Tag: Marena Whittle

WNBL Free Agency Update: Flyers and Lightning

ALTHOUGH they did not finish the way the would have liked, the Southside Flyers and Adelaide Lightning are two teams that had impressive WNBL20 campaigns, making it to the playoffs. While both the Flyers and the Lightning had countless highlights during the regular season, the Lightning were handed a series sweep knocked out of the postseason early. For Southside, it was a picture-perfect season leading up to the Grand Final series, finishing with a season-best record (17-4) in their inaugural campaign under the Flyers moniker, whereas the Lightning would round out a solid top-four group, with a 12-9 record of their own. Southside knocked over Adelaide in the semis, which was then for the Flyers followed up by an untimely exit thanks to the UC Capitals in the penultimate series.

SOUTHSIDE FLYERS

The Southside Flyers organisation has made less announcements in comparison to the seven other sides regarding their WNBL21 team, but it is evident what their initial intentions have been over the last couple of months.

For Cheryl Chambers and her staff, their initial moves were to consolidate their marquee players, which kicked off in early June when they re-signed their captain and Opals selectee Jenna O’Hea. O’Hea underwent an agonisingly frustrating 2020 season after breaking her wrist on January 12 against the Melbourne Boomers. Thankfully for O’Hea, she made her return to the side just in time for their Grand Final series against the Capitals, despite the Flyers going down in two games. She will look forward to leading the side for at least another season.

Up next on the Flyers “to-get” list, was 28-year-old Rebecca Cole. Cole averaged an elite-level season and was instrumental in the Flyers’ starting five acting as an essential member in getting Southside to the postseason. Averaging 17.3 points per game, four assists and 3.6 rebounds, Cole wreaked havoc on opposition defences throughout 25 games last season and will look to do it again for the Flyers’ second season. The third of Southside’s five signings to this point is forward Sara Blicavs. Blicavs has become one of the most prominent two-way players in the WNBL to this day, and this was further compounded after a solid campaign last season. With the 27-year-old averaging 13.4 points, seven rebounds and 1.3 steals per contest, it does not surprise many that Southside would look to her services for another season.

Stepping into some big shoes after the injury of O’Hea in the later stages of last season, Aimie Clydesdale proved what she was worth to the side, culminating in an 18-point performance in Game 2 of their semi-final series with the Lightning. The Flyers have added her to their roster for next season and will look to give her extended minutes as her development continues.

However, Southside saved their big announcement for their fifth addition to the team. On August 18 they revealed that Australian basketball legend, Liz Cambage, was returning to the WNBL for the first time in three years. A major factor in this was the restrictions that the COVID-19 pandemic has placed on the league, as the Flyers are no longer able to reinstate rebounding machine Mercedes Russell as an import for next season. Cambage, who was a member of the Dandenong Rangers back in 2007, will have feelings of nostalgia as she returns to the suburb where it all began.

With more than half of the team yet to be announced, there could be an influx of young and developing talent to join the ranks for the upcoming season in November, as the senior members of the squad have committed to the Flyers for hopefully another championship push.

Contracted:

Nil

Re-signed:

Jenna O’Hea
Rebecca Cole
Sara Blicavs
Aimie Clydesdale

Signed:

Elizabeth Cambage

 

ADELAIDE LIGHTNING

To round out the Free Agency updates for last season’s finals participants, we look at the Adelaide Lightning, as they look to move past the semi-finals next season.

After losing star international Brianna Turner due to import restrictions, Adelaide made up for that in another WNBA prospect, one who is more familiar with the land down-under. Touted by the franchise as the biggest signing in the Lightning’s history since Suzy Batkovic a decade ago, the acquisition of Phoenix Mercury power forward Alanna Smith has many of Adelaide’s faithful shaking with excitement. Earning regular appearances in this season’s WNBA and completing a successful four-year career at Stanford University, not much gets away from Smith if history shows anything.

Head coach Chris Lucas now needed to form the rest of his squad around their new marquee signing, and he would not need to look too far to begin this. Jasmin Fejo, a member of the NBL1’s Adelaide Bearcats joined contracted players Chelsea Brook and Steph Talbot as a part of the Adelaide Lightning in late-June. Fejo garnered state-wide attention after a phenomenal 2019 season in the South Australia Premier League, particularly after a 40-point performance against the South Adelaide Panthers in that same season. After the strong stint, she was rewarded the Merv Harris medal for being the best player under the age of 21 and was named to the competition’s All-Star Five after averaging 15.6 points and shooting at a clip of 42.7 per cent.

The two most recent procurements for Adelaide was South Australian-born Boston College alum, Taylor Ortlepp, who signed a two-year deal with the club at the start of July, and 26-year-old Perth Lynx utility player Marena Whittle who averaged over 10.3 points, 4.8 rebounds per game, while shooting at a rate of 43.6 per cent behind the arc last season.

With the announcement of recently retired Nat Hurst to become the Lightning’s assistant coach and further additions to be revealed to the team in the near future for WNBL21, championship contenders will have no choice but to take Adelaide seriously, when they square off with the side.

Contracted:

Chelsea Brook
Steph Talbot

Re-signed:

Nil

Signed:

Alanna Smith
Jasmin Fejo
Taylor Ortlepp
Marena Whittle

NBL1 South Women’s team summary: Knox Raiders

IN light of the COVID-19 global pandemic, the National Basketball League (NBL)1 South Conference has been cancelled this year. As such, while Draft Central intended to do a preview on all teams leading up to the delayed start, it will instead be a team summary from last season and what they might look to improve on for 2021. Today’s edition looks at Knox Raiders’ womens side that narrowly missed out on a top four spot, but still won a final in the first week.

2019 in Review:

Finished: 5th (lost in semi-finals)
Wins: 15
Losses: 7
Home: 8-2
Away: 6-4

What went right:

  • Home court dominance
  • Won 13 of the first 16 games to book themselves a finals spot
  • Offence (total points 85.0 per game, three-point percentage – 36.3 – ranked first overall, two-point – 47.9 – and free-throw – 78.4 – percentage ranked second overall)
  • Playmaking (20.3 assists per game ranked third overall)
  • Ball-handling (11.3 turnovers the fourth least overall)
  • Lauren Scherf’s season

For a team that bowed out in the semi-finals, there were a lot of positives to take out of season 2019 for the Knox Raiders. They were dominant on their home court for starters, winning eight of a possible 10 regular season games there, before downing Dandenong Rangers in the elimination final. They all but booked their spot in the finals early, going on a tear in the opening 16 games by winning 13 of them and proving themselves to be one of the teams to beat in the competition. The Raiders’ offence, led by NBL1 All-Star Five member, Lauren Scherf was the most powerful of the lot, putting up the most points of any side throughout the season. They not only had their chances, they made the most of them, averaging an impressive three-point percentage of 36.3, as well as strong two-point (47.9) and free-throw (78.4) percentages to rank second overall. Their ability to limit their turnovers (11.3 per game the fourth least in the competition) and set up attacking plays in the frontcourt (20.3 assists per game third overall in the league) was a joy to watch. Overall, the Raiders did everything right except get it done in finals, though they copped the minor premiers Bendigo Braves in the semis, which was unexpected.

What went wrong:

  • Lost three of the last four regular season games to slip to fifth
  • Continuity (only one player started in every game, three starters played less than 20 games)
  • Last quarter of semi-final clash with Bendigo

Unfortunately for the Raiders, their last month was disappointing, dropping three games, albeit to finalists, Nunawading Spectres, Bendigo Braves and Waverley Falcons. They would struggle with continuity throughout the season which made it difficult, as their start player in Scherf would only manage the 14 of a possible 22 games. Just one – Bree Whatman – started every match – and Maddy Wild and Bec Ott were the only other players to take the court in each game. Aside from Scherf, others including Abbey Wehrung (17) and Marena Whittle (19) missed games, but it gave chances for the youngsters of the team such as Charlise Dunn and Alannah Chatfield (both 15-years-old at season’s start) to get minutes on court. Finally, the most disappointing aspect would have been the last term against Bendigo Braves in the semi-finals. The minor premiers were favourites, but Knox fought back from a nine-point deficit to cut the margin to four by the final break. No one would have expected the Raiders to come back, but they would have been disappointed with just six points in the final term as the Braves finished with 19 to run away with a 17-point win, not an accurate reflection of Knox’s effort in the match.

Top Players:

Lauren Scherf

The star player in the side and one of the top competitors across the entire league, it was a shame for her to only get on court 14 times. She was an accurate shooter with a free-throw percentage of 90.6 per cent, missing just four shots from 57 attempts at the line. Her accuracy put opposition defenders in doubt of fouling her as she averaged 51 per cent from the field, including 35 per cent from three-point range albeit from limited attempts. By season’s end, she averaged 21.0 points, 12.9 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.0 steals and 1.5 blocks in a season to remember that set her up for a strong year with Sydney Uni Flames in the WNBL.

Bec Ott

Playing every game, Ott was equally as damaging from all over the court, particularly from long range. She averaged the 14.9 points per game, but when she was open, Ott dropped her long-range bombs 47.6 per cent of the time. She was just as accurate from two-point range and the foul line, whilst providing a secondary option by starting in 17 of Knox’s games. Along with her points tally, she averaged 3.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.0 steals per match.

Marena Whittle

Starting in 13 of her 19 games, Whittle got better as the season went on, and averaged the second most rebounds in the team. She became a great second option off the boards working in tandem with Scherf, averaging 8.6 rebounds to go with her 13.4 points per game. She also stole the ball a team-high 1.6 times per match to accompany 2.5 assists per game. Her accuracy was below that of her teammates, but she was able to provide good experience and a strong body close to the basket.

Young Gun:

Leah Santomaggio

There were a number of possibilities to pick in this category including Dunn or Chatfield, but opting for Santomaggio who is the closest to becoming a starter in the competition. Santomaggio was 18-years-old when the season tipped off, finishing with 19 games under her belt. While she is yet to start a game, she did average five points, a rebound and assist from limited minutes, which was promising signs for the future. With so much talent around her, expect her to only get better in the coming years.

Christmas list for 2021:

Continuity. The team has the makings of a successful one, and if they had been able to keep the starting squad together throughout the entire season, who knows how they might have been placed heading into finals. Altogether the strong starting core would trouble a lot of sides and there is not too much to add for Knox to be a title contender in 2021.

Summary:

The Knox Raiders have their top-end talents on the right side of 25 and even everyone on the right side of 30. With some developing teenagers sure to have greater impacts, expect Knox to be a side to push for a top four position if the Raiders can maintain their roster for the 2021 season.

2019/20 WNBL season review: Perth Lynx

PERTH Lynx had a relatively disappointing 2019/20 season in the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL). Despite having plenty of talent and opportunity to take control of the season they seemed to be missing a piece to change the game when required.

Ladder: 5th
Win-loss:
8-13

From 13-8 to 8-13, Perth did not qualify for playoffs for the first time since they changed the team name back to Perth Lynx. Bringing in the dynamic duo from Bendigo was a highlight, as Nadeen Payne came off an impressive 10.2 points, 4.6 rebounds season, while Marena Whittle, one of the league’s most promising up and comers soon to enter prime, put up 10.3 points and 4.8 rebounds. Payne and Whittle did not need a couple games to settle in to the team like some newcomers might have needed, instead they played aggressively from the opening tip, feeding to one another through the classic pick and roll. Perth made some great additions before the season, expanding their depth on an international scale, finding Americans, Imani McGee-Stafford and Ariel Atkins. Both proved to be solid pickups, as the pair averaged over 10 points a game for the season. Lynx’s core grew exponentially, signing three local Lynx Academy players to the roster, with Jewell Williams, Nes’eya Williams and Taylah Burrows. However even with all the new and exciting recruits, the loss of Shyla Heal who left for Bendigo to become their leading scorer, was just the type of player the Lynx could have used down the stretch to reach the playoffs. This season also brought an end to coach, Andy Stewart‘s contract with the veteran still unsure what next season brings.

The Lynx assembled a deep line-up this year, having a whopping six players who averaged more than 10 points a game – almost seven with Laura Mansfield scoring 9.6 points per game while leading the team in assists with 4.5. This depth was cemented with Alison Schwagmeyer-Belger winning the Sixth Woman of the Year Award. A literal celebration of having the best player on the bench compared to every other team. However with such depth but a lack of success, the Lynx clearly lacked that superstar player. The type of player who comes up big in the fourth, who gets you a bucket when you desperately need one, who when entering the game, the entire atmosphere changes. Katie Ebzery is the closest player they have to that description, leading the team in points with 16.3 and receiving WNBL All-Star First Team honours for the season. Even though Ebzery was seventh in the league for scoring, fans might look at Maddison Allen, as a player for the future, having led the team in blocks this season with 1.8, as a glimpse into the distant future. 

With players like Kelsey Griffin dominating the league, Perth becomes more and more dependent on Mcgee-Stafford making the leap from vital second or third option to MVP contender. McGee-Stafford pulled down more boards than anyone on the team with 8.4 per match while nearly putting the most points on the scoreboard with 15.3. The Lynx are also keeping a close eye on Atkins’ development. Formally named in the WNBA Rookie Team and WNBA All-Defensive Second Team, the Lynx have a high bar for Atkins to reach next season. Atkins led the charge on defence all year, achieving the most steals a game with 1.9. But maybe the dark horse contender to lead Perth back into the playoffs is Williams. Williams made the most of every opportunity she was given, playing 20 out of 21 games, shooting the lights out with a 51.7 field goal percentage along with a 45.5 three point percentage. With the sport becoming more three point reliant, and given that young Williams leads her team in both categories at only 19, do not be surprised if every other team in the league try and steal her. But with so much room to improve, hopefully Lynx can rack up more than eight wins next season. 

2019/20 WNBL season review: Bendigo Spirit

IT was a case of new faces, same story, for the Bendigo Spirit during the 2019/20 Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) season, with the side fortunate to not finish on the bottom of the ladder after having a few bumps along the way.

Ladder: 7th
Win-loss: 5-16

This season for Spirit was categorised by fresh faces. Recruiting so many players, it was almost a completely new line-up from last year. To go with this brand new roster, the Spirit brought in a brand new coach in Tracey York. But with new faces came the issue of key old names missing, such as 2018/19 leading scorer, Nadeen Payne who left to join the Perth Lynx, along with Marena Whittle. The Lightning acquired Natalie Hurst while the Flyers grabbed Louella Tomlinson, and Jessie Rennie left for the USA. Nevertheless, Spirit was able to bring in Tessa Lavey and Carley Ernst from Dandenong Rangers, Shyla Heal from Perth and Kelly Wilson from Canberra. The Spirit also picked up Kasey Burton from Melbourne, and Marte Grays from the USA as their final piece for what was a chaotic offseason. Yet with so many fresh faces came very little team chemistry as the Spirit finished second last, again. But even with such an uncharted roster, a winning culture would surely be set as long as the team was captained by Wilson, or so was thought. Fresh off winning the NBL1 MVP for the Bendigo Braves, putting together 19.3 points, 10.5 assists, 6.4 rebounds and 2.0 steals a game, the Spirit were optimistic about their chances. But their dysfunction went far beyond a lack of common bond among players.

Rebecca Tobin, Spirit’s best player from last season, looked to have taken her game to the next level when playing in the NBL1, averaging 16.3 points, 12.8 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.6 blocks per game from 15 matches. However misfortune would follow as Tobin was sidelined after a knock to the head during a training session right before the season. Playing just a third of the season, Tobin would only average 8.3 points a game. This would be a massive factor for what was certainly a derailed season. Placing in the bottom two in both steals and blocks per game, while also being second in turnovers, the Spirit simply struggled defensively. The side’s concentration on bringing in new players this season instead of building up last season’s combinations ultimately proved to be their downfall, with the changes on court falling short from expectations.

The Spirit had a very tough schedule to begin the season, playing seven teams that would make the playoff across their first eight games. It was not exactly the fairytale story Gabe Richards wanted to end her career on. A two-time champion who wore the Bendigo Spirit uniform for almost every season the Spirit has been alive in the WNBL, her presence will be sorely missed. However the torch may be in the hands of new recruit, Shyla Heal, who by all standards had a breakout season. Daughter of Australian basketball legend, Shane Heal, Shyla was expected to be a key contributor from the jump, learning from the more experienced players, her role was initially about being the spot up shooter in the offence. But at only 18 years of age, she put the league on notice and led her team in points per game with 12.1. Definitely a player to follow, who will not only be the Spirit’s franchise player, but maybe one day the face of the league.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Southside Flyers (81) defeated Adelaide Lightning (69)

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

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

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

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

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

DC Medal Leaderboard:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DC Medal Leaderboard:

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

2019/20 WNBL Team of the Week: Round 14

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

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

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

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

STARTING FIVE:

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

BENCH:

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

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

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

UC Capitals (76) defeated Melbourne Boomers (75)

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

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

Adelaide Lightning (77) defeated Townsville Fire (60)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Perth Lynx (95) defeated Townsville Fire (62)

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

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

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

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

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

DC Medal Leaderboard:

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

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.