Tag: mary goulding

WNBL20 Season Review – Bendigo Spirit

LOOKING back to the beginning of the WNBL 2020 season, it was widely touted that this year’s Bendigo Spirit would finish close to the bottom of the table at the conclusion of the campaign.

This was well and truly the case for head coach Tracy York’s roster following their 13-game trail, as not only would Victoria’s country side cement themselves at the bottom of the ladder, but for the first time since the 2005/06 season, a team would go winless for the whole season (AIS, 0-21).

From day-one of their 2020 fixture, the Spirit would get no reprieve, opening up their new fixture against one of the most talented WNBL sides in the league’s history, Southside Flyers. After Bendigo was handed a 42-point defeat, the Spirit immediately received a taste of what the season would have in store for them.

Two days later, more bad luck followed the Spirit, losing by only five points less than their season-opener to the Flyers. The initial round very early on, indicated what kind of competition Bendigo would be facing over the next four weeks. But that did not stop the wily country side from being determined each time they stepped out on to the floor.

Suffering double-digit losses to the Canberra Capitals, Perth Lynx and the Townsville Fire twice in Round 2 and the start of Round 3, it was not until Bendigo’s seventh game of the season in late November that the Spirit would fall by less than 10 points (83-89) against an Adelaide Lightning side that was returning from a COVID-induced quarantine enforced by the Queensland Government.

Bendigo produced just one more defeat with a deficit of less than 10 points in Round 5 against the Sydney Uni Flames, but the remainder of their contests told a similar story. Their lack of depth and experience was a constant factor for the young side all season, and when the roster full of exciting prospects performed well, it seemed mental lapses in small portions of the games were enough to be their downfall.

A 21-point loss to their state rivals the Melbourne Boomers concluded a rather forgettable season on the court for the Spirit, as they committed their thirteenth defeat in thirteen meetings despite their best efforts.

Reflecting back to the individual performances, it was essentially the duo of team-captain Tessa Lavey and talented center Carley Ernst that carried the majority of the workload leading a side with six rookies and seven players under the age of 23.

Lavey, who is set to earn another position amongst Sandy Brondello’s Australian Opals squad in the near future, showed once again why she is one of the most revered point guards in the WNBL.

Starting all 13 games, Lavey accumulated 15.2 points per game, as well as averaging 5.9 assists and 4.8 rebounds in a well-rounded season, while shooting a respectable 35.3 per cent from the field and playing 35 minutes a game. As for Ernst, she held similar numbers accounting for averages of 14.8 points, 7.5 rebounds and a block per game in her average 30 minutes of court time.

A surprising improvement for Bendigo, New Zealand Tall-Fern Mary Goulding, also made a positive impact in her debut WNBL season, stringing together 6.8 points per contest (third highest amongst team) and 4.1 rebounds (third highest amongst team). Goulding also led the side in steals, while being the third highest ranked in average minutes (21.3) and ranked fourth in assists (1.3).

Coach York will head back to the drawing board with assistant coach Mark Alabakov after a well-earned rest, knowing full-well that the only direction is up for her team.

Boomers make light work of Spirit

IN an all-Victorian affair it was the Melbourne Boomers that came out on top against Bendigo spirit claiming a 21-point victory (91-70). The Boomers had control from the opening minute of the game and are building some strong form heading into the back end of the season and heading into finals. The Spirit once again had moments of magic but were unable to keep that intensity at the same level for their full four quarters as they suffered their thirteenth straight loss to round out their 2020 campaign.

A 28 to 17 opening term pretty much told the story as Melbourne seemed to have the ball on a string and Bendigo struggle to find any answers. Scoring somewhat evened up in the second term as Bendigo managed to nail 17 points to the Boomers 21 however that was still enough for Melbourne to continue to build on their already growing lead. That tail continued into the second half with Melbourne outscoring Bendigo 26 to 20 in the third term before it was level pegging’s in the last term but it was a little too late as the damage has already been done.

Shooting percentage was relatively even for both sides, however Melbourne had a higher clip sitting at 48 per cent after converting 38 of their 78 attempts. Bendigo on the other hand had less opportunities to the basket but still managed a 43 per cent conversion rate nailing 28 of their 64 attempts. Two point range seemed to be the sweet spot for the Boomers with 26 of their 46 attempts falling to sit at 56 per cent as opposed to Bendigo who only managed 47 per cent. Melbourne was slightly more accurate from downtown sitting at 37 per cent while Bendigo slotted eight of their 22 attempts at 36 per cent. Melbourne outclassed Bendigo just about on every front recording 45 rebounds to 33, 25 assists to 15, six steals to five and also registered less turnovers for the night with 10 to compared to 14. With the starting five doing majority of the work for Boomers it was the bench depth from Bendigo that seemed to have an impact nailing 36 points compared to 32 however it was still not enough to get them over the line.

The victors had a number of scoring options with five players hitting the double digit mark when it came to point scoring. Stella Beck led the way with 17 points, two rebounds and four assists highlighting her ability to have an impact when on court. Ezi Magbegor was the next best with the youngster impressing in her 20 minutes on court to convert 16 points at an impressive 70 per cent from the field while also amassing eight rebounds and two assists in a strong showing. In her 250th game, Maddie Garrick was also another prominent option on court knocking back 16 points eight assists and five rebounds four of which were defensive while Izzy Wright also chimed in with a handy 12 points, seven rebounds and two assists. Penina Davidson was the only other Melbourne Boomers player to register double digits recording 10 points and four rebounds for the night in an all round solid team effort.

Scoring proved to be hard to come by for Bendigo however the ever reliable Tessa Lavey was up to the challenge leading her side with 16 points and just falling short of a double-double with nine assists and eight rebounds with all of the rebounds defensive. Carley Ernst failed to make a splash while on court only managing two points in an unusual showing for her however the likes of Mary Goulding stepped up to the plate and secured 12 points and three rebounds. Amelia Todhunter was another that managed to ply her trade notching up 10 points in what was a difficult performance.

The Boomers now look to Townsville on Sunday while the Spirit bid farewell to their season.

Townsville end Lightning’s finals hopes

Shyla Heal in action for Townsville. Picture credit: Albert Perez/Getty Images

Townsville came out with a point to prove, downing Adelaide in convincing fashion by 29 points as they gear up for a finals berth. It is been an up and down season for the Lightning while Townsville have enjoyed a rapid rise up the ladder and once again showcase their ability to score and score quickly in a dominant performance. Although the chances were slim, the loss automatically seals the deal on Adelaide’s fate of playing finals with the Lightning now ruled out in Townsville securing their position in the top four.

The Fire came out with some real heat in the opening minutes of play highlighting their ability both in offence and defence to score and pile on the pressure as shown with the 28 to 11 point opening term. The second quarter was not much better for the Lightning who seemed to be caught on the backfoot only managing 11 points again as their half time total mounted to 22, while the Fire had a whopping 47 creating a handy 25 point buffer. The Lightning well and truly upped the ante in the third term going toe-to-toe with Townsville before once again falling off the boil in the final term.

Townsville oozed an element of composure and most importantly accuracy with ball in hand sitting at an impressive 57 per cent from the field, nailing 40 of their 70 attempts while Adelaide did not have the same luck averaging a mere 39 per cent from the field. The Fire also starred within the arc shooting at a 63 per cent clip while the Lightning were somewhat wayward at 47 per cent. The main difference came from around the perimeter with the victors slotting nine of their 21 attempts at 42 per cent as opposed to Adelaide who struggled to find their radar at 28 per cent. Townsville had the upper hand when it came to rebounds (37-34) and also claimed the ascendancy when it came to assists (19-13).

There were plenty of key contributors for Townsville across the night, none bigger than guard Lauren Nicholson who absolutely starred with her 21 points at 71 per cent accuracy along with her four rebounds, four assists and one block. Megan McKay also found her groove knocking back 19 points, seven rebounds and two assists in a strong showing while Stephanie Reid proved to be an impact player off the bench managing 17 points, two rebounds and three assists. Although down on her lofty standards, youngster Shyla Heal still bobbed up for her moments of magic with 10 points, seven rebounds and two assists to her name while the only player to reach double figures was Courtney Woods who slotted 12 points for the night.

Scoring was hard to come by for Adelaide, with captain Steph Talbot struggling to find her mojo and only walking away with nine points, five rebounds and an uncharacteristic four turnovers. Abigail Wehrung was the leading points scorer for the Lightning sinking 15 at 60 per cent while Marena Whittle also threw her weight around to collect 14 points and five rebounds. Despite only managing two points for the game Louella Tomlinson proved to be a handy option off the boards with five rebounds while Charlie Smith also had an impact with her five boards and four steals.

Townsville are set to lock horns with Melbourne on Sunday while Adelaide have the final game of the home and away season against Sydney Uni Flames.

2020 WNBL Round 5 preview: Last chance for teams to make mark

ROUND 5 of the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) is finally here. The last round of the season, and five teams are fighting for four spots, with the top two unable to be moved, and the next two almost there, whilst the fifth placed side has a huge week to try and grab a late spot in the post-season series.

Adelaide Lightning

Position: 5th
Wins: 4
Losses: 5

To make finals?

The Lightning need to win all four games and hope either the Fire or Boomers lose all of their games. Could finish as low as seventh if Perth and Sydney Uni win games in the final round.

