Tag: megan mckay

WNBL20 Season Review – Townsville Fire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Heal drops 28 as Fire return to Grand Final

THIS season’s WNBL Grand Final will have a home-court advantage, after Townsville Fire squeezed out a three-point victory against the Melbourne Boomers in last night’s preliminary final, 65-62. The Fire have managed a complete flip from a season ago, going from wooden spoon recipients in 2019/20 to now facing the Southside Flyers tomorrow afternoon in what will be a must-see season decider.

Neither of the two teams were able to take command of the prelim in the opening period, but good shooting and some terrific finishing allowed Townsville to hold a solid five-point advantage with Shyla Heal exhibiting some good shooting early on with seven points after one quarter.

Kalani Purcell kicked off the second with her first basket of the contest in a see-sawing affair throughout the first half. But the second term provided little scoring and inconsistent offence with both teams locking down on defence. Winning the second quarter 12-11, Melbourne trimmed the deficit to four points in time for the main break meaning that the contest still hung in the balance.

Early on in the second half, more of Melbourne’s usual producers started to make a difference such as Maddie Garrick, Cayla George and Ashleigh Karaitiana. Guy Molloy’s squad found the majority of their points in the third thanks to Tess Madgen’s ability to facilitate the ball. But the Fire returned serve with a six-point scoring run to give themselves a temporary buffer at an important stage of the game with 10 minutes to go, leading 54-47 at three-quarter time.

The Boomers had a formidable mountain to climb and Heal’s layup to get the fourth going did not help Melbourne’s cause. However, the purple and gold continued to stick around in a game as important last night’s.

Having not made a dent in the margin and actually falling behind by as much as nine points, the Boomers kicked into desperation mode with less than five minutes remaining before coach Molloy deployed his starting five back onto the court to finish the game. The same could be said for Shannon Seebohm with the only exception being Megan McKay because of foul trouble, thus allowing Zitina Aokuso the chance to help close the book.

A layup for Karaitiana, two buckets from Ezi Magbegor and a fast break layup for Garrick, sparked eight unanswered points for the Boomers in their last roll of the dice cutting Townsville’s lead down to just one point. But two made free throws with 21 seconds from none other than Heal put the Fire up by three.

Melbourne’s flurry of threes in the dying moments were not enough to save the contest, meaning Townsville would head to the grand final for the sixth time in nine years, a feeling of success that Townsville’s faithful feared they would not have for the next few years.

Adding to her collection of impressive performances in WNBL20, Heal finished her night with 28 points, five rebounds and three assists, while fellow backcourter Lauren Nicholson played a full 40-minute game compiling 12 points and eight rebounds. Adding to this was Aokuso, accumulating 10 points and five rebounds, as well as WNBL legend Mia Murray providing a much-needed presence on the glass with eight boards.

Melbourne’s frontcourt was its primary producer last night, with Magbegor (19 points and nine rebounds) and George (15 points, 10 rebounds and five assists) putting up impressive statistics. Furthermore, despite no other Boomers gaining double-digit totals Madgen was instrumental yesterday even though the side could not get it done with nine points and six assists.

It is the end of Melbourne’s remarkable road, but Townsville’s triumph provides a first versus second seed grand final and a chance for the Fire to redeem themselves at the best possible moment. Even though the Flyers have two days of extra rest going into tomorrow, you can rest assured that the Townsville fans will provide their club with a massive chunk of adrenaline in 24 hours.

Southside torch Fire, advance to second straight Grand Final

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Capitals’ reign comes to an end, Boomers advance to prelim

THE three-peat dream for the Canberra Capitals abruptly ended last night as a result of the Melbourne Boomers diligent work on the defensive end, outlasting the reigning premiers 78-68 in Townsville. The win means Melbourne are just one win away from a WNBL Grand Final opportunity.

During the opening five minutes of the game, both sides remained level-headed as the first 20 points of the contest were shared evenly. But the first scoring run went the way of the Boomers, scoring 11 unanswered points to take control of the first period.

Ezi Magbegor’s 10 points in the first was the primary factor that led to Melbourne’s 32-20 lead over the Capitals, but Canberra did not plan on bowing out of their “three-peat bid” after just 10 minutes of play.

As soon as Paul Goriss’s trio of Maddison Rocci, Kelsey Griffin and Marianna Tolo started to click, the Capitals started to earn some success on the floor. Ultimately winning the quarter 15-9 in a more defence-oriented term. Canberra looked to make the elimination final one that would not be decided until the second half, trailing Melbourne by six at the half 35-41.

