are others that are able to chime in and keep the scoreboard ticking over for the Boomers.

Southside Flyers v. Townsville Fire

Southside Flyers come into the semi-final against Townsville Fire with a real sense of vengeance having fallen short in the big dance last year and proven eager to make up for their missed opportunities. Boasting a stacked team with plenty of big names, the Flyers will be hoping to assert themselves early and pounce on the inexperienced and youthful Townsville outfit.

The last time these two sides met it was the Flyers who took home the chocolates, downing the Fire by a convincing 24 points while also winning by a similar margin the time before in Round 2. In fact, the Flyers have a pretty good record against Townsville; claiming victories in all five of their past encounters, an area the Fire will be hoping to correct in this semi-final to progress through to the next stage. In terms of current form, the Flyers are on a staggering seven-game winning streak and have no intentions of slowing down while Townsville has managed four wins in its past five appearances.

The Flyers are scoring machines, averaging a whopping 96 points per game credit to their plethora of options that can attack the rim and do so at a high accuracy. Conversely, the Fire only manage 81 points per game and will have to try and shut down Southside if they are any chance to keep up with them. Field goal percentage is another strength of the Flyers, sitting at 51.1 per cent with the Fire converting at 45.6 per cent. They also have the upper hand when it comes to three-point accuracy 43.1 to 34.6 but Townsville is pretty reliable when sent to the charity strip, managing a 74.4 per cent clip as opposed to the Flyers’ 71.7 per cent. Aside from shooting the Flyers are incredibly strong when it comes to blocks, registering 31 more than the Fire (52-21) and also reign supreme in assists (343-214) and steals (126-96). However, the Fire have the upper hand on the rebounding front (508-471) and will be hoping to make the most of their efforts off the board.

Despite missing out on the League MVP there is no denying that the acquisition of Liz Cambage has been influential on the Flyers outfit. The star center is a menace off the boards and a commanding force overall, able to hit the scoreboard with great ease in averaging 23.6 points and 8.2 rebounds each time she steps out on court. However, she is not a lone hand with the likes of Sara Blicavs just as much of a handful given her innate ability to pop up when needed and deliver at a high standard, thanks to her 14.5 points, 7.3 rebounds 2.2 assists and 1.2 steals per game averages. Rebecca Cole is another one that is able to ply her trade for the Flyers, averaging 14.5 points per game, 2.2 rebounds, 4.5 assists each time she steps out on court. Teammates Jenna O’Hea and Leilani Mitchell are also are also crucial cogs for the Flyers and will have to fire if they are to get over the top of Townsville in their semi-final clash.

Townsville will be looking to the likes of Lauren Nicholson an Shyla Heal to lead the way for them from start to finish. Nicholson has been a revelation since joining the club this season with her ability to find the rim really coming to the fore, averaging 18.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.4 assists an 1.4 steals each game. Further court time for Heal has worked wonders for her basketball ability with the youngster averaging 15.2 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.2 assists making her one to watch in this clash. Fellow youngster Zitina Aokuso is another exciting prospect that can sense the moment and knows how to deliver recording an average of 9.5 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.2 assists. Nadeen Payne is a handy option for the Fire as is Stephanie Reid and Courtney Woods highlighting the amount of depth the club has.

Fire overcome fast-starting Boomers to secure second spot

THE TOWNSVILLE Fire announced themselves as serious finals contenders, downing Melbourne Boomers by six points in an epic contest (70-64). In a fight for top four position, the two sides went head-to-head with the lead ebbing and flowing throughout the game, showcasing what was at stake and the high intensity both sides can bring to the table.

The Boomers got out to a flyer of a start, establishing a seven-point margin at the first break and keeping the Fire to single digits in the opening term. But Townsville showcased its grit and determination, finding a groove in the second term and piling on the pressure to turn the tables on the Boomers, who seemed to have things their own way in the opening period of play. The Fire made light work of Melbourne, notching up 31 points to 17. Things evened out in the second half with both teams establishing their rhythm and unable to be separated, but in the end the Fire had done enough to throw the Boomers and clinch a hard-fought victory.