Round 5 fixtures:

Tue, Dec 8 @ Cairns vs. Melbourne Boomers
Wed, Dec 9 @ Cairns vs. Bendigo Spirit
Fri, Dec 11 @ Cairns vs. Townsville Fire
Sun, Dec 13 @ Townsville vs. Sydney Uni Flames

After starting off strongly with a 4-1 start, the Lightning have slumped to a four-game losing streak to now be perilously close to missing out on finals. They need a lot to go right in the run home, though one benefit is playing both the Boomers and Fire who hold onto the spots they needs. If they can win those, they should go 4-0, but even then need at least one of those sides to have a shock loss.

Steph Talbot has been the standout this season, averaging 20.0 points, 9.6 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.0 block per game, providing some continuity to the side along with Chelsea Brook (10.4 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists). Abigail Wehrung (11.8 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.5 assists) and Alex Wilson (11.3 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists) have certainly shone but they need to have a big finish in the final round.

 

Bendigo Spirit

Position: 8th
Wins: 0
Losses: 11th

To make finals?

They can’t. In fact they cannot even get off the bottom. Just pride on the line for Bendigo in the Spirit’s final two matches.

Round 5 fixtures:

Wed, Dec 9 @ Cairns vs. Adelaide Lightning
Fri, Dec 11 @ Cairns vs. Melbourne Boomers

It has been a disappointing season for the Spirit, but not completely unexpected given the youth they have been pushing through the program. Having lost the likes of Shyla Heal and Abigail Wehrung over the off-season, the Spirit were quite inexperienced, and while they have been overawed, have had some promising moments for the future.

Tessa Lavey (16.0 points, 4.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 1.1 steals) and Carley Ernst (15.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.0 block) have ben the standout players all season, and have just been searching for more consistent support across the side. Demi Skinner (6.9 points, 2.4 rebounds) and Mary Goulding (5.9 points, 4.0 rebounds) have provided some special moments, while Piper Dunlop (2.7 points, 1.8 rebounds) is one for the future.

 

Melbourne Boomers

Position: 3rd
Wins: 7
Losses: 3

To make finals?

Not lose every game and allow the Lightning to win every game. It is a certainty barring a massive disaster. In fact, even defeating Adelaide tonight guarantees them a spot.

Round 5 fixtures:

Tue, Dec 8 @ Cairns vs. Adelaide Lightning
Fri, Dec 11 @ Cairns vs. Bendigo Spirit
Sun, Dec 13 @ Townsville vs. Townsville Fire

The Boomers can lock up a finals spot with a win tonight over Adelaide, but realistically they should have no issues casting aside Bendigo on Friday. A grudge match against Townsville looms as a massive final day encounter, with the winner potentially taking third spot, and the loser left for fourth.

Ezi Magbegor and Cayla George combine to be two of the best bigs in the league with the way they have really begun dominating each game of late, not that it should come as any surprise. The two Opals are experts at their craft, and George is averaging 14.3 points, 8.5 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.3 steals, while Magbegor has put up 14.2 points, 8.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.0 block. Tess Madgen (14.6 points, 5.6 rebounds and 6.3 assists) has provided all-round support for the Boomers, while Maddie Garrick (10.6 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.8 assists) is the other top scorer on the side.

 

Perth Lynx

Position: 6th
Wins: 4
Losses: 7

To make finals?

They cannot. Unfortunately the Lynx left their run a little too late, and even two wins in the final round sees them fall short.

Round 5 fixtures:

Tue, Dec 8 @ Townsville vs. Sydney Uni
Thu, Dec 10 @ Townsville vs. UC Capitals

After a poor 1-7 start and only a victory against the winless Bendigo, the Lynx have found their feet in the past week, winning three straight games, and boosting themselves to a 4-7 record which saw them leapfrog Sydney Uni Flames. A win over the Flames tonight guarantees them a top six spot, while they could derail the Capitals plans with a victory on Thursday. Perth will be the first team to finish the WNBL season after Thursday.

Darcee Garbin has had a remarkable season and just keeps getting better, with the ex-Fire talent now up to 17.3 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.0 steals per game, sharing the load perfectly with Katie-Rae Ebzery (17.0 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.3 assists). Alex Ciabattoni has been a welcome addition to the squad as a two-way player with 10.6 points, 3.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.0 steal per game, while the rebounding duo of Alex Sharp (8.7 points, 7.8 rebounds) and Kayla Steindl (6.3 points, 7.9 rebounds) has ensured the Lynx remain competitive.

 

Southside Flyers

Position: 1st
Wins: 9
Losses: 2

To make finals?

Never looked like not making it, with top spot to likely be decided in the final round clash against the Capitals.

Round 5 fixtures:

Thu, Dec 10 @ Townsville vs. Sydney Uni
Sun, Dec 13 @ Townsville vs. UC Capitals

Now on a five-game winning streak and having taken care of the Boomers after an earlier loss, the Flyers face their other nemesis in UC Capitals in the final round. Southside has plenty of talent with the Capitals and Boomers arguably the only two teams able to have their measure, and as such should have no problems against the Flames on Thursday, then decide top spot with the Capitals on Sunday.

Liz Cambage has been unstoppable at the level since coming back from the WNBA, racking up 24.1 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game. Sara Blicavs (14.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.4 steals) has relished the focus going off her this season, while Rebecca Cole (13.7 points, 4.2 assists and 2.4 rebounds) and Jenna O’Hea (11.5 points, 3.9 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.7 steals) have also provided all-round support. It is hard to forget Leilani Mitchell who has been an assist-machine, picking up 6.5 dimes per game to go with her 8.1 points.

 

Sydney Uni Flames

Position: 7th
Wins: 3
Losses: 7

To make finals?

They cannot, but they could leap as high as fifth if they can win their last three games and results go their way in other matches.

Round 5 fixtures:

Tue, Dec 8 @ Townsville vs. Perth Lynx
Thu, Dec 10 @ Townsville vs. Southside Flyers
Sun, Dec 13 @ Townsville vs. Adelaide Lightning

The Flames cannot make finals, but have the potential to pick up a couple more wins in the run home and rise as high as fifth on the table. While the top of the table Southside Flyers will be tough to knock off, the Lynx and Lightning either side of that game, tonight and Sunday are winnable matches for Sydney Uni.

Ex-Perth stars Lauren Mansfield (12.6 points, 2.2 rebounds and 4.8 assists) and Alison Schwagmeyer (12.4 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 2.3 steals) have combined brilliantly in the back court this season since crossing the country. Lauren Scherf has remained steady in the five spot with 10.9 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.3 blocks, whilst Anneli Maley has been a revelation thanks to 11.4 rebounds to go with her 6.8 points.

 

Townsville Fire

Position: 4th
Wins: 7
Losses: 4

To make finals?

Similar position to Melbourne, needing one win to secure a Top 4 spot, and can only drop out if they lose them all and the Lightning win them all. Will know if they have to play for a finals spot by the time their first game rolls around.

Round 5 fixtures:

Fri, Dec 11 @ Cairns vs. Adelaide Lightning
Sun, Dec 13 @ Townsville vs. Melbourne Boomers

The Fire are on the verge of bouncing back from last year’s wooden spoon to playing finals this year, but must knock off Adelaide Lightning on Friday. They do that and it will be all secure, before a huge playoff for third takes place against Melbourne Boomers on Sunday. Until Friday, the Fire have the longest rest leading up to the final round.

The back court duo of Lauren Nicholson and Shyla Heal is the best in the competition with the pair providing the majority of the team’s points throughout the 2020 season. Nicholson has put up 18.4 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.4 steals, while Heal has managed 17.1 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.2 steals in their 10 games this season. Zitina Aokuso just keeps getting better and got the start last match, and is almost up to 10 points per game (9.7) coming off the bench, to go with 5.9 rebounds per match. Nadeen Payne (8.4 points, 6.7 rebounds) has provided great support in that area.

 

UC Capitals

Position: 2nd
Wins: 8
Losses: 3

To make finals?

They are in, and like the Flyers, have looked in since bouncing back from a surprise opening night loss. Top spot will be up for grabs in the last match against the Flyers if the Capitals win their first match.

Round 5 fixtures:

Thu, Dec 10 @ Townsville vs. Perth Lynx
Sun, Dec 13 @ Townsville vs. Southside Flyers

The reigning back-to-back premiers had a disappointing loss to Townsville Fire which saw them slip to second on the table, and now they have to bounce back with wins against Perth Lynx, and finish off against title favourites, Southside Flyers. The Capitals beat them last time they faced off and will be hoping to do so again, with their defensive mindset key to containing the Flyers’ bigs.

Kelsey Griffin has just been building all season for this pointy end, now averaging 11.8 points. 7.7 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game, teaming up well with co-captain Marianna Tolo (10.3 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.1 blocks). The youth coming through the guard spots in Maddison Rocci (15.7 points, 3.1 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 2.3 steals) and Jade Melbourne (8.0 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.0 assists) has been a delight for the future, while Keely Froling (9.7 points, 6.0 rebounds) has pieced together a really strong season.

Picture: Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images

Flames survive second term scare from Spirit

SYDNEY Uni Flames survived a forgettable second term to put away the winless Bendigo Spirit in the first of four games on a Super Sunday of Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) action. The Flames started strongly, but found themselves down at half-time against a spirited Bendigo outfit, though they steadied in the second half to run away with an eight-point win, 62-54.

The Flames lit up the court in the opening quarter, racing to a 23-14 lead at quarter time. Though they were expected to get the job done, it was an impressive start to the game, but Bendigo was not to fade away easily. The Spirit picked up in the second quarter to pile on 19 points to eight and actually take the lead by two heading into the main break. The penultimate quarter turned into a low-scoring slog with just total 18 points scored – less than Sydney Uni in the first term and Bendigo in the second – with the Flames levelling the match at 41-apiece.

The Flames bolted out of the gates early in the final term to pile on 13 points to three in the opening six-and-a-half minutes of play. They were firmly in control leading 54-44, though the damaging duo of Carley Ernst and Tessa Lavey refused to give in, cutting the deficit to two plays after back-to-back jumpers. The Flames steadied, and whilst Lavey hit another triple with 38 seconds left on the clock to cut it to six, it would not be enough as the Flames controlled the play and then a last second layup off an offensive rebound from Lauren Scherf put the icing on the cake for a 62-54 victory.

The Flames’ dominance off the boards was the crucial difference between the teams, racking up a whopping 57 rebounds to 38, which allowed them to also control second chance points, putting in 25-6 and making the most of poor accuracy. Sydney Uni will certainly want to sharpen up their shooting for the next match, only scoring at a 32 per cent clip. The Spirit were not much better at 34 per cent, but they matched it with the Flames for the most part, winning the assists for the first time (17-16), and having a couple more fast break points (8-6).

Alison Schwagmeyer was put up 15 points, nine rebounds, three assists and three steals in an impressive performance for the Flames. Christina Boag did not have the same accuracy issues that some of her teammates did, hitting 63 per cent of her field goal attempts to finish with 16 points, as well as six rebounds and two blocks. It made up for an uncharacteristically inaccurate performance from star guard Lauren Mansfield who hit just one of 14 from the field – including one of eight from long range and none of six from two-point range – but the former Lynx talent picked up seven assists, three rebounds and two steals.

Scherf (seven points, six rebounds) and Natalie Burton (six points, seven rebounds and four blocks) were strong throughout, but it was Anneli Maley who again decimated the opposition near the basket with a whopping game-high 11 rebounds to go with five points.

For the Spirit, Lavey had the 17 points, eight assists and five rebounds, while Ernst picked up 12 points, seven rebounds and two assists. Sharing the points evenly elsewhere, Mary Goulding had seven, plus four rebounds and two assists, whilst Cassidy McLean (five points, four rebounds), Demi Skinner (five points, five rebounds) and Amelia Todhunter (five points, two rebounds, two assists and three steals) all contributed in some way.

Sydney Uni now have a two-day break until facing the Perth Lynx on Tuesday, while the Spirit come up against Adelaide Lightning on Wednesday.

Picture credit: WNBL

Flyers exact revenge on Boomers

Liz Cambage had a huge day out against the Boomers. Picture credit: WNBL

SOUTHSIDE Flyers have bounced back from their loss to Melbourne Boomers earlier in the 2020 WNBL season to post a commanding 15-point win over their Victorian counterparts today. In a performance led by Liz Cambage who put up a massive 35 points to go with seven rebounds, four blocks and two steals, the Flyers were just too good after quarter time, particularly in the middle two quarters where they outscored the Boomers, 48-35.

The first term was even with Southside getting the edge by a point at the early break, heading in after a high-scoring quarter to lead 22-21. They continued their scoring prowess in the second term, but managed to restrict the Boomers’ impact on the scoreboard, putting up 20 points to 12 and leading by nine at half-time They continued that momentum after the break to win the third quarter solidly with 28 points to 23, before finishing off marginally ahead in the final stanza, saluting 24-23. It allowed them to post a 94-79 victory and remain equal on top with the University of Canberra (UC) Capitals.

Southside was deadly from the field, hitting 62 per cent of their shots, and despite having 10 less field goal attempts, managed to slot six more overall, including 10 of 17 from long-range in a three-point shooting bonanza. The boomers hit 44 per cent from the field, largely let down by their two-point shooting which ran at less than 50 per cent, but their three-point efforts were relatively strong with 10 from 26.

The teams were evenly poised across the stats with the Boomers picking up one extra rebound (32-31), as well as more steals (11-7), bench points (19-11) and second chance points (6-4). The Flyers were controlling the offence with 29 assists to 22, whilst also having six blocks to two and scoring four more fast break points.

Aside from Cambage who was clearly best on court in the win, the Flyers had three others who contributed double-figure points. Fellow big, Sara Blicavs hit 18 points – seven of nine from the field – along with nine rebounds and four assists, while Rebecca Cole (16 points at 87 per cent efficiency, seven assists, four rebounds and two steals) and Jenna O’Hea (11 points at 66 per cent efficiency, two rebounds) both emphasised how accurate the Flyers were.

Steph Blicavs was also effective off the bench, hitting three of her four shots to finish with six points, three rebounds and two assists. Leilani Mitchell only put up three shots for three points, but dished off dimes like there was no tomorrow with a massive 11 assists.

For the Boomers, Ezi Magbegor scored a team-high 20 points to go with five rebounds and two assists, hitting 69 per cent of her shots from the field, including nine of 11 from inside the arc. Cayla George (12 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists and three steals) could not have done much more on a losing side, while Ashleigh Karaitiana (10 points, four rebounds and three assists) and Tess Madgen (10 points, four assists and three rebounds) were also busy. Kalani Purcell (nine points, three rebounds and four steals) was the standout coming off the Boomers’ bench.

2020 WNBL Round 4 preview: Competition for finals spots heats up

MELBOURNE Boomers will have the toughest Round 4 schedule of any side after a more relaxed Round 3 in the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL), having to play four games in six days, including two matches against last year’s grand finalists. Adelaide Lightning, Bendigo Spirit, Perth Lynx and University of Canberra (UC) Capitals will play three games apiece, while Southside Flyers, Sydney Uni Flames and Townsville Fire have the two games this week.

ADELAIDE LIGHTNING

vs. Southside Flyers @ Cairns on Wed, Dec 2
vs. UC Capitals @ Townsville on Fri, Dec 4
vs. Perth Lynx @ Townsville on Sun, Dec 6

It is a make or break round coming up for the Lightning, following two losses in Round 3, that were also accompanied by two big wins. They lost by 40 and 31 points to Melbourne Boomers and Southside Flyers respectively, but accounted for Bendigo Spirit and Sydney Uni Flames by 40 and 22. They now have to back up to try and turn the tables on the Flyers, before two sets of 48-hour breaks to take on reigning premiers, UC Capitals and then the struggling Perth Lynx. If the Lightning can come away with two wins, they will be in a good position to play finals, but even 1-2 could leave them in the lurch if results do not go their way.

Steph Talbot has been the star this season, putting up 20.8 points 9.8 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.0 blocks per game, joined by the likes of Abigail Wehrung (13.6 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.0 assists) and Alex Wilson (13.2 points, 6.0 rebounds, 5.6 assists and 1.2 steals) in the top points scorers. Marena Whittle has also been crucial off the boards with seven rebounds to go with eight points per game.

BENDIGO SPIRIT

vs. Perth Lynx @ Townsville on Tue, Dec 1
vs. Melbourne Boomers @ Cairns on Sat, Dec 5
vs. Sydney Uni Flames @ Cairns on Sun, Dec 6

The Spirit are out of contention for the finals race, but could try and finish on a high, playing the other two bottom three sides in the next week. Yet to win a game, a win over the Lynx would be a confidence-boosting effort, whilst the Flames on Sunday is a possible chance as well with their opponents’ best impressive, but their worst pretty bad. The Boomers in between will be a tough ask, but even the likely finals-bound side has shown to have chinks in the armour. With only two games left after this round, the Spirit need to break their winless drought here.

In season 2020, much of the work has been left up to the experience of Carley Ernst and Tessa Lavey. Ernst has been enormous off the boards with 7.3 rebounds to go with 16.7 points and a block per game, while Lavey has put up 16.3 points, 6.6 assists, 3.9 rebounds and a steal per game. Both have been crucial in transitioning from offence to defence, but have made up the bulk of their team’s scoring with Mary Goulding (6.6 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 1.1 assists) the next best, and Lavey has recorded about half of the team’s assists, an area the Spirit have struggled in.

MELBOURNE BOOMERS

vs. UC Capitals @ Townsville on Tue, Dec 1
vs. Sydney Uni Flames @ Cairns on Thu, Dec 3
vs. Bendigo Spirit @Cairns on Sat, Dec 5
vs. Southside Flyers @ Cairns on Sun, Dec 6

If we are talking make or break, then the Boomers have that this round. Four games in six days starting tonight, Melbourne can launch a finals campaign by the end of the week. However, a terrible week would likely see them not only slip back into the back, but also put their finals chances right in doubt. They have a mixed bag this week with likely wins over the Flames and Spirit, but they also take on top two sides, Southside Flyers and UC Capitals. They did account for the Flyers back in Round 1 and would love nothing more than to upset their closest Victorian rival, but coming off three games in five days while the Flyers will have had a few days rest off their only other Wednesday night fixture, it will be tough. Four wins and they are genuinely in the hunt for a top two spot.

Tess Madgen was in scintillating form prior to her ankle injury but she should be back and raring to go this round, averaging 18.8 points, 5.3 rebounds and 5.8 assists in 2020 since crossing from Townsville Fire. The experienced four and five combination of Cayla George (16.3 points, 9.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.2 steals) and Ezi Magbegor (11.5 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.0 blocks) has also been a highlight of the year for the reigning semi-finalists.

