Tag: Leilani Mitchell

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

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

UC Capitals (76) defeated Melbourne Boomers (75)

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

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

Adelaide Lightning (77) defeated Townsville Fire (60)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Perth Lynx (95) defeated Townsville Fire (62)

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

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

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

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

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

DC Medal Leaderboard:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WNBL Round 13 review: Flyers edge out Boomers in OT, Fire rout Caps

WITH the season coming to a close and only three rounds now remaining, the top four is close to being decided as the Lynx need an unbeaten run for even the slightest chance of a playoff spot, for which they took the first step in doing so, toppling Bendigo. Meanwhile, the Townsville Fire may have showed precursor signs of what is to come next season, as they walloped an abysmal Capitals outfit by a whopping 33 points in the round’s shock result. Meanwhile the Flyers edged out the Boomers in a nail-biting game of the round that ended in overtime.

Adelaide Lightning (69) defeated by Melbourne Boomers (74)

The round kicked off in South Australia for what was the most important game of the season prior to tip-off for the Lightning. A win for Adelaide would have tied them for second on the standings with their opponents, the Boomers. As both sides matched each other on the scoreboard through the first quarter, neither team managed to gain a considerable edge on one another. But it was the Melbourne side that produced the game’s first sizeable lead, outscoring Adelaide by nine heading points into half-time. The Lightning would answer back however with a late scoring charge in the final quarter, bidding to upset one of this season’s title contenders. With a 21-14 final period by Adelaide thanks to efficient scoring from the field (40.6 per cent), it took astonishing three-point accuracy for the Boomers to hold off the home-side. Melbourne outplayed the Lightning from behind the arc, shooting a total of nine three-pointers compared to Adelaide’s mere two, which would lead to a close five-point win, creating more wiggle room for Melbourne in the top-four as a result. Sophie Cunningham came up big for the Boomers, knocking down four of their shots from deep and finishing with 18 points, as well as five rebounds. While Cayla George led the side with 14 points, seven rebounds and seven assists, it was further compounded by Ezi Magbegor’s 14 points and eight rebounds adding more depth to the visitors’ scoring efforts. For the Lightning, player of the game honours went to Brianna Turner who ended her game with a solid double-double (23 points and 11 rebounds) and four blocks, while Nicole Seekamp obtained her own with 11 points and 11 assists. Adelaide’s defeat ended their four-game winning streak leaving them in the top four, while the Boomers put themselves within arm’s reach of the league-leading Southside Flyers who they would matchup with on Sunday night.

DC Medal: 3 – Brianna Turner (AD), 2 – Sophie Cunningham (MB), 1 – Ezi Magbegor (MB)

Townsville Fire (102) defeated UC Capitals (69)

The shock of the weekend took place in Queensland’s far-north as the seventh-placed Townsville Fire blew the third-placed Capitals out of the water. The Fire outscored the Canberra side in three out of four quarters, including a crushing final period outscoring the Caps 34-14. With the Fire winning in all facets of the game, it came with no surprise that Townsville ran away with the contest early on. The lone saving grace for the away team was their consistency from the free-throw line shooting 18 of 20 (90 per cent). It was an all-around effort from Townsville, as six players would finish with double digits, most notably from Tess Madgen who totalled 26 points. The Fire also recorded a duo of double doubles from Julie Vanloo (16 points and 10 assists) and Bridget Carleton (13 points and 11 rebounds) as they were the main perpetrators in the dismantling of the Capitals. Both Marianna Tolo and Kia Nurse squeezed out 17 points for UC, while Keely Froling recorded a double-double of her own with 15 points and 10 boards. The Fire, who are out of finals contention, are showing promising signs for the upcoming season as a result of Friday night’s performance earning their fourth victory of the season in the process, whereas the Capitals who are sitting pretty in third, need to re-adjust leading into the postseason after such a dismal performance.

DC Medal: 3 – Tess Madgen (TF), 2 – Julie Vanloo (TF), 1 – Keely Froling (UC)

Sydney Uni Flames (76) defeated by Townsville Fire (83)

With the Fire hot off the back of their best performance so far this season, there was a considerable amount of momentum as they travelled down to Sydney to take on the sixth placed Flames. With both teams out of the finals race, it was a battle of pride, as both sides were keen on finishing their seasons on a good note. The “Battle of the Inferno” started off with high-paced offensive and little defensive success, as both sides cracked the 20-point mark by the end of the first period. However, due to a lacklustre 14-point second quarter by the Fire, Sydney Uni held a double-digit lead heading into the main break. But once again, the scoring depth that was on display two days earlier by Townsville came to fruition as a strong second half was enough to rally the Fire to a hard fought seven-point victory in New South Wales. With 14 successful three-point attempts from the Fire compared to the Flames’ four, it was enough to offset the damage Sydney had caused with their points in the paint (48-28). This coupled with five Townsville players reaching double-digits, it was difficult for the Flames to alter their game plan which had been successful throughout the opening two quarters. The Fire’s leading scorer on this occasion was Darcee Garbin who accumulated 18 solid points as well as four three-pointers for good measure. Carleton rounded out a successful weekend one rebound short of another double-double with 15 points and nine rebounds. The Flames’ key contributor was their marquee forward in Alice Kunek, who piled it on to finish with 30 points, going seven from seven from the free-throw line. As Townsville went back-to-back during the round and the Flames lost their third game on the trot, the Fire sit a single game back on the Sydney-side in the standings, as both sides look to finish with a respectable fifth-placed finish.

DC Medal: 3 – Darcee Garbin (TF), 2 – Alice Kunek (SF), 1 – Bridget Carleton (TF)

Perth Lynx (100) defeated Bendigo Spirit (81)

The Perth Lynx have taken the first step of their monumental task of stealing a postseason berth, with a convincing 19-point drubbing of the bottom-of-the-table Spirit. The Lynx would set the tone early with a 32-point first quarter and would not be outscored in any quarter following that. It was matter of capitalisation throughout the contest, as it was Perth that dominated the inside game with 32 of their points coming from around the basket. They were also big on turnover points racking up 17 compared to Bendigo’s 12 and conclusively, they ran the Spirit off the floor taking the fast-break points category 11-2. For the Lynx, both Mareena Whittle and Nadeen Paine secured 19 points each with both of them combining for six three-pointers, as Katie Ebzery produced a solid night with 11 points, six rebounds and six assists. For the Spirit, Shyla Heal shot the lights out, tallying 30 points for her struggling side along with six rebounds, whilst Carly Ernst left the arena with 11 points and 10 rebounds. The victory for the Lynx keeps their season hopes alive a week longer, as the Lightning’s loss to Melbourne leaves Perth 3.5 games out of fourth position with five games remaining over the next three weeks. With Adelaide only needing two wins to secure a finals position, the top four might be decided by the end of next round.

DC Medal: 3 – Shyla Heal (BS), 2 – Mareena Whittle (PL), 1 – Katie-Rae Ebzery (PL)

Melbourne Boomers (73) defeated by Southside Flyers (75)

Fans who were able to make it the State Basketball Centre in Melbourne were treated to a possible preview of this season’s Grand Final series as it was first versus second to round out Round 13. For most of the game, it seemed that the home side held a relatively tight grip on the game through three quarters winning each of them by four, one and one points. But a desperate Flyers side came out of their shell, to string together a last minute comeback to force the match into overtime, thanks to four consecutive free-throws in the final minute from Rebecca Cole and Leilani Mitchell. But in extra time, it fell once again to Mitchell to knock down free throws in the clutch with 39 seconds left, to which she rose to the occasion knocking them down and putting the game out of reach, resulting in the two-point nail-biter and 21 points along with it on the night. Jenna O’Hea closed out her night with 19 points and Mercedes Russell honed in on the boards, collecting another double-double to her collection this campaign (18 points and 11 rebounds). Magbegor dominated throughout the 45 minutes of basketball, with 24 points and 12 rebounds despite her team’s crushing defeat. The win by the Flyers prevented the Boomers from tying them in first position on the ladder. Instead the deficit for Melbourne fell back to two games and their winning streak ends at four for the second seeded team.

DC Medal: 3 – Leilani Mitchell (SF), 2 – Mercedes Russell (SF), 1 – Ezi Magbegor (MB)

DC Medal Leaderboard:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WNBL Round 12 review: Adelaide Lightning make it four in a row

WITH Round 12 of the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) done and dusted, the Southside Flyers remain at the top of the table despite suffering a loss while the Melbourne Boomers remain a constant threat sitting in second. The Spirit mustered up their second consecutive win while Adelaide continued their purple patch.