Accuracy from the field was down for both sides, however the Fire managed to boast a higher percentage – sitting at 42 per cent compared to the Boomers’ 38. The Fire also starred from two point range, converting at a 50 per cent clip in nailing 21 of their 42 attempts, while the Boomers did not have the same luck sitting at 41 per cent. However, when it came to triples, that is where the Boomers impressed nailing eight of their 25 attempts at 32 per cent as opposed to the Fire’s 28 per cent. Shooting statistics aside, the Boomers seemed to have the upper hand in the majority of the other categories; recording a higher rebound count (40-39) and more assists (24-14), highlighting the different way the two clubs go about it on court. They also earned a higher steals and blocks tally (10-7) and (4-2), respectively showcasing their defensive intent but were somewhat costly on the turnover front (16-13).

Lauren Nicholson once again impressed for the Fire, with the guard dropping 23 points at 50 per cent from the field along with four assists, six rebounds and a steal, highlighting her ability to be constantly involved in the action. Teammate Shyla Heal was down on her usual output, only recording the seven points in her 33 minutes on court, however she still managed to have an impact off the boards with five rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks. Kate Gaze was another key contributor with 11 points while Zitina Aokuso starred for the Fire with her 16 points at an impressive 87 per cent from the field. Aokuso also managed seven rebounds, six of which were defensive, along with a steal to cap off an impressive performance from the youngster. Nadeen Payne also chimed in for a handy eight points and seven rebounds to help get her side over the line.

There were three main contributors for the Melbourne Boomers who were unable to generate as much impact as they would have liked off the bench, but still had key figures that were able to keep them in touching distance of the Fire. Ezi Magbegor led the charge for Melbourne, with the forward proving to be a menace and recording a team-high 20 points at an all-round 64 per cent accuracy. It did not stop there for her, amassing 10 rebounds to collect another double-double while also picking up three assists and one steal. The ever-reliable captain, Cayla George was the next best with 18 points across her 36 minutes on court, but she did the most damage off the boards with a staggering 17 rebounds which accompanied her three steals, three blocks and four assists. Tess Madgen also contributed for the Boomers knocking back 11 points while also collecting eight assists and four rebounds.

The Fire look ahead to ladder leaders Southside Flyers in the semi-final on Wednesday while Melbourne faces off against the Caps early in the day.

Flyers flex their muscles with convincing win over Caps

Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images

It was always going to be an exciting battle between back-to-back premiers UC Capitals and the star studded line-up of Southside Flyers, but in the end it was the latter that prevailed in a convincing performance to run out with a 19-point victory (82-101).  The ladder leaders are building some serious momentum heading into the finals and are clearly primed as premiership favourites, as shown by their dominant performance on Sunday.

It was a high scoring match from the opening minutes of the game with both sides renowned for their attacking mentality and ability to hit the scoreboard with great ease. The Flyers got out to a handy start and did not look like giving up the lead at any stage, continuously pushing to extend their margin. Despite a better quarter in the second from the Caps nailing 23 points to 20, the Flyers still had the momentum and the lead. But they dealt the most damage in the third quarter when they went on a scoring spree, nailing 32 points to 19 to all but seal the deal. The Flyers had a real sense of desperation and urgency in their gameplay and that showed throughout the game, outscoring their opponents in the final term as well.

Scoring proved to be no issue for the Flyers who managed an impressive 51 per cent from the field, nailing 40 of their 77 attempts while the Caps travelled at a 40 per cent conversion rate. Southside starred from downtown, sitting at a whopping 62 per cent in slotting 18 from their 29 attempts, while it was a different story for the Capitals who only managed a mere 26 per cent from outside the arc. When it came to rebounds UC had things all their own way, recoding 47 to 34 to showcase their strength off the boards, but the Flyers seemed to have their number in all the other aspects such as assists (29-23), steals (6-4) and blocks (5-1). The ladder leaders were also cleaner with ball in hand and treasured possession, only notching up 10 turnovers as opposed to 15 while when it came to points in the paint, the Flyers also had the upper hand recording 42 to 28.