Magbegor, who went scoreless in the second, headed to half-time with 10 points and three rebounds, while providing much needed consistency inside as the Boomers shot 46 per cent in the first half compared to the Capitals 34 per cent. For the Capitals, Rocci was trying her hand as her team’s main producer with nine points at the half.

Unfortunately for Canberra all of their work from the second quarter was undone in the third, with Melbourne expanding their lead back to 11 points having 10 minutes yet to be played. However, if the Boomers were going to avoid their third-straight semi-final exit in three years, Guy Molloy’s side needed to be on their best form if they were to eliminate the two-time defending champions.

A couple of surprise standouts from each team in the third started to make their imprint on the game, with Boomers’ Izzy Wright holding 11 points and Brittany Smart having 10 of her own at the third intermission.

Even though Canberra limited Melbourne’s scoring early in the fourth, the Capitals were not urgent in their pursuit of points either due to inaccurate shooting and the inability to convert on second-chance opportunities. Drawing back to within eight points with just over two minutes remaining, Canberra tried their best to throw the kitchen sink at Melbourne, while the Boomers made the Capitals sweat for every bucket.

Converting on a fast-break layup following Tess Madgen’s missed bonus free-throws, Smart reduced the deficit to seven. However, two made free throws from Maddie Garrick put the result beyond all doubt in last night’s opener as Melbourne advanced to Friday’s preliminary final while Canberra’s reign in the WNBL came to an honourable end.

Knocking down 44 per cent of their attempts (30-67), the Boomers were able to convert on the majority of their shots while limiting the Capitals to just 68 points, a testament to their moniker of the “League’s Best Defence”. Despite their prominent depth evidenced by their 28 bench points, Canberra now goes home early for the first time in three seasons, with Melbourne emerging superior in various categories such as rebounds, assists and blocks.

Magbegor concluded her performance with a dominant 20-point and 11-rebound double-double effort, while Molloy’s backcourt duo of Garrick (15 points, five rebounds and four assists) and Madgen (13 points, nine rebounds and six assists) proved to be lethal after four quarters. Last and certainly not least, Cayla George dominated on the glass with seven points and 12 rebounds, whereas Wright also notched up 13 points after 40 minutes in her coming out performance of the season.

Although five Capitals players reached double-digit figures, it was not enough to get themselves over the line with Smart leading the way with 15 points off the bench. The WNBL’s sixth highest scorer in Rocci, earned 14 points, seven assists and four rebounds in the loss, while the team’s co-captains in Griffin (12 points and 11 rebounds) and Tolo (10 points and eight rebounds) both made sizeable contributions.

The Boomers will be focusing solely on recovery as they have less than 36 hours to regain their strength in what will be a much-anticipated prelim final on Friday night, bearing in mind the fact that Melbourne are still searching for their first title in more than a decade.

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 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.

Southside hand Townsville third loss, Fire’s Nicholson leaves with nose injury

GOOD things eventually come to an end and in this instance, it was the Townsville Fire’s three-game winning streak at the mercy of the Southside Flyers, going down to the heavy-handed championship favourites 70-94, while being substantially undermanned.

A scrappy start from both sides led to a low scoring opening few minutes, but two quick fouls for Megan McKay earned her a quick spot on the bench for the rest of the first quarter. The Flyers started to connect on some of their shots as the first quarter rolled on, while Townsville struggled to pick up steam, trailing 4-16 after six minutes of play thanks to nine quick points from Liz Cambage. Not only did Southside’s superior opening period see them gain an 11-point lead, but also a hard blow to Lauren Nicholson’s nose resulting in the Fire losing a star point-guard for the rest of the game.

An And-One from Bec Cole to commence things in the second provided more encouraging signs for Cheryl Chambers and her players, however three straight successful trips up the floor for the Fire was the response Shannon Seebohm wanted to see following quarter time.

Townsville fended off more Southside success leading into the main break trailing only by eight points and winning the quarter 25-22. Down 34-42, the Fire were feeding off of Shyla Heal’s 15 points and three rebounds at this stage, while Nadeen Payne was doing her best to back Heal up with seven points and four boards. Alternatively, Cambage had herself 17 points in 16 first-half minutes next to Cole, who sat on 10 points and five assists at the mid-way point.

Losing Heal for a chunk of the third due to an elbow to the chest, the Fire did a good job of weathering the Flyers’ storm. But a triple from Jenna O’Hea midway through the third quarter signified the gradual expansion of her side’s lead in the second half putting Southside up by 16 with a quarter left to play in Saturday’s opener.

A relatively uneventful final quarter ensued as Southside started to push their advantage towards the 20-point mark and Townsville struggled to cope while running on limited players. As both sides introduced their secondary units in the dying moments of the contest, Southside routinely concluded matters by running out 24-point winners and ending Townsville’s three-game winning streak.

Shooting over 50 per cent throughout all four quarters, Southside was hard to stop from knocking down their shots, particularly down low (48 points in the paint) and from the free-throw-line (14 from 17). The Flyers also held onto the ball well, only turning over the ball eight times the whole game.

Cambage maintained her reputation as a prolific post presence, contributing 26 points, nine rebounds and three assists, while going 75 per cent from the field. Meanwhile, Cole was the next best thing with her 19 points and eight assists. Leilani Mitchell was not a massive presence on the scoreboard, but she certainly facilitated the ball at a high rate finishing with nine assists under her belt.

Heal had another impressive outing racking up a team-high 17 points, four rebounds and three assists, a major talking point for Townsville’s disappointing outcome. But more impressively, were the combined efforts of two of the WNBL’s best auxiliary players. Firstly, 15 points in 26 minutes off the bench for Stephanie Reid provided merit for a top performance from the losing side, whereas Courtney Woods accumulated a modest 11 points in her efforts yesterday afternoon.

Both teams hit the hardwood again in 24 hours, as Southside looks to knock the Adelaide Lightning out of the top four with a second triumph in as many days. While, the Fire look to re-establish themselves as a favourable finals nominee against a Sydney Uni Flames unit that is hungry to climb the standings.

Lightning hit back with statement win

Pic: WNBL

IMPROVING their record to four wins and one loss, the Adelaide Lighting have reiterated the fact that they are a formidable side, after extinguishing the Sydney Uni Flames 75-53, following a one-sided second half and a 30-point masterclass from early MVP-candidate Stephanie Talbot.

Transition points and a quick start from Sydney saw them run the floor well and capitalise on fast break offence early on, but the Lightning had other ideas for how the opening term would end, following a 7-0 run four minutes in for Adelaide. Riding off on their scoring run and four lead changes in the first quarter, Adelaide held a commanding 20 to 12 lead, with Talbot a large presence early having seven points and four rebounds after 10 minutes.

After an extended quarter-time break due to technical difficulties at the Cairns Pop-Up Arena, both teams lost momentum on the scoreboard. Neither side got off a field goal for two and a half minutes, until this trend was upended following a beautiful backdoor cut from Sydney’s Lauren Mansfield.

Baskets became more frequent from both sides prior to half-time and the Flames made some significant headway in the half’s few remaining minutes after two buckets each from Funda Nakkasoglu and Nat Burton, cutting the deficit to only six points at the main break, 32-26.

It was the Talbot show in the opening 20 minutes, with the 26-year-old putting up 15 points during that time and seven rebounds to add to that. While Adelaide had few players with big scoring totals, the Flames had low scoring numbers across multiple individuals with all of their starters converting on shots. The former Opal in Burton led the way with eight points while Alison Schwagmeyer proved her mettle on the glass with seven rebounds in the initial two quarters.

A tit-for-tat beginning was the best way to describe the early moments of the second half, as both sides remained level six minutes into the third phase. However, four pivotal scores from Abigail Wehrung, Talbot who had two of those, and Marena Whittle gave the Lightning a nine-point buffer at what seemed like a turning point in a clash that had little room for errors. A beautiful drive and dish from Ally Wilson to Ella Batish and a fast-break layup by Talbot capped off a 13-0 run for Chris Lucas’ roster and put control of the game firmly in their possession before three-quarter-time, leading 53-41.

Adelaide ballooned their lead out to 25 points long into the middle stages of the final stanza scoring 17 of the first 19 points, as the Flames had no answer for their opponents late in the game. The Lightning’s bench completed the emphatic final period, culminating in a dominant 22-point blowout, reaffirming Adelaide as a serious contender among the League’s ranks.

With the Lightning holding the Flames to 27 per cent shooting efficiency they were able to provide themselves ample opportunity to pull away later in the game given that they converted their shots, which they did by shooting 42 per cent. A plus-11 in assists and a plus-12 in fast break points was a product of the way  coach Lucas’ side worked as a cohesive unit pushing the ball up the other end of the court after Sydney Uni’s missed shots.

Another standout performance from likely MVP candidate Talbot rattled another opponent’s roster, with the small forward racking up 30 points, 12 rebounds and three assists, while being fouled a game-high five times. Wehrung was the only other Lightning individual with double-digit totals, finishing with 11 points by way of three triples. Chelsea Brook contributed eight points and five rebounds, while Batish tallied seven of her own.

Scoring just 53 total game points, Adelaide’s shooting success was few and far between, with Burton being the only player to accumulate over 10 points – she finished with 14 points and a pair of rebounds. Meanwhile, Anneli Maley (seven points and eight rebounds) and Mansfield (seven points and four assists) had quiet nights respectively as neither of them were able to make a substantial imprint on the game.

Sydney Uni and Adelaide return later today to face another two teams who are completing back-to-back fixtures. The Lightning have their work cut out for them if they are to try and slow down the Southside Flyers, who just recently beat the Townsville Fire in convincing style. This brings us to the Flames’ opponents later today, looking to regain lost ground in the standings against the Fire in Round Three’s final game.

Caps keep the good times rolling, extend winning streak to seven

Pic: WNBL

THE longest winning streak of WNBL20 this season continues for the University of Canberra Capitals, as the two-time defending champions extended their litany of victories to seven straight, flattening the Bendigo Spirit in last night’s closer 51-87, rounding off the third of three one-sided contests over the first half of the weekend.

A close contest for the majority of the first period, it seemed as though both sides would be within a possession of each other at the first intermission. However, seven-straight points in the last 60 seconds of the term for the Capitals saw the reigning champions lead 20-12 after 10 minutes, highlighted by a buzzer beating corner three from Brittany Smart.

It seemed early on that the only visible scorer on Tracy York’s side was Tessa Lavey early in the second, who had eight points midway through the period. But numerous participants for the Capitals were finding looks of their own. Starting the second quarter on a 12-4 run, Canberra’s starting five and the extra boost given by former Sydney Uni Flame Tahlia Tupaea, quickly lathered on the points against the Spirit prior to half-time.

Outscoring Bendigo 22-9 in the second period, the Capitals were able to produce two-times the amount of points as their opponents in the first half, leading 42-21 at the midway point. However, given their history against lower-ranked sides Paul Goriss reiterated the notion of playing hard for all four quarters to his side at the main break.

With all five of Canberra starters manufacturing valuable contributions in the first half, it was evident that the Capitals were seeking a team-based win, which was pointed out by their eight assists through two quarters.

Canberra’s lone problem was clearly slowing down Australian Opal in Lavey, who had 13 points in all 20 minutes of the opening half, the only multiple field goal scorer for the Spirit prior to the third quarter, as the side failed to efficiently convert on their scoring attempts only shooting 17 per cent.

The Spirit kicked off the second half with a fast-paced brand of basketball, scoring three of the first four buckets for both teams, but that would be the extent of the good news following this. After making an adjustment on the defensive end, the Capitals turned the momentum in their favour once again and this time for good.

Earning themselves a 33-point buffer at the end of the third term, 37-70, the third game of yesterday’s triple-header looked like it was going finish in familiar fashion to the previous two meetings – a blowout.

This fate for the two sides came to fruition as Canberra completed the four-quarter sweep in Townsville and ultimately the 37-point landslide victory, earning their seventh straight win in the process and putting themselves a game ahead of the Southside Flyers on the WNBL ladder.

Shots just did not fall for the Spirit, who now fall to a winless record of zero wins and eight losses at the middle point of the season. Making 17 shots from 63 attempts (26 per cent) and giving up 36 points in the paint, Bendigo really disadvantaged themselves when it came to Canberra’s depth and team chemistry. Whereas the Capitals made a sizeable 44 per cent rate of their shots along with 22 assists in what was a complete team-effort.

Not a single Capitals player scored more than 15 points, highlighting just how distributed the scoring load was for UC. Leading the side, however, was Marianna Tolo with her 14 points and six rebounds, while Maddison Rocci backed up her captain with 12 points and three assists. Keely Froling and Tupaea each finished their nights with 10 points. For the Spirit, only Lavey was able to crack a double-digit scoring total, but severely slowed her level of production in the second half where she accounted for only four of her 17 points.

The Caps line up again on Tuesday against the Melbourne Boomers in a much-anticipated top-four matchup that will see a semi-final rematch of last season. On the other hand, Bendigo will face off with fellow bottom of the ladder side the Perth Lynx, perhaps the Spirit’s most likely chance at gaining their first win of the season.

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.

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.

Fire and Flames bring the heat, Townsville staves off late Sydney charge

AFTER a regrettable loss to the UC Capitals two days ago, the Townsville Fire have repositioned themselves in the winner’s column again, after a scrappy 81-78 win in their home opener last night against the Sydney Uni Flames.

Despite a late charge from the Flames, “The Battle of the Inferno” was at a high temperature in all four quarters, but it was a younger and quicker Fire outfit that came out triumphant.

The Fire were without their anchor in Zitina Aokuso to start their game as Megan McKay filled the role alongside Mia Murray, Nadeen Payne, Shyla Heal and Lauren Nicholson. Meanwhile, the Flames had their usual five on the floor for tip-off in Lauren Mansfield, Alison Schwagmeyer, Anneli Maley, Nat Burton and Lauren Scherf.

It was Heal that got Townsville off the ground with five of the Fire’s first 10 points, whereas Sydney Uni’s spread of scoring options took over their offensive production for the majority of the first quarter with multiple names getting on the scoresheet early on.

But the Fire’s core unit with the help of Stephanie Reid and Courtney Woods would take control of the contest in the later stages of the first term, getting their lead out to double-digits seven minutes in thanks primarily to Payne’s potency from deep.

Capitalising on all five of their first-quarter free-throws and 12 points in the paint compared to the Flames’ eight, the Fire etched a 26-19 lead at the first intermission, 11 of those coming by way of Payne in a quarter where she would not see the bench.

Carly Boag made the first move of the second with a pull-up three to quickly cut the deficit to four, as Coach Katrina Hibbert looked to hit Townsville where it hurt from behind the arc. Halfway through, the Flames drew level at 32 points apiece, but Woods and Reid played pivotal roles in the first half knocking down much needed triples to maintain the side’s lead, while Scherf continued to dominate down low with 13 points through the first 20 minutes of play.

Heal continued to lead the way for Shannon Seebohm’s squad with 13 points of her own in the first half with Payne backing her up with 11 points, putting Townsville up 47-43 at the main break, as the squad shot an incredible 56 per cent conversion rate with bench players accounting for 15 points in this time.

Starting off the second half, both sides would get some shots off successfully in a very even third quarter. However, Sydney Uni slowly worked their way in the contest again after a momentary lapse to conclude the first half. A few buckets by Scherf tied up the contest five minutes into the third phase and a single free-throw from Maley gave the Flames their first lead of the night since the opening period, which would only last until the next possession.

Nevertheless, the see-sawing affair continued in the penultimate quarter, concluding with the score 63-59 in what was preparing for a hotly contested final 10 minutes between two talented sides.

Seven-straight points by way of the two surprises of the night in Woods and Reid, put Townsville ahead by 11 in an instant, thus putting the Fire in the driver’s seat in front of a raucous home fan base with six minutes remaining.

A three from Scherf halfway through the fourth put a glimmer of hope in Sydney Uni’s eyes and a late barrage from the Flames would soon follow, getting to within one point in the dying seconds. But Heal’s two made free throws with a few seconds remaining would ice the game and cement Townsville’s victory last night, 81-78.

Statistical leaders for the victors included Nicholson, who off the back of a strong second half completed her game with 17 points and three rebounds, while her backcourt companion Heal would accumulate 15 points and six assists. Payne (14), Reid (11) and Woods (10) each contributed double digit totals to the Fire’s scoring.

On the flip side, Scherf’s season-high 25-point, nine-rebound performance coupled with Schwagmeyer’s 23-point effort allowed the Flames to stay in the contest, while Maley’s 10 points and 14 rebounds continued her individual season as one of the WNBL’s most prolific board getters.

The Fire bounced back from their close loss to the Canberra Capitals in their last outing, but now have a mammoth challenge awaiting them in two days, the Southside Flyers. The Flames, who were originally set to face the Adelaide Lightning that same night, now get an extended four-day rest before lining up against the Caps on Saturday night.