Bendigo Spirit (94) defeated UC Capitals (90)

Bendigo kicked off the round in style with a surprise four-point victory over the higher ranked UC Capitals. The Spirit have struggled throughout the 2019/20 season but pulled out all the stops in their game against the Capitals to prove they have what it takes to match it with the best. Despite contributions across the board from the Capitals it was their inaccuracy that killed them with the Spirit sitting at 45.8 per cent from the field compared to 38.1 per cent with accuracy from the three point line also reflecting a similar situation. Marianna Tolo recorded a game high 26 points highlighting her explosiveness while also showing her strength off the boards with 17 rebounds to start 2020 with a double-double. The next closest was opponent Shyla Heal who led the way for Bendigo finding the net with ease and opening up space to drive to the basket with 24 points and eight rebounds. For the Capitals, Keely Froling threw her weight around especially when it came to scoreboard pressure, posting 22 points to go with her 11 rebounds, while teammate Kia Nurse also notched up 17 points. Despite big efforts from three of their top performers the Capitals could not get over the line with Heal and Carley Ernst (19 points) combining effortlessly across the court in what was only their fourth win.

DC Medal: 3 – Marianna Tolo (UC), 2 – Keely Froling (UC), 1 – Shyla Heal (BS)

Townsville Fire (61) defeated by Adelaide Lightning (87)

The Lightning came into the new year with a point to prove and made their plans pretty clear from the get go, bursting out of the blocks with a 33 to 16 point first term. Adelaide built from there, gaining momentum and not looking back and although they lost the last quarter, the damage was already done. Adelaide had no trouble hitting the scoreboard, able to shoot from range or under the post to steadily increase their margin while Townsville struggled to muster up any type of scoring rhythm. It was easy pickings for the Lightning sitting at an impressive 57.9 per cent from three point range compared to the Fire who only managed a mere 20 per cent. Another major difference between the two sides was the contributions off the bench with Adelaide recording 27 points while Townsville posted seven. But the efforts of Darcee Garbin did not go unnoticed for the Fire, leading the way with 21 points and seven rebounds, Abby Bishop also contributed to the Fire’s total with 15 points along with four assists. But it was not enough to stop the rampaging Lightning with all 10 of their players posting a score with import Brianna Turner nailing 17 points and seven rebounds. Stephanie Talbot showcased her class across all areas of the court with 12 points, seven rebounds and six assists while Lauren Nicholson sunk 13 points of her own.

DC Medal: 3 – Stephanie Talbot (AL), 2 – Brianna Turner (AL), 1 – Darcee Garbin (TF)

Perth Lynx (75) defeated by Southside Flyers (90)

The Southside Flyers continued their hot form disposing of the Perth Lynx by 15 points in a win away from home. It was relatively even across the board with both sides boasting similar game styles however it was the Flyers’ ability to race down the court and convert that was a major turning point in the game. Southside scored nine points from fast breaks while Perth managed four. A big last quarter from the Flyers all but handed them the win scoring 22 points and keeping their opponents to just 14. Rebecca Cole took the game by storm with a whopping 30 points for the Flyers. Teammate Mercedes Russell recorded a double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds while Leilani Mitchell and Jenna O’Hea posted 18 and 13 points respectively in their win over the Lynx. Perth were not without their chances leading in offensive rebounds and bench points but faded out when the game was on the line. Kate Ebzery did her best to stay in touch, sinking 20 points and showing her durability having played the most game time. When it came to rebounds, Lynx was all over it with four of the top five all donning the red and black. Imani McGee-Stafford was quiet by her points scoring standards but managed nine rebounds with Marena Whittle the next in line with seven. For Lauren Mansfield, six proved to be the magical number – notching up six points, six rebounds and six assists.

DC Medal: 3 – Rebecca Cole (SF), 2 – Katie-Rae Ebzery (PL), 1 – Mercedes Russell (SF)

Adelaide Lightning (104) defeated Southside Flyers (93)

In both sides’ second game of the round it was the Adelaide Lightning that came out victorious against a potentially fatigued Flyers who played two days before. It was a hot start to the contest with only one point separating them at quarter time before the Lightning put the foot down in the second term to pile on an impressive 35 points and force the Flyers into chase position. The Flyers simply could not recover despite big efforts from the likes of Russell who replicated her hot form with 28 points and 10 rebounds to notch up yet another double-double. Sara Blicavs also put in a solid performance for the Flyers mustering up 18 points and seven rebounds meanwhile Cole also made her presence felt on the court with 18 points, four assists and three rebounds in her sides defeat. The Lightning made it two from two in Round 12 once again led by Turner with 25 points and nine rebounds. But Turner was closely followed by Nicholson who contributed an impressive 24 points, four assists and five rebounds. Kathryn Westbeld was not to be forgotten about, converting 22 points while Nicole Seekamp put on some kind of performance with a whopping 20 assists to help guide her side to victory.

DC Medal: 3 – Nicole Seekamp (AL), 2 – Mercedes Russell (SF), 1 – Brianna Turner (AL)

Sydney Uni Flames (63) defeated by Melbourne Boomers (86)

In the final game of the round, the Melbourne Boomers showed why they sit second on the ladder with a strong performance against the struggling Sydney Uni Flames. The Boomers outscored their opponents in every quarter, quickly dashing any chances they had of getting back into the match. Melbourne’s defensive pressure was impressive racking up nine steals and limiting the Flames to just two while their rebounding ability was just as strong taking 15 more (53-38) highlighting their skill above the rim and off the backboard. Lauren Scherf was the go to girl for the Flames knocking back 20 points and nine rebounds while the efforts of teammate Alice Kunek was also key racking up 13 points and seven rebounds. But the Boomers were just too strong with a host of players able to stand up and deliver time and time again. Madeleine Garrick top-scored for the home side with 19 points, with Cayla George hot on her heels with 18 points and 10 rebounds to record her first double-double of the new year. Lindsay Allen also popped up with a handy 15 points to keep the scoreboard ticking over meanwhile Ezi Magbegor plied her trade off the boards with 10 rebounds highlighting the strong team effort displayed by the Boomers.

DC Medal: 3 – Cayla George (MB), 2 – Lauren Scherf (SU), 1 – Madeleine Garrick (MB)

The clash between the UC Capitals and Perth Lynx was set to take place at the AIS but was cancelled due to poor air quality as a result of the bushfires in surrounding areas. A decision will be made in the coming days announcing a possible rescheduled match between the two sides.

DC Medal Leaderboard:

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

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.

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.

WNBL Round 9 review: Southside flies further ahead

SOUTHSIDE Flyers have moved three and a half games clear on top of the Women’s National Basketball (WNBL) ladder after back-to-back victories over the weekend made it six consecutive wins for the home side. The other results also fell the Flyers’ way, with Melbourne Boomers going down to Perth Lynx, meaning Southside is four wins ahead of Melbourne, but the Boomers have a game in hand.

Southside Flyers (81) defeated Townsville Fire (62)

In a battle of two sides up opposite ends of the WNBL ladder, it was no surprise to see the ladder leaders and premiership favourites come out on top in a 19-point win at Dandenong Stadium. Southside led early on with a five-point advantage at quarter time that increased to nine by the main break. The Flyers really put the Fire on ice in the second half, piling on 21 points to 12 in the third term to effectively end the contest. The final quarter was a low-scoring affair with just 13 points scored, as Southside again won the term to eventually get home, 81-62. Jenna O’Hea was the top scorer for the winners, posting up 17 points, five assists and three rebounds, while Sara Blicavs (13 points, eight rebounds) and Mercedes Russell (12 points, eight rebounds) were also prominent from the starting whistle. Anneli Maley showed what she has to offer, coming off the bench to pick up a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds. For the Fire, Darcee Garbin was a lone hand on the scoring front, piling on 28 points and five rebounds, with Bridget Carleton‘s nine points the next highest. Julie Vanloo had a game-high eight assists, while Tess Madgen and Abby Bishop had six rebounds a piece in what were low scoring games for the duo.

DC Medal: 3 – Darcee Garbin (TF), 2 – Mercedes Russell (SF), Anneli Maley (SF)

Townsville Fire (61) defeated Sydney Uni Flames (57)

There is no place like home, and Townsville lived up to the famous saying by saluting with a four-point win over fellow bottom four side, Sydney Uni Flames. The Fire overcame the disappointing loss to Southside on Friday night with a tight 61-57 victory over the Flames to knock Sydney Uni out of fifth spot, and move the Fire to within a win of the Flames’ in sixth. Townsville had its work cut out from the get-go, leading by just a point at the first break and two by half-time. Sydney Uni was not about to just lie down however, as the Flames drew level by the three quarter time whistle thanks to a 14-12 term. Townsville got back on top in the final term to win the quarter 19-15, and it was ultimately the difference between the two sides on the night. Unlike Friday night, the Fire had their quartet of stars firing with Garbin again leading the way thanks to 15 points, 12 rebounds and two assists, while Carleton also picked up a double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds. Madgen (15 points, nine rebounds and three assists) and Bishop (11 points, eight rebounds, four assists and two steals) were more prominent in the match to help Townsville to a much needed win. For the Flames, it was a performance not too dissimilar to Townsville’s effort on Friday night, with Alex Wilson being a lone hand on the scoring front. She dropped 20 points, as well as five assists and three rebounds, with Alice Kunek and Lauren Scherf the next highest points scorers with nine apiece, though they also shared in five rebounds and a steal each. Jessica Kuster was also strong off the boards with seven points, eight rebounds and four steals.

DC Medal: 3 – Bridget Carleton (TF), 2 – Darcee Garbin (TF), 1 – Tess Madgen (TF)

Adelaide Lightning (91) defeated Bendigo Spirit (75)

Adelaide maintained its top four spot with a very impressive 16-point win over cellar dwellers, Bendigo Spirit. The Lightning were too strong for Bendigo in the opening term with a 28-15 quarter, then extended the lead to 17 by half-time. To the visiting side’s credit, the Spirit refused to be dampened despite the heavy deficit, forcing their way back into the contest with a 19-15 term to put it back to a more manageable 13 points. It would prove to be a bridge too far to cross, as the Lightning took no chances, striking with a 23-20 final term to secure the 91-75 victory. Brianna Turner was massive for the winners, posting up 23 points, 13 rebounds, two assist, three steals and five blocks in a memorable performance. She was well aided by the likes of Stephanie Talbot (17 points, 10 rebounds, nine assists, two steals a a block) who was equally as effective, narrowly missing out on a rare triple-double. Nicole Seekamp (13 points, three rebounds and five assists) and Lauren Nicholson (10 points, three assists) also reached double-figure points, as did Chelsea Brook (16 points, three rebounds) coming off the bench. For Bendigo, Carley Ernst had a big impact starting on the bench with a team-high 21 points, nine rebounds and two blocks, while Demi Skinner (17 points, eight rebounds) and Shyla Heal (16 points, four rebounds, four assists and three steals) were also prominent.

DC Medal: 3 – Brianna Turner (AL), 2 – Stephanie Talbot (AL), 1 – Carley Ernst (BS)

Perth Lynx (68) defeated Melbourne Boomers (66)

In a crucial game, Perth Lynx stepped up to the plate to knock off Melbourne Boomers by two points and retain fifth spot on the table. The Lynx needed the victory to keep in touch with fourth placed Adelaide Lightning, and also restore the faith with a big scalp in front of home fans. It was far from an easy night, with the Boomers turning a four-point quarter time deficit into a seven-point half-time lead following a huge 22-11 second quarter. Perth put the afterburners on in the third term to double the visitor’s score thanks to 18 points to nine, and move two points clear. That proved to be the final deficit as both sides traded blows in the final term, but it was the Lynx who came out on top in a 68-66 win. Katie-Rae Ebzery top-scored for the Lynx, posting up 16 points, four rebounds and three assists, while Alison Schwagmeyer came off the bench to be an influence on court with 15 points, six rebounds and four assists. Lauren Mansfield (15 points, four assists, two rebounds and two steals) and Nadeen Payne (10 points, five rebounds and two assists) both reached double-figure points, while Imani McGee-Stafford surprisingly did not score but put up nine rebounds in the win. Despite the loss, Cayla George was arguably best on court with 14 points, 10 rebounds and three assists, while Ezi Magbegor (15 points, seven rebounds and three steals) and Sophie Cunningham (16 points, four rebounds and three assists) were also strong on the night.

DC Medal: 3 – Cayla George (MB), 2 – Alison Schwagmeyer (PL), 1 – Katie-Rae Ebzery (PL)

UC Capitals (65) defeated by Southside Flyers (70)

In the final game of the round, Southside overcame its only conqueror this season, recording an important five-point victory over reigning premiers, University of Canberra (UC) Capitals. The Flyers ensured they had a good start to get away to a three-point lead, but it was not long before the home side reeled them back in as the Capitals scored 18-14 in the second term to hit the front. They extended the lead to three points by the final break, before Southside found an extra wind and flew home with a 23-15 final term to run away with the 70-65 contest in what was an enthralling battle between two title contenders. Rebecca Cole was the most prominent scorer with 21 points, three rebounds, one assist and two steals, while Russell was again a standout thanks to her 17 points, 10 rebounds, two assists and two blocks. As she did in her side’s loss against the Capitals, former UC player Leilani Mitchell was busy with 15 points, seven rebounds and two assists in the win. For the Capitals, Marianna Tolo topped the scoreboard with 16 points, six rebounds and two assists, while Kia Nurse (13 points, five rebounds and two assists) and Olivia Epoupa (11 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and four steals) were ultra impressive. Star forward Kelsey Griffin was well restricted to just four points, but managed 12 defensive rebounds, two steals and a block in the loss.

DC Medal: 3 – Mercedes Russell (SF), 2 – Olivia Epoupa (UC), 1 – Leilani Mitchell (SF)

DC Medal Leaderboard:

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

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.