Despite being in the losing side there was no shortage of options with the likes of Marianna Tolo leading the way for the Capitals with her 23 points, six rebounds and two assists. The scoring dropped off after her with Jade Melbourne the next closest with 12 points in a strong performance off the bench. Madison Rocci and Kelsey Griffin were both handy options for the Capitals, combining for 21 points, nine rebounds and three assists while Keely Froling also chimed in with 10 points of her own in her 25 minutes on court. Although Mikaela Ruef did not have a profound impact on the scoreboard thanks to her six points, her strength off the board was unquestionable, reeling in 12 rebounds with eight of them defensive.

Six players all managed double figures for the Flyers with Rebecca Cole headlining the side with her 23 points and eight rebounds. Cole took the game by the scruff of the neck and starred while the ever-reliable Liz Cambage continued her merry way with another dominant performance collecting 18 points at 53 per cent and 12 rebounds. Aimie Clydesdale managed to have an influence thanks to her 13 points, two rebounds and six assists as did teammate Leilani Mitchell who just fell short of a double-double with nine rebounds and 14 points. Sara Blicavs dominated off the bench in a stats stuffing performance thanks to her 16 points, six rebounds and five assists haul while Stephanie Blicavs managed 11 points of her own in the win.

Looking ahead, the Flyers prepare for Townsville Fire in the semi-final on Wednesday while the Caps gear up for Melbourne.

Flames end season on a high

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After somewhat of an up and down season for both sides it was the Sydney Uni Flames that got the last laugh, securing a 26-point victory over Adelaide Lightning (86-60). With both teams out of the running for finals it was a matter of pride and determination which the Flames oozed plenty of as they kicked it up a gear in the final term to really ram home the win.

It was an even start to the game with the Flames and Lightning settling into the action and feeling each other out before Sydney found its mojo in the second term and put on the afterburners. Sensing a blowout, Adelaide turned the tables in the third term, going toe-to-toe with the Flames and scoring 18 points apiece, but that was not enough to worry Sydney who still had a handy buffer. The final quarter of action was where things really started to unravel with the Flames attacking the rim with great ease and piling on the scoreboard pressure thanks to their 29 to 14 point term to notch up their fifth win for the season.

Field goal percentage for both sides was down with the Flames converting at 39 per cent while Adelaide managed 35 per cent. The Lightning had better luck when it came to two point range sitting at 42 per cent while Sydney only managed 37 per cent. The roles were reversed when it came to three-pointers with the victors holding the upper hand, nailing eight of their 18 attempts at 44 per cent while the Lightning only managed 24 per cent. The Flames collected more rebounds (48-41), steals (14-7) and had less turnovers (10-20) while when it came to assists Adelaide impressed with 16-12.

Lauren Mansifeld seemed to have her own ball out on court for the Flames, sinking a game-high 31 points in a dominant shooting display from the guard. She also managed four assists and an uncharacteristic three turnovers. Mansfield was well-aided by Alison Schwagmeyer who recorded 16 points but could have had more had she been more accurate from the field, sitting at 33 per cent while also amassing seven rebounds and two assists. Anneli Maley was a commanding force off the backboards, recording a whopping 15 rebounds, 12 of which were defensive while Lauren Scherf plied her trade sinking 11 points in the win.

Although it was not the way the Lightning would have liked for the game to have gone down, there were a couple of key contributors with Steph Talbot once again leading the way. Talbot had a hot hand converting 22 points at 56 per cent while also dragging down 13 rebounds to record yet another double-double. Alex Wilson was the only other player to reach double figures with her 12 points and proved to be a real playmaker with ball in hand, amassing seven assists and a steal. Abigail Wehrung had an influence on the scoreboard, albeit limited, but still managed eight points in her 32 minutes on court.