PERTH LYNX

vs. Bendigo Spirit @ Townsville on Tue, Dec 1
vs. Townsville Fire @ Townsville on Fri, Dec 4
vs. Adelaide Lightning @ Townsville on Sun, Dec 6

There is no doubt that for Perth to have a shot at finals, they would need a near-impossible set of results to occur. Having played two extra games to their biggest threats in Melbourne and Adelaide, Perth would need to win its remaining five games, and hope the Boomers and Lightning lose them all – bar the one they face against each other. Despite their 1-7 start, the Lynx have been competitive for the most part despite some one-sided defeats too. They have a very winnable game first up against the only side they have beaten so far in the Spirit, before taking on finals contenders in Townsville Fire and Adelaide Lightning. Whilst it is anticipated they end the week with 1-2 added to their tally, they could catch the Lightning off guard and derail Adelaide’s finals chances.

Katie-Rae Ebzery has been the dominant player, averaging 16.6 points, 3.4 assists and 3.1 rebounds per game, whilst former Fire talent Darcee Garbin has thrived in the move out west, putting up 13.8 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.1 steals. Much like the Spirit, the points drop off though both Alex Ciabattoni (8.5 points, 2.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists) and Alex Sharp (8.3 points, 6.9 rebounds) have been prominent, as has Kayla Steindl off the boards with 7.9 rebounds.

SOUTHSIDE FLYERS

vs. Adelaide Lightning @ Cairns on Wed, Dec 2
vs. Melbourne Boomers @ Cairns on Sun, Dec 6

After a busy couple of weeks, the Flyers have a relatively smooth week with just two games in the seven days, coming up against Adelaide Lightning and Melbourne Boomers in Cairns. Tomorrow night’s clash against the Lightning will go a long way to securing a top two spot, with a victory over the Boomers just about confirming it. They have only lost the two games – to the Boomers and Capitals – and will be keen to bounce back against the Boomers in their second fixture. Either way, finals is sewn up for the Flyers who are the title favourites despite the losses.

Liz Cambage has made the mark everyone expected her to on-court with 22.3 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game thus far. She has plenty of talent around her though, with Sara Blicavs (14.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.6 steals) having a ripping season with Jenna O’Hea (10.9 points, 3.9 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.6 steals per game) in the front court. In the back court, Leilani Mitchell (8.7 points, 5.9 assists) and Rebecca Cole (13.2 points, 4.2 assists and 2.2 rebounds) have been slicing and dicing opposition defences and leading their side to some big wins.

SYDNEY UNI FLAMES

vs. Melbourne Boomers @ Carins on Thu, Dec 3
vs. Bendigo Spirit @ Cairns on Sun, Dec 6

Sydney Uni is a side whose season is on life support, though there still is a pulse there if they can capitalise this round. With only five games remaining, they will need to win at least four, but preferably all five, starting with the Boomers and Spirit this week. The Spirit is an obvious must-win on Sunday, but to knock off the Boomers on Thursday would help the Flames at least leapfrog them, and potentially sit equal fourth by the end of the round. With Perth and Adelaide amongst the opponents in the final round, their fate is still in their hands, but they cannot afford to slip-up.

Former Perth duo, Lauren Mansfield and Alison Schwagmeyer have taken to the east coast like ducks to water. Mansfield is averaging 12.6 points, 4.8 assists and 2.1 rebounds while Schwagmeyer has put up 11.0 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 2.3 steals. The impact of five, Lauren Scherf with 12.5 points, 7.9 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.6 blocks should not be underestimated, while Anneli Maley might be the most underrated player in the competition, putting up 7.3 points and 1.3 steals to go with a whopping 11.5 rebounds in her eight games since crossing from the Flyers.

TOWNSVILLE FIRE

vs. Perth Lynx @ Townsville on Fri, Dec 4
vs. UC Capitals @ Townsville on Sun, Dec 6

Much like the Flyers and Flames, the Fire complete the trio of ‘F’ sides only playing the two games this weekend. Both are at home in Townsville this week, and the Fire get to rest up until Friday, the last team to commence action in Round 4. They go head-to-head with Perth Lynx up first, and are able to put a line through the Lynx’s season. The Capitals on Sunday will be a tougher challenge, and they will need to be at their best, but the Fire have shown to be capable throughout matches they just need to do it for longer periods of time, having gone down to the Capitals back in Round 1 by 11 points.

Lauren Nicholson (16.4 points, 3.1 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.0 steals) and Shyla Heal (16.6 points, 3.9 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.0 steals) have been one of the best back court duos in the league this season. They have dominated the vast majority of Townsville’s points since crossing from Adelaide and Bendigo respectively over the offseason. Zitina Aokuso (9.9 points, 6.0 rebounds), Megan McKay (5.9 points, 6.1 rebounds) and Nadeen Payne (8.0 points, 5.7 rebounds) are the bigs who cause headaches for opposition sides off the boards.

UC CAPITALS

vs. Melbourne Boomers @ Townsville on Tue, Dec 1
vs. Adelaide Lightning @ Townsville on Fri, Dec 4
vs. Townsville Fire @Townsville on Sun, Dec 6

The UC Capitals are sitting pretty at the moment with seven wins from eight games and in prime position for top spot. With a last-day matchup against the Flyers set to potentially determine top spot, there would be one eye on the semis despite having the five games remaining. They have the three this weekend, and none are easy, taking on the likely finals-bound Boomers and Fire either side of the team that beat them in overtime back in Round 1, Adelaide Lightning. The form that a full-strength Capitals outfit has shown over the journey is better than any other side, and they will be hard to beat, but before they can focus on finals, they need to keep ticking over the wins and it starts tonight against the Boomers.

Maddison Rocci (15.6 points, 3.4 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 2.8 steals) leads all-comers in terms of points, with the co-captains Marianna Tolo (11.6 points. 5.5 rebounds, 1.1 steals and 1.1 blocks) and Kelsey Griffin (10.8 points. 7.8 rebounds and 1.5 steals) building into the season nicely. Jade Melbourne‘s season has been impressive (9.6 points, 3.0 rebounds and 2.3 assists), while Tahlia Tupaea‘s work off the bench (6.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists) should not be understated.

2020 WNBL Round 3 weekend preview: Cairns hub to provide Top 4 clashes in huge round of action

THREE of the top four sides will battle it out in Cairns this weekend starting today to assert dominance on the rest of the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) competition. The second placed Adelaide Lightning will take on the fourth placed Southside Flyers, while the Flyers will also lock horns with the third placed Townsville Fire. The Fire also take on Sydney Uni Flames who lock horns with the Lightning today, while in Townsville, it looks to be a more one-sided contest as the top-against-bottom clash between the University of Canberra (UC) Capitals and Bendigo Spirit takes place. Melbourne Boomers and Perth Lynx – who played two and three games respectively during the week – will have a well-earned break over the weekend.

Cairns hub:

Townsville Fire vs. Southside Flyers
Adelaide Lightning vs. Sydney Uni Flames
Adelaide Lightning vs. Southside Flyers
Sydney Uni Flames vs. Townsville Fire

The Cairns hub is the place to be this weekend when three genuine contenders and a team capable of causing an upset on its day will provide spectators with four tightly contested matches. The Lightning suffered their first loss of the season earlier in the round, but sit at a 3-1 record and are technically ahead of their opponents Southside Flyers based on less losses, with the Flyers holding a 5-2 record. The Lightning also take on the 2-4 Flames who need to win to keep in touch with the top four, while Townsville Fire have a massive opportunity to grab second overall spot if they can down the Flyers and Flames.

This weekend will be a litmus test for the Fire who come up against the Flyers in the first game today. Last time these teams met, the Flyers were just too strong, winning 101-89 and the class of their Opal-littered starting five (and bench) proved too much for the young Fire outfit. Shyla Heal gets better each game and is a damaging two-way guard in the competition, averaging 16.8 points, 3.7 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.0 steals per game, teaming up well with Lauren Nicholson (19.5 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.2 assists). Megan McKay has a massive job in the center position against Liz Cambage, with McKay averaging 6.3 points and 7.2 rebounds compared to Cambage’s 21.4 points and 8.6 rebounds. The latter’s long reach and size allows her to average more than two blocks a game to deny opposition shooters.

The speed at which Townsville can run the floor is a way to get around the Flyers’ bigs with Zitina Aokuso (9.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.2 steals) also likely to have a crack at Cambage and fellow dominant big, Sara Blicavs (14.9 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.7 steals). The back court combination of Rebecca Cole (13.7 points, 4.1 assists and 2.1 rebounds) and Leilani Mitchell (9.4 points, 4.9 assists and 2.3 rebounds) up against Heal and Nicholson will be fascinating, while Jenna O’Hea (10.6 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.6 steals) is a real strong contributor every single game for the Flyers.

Looking at the two other teams that will face off tonight and then switch opponents tomorrow, the Lightning will be keen to create separation on the Flames with an important win. After a shocking 40-point loss to Melbourne Boomers after an eight-day break, the Lightning bounced back with a 40-point win of their own against Bendigo Spirit. Taking out the terrible defeat to Melbourne – which could come with an asterisk considering what the Lightning had to go through – one could hardly fault them this season, and honestly they could win both games, but the Flames is a must-win contest. The Flyers will be a lot tougher and the Lightning will need to be at their best, but it is possible. For the Flames, to realistically stay in the hunt for finals they need to win both games, and the Lightning one looms as the potential, though they got within three points of Townsville last match out.

The Lightning have a nice balance of players across the court, and some solid depth coming off the bench. Steph Talbot has been the most dominant player thus far, averaging a double-double of 22.3 points, 10.8 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 2.5 steals and 1.5 blocks. She has been deadly from the field with 49 per cent of her attempts going in, and an 84 per cent strike rate from the charity stripe. Likewise, Chelsea Brook (8.3 points. 4.0 rebounds and 1.0 assists) has provided strength off the boards with former Flyers five, Louella Tomlinson impacting off the bench thanks to 5.5 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.3 blocks. The latter pair will need to be at their best to tag-team the influence of Lauren Scherf who gets better with every passing week, putting up 12.8 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.5 blocks per game. Natalie Burton and Carly Boag share the minutes in the other big spot combining for 11.6 points and 7.3 rebounds.

In the back court, Lauren Mansfield and Alison Schwagmeyer have continued their Perth Lynx partnership to the eastern side of the country, both averaging more than 11 points per game, with Schwagmeyer being a key playmaker with 4.8 rebounds 3.3 assists and 2.3 steals and Mansfield not far behind leading the assists with 5.2, as well as 2.2 rebounds. The backcourt matchups will be a little different to 12 months ago, with former Bendigo talent Abigail Wehrung and ex-Sydney Uni guard Alex Wilson taking on the Lynx duo. Wilson has been a star with the Lightning, putting up 15.8 points 5.3 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.3 steals across the season thus far, while Wehrung has managed 12.0 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.0 assists. Marena Whittle is another inclusion to the Lightning program this year, and will face off against her ex-Perth teammates, averaging 6.5 points and 7.0 rebounds in 2020.

Townsville hub:

Bendigo Spirit vs. UC Capitals

Having been the main hub all season, Townsville just hosts the one game this weekend and it is the two teams from opposite sides of the ladder. While Bendigo will hope to cause the upset of the season, it is hard to see them breaking the six-game winning streak of the Capitals who have now beaten everybody except the Lightning thus far this season. The last time these teams played was to kick off Round 2, and the Capitals won by a comfortable 20 points, 76-56. The issue with the Spirit is the fact that they have struggled to score and restrict their opponents, averaging 65.6 points per game, whilst the Capitals – a strong defensive side – have put up 75.7 points. On the defensive end, the Capitals are far and away the best team, conceding just 66.1 points, while the Spirit have allowed a whopping 90.7 points per game.

There are plenty of reasons for their respective seasons, with the Spirit having quite a young side, and a number of inclusions, whilst the Capitals have gained more experienced talent, and have the runs on the board as a successful unit and of course, back-to-back premierships. The Capitals have also seen the emergence of a number of younger stars who have thrived off the no-import rule. Maddison Rocci has been impressive with her long-range shooting, putting up 16.1 points 3.6 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 2.6 steals as an all-round performer. Both her and Jade Melbourne (9.9 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.1 assists) in the backcourt have forced teams to be wary of them and therefore split the load amongst them and their highly capped teammates.

Co-captains Marianna Tolo (11.3 points, 5.3 rebounds) and Kelsey Griffin (11.2 points, 7.6 rebounds) have been brilliantly managed and will be raring to go at the pointy end of the season, while it is hard not to include the other bigs in Keely Froling (10.4 points, 6.0 rebounds) and Mikaela Ruef (8.1 points, 6.7 rebounds), contributing to the best rebounding side in the competition. The Spirit have had the two standout performers in Carley Ernst and Tessa Lavey who have done everything they can this season putting up 34.5 points, 11.8 rebounds and 8.8 assists between them. Ernst will have her hands full against the bigs, but will hopefully have some support from an improving Mary Goulding (7.3 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.8 steals), while Jennie Rintala (5.5 points, 3.8 rebounds) has been the next biggest contributor in the back court with Lavey.

It will take a special effort for the Spirit to get up, but stranger things have happened in basketball. Expect the Capitals to be just too strong though, and they are genuine title contenders for their third straight flag.

Picture: Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images

Boomers bounce back in style, stun Lightning by 40

AFTER back-to-back defeats, the Melbourne Boomers are again back on the right side of a result following a 40-point landslide win against the Adelaide Lightning in last night’s opening contest, 91-51.

The Boomers were not phased in the slightest by Adelaide’s extended rest period, opening the game up with an 8-0 run before Abbey Wehrung got the Lightning on the scoreboard three minutes in.

Picture-perfect shooting by Melbourne allowed them to create a decent margin by the end of the first quarter while keeping Adelaide to single digits in the process, leading 28-8 in what can be described as one of the best quarters so far this season for Guy Molloy’s team.

To add to the list of issues that the Lightning had to try and contain, Melbourne’s shot conversion rate was a significant one. The Boomers went 19 from 39 (48 per cent) throughout the opening half compared to 33 per cent shooting from Adelaide – numbers that would be the reason for the game’s 53-28 score line at the main break after two quarters.

Looking to repeat a successful first half, the frontcourt duo of Tess Madgen and Maddie Garrick looked to continue their production as they scored 14 and 13 points respectively in the opening 20 minutes of play. But, the job of containing Adelaide’s Opal forward in Steph Talbot was going to prove more of a challenge, as she sounded off on 10 points and three rebounds in the same amount of time.

Both sides slowed down offensively with the two teams combining for 26 points, but the uphill battle did not become any easier to manage for Chris Lucas’s outfit, as the Boomers looked to bounce back from two straight defeats prior to last night as extra motivation.

Leading by 17 with one quarter left, Melbourne just needed to stick to their routine and manage the clock, as a late charge did not seem likely of their opponents. Finally concluding matters last night, the Boomers convincingly outscored the Lightning 24 to 11 in the final term and holding their opponents to 51 points.

The Boomers knocked down field goals at a stellar pace all game, converting on 39 shots from 79 attempts (44 per cent), much higher compared to Adelaide’s average conversion rate of 31 per cent shooting. A plus-25 in rebounding for Melbourne coupled with a plus-13 in assists covered most of the important statistics related to the game that were considered necessary. In addition to this they doubled the amount of points that came from their bench players with 24 compared to Adelaide’s 12.

Marquee players from Molloy’s outfit put on impressive displays, stemming from the rebounding efforts of Cayla George (16 points and 15 rebounds) and Ezi Magbegor (11 points and eight rebounds), and then leading onto the scoring efforts made by Madgen (16 points and five assists) and Garrick (15 points and four assists).

On the flip side, Adelaide’s Ally Wilson submitted a team-high 13 points along with seven rebounds, whereas Talbot finished her night with a modest 12-point and seven-rebound performance.

Taking the contest by 40 points, the Boomers repositioned themselves back in the top four next to the Southside Flyers. But the team now have to wait a week before their next clash against the Canberra Capitals, and given too much time off, a win is anything but a sure thing. A different kind of wait beholds the Lightning, as they have less than a day to recover from their efforts last night, before taking on the winless Bendigo Spirit, who are yet to emerge triumphant after six meetings this season.

Townsville leave Spirit shocked, extend winning streak to four

Pic: WNBL

HOSTS and now the hottest team in the WNBL, the Townsville Fire have kept alive their winning streak in emphatic style by lathering on the points against the lowly Bendigo Spirit 99-51. The result symbolises the two most opposite teams in the competition in terms of form, with the Fire extending their streak to four and the Spirit losing their seventh game in as many contests.

Coming into last night’s contest on a three-game winning streak and in their home city, the Fire were not going to slow down even remotely early on in the contest. This would result in a dominant initial quarter for Head Coach Shannon Seebohm’s side.

Dictated by their smooth passing, six of Townsville’s players put the ball in the net after 10 minutes of play and combine for nine assists on their way to an encouraging 30-10 lead after the first quarter siren. This was topped off by Nadeen Payne’s triple on the buzzer providing an extra boost of momentum.

In a scrappier second term, both teams traded rare baskets in a more spaced out fashion, but as Bendigo started to make encouraging progress, Shyla Heal’s second three-pointer six minutes into the period seemingly halted any chance of a run to conclude the first half and thereby kickstarted the cascading display of points to follow.

However, a good first half followed Mary Goulding, as she waltzed her way to double-digit totals halfway through the game (10 points and two rebounds), but it was a minor footnote as Townsville had more than double the amount of total points that Bendigo had produced leading up to half-time, the score being 51-23.

Things went from bad to worse in the second half for the Spirit as they scored 17 points compared to the Fire’s 27 in the third quarter, which in turn saw the three-quarter time lead grow to 38 points and signify the inevitable win for Townsville before the fourth even began.

The Fire were able to cap off a complete game by winning the final quarter in addition to the previous three, falling one point short of the century mark, but 48-point winners nevertheless.

Townsville emerged victorious in virtually every aspect of the game with the exception of blocked shots, as Bendigo gained the advantage 6-3 in that respect. More importantly, the Fire’s shooting at an exceptional level was their main proponent in the win. Finishing with a clip of 47 per cent, it dwindled the Spirit’s shooting efficiency of 32 per cent. The Fire also bested their opponents in rebounding (42-35) and assists (27-15), as well as forcing 26 turnovers from Tracy York’s roster.

A slow second half individually depleted Goulding’s numbers by the final whistle as she would not score again after half-time for the Spirit. Bendigo’s next highest contributor was Jennie Rintala, who amassed 10 points off the bench with four rebounds. Meanwhile, Tessa Lavey and Carley Ernst were almost absent from the contest, stringing together just nine points between them.

Four out of five of Townsville’s starters reached scoring figures over 10 points, with the Fire’s frontcourt duo of Payne and Megan McKay exhibiting their shooting consistency. Payne sunk six three-pointers to get her 18 points and seven rebounds, while McKay accounted for 18 points and eight rebounds.

Bendigo will square off with the Adelaide Lightning later today as both sides are in dire need of a victory, whereas Townsville have a hefty four-day break before heading to Cairns to try their hand again at defeating the Southside Flyers.

2020 WNBL Round 3 weekday preview: Lightning returns as Lynx face three games in four days

AFTER a quarantine setback due to State Government rules around the Adelaide Lightning players needing to remain in isolation for another week, the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) returns in full starting tonight. Seven games will be played across four days, with Perth Lynx having a heavy three-game schedule, while the Lightning, Bendigo Spirit, University of Canberra (UC) Capitals and Southside Flyers all play two games. By contrast, Melbourne Boomers only play one game in eight days, while Sydney Uni Flames and Townsville Fire back up with two games over the weekend.

Cairns hub:

Southside Flyers vs. UC Capitals
Sydney Uni Flames vs. Perth Lynx
Perth Lynx vs. Southside Flyers
UC Capitals vs. Perth Lynx

There will be no proper rest for Perth Lynx who face an incredibly tough schedule over the next three days, needing to back up and perform against three opponents in four days. After tonight’s match against Sydney Uni Flames, the West Australian team will only have Tuesday off before descending into back-to-back matches against last year’s grand finalists and current top two sides, Southside Flyers and UC Capitals. The grand final rematch is tonight which is sure to create plenty of interest in the group, while the Lynx and Flames both desperately need a win, because a loss will just about put a line through their season.

The Lynx will need to manage their players perfectly over this week, knowing they get a five-day break following the hectic three-in-four schedule. Katie-Rae Ebzery and Darcy Garbin remain the two crucial players for the Lynx, with Garbin playing every game, and Ebzery missing one thus far in season 2020. Ebzery has put up 17.8 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.0 blocks in 2020, hitting 47.1 per cent of her three-point attempts. Garbin has been instrumental off the boards with 13.8 points and 6.4 rebounds.

The struggle for the Lynx has been their assist numbers, with Alex Ciabattoni the only other player with two or more assists, averaging two assists and rebounds as well as seven points. Rebounds wise, the Lynx have been able to remain strong, as Alex Sharp (7.2 points, 7.8 rebounds) and Kayla Steindl (5.2 points, 7.4 rebounds) have provided great coverage in the area. The key will be to somehow overcome the shocking 46-point defeat to the Flyers last week, while the challenges that also come against quality opposition in the Capitals and Flames.

Southside has lived up to its pre-season billing of title favourites, sitting pretty on top of the table with a 4-1 record and its only blemish coming against the Boomers. No doubt defeating the Capitals will be high up on the Flyers’ list of desired achievements having gone down to them in two nail-biting grand finals last season. Liz Cambage has been near-impossible to stop in the center position, averaging 20.2 points, 9.2 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game. Joining her with more than 15 points per game to her name is Rebecca Cole who has been crucial on the offensive end with 16.6 points and 3.6 assists per game, as well as a high 64.7 per cent from long-range for a 58.8 per cent field goal clip.

There are no shortage of stars in the Flyers’ side though, with the same starting five every match thus far. That includes Jenna O’Hea and Sara Blicavs rounding out the three and four spots. O’Hea is averaging 11.6 points, 4.4 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.6 steals per game, while Blicavs has recorded 14.6 points, 7.8 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.8 steals. Leilani Mitchell has only managed the 8.6 points, but might be the most crucial player on the court with her transition work, averaging a massive six assists per game as she heads into battle against her former side tonight.

UC Capitals have the two games, facing Perth on Thursday after their grand final rematch tonight. The advantage with the schedule is the fact the Capitals should be ready to go in the blockbuster Monday night fixture, before taking on a tiring Lynx outfit who would have come off a second game the night before. Maddison Rocci has been amazing this season, putting up 17.0 points, 4.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 3.0 steals to cement herself as one of the stars of the competition. Jade Melbourne continues to juggle her Year 12 exams in between being a basketball talent, averaging the 10 points and two rebounds thus far.

The much more experienced Kelsey Griffin has been building off the bench, and perhaps will have her greatest impact tonight, with the Capitals needing every ounce of her ability to get up over the Flyers. She has been averaging 8.3 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.7 steals and 2.3 assists from limited minutes. Keely Froling (11.6 points, 6.8 rebounds), Marianna Tolo (10.2 points, 4.8 rebounds) and Mikayla Ruef (9.2 points, 8.0 rebounds) are the others who remain consistent in the Capitals’ premiership defence.

Sydney Uni seem the more likely side in that bottom three to keep their season alive despite a 1-4 start. They have been more competitive as a whole, with five and three-point losses in Round 2 which hurt the Flames. They now have a chance to really step it up against Perth Lynx who they should beat, and no doubt Lauren Mansfield and Alison Schwagmeyer will have extra motivation to win. Mansfield is averaging 14. points, 5.4 assists, 2.6 rebounds and 1.0 steals per game, while fellow former Lynx talent Schwagmeyer has averaged 11.6 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 2.2 steals starting every match this season.

Lauren Scherf has been building and getting better as the season wears on, putting up a team-high six points and 1.4 blocks to go with her 13 points. Anneli Maley has also relished the extra time since crossing from the Flyers, showing what she is capable of thanks to 8.6 points, 9.8 blocks and 1.6 steals. Natalie Burton has also contributed strongly with the six points and 4.4 rebounds playing out of that four spot with great success.

Tonight’s winner grabs top spot with the Flyers favoured, but you can never discount the Capitals, while expect both teams, as well as the Flames to end the Lynx’s season this week.

Townsville hub:

Melbourne Boomers vs. Adelaide Lightning
Bendigo Spirit vs. Townsville Fire
Bendigo Spirit vs. Adelaide Lightning

A smaller Townsville hub features the four teams with the Lightning returning and playing two games against Melbourne Boomers and Bendigo Spirit, while the Spirit also takes on Townsville Fire in the game that was rescheduled from Sunday. The unknown of this hub is the Lightning, who will be certainly fresh, but whether it is at a point of being rusty, and the Boomers being a tough first-up opponent. They could capitalise on the Boomers’ recent loss to Townsville, while the Fire and Lightning will still be backed in to take care of the winless Spirit.

Starting with the Lightning, in case many might have forgotten given they have not played in eight days, Adelaide claimed two victories in Round 1, defeating the reigning premiers UC Capitals on opening night in a 12-point overtime upset win. They then went on to defeat Perth Lynx by five points in a much closer contest, before being forced back into quarantine due to the COVID-19 outbreak in South Australia. Technically the Lightning are the only undefeated team in the competition, but will need to play catch-up which means a hectic schedule over the final three rounds.

Steph Talbot was unbelievable in the opening two matches, racking up 27.5 points, 12 rebounds, four steals and three assists to arguably be the player of the competition at that stage. She was well supported by inclusions to the Lightning’s team, Abigail Wehrung (16 points, nine rebounds and three assists) and Alex Wilson (13.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 1.5 steals). Wilson will take on her former side in the Spirit on Wednesday which provides some extra motivation there. Chelsea Brook (nine points, five rebounds) has provided her usual impact at the five spot and teamed up well with Talbot as the bigs.

The Spirit have really struggled on offence this season, but seemed to find a way to counter their low scoring in the narrow 10-point defeat to Townsville on Saturday. The Spirit has a huge first term before tiring towards the end, but finally hit the 80-point mark (81) after scores of 60, 63, 56 and 65 in their first four games. Carley Ernst (17.6 points, 7.2 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.0 steals and 1.0 blocks) and Tessa Lavey (12.8 points, 4.2 rebounds, 7.2 assists and 1.0 steals) have been the dominant rebounder and playmaker respectively thus far, but they need more support.

Mary Goulding has been building nicely in the later games with 8.8 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.8 steals, while Jennie Rintala is the only other player with more than five points, putting up 5.8 points and 4.2 rebounds coming off the bench. By comparison their opponent on Tuesday in Townsville has had no problems scoring, racking up the second most points this season, but also being the second weakest defence behind the Spirit.

Lauren Nicholson (19.5 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.2 assists) and Shyla Heal (16.8 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.7 assists) have been the two back court talents that will cause all sorts of headaches, with Heal’s best game coming against the Spirit in that win over the weekend. She will be hoping to produce much of the same, while Zitina Aokuso is ready to tear the competition apart and is up to 9.8 points and 5.5 rebounds per game getting better with every extra minute. Mia Murray (5.7 points, 4.3 rebounds) and Nadeen Payne (8.0 points, 5.2 rebounds) have been crucial in that area as well.

Meanwhile the Boomers will be hungry for a win tomorrow night following the back-to-back losses in Round 2 against the Capitals and Fire. After starting the season 3-0, including a victory over Southside Flyers, the Boomers went down to the Capitals by 17 points, before suffering their most recent loss to the Fire yesterday, losing by 12. Tess Madgen has been dominant for her new side this season, but has only played the three games after missing two matches with an ankle injury. She has put up 19.7 points, 6.0 rebounds and 5.7 assists, joining captain Cayla George (16.4 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.4 steals) as the dominant scorers.

Ezi Magbegor has provided crucial work in tandem with George out of the four and five spots, recording 11.6 points, 7.2 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.0 blocks, while Ashleigh Karaitiana and Madeleine Garrick remain busy with nine and eight points per game respectively. They desperately need a win to avoid a three-game losing streak, and given they will have a week off, expect them to leave nothing out on the court, especially with four matches in Round 4, including the Capitals and Flyers.

Picture: Albert Perez/Getty Images

Townsville above .500 again, knock off Spirit thanks to third quarter swing

IN the space of about five minutes, the Townsville Fire flipped the script in yesterday’s clash against the Bendigo Spirit, outscoring them by 17 points in the third quarter to ride home their third win of the season 91-81. Meanwhile the Spirit are still searching for the required recipe to win their first game of the campaign, as their losing skid extends to five games.

Bendigo pushed the pace early in the first quarter, getting out to a 17-5 lead halfway through the opening period, which completely dumbfounded the Fire’s defence in the process. This would dominate the headlines in the opening 10 minutes, but six-straight points from Townsville brought the deficit to a more respectable number with some much-needed momentum.

A late And-One from Tessa Lavey repositioned the Spirit with a commanding quarter time lead ahead 26-15, as each of Bendigo’s starters got their names on the scoresheet early on with a 50 per cent conversion rate aiding them.

However, head coach Shannon Seebohm relied on his side’s depth to help will them back into the contest trailing by just four points at one stage in the second. Nevertheless, back-to-back threes from Mary Goulding and Cassidy McLean would sour the Fire’s momentum just a few moments later, re-establishing the double-digit advantage.

Saving the day in the first half for the Fire was Megan McKay, who earned her minutes with her rebounding, totalling six boards through the first two periods along with seven points. Bendigo would conclude the opening half with the lead after two quarters for the first time this season, 47-40, as Lavey led the way with 12 points and six assists while Goulding had herself 13 points as well. Meanwhile, Townsville’s leading scorer in Lauren Nicholson had 11 points throughout all 20 first half minutes.

As Townsville gradually tightened the deficit, Shyla Heal was huge with her mid-range game, knocking down three-straight buckets to pressure the Spirit further and then eventually tally her thirteenth point of the match to put the Fire in front six minutes into the third.

Despite Carley Ernst putting up substantial numbers in the third, Townsville flipped the game on its head and did the same themselves. A 29-11 third quarter for the Fire would reverse the roles for both sides with the score sitting at 69-58 in favour of this season’s hosts. Two early buckets from Bendigo’s duo Lavey and Ernst, provided promising signs early on in the fourth for the Spirit, but the Fire’s tall frontcourt consisting of McKay, Mia Murray and Zitina Aokuso hustled enough in the later stages of the game to fend off Tracy York’s side long enough to get the Fire over the finish line.

A slow start to the game for the Fire was remedied in the second half, allowing them to earn the come from behind win and put their record at three wins and two losses after their hard-fought 91-81 victory. Townsville’s backcourt was instrumental in the win, with Heal being a key contributor against her former side after her 22 points, six rebounds and three assists next to Nicholson’s 20 points and three rebounds. Aokuso also provided a major boost in her 25 and half minutes of play, putting up 21 points and five rebounds.

These performances will need to continue in one way or another as they size up the Melbourne Boomers later today in the second leg of their weekend double-header.

On the other hand, it can easily be argued that yesterday’s efforts from Bendigo involved numerous highlights, a number of those being individual performance like Lavey and Goulding’s 19 points apiece. It also slots nicely next to Ernst’s 15 points, eight rebounds and five assists. The Spirit’s lesser victories in yesterday’s clash put them in good stead for their upcoming meeting on Tuesday against the Fire for a second time, where we will get to see if Coach York changes her tactics in the repeat fixture.

SOUTHSIDE LEVELS PERTH, AWAIT CAPITALS FOR GRAND FINAL REMATCH

Pic: WNBL

ANOTHER impressive wining margin lined the belt of the Southside Flyers last night, as their 12-player roster came back from an early deficit in the opening period to emerge on the other side with another statement win, following a 46-point thrashing of the Perth Lynx, 117-71.

As mentioned, the opening moments of the contest occurred from deep as the first five made field goals from both teams came from three-point range, with Darcee Garbin and Katie Ebzery leading the charge.

With play settling down slightly and the tempo slowing, Perth continued to make their shots count, knocking down their first five attempts from behind the arc, while Liz Cambage did her best to quell the Lynx’s shooting lethality in the opening phase, with 13 points at the first break.

Five triples from Perth and 21 combined points from Garbin and Ebzery helped the Lynx to a 26-21 lead heading into the second, as Flyers captain Jenna O’Hea found early foul trouble. Still, Cambage commenced the second the same way she finished the first by putting the ball in the net, before Stephanie Blicavs tied things up a minute into the second term.

With every minute that went by in the second, the Flyers picked apart Perth’s offence more and more. At the conclusion of the first half, Southside had forced 10 turnovers from the Lynx, which in turn would lead to 18 points from takeaways and a 54-42 lead at the main break.

Even though both teams had shot remarkably well with Southside shooting 50 per cent and Perth shooting 48 per cent, Cambage (19 points and seven rebounds), Sara Blicavs (10 points and four rebounds) and Bec Cole (10 points) were all the major difference makers during the second quarter, as Cheryl Chambers tried her best to slow the production of Garbin (18 points and four rebounds) and Ebzery (13 points and four assists).

Unable to derail the Southside train, Perth’s care of the basketball continued to waver with their turnovers accumulating into the third quarter still. Capitalising on this, Cole increased her statistics while the Flyers’ secondary unit contributed to the blowout third period which saw Southside tally 35 points compared to the Lynx’s 14 and hold a commanding 89-56 lead.

Despite the result being determined prior to the start of the fourth, both coaches saw it suitable to let their younger prospects earn some ample WNBL court time. Both Rebecca Pizzey and Monique Conti impressed in the fourth for the Flyers, while Perth’s Jewel Williams had a couple of memorable moments to add to her night.

Match proceedings would end with Southside winning in rather fashionable form, coming out 46-point victors in the 117-71 demolition of Perth. It was the combined efforts of Cambage (21 points and seven rebounds), Cole (20 points and five assists) and Sara Blicavs (19 points and six rebounds) that accounted for the majority of the Flyers’ success last night, which bodes well for the squad as they get their chance at redemption in Monday’s Grand Final rematch against the Canberra Capitals.

For the Lynx, it was Garbin’s show, following what was a red-hot first quarter which ultimately culminated in a 24-point and seven-rebound outing, whereas Ebzery (13 points and five assists) and Alex Sharp (10 points) added chunks of points to fill out the box score. Perth has a chance to bounce back against the Sydney Uni Flames on Monday as they hope to gain some traction in the mid-table logjam, in a season that could easily slip away from Ryan Petrik’s side if they cannot find positive results soon.

CAPITALS HOLD ON AGAINST RESILIENT FLAMES, EXTEND WINNING STREAK TO FOUR

Pic: WNBL

THE University of Canberra Capitals have solidified themselves as serious contenders in the WNBL this season, after obtaining their fourth win in a row following a scrappy affair against the Sydney Uni Flames, winning by five points 68-63 to close out yesterday’s trio of games.

Little could separate the Flames and the Capitals early on, but the efforts that Anneli Maley made in the opening 10 minutes proved fruitful for Sydney Uni, with the 22-year-old fighting towards seven points and five rebounds in that time. Coupled with Lauren Scherf’s six points, the Flames would pull away at the end of the first quarter leading 23-11 and forcing eight turnovers off of Canberra in the process.

No Capitals players stood out tremendously in terms of scoring during the first half, but rather Paul Goriss’s side spread out the points production after reducing the deficit to just a couple of baskets during the second quarter.

The same could also be said for the Flames, but their method of scoring was slightly different, as they found the majority of their points from either mid-range, the free-throw line or through second chance points, whereas Canberra kept punishing Sydney Uni in the paint with baskets around the rim.

Leading 39-32 at the main break, the Flames shot average at best, converting on 37 per cent from the field, but Katrina Hibbert’s side inherited a huge boost thanks to their 11 free throws (eight more than the Capitals). Furthermore, Lauren Mansfield started to find her stroke with 11 points after two terms.

Things in the third did not start any better for the Capitals, as they fell behind by double-digits. But a strong move by Marianna Tolo and a fast-break And-One by Tahlia Tupaea made the contest a tight one well into the third.

An 11-4 run by the Caps with three minutes remaining in the penultimate period had Canberra nipping at the heels of the Flames in what was shaping up to be a sprint to the finish line, where either side were threatening to take over.

To round off a tumultuous third phase, a beautiful assist and bucket on consecutive possessions from Kelsey Griffin would secure the Capitals a four-point lead with 10 minutes remaining 57-53, and with Maddison Rocci leading the charge submitting 14 points and four rebounds, a win was certainly within view.

Both sides fought tooth and nail in what was a perfect way to finish off yesterday’s fixtures, where plenty of bodies hit the deck, missed shots were contested by multiple individuals and loose balls were jumped on by both teams in hard-nose smash-mouth brand of basketball. But Canberra seemed to be wading away midway through the fourth and Coach Hibbert’s side needed a dramatic boost with less than five minutes remaining.

With 48 seconds remaining, the game hung in the balance for both sides with one point being the difference. Luckily for the defending champions, Griffin was able to force Mansfield’s fourth turnover and again strip Alison Schwagmeyer just 30 seconds later, which cemented the victory for the Capitals after Keely Froling laid up the game-sealing bucket with three seconds left, therefore allowing Canberra to win the contest 68-63 in a down to the wire slugfest. The victory continuing their winning streak to four games.

It was another impressive night for Rocci, who had 17 points and five assists to show for last night’s efforts, as more of Canberra’s contributors from last season added solid performances. Griffin (11 points, nine rebounds and four assists) and Froling (15 points, 10 rebounds) provided relief on the boards, while Tolo also tallied 13 points of her own. The Capitals now need to hunker down and prepare for a formidable Southside Flyers squad that is still stinging from their Grand Final defeat last season, a side that has also significantly improved since then.

The Flames had their regular performers on display again, as Scherf led the way in scoring with 19 points. Whereas, Maley had another double-double night with 13 points and 12 rebounds next to Mansfield’s 16 points from 36 minutes on the floor. Sydney Uni now have their own concerns considering they now find themselves on a three-game skid and are tied for second-last with the Perth Lynx, who they face next on Monday in a game that will prove to be crucial regarding the future of the fourth seed.

2020 WNBL Round 2 weekend preview: Spirit and Fire complete massive week

IT has been a particularly strange week in the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL), but not just because the season itself has had to be condensed and Round 2 be a 13-game round over six days.

Due to the ever-changing climate in regards to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Adelaide Lightning have been forced to isolate until Monday under State Government regulations following the cluster in South Australia. While it means the Lightning will miss the three games – and the WNBL will no doubt announce what will happen in regards to their clashes with Southside Flyers, Sydney Uni Flames and Sunday’s match with Melbourne Boomers – it will throw up another challenge for the players and staff alike. In this weekend preview, we will preview the other four games set to go ahead.

Townsville hub:

Townsville Fire vs. Bendigo Spirit
Bendigo Spirit vs. Townsville Fire

In case you had not seen the fixture, that is not a typo, the two sides face off back-to-back over Saturday and Sunday in what will give fans plenty of information about the teams going forward. The Fire are at home – even when they are away – and so far have impressed even in their losses. Townsville went down in narrow defeats to the benchmark sides (UC Capitals – 11 points and Southside Flyers 12 points), in which coach Shannon Seebohm can take plenty of solace from knowing they are not too far off the mark. Considering this was the side that finished on the bottom of the ladder, the Fire are genuinely looking like a finals team.

In our season preview, we believed the Fire could make the finals, and crunch wins over Perth Lynx (25 points) and Sydney Uni (three points) have the North Queensland team at 2-2 after two rounds. They have won the games expected of them, and lost the ones no one would have predicted they do. The two matches against Bendigo fall into the latter, and if the Fire are to make finals, they need to come away with a 3-1 round record and a 4-2 season record with eight matches to play.

On the other hand, Bendigo just need a win, having lost all four games to start the season. The Spirit went down to Southside Flyers (42 points), Sydney Uni Flames (37), UC Capitals (20) and Perth Lynx (13) in some pretty ugly reading. The only positive in that line is that they have trended upwards and been more competitive each game. Given the difficult situation of playing a third and fourth game this round – and back-to-back against the same opponent – it will be more about which team can manage their players better to get the best possible outcomes.

Much has been talked about Townsville Fire’s back court duo of Lauren Nicholson and Shyla Heal. The taller and more experienced Nicholson has put up a team-high 18.4 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.0 steals per game, whilst Heal has been the facilitator, not only averaging the 15 points and 3.3 rebounds, but also four assists per game as well. However it is worth noting Steph Reid’s work coming off the bench and contributing 9.3 points, 2.8 rebounds, 2.5 assits and 1.3 steals has made her incredibly valuable.

In terms of Bendigo’s back court, Tessa Lavey (11.3 points, 6.3 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 1.3 steals) has unsurprisingly been a star, but she needs support, with Jennie Rintala (5.3 points, 4.3 rebounds) and Amelia Todhunter (35. points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.0 assists) the others involved in that trio that need to step up against the in-form Fire guards.

In the front court, Carley Ernst has been sensational for the Spirit, racking up 18.3 points, seven points, and one assist, steal and block per game thus far. Mary Goulding has provided good support with 6.3 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.5 steals, while Alicia Froling has been the influencer of the boards with six rebounds but just the three points. Outside Ernst and Lavey, the rest of the team averaged 26.2 points compared to the duo’s 29.6, which is how the Spirit improve from here.

Townsville’s front court has not had the massive numbers, but Heal has the flexibility to role in there, while Mia Murray (3.8 points, 4.0 rebounds) and Nadeen Payne (8.0 points, 6.3 rebounds) and able to rotate in that four spot. Throw in the highly talented Zitina Aokuso who has been building very strongly over her four games with 9.5 points and 6.0 rebounds off the bench, and Townsville head into these must-win matches as favourites and it is easy to see why.

Cairns hub:

Southside Flyers vs. Perth Lynx
Sydney Uni Flames vs. UC Capitals

Another change for the teams and remainder of the season from this point on is the inclusion of Cairns’ Pop-Up Arena which replaces Mackay as a hub for the WNBL. In the remaining three and a half rounds, all the matches will be played in either Townsville or Cairns and the first four teams to play here are ready to go.

The Sydney Uni Flames have had the extra long break due to Adelaide not being able to play, so the Flames have not taken to the court since Tuesday, which has probably helped given they were one of only two sides to play three games in Round 1. Instead of taking on the Lightning on Thursday, they could focus their attention on UC Capitals for Saturday night, with the reigning premiers seemingly back in business. The Flames belted Bendigo Spirit in Round 1 by 37 points, but have lost to Melbourne, Southside and Townsville since, and have the other key contender in UC making it a tough few games. The Capitals on the other hand have bounced back from their shock overtime loss to Adelaide to post wins against Townsville, Bendigo and Melbourne with a good chance to go 4-1 after this game.

The Flames have had a tough draw but will be keen to bounce back after that heartbreaking three-point defeat at the hands of Townsville. Former Lynx guards, Lauren Mansfield and Alison Schwagmeyer have had good seasons, with Mansfield putting up 14 points, six assists and three rebounds, while Schwagmeyer has averaged the 13 points, four rebounds, three assists and two steals. Funda Nakkasoglu coming off the bench to give them some rest has put up 8.8 points per game, it is more about lifting the assist numbers when the starting duo are on the bench. Lauren Scherf has been building nicely at the five, averaging the 11.5 points. 6.0 rebounds and 1.8 blocks, while Anneli Maley has had an underrated season with 7.5 points ad 9.3 rebounds per game.

By comparison, the Capitals could easily be 4-0 right now had the first game of overtime gone their way, but Kelsey Griffin has returned and come off the bench for seven points, four rebounds and two steals, to no doubt be at full capacity at the pointy end of the season. Fellow co-captain Marianna Tolo has been sensational in the five spot and will have a huge clash with Scherf, having put up 9.5 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists tis season. Mikaela Ruef has stepped up to support her up the front end of the court with almost a double-double of 11 points and nine rebounds, but it is a couple of young guns who have stolen the limelight. Maddison Rocci is in unbelievable career-best form with 17.0 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.5 steals, while Jade Melbourne has won over a lot of fans with her games building each and every match to the point where she is one of the clear rising stars of the competition. Melbourne is up to 11.5 points and 2.5 rebounds per game, having recorded her first 20-point game last match.

In the other game, Southside also had its Round 2 schedule interrupted by the Adelaide clash being postponed, and will have only played the one game – Thursday night’s 12-point win over Townsville – since the Flyers took on the Flames last Sunday. With one game in six days, the premiership favourites will be rested and ready to go against a Perth Lynx outfit that finally broke through for their first win against bottom-of-the-table Bendigo Spirit, though they did show promising performances in their past two games against Melbourne Boomers (six-point loss) and Adelaide (five-point loss) since their disappointing 25-point defeat at the hands of the Fire.

Despite the Lynx’s improvement – which has coincided with captain Katie-Rae Ebzery finding her groove – it will take an unbelievable effort to topple the Flyers in the match. Ebzery has certainly been a strong performer since a disappointing first game, averaging 19.3 points. 4.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.3 blocks, joining Darcee Garbin (11.3 points. 6.0 assists. 1.0 steals and 1.0 blocks) as the two players to watch up either end of the court. Emma Clarke has been producing big and flying under the radar with 7.8 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.8 assists, while bigs in Alex Sharp and Kayla Steindl have combined for 13 points and 17 rebounds in their matches.

The duo will have its hands full against the unbelievable depth of the Flyers, led by Liz Cambage is averaging close to a double-double of 20 points and 9.8 rebounds, as well as 2.8 blocks per game. Sara Blicavs (13.5 points, 8.3 rebounds and 2.0 steals) and Jenna O’Hea (12.3 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.3 assists) have also rolled through the front court making life difficult for oppositions. In the back court, the dimes by Leilani Mitchell (10.3 points, 6.8 assists and 2.5 rebounds) and Rebecca Cole (15.8 points, 3.3 assists) have been crucial in setting up the team transition offence.

Last year’s grand finalists in UC Capitals and Southside Flyers are out tip to win their respective matches.