Tag: mikaela ruef

WNBL semi-finals preview

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

UC Capitals v. Melbourne Boomers

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

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

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

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

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

Southside Flyers v. Townsville Fire

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

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

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

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

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

Fire overcome fast-starting Boomers to secure second spot

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

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

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

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

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

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

Flyers flex their muscles with convincing win over Caps

Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images

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

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

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

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

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

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

Flames end season on a high

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

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

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

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

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

UC Capitalise on first half blitz to end Lynx’s season with a loss

UNIVERSITY of Canberra (UC) Capitals showed no mercy during an impressive and dominant first half, leading to a 27-point win over Perth Lynx to set up a top of the table battle for the minor premiership against Southside Flyers. The Capitals dominated the first half with 53 points to 29, then holding firm in the second half to run out 96-69 victors.

The Capitals raced away to a 26-19 lead by the first break, and then hit the half century at half-time courtesy of a one-sided 27-10 second quarter. It meant the Capitals were all but home with a half to play, though the Lynx made it more difficult after the main break. Scoring 23 points to 22, the Lynx actually won the third term, but the Capitals got back on top in the fourth, winning it 21-17 to round out an all-round strong performance.

The Capitals were on top in nearly every area, dominating the rebounds (44-34), assists (27-16) and steals (12-7), whilst also having less turnovers (9-16). They punished their opponents on the counter attack, putting up 25 points to six, while also scoring 18-14 fast break points, and capitalising with 12-5 second chance points. The reigning premiers’ depth had plenty to say with 37 points to seven, preparing themselves for the crunch match with the Flyers.

Maddison Rocci was electric from long-range, hitting four of six triples, and nine of 14 from the field as she knocked up 27 points in just 26 minutes. She also picked up five rebounds, four assists and one steal without turning the ball over. Kelsey Griffin was huge off the boards thanks to 15 points, nine rebounds and two steals, while Keely Froling also picked up 11 points, three rebounds and three assists. Not scoring a point, Abby Cubillo thrived from her first start, dishing off seven assists, as well as recording three rebounds and three steals.

Coming off the bench, Marianna Tolo (12 points, six rebounds) and Mikaela Ruef (11 points, seven rebounds, three assists and two steals) both provided size and experience. Brittany Smart gained the most minutes of the season with 22, scoring nine points, four rebounds and three assists.

For the Lynx, Katie-Rae Ebzery had a night out with 24 points – including three of five from long-range – three rebounds and two steals. Darcee Garbin scored 17 points and seven rebounds, while Ashley Sharp was equally influential off the boards with eight points, eight rebounds, two assists and two steals. Alex Ciabattoni (six points, four rebounds, five assists and two steals) and Kayla Steindl (seven points, three assists and two blocks) were both strong.

The Capitals finish their season off on the right note on Sunday when they clash with the Flyers, as the Lynx prepare to head home and set themselves for a big 2021.

Flyers snatch unbelievable win against Flames

Southside Flyers’ Sara Blicavs competes for the ball against Anneli Maley. Picture credit: WNBL

SOUTHSIDE Flyers have found a way back from the brink to post a nail-biting four-point win over a plucky Sydney Uni Flames to remain on top of the WNBL ladder heading into the Flyers’ final match of the season. Trailing by nine points with 2:51 on the clock after Lauren Mansfield had drained a triple, the Flyers managed to score the last 13 points of the game with a Sara Blicavs triple with 11 seconds on the clock helping the Flyers hit the front and then last second free throws cementing the narrow 81-77 victory.

It was quite the contest between a side locked into the top two and one that was already out of finals contention, but the Flames showed they could match it with the best on their day. The first half saw the Flames race out to a five-point lead at the main break, then having won the first three quarters, lead by six with 10 minutes to play. At one point, the score was 77-68 with the Flames ahead 17-14 in that last stanza. Somehow the Flyers found a way to win, with Leilani Mitchell having a massive last minute thanks to a defensive rebound off a Lauren Scherf miss, the assist to Blicavs and then finishing the match with two successful free throws to seal the deal.

Both teams had their fair share of little wins on the night, with the Flames surprisingly dominating the usually unbeatable Flyers’ bigs, winning 51 rebounds to 30. However the Flyers were better with ball-in-hand picking up 19-15 assists, 11-3 steals and punishing the Flames for their extra turnovers (21-15) with 25-19 points from turnover. Southside also capitalised off the fast break with 20-4 points. Their accuracy of 57 per cent from the field was much higher than the Flames’ 42 per cent, though the latter managed to hit 10 of 26 triples, much better than the Flyers’ six of 22 which kept the losing side in the game.

Liz Cambage had 24 points and five rebounds in another game-high points performance, aided by the remainder of the Flyers’ starting five who scored nearly all of the team’s points. Mitchell (15 points, four rebounds, five assists and two steals) was prolific, while Blicavs (13 points, eight rebounds) was dominant off the boards. Rebecca Cole had 14 points, five assts and four steals, while Jenna O’Hea finished with 11 points and three rebounds. Aimie Clydesdale was the one contributor off the bench for the winning side, scoring two points and had five assists and two rebounds in 22 minutes as the Flyers could not utilise their bench as much as usual.

For the Flames, Mansfield had a massive night out picking up 21 points, seven rebounds and four assists, while Anneli Maley‘s rebounding efforts were out of this world. The former Flyers’ forward showed her team what they were missing, notching up 19 points and 17 rebounds in a huge performance. Alison Schwagmeyer had 14 points, six rebounds and three assists, while Natalie Burton picked up 10 rebounds to go with six points and two assists. Funda Nakkasoglu came off the bench for 11 points to round out the top performers.

Both teams set their sights on Sunday, where the Flyers face off against the Capitals for top spot, and the Flames take on Adelaide Lightning in the final game of the regular season.

Fire take down Caps in a stunning performance

TOWNSVILLE Fire caused a major upset in the WNBL, claiming a 13-point win over UC Capitals in a seesawing affair (84-71). The win marks the Fire’s seventh of the season and keeps them in touch with the top four while it is the second loss in as many days for the Capitals. It has not altered their ladder position too much though, thanks to their strong hold on second place.

Fire skipped out to a strong start and really put the foot down in the second term with a dominant showing thanks to their 24 points to 11. They managed to shut down the typically all-powerful Capitals side before things started to even up in the second half. Managing 19 points apiece in the third quarter, the Capitals came out with a real fire in the belly in the last quarter mounting somewhat of a comeback to outscore Townsville and spark plenty of concern through the Fire camp, but it was not enough to overrun the home side which had created a decent lead and were not ready to give up the “W”.

It was a hard day at the office for the Caps with the Canberra-based side unable to find the basket, sitting at a mere 28 per cent from the field only converting 22 of their 76 chances. On the flip-side, Townsville had a much better day sitting at 48 per cent and impressed from inside the arc nailing 21 of their 37 attempts at 56 per cent compared to 31 per cent. Free throw percentage was another point of difference with the Fire capitalising on their chances at the charity stripe with 75 per cent to 70 per cent. Despite struggling on the scoreboard, the Caps starred off the backboard amassing 49 compared to 35 while they also notched up 15 assists to nine. When it came to turnovers the Fire were much cleaner with ball in hand registering 12 while they also flexed their muscles when it came to points inside the paint with 30-24.

Youngster Shyla Heal seemed to have the ball on a string unable to do no wrong, racking up a game-high 27 points shooting at 58 per cent along with eight rebounds and three assists. Lauren Nicholson was the next best with the guard inflicting plenty of pain on the scoreboard with 25 points to her name and five rebounds, four of which were defensive. Nadeen Payne was the only other player to register double digits for points with 11 while also amassing eight rebounds in her 28 minutes on court. Youngster Zitina Aokuso was down on her usual performance but still managed to record seven points, three rebounds and one assist.

Although the big stars did not step up to the plate it was Maddison Rocci that led the way for the Caps recording 19 points at 43 per cent. Rocci slotted five triples in her outing while also amassing three rebounds, one assist and two steals. Kelsey Griffin had an influence with her 10 points and seven rebounds in 20 minutes on court as Mikaela Ruef chimed in with nine points and an impressive 12 rebounds. Keely Froling also hit the scoreboard albeit not in a big way, with her eight points and seven rebounds – six of which were offensive.

The Capitals next look to Perth in hope to secure their ninth win while Townsville next face Adelaide Lightning.

Perth secure nail-biter

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PERTH Lynx clinched a two-point victory over Adelaide Lightning in a tight contest on Sunday night with the two sides going toe-to-toe for majority of the game (78-80). The victory marked the third straight win for the Lynx who have found some solid form in the back half of the season while Adelaide have faltered in the past couple of outings, with four straight losses.

Adelaide burst out of the blocks with a scintillating start to the game showcasing their dominance and scoring prowess early piling on 28 points to 19. The tables turned in the second quarter with Perth firing back to go on a 26 point to 13 spree and somewhat level the playing field. It was tit for tat for most of the game as the two sides traded blows, with the Lightning rediscovering their form in the third to reclaim the ascendancy and grab a hold of the game. But when it came down to the final quarter Lynx left no stone unturned firing on all cylinders and outscoring the Lightning in the final term to secure an almighty win.

Despite having a lower shooting percentage from the field 33 to 40 it did not stop Perth from stealing the win. Adelaide impressed from two-point range sitting at 41 per cent sinking 16 of their 39 attempts while Perth struggled to find the basket sitting at a mere 28 per cent with 17 from 60. Lynx had the upper hand from range sitting at 46 per cent while Adelaide managed 40 per cent. Rebounding was another strength of Perth (58-44) while when it came to assists the Lightning notched up 23 to 20 and also came out on top in blocks (4-2) and steals (5-4).

The scoring was shared between a number of key players for the Lynx but it was young gun Darcee Garbin that led the pack with her impressive 31 points and 11 rebounds in a double-double performance. Garbin was involved in just about everything and was well aided by teammate Alex Ciabattoni who slotted 15 points in her 30 minutes on court while also registering seven rebounds and three assists. The ever reliable Katie Ebzery stepped up to the plate with her 12 points and 10 assists in another strong showing while Kayla Steidl also managed to find the scoreboard with relative ease picking up 11 points and 11 rebounds to help her side get over the line.

There were only two main scoring options for the Lightning with star Steph Talbot dominating once again. Talbot managed a game-high 23 points to accompany her 13 rebounds and seven assists although it was not enough to get her side over the line. Chelsea Brook plied her trade with 16 points, five rebounds and three assists in her 37 minutes on court despite her shooting percentage being a mere 50 per cent. Abigail Wehrung chimed in with a handy eight points, seven assists and two rebounds while Alex Wilson also managed to hit the scoreboard with her eight points.

It is a short turnaround between games for Adelaide with the side facing off with the third placed Melbourne Boomers while Perth also play on Tuesday against the lowly placed Sydney Uni Flames.

Capitals back on top of WNBL standings, waltz by timid Lightning

BOUNCING back from their previous loss against the Melbourne Boomers, the University of Canberra (UC) Capitals returned to top-of-the-table form, with a convincing 85-65 triumph over the Adelaide Lightning, who now fall victim to a three-game losing streak in this ever-crucial part of the campaign.

The Capitals came out firing on all cylinders, knocking down five of their first six attempts as they found themselves up 14-2 just three minutes in against a sluggish Lightning squad early on.

Paul Goriss’s side would not let up on the Adelaide squad in the opening 10 minutes at all, keeping their opponents to single digits at the turn of the first term 25-8, while shooting 100 per cent (10-10) from the free throw line, with Maddison Rocci, Marianna Tolo and Kelsey Griffin all contributing six points each in that stint of time.

In a much more two-sided second quarter, Adelaide started to knock down their shots and get some points on the board. Led by their starting five, the Lightning would only play three bench players during the first half and with key individual Ally Wilson scoreless after two, last year’s semi-finalists found themselves in a sticky situation at the main break, down 25-46. Whereas Rocci had the opposite problem with 14 points up to this stage.

Canberra was proving to be a continual nuisance on the boards as the contest wore on, accumulating a plus-20 in the rebounding category by three-quarter-time, and more astonishingly was the fact that 16 of their 42 rebounds came at the offensive end, leading to 21 second chance points and a 72-38 score line with a period to play.

Coach Goriss and his staff wanted to keep his core unit on the floor for as long as possible to give his starters a quality run, but eventually the Capitals secondary unit made their way onto the floor with five minutes remaining. With the game beyond doubt, an empty 27-13 fourth quarter victory for Adelaide made the final result more respectable, but Canberra would emerge clear-cut 20-point victors, taking the contest 85-65.

A stagnant first half for Adelaide dampened their efficiency from the floor, shooting 38 per cent from the field and only 62 per cent from the free-throw line. It was also critically hurtful in the rebounding department for the Lightning, ultimately losing the category 31-45. On the other hand, Canberra made their foes on the night pay with the result, following their splendid discipline in the paint and points off of offensive rebounds, compiling 36 and 21 points in each respective statistic. Finishing the night with 46 per cent shooting from the field and 88 per cent consistency from the line, the two-time defending champions had their best form on display last night to say the least.

Rocci led the way for the reigning premiers with 18 points and three assists in her 20 minutes of court time. Backing her up were co-captains Griffin (15 points, nine rebounds) and Tolo (12 points, four blocks and three rebounds), while Brittany Smart and Mikaela Ruef made valuable contributions in the process.

For Stephanie Talbot, it was another routine dominant performance with a game-high 21 points, eight rebounds and two steals, while fellow forward Chelsea Brook was the only other Lightning individual to clock up double-digit point totals with 14.

After their bounce back win, the Capitals will line-up in what will be a pivotal contest between two top-four sides as they face the Townsville Fire on Sunday night, while Adelaide looks to end their three-game slide and knock off a lowly Perth Lynx side hungry for some more good fortune the game after.

Lynx too hot for Fire, string together first back-to-back wins of the season

Alex Ciabattoni in action for Perth Lynx. Picture credit: WNBL

FOR the first time this season, the Perth Lynx have obtained back-to-back wins after their upset victory over the Townsville Fire. Strong first and final quarters were enough to fend off Shannon Seebohm’s squad after 40 minutes, squeezing out the win 84-75.

Both sides boasted blistering scoring totals in the initial quarter of the meeting, with the Lynx holding a slim 27-25 lead after 10 minutes despite both sides shooting over 50 per cent in a score heavy period.

It was clear that even though Perth was out of finals contention prior to tip off, Ryan Petrik’s side came to play last night as they moved the ball with exemplary precision in the first half and found their points in the paint.

The rate of scoring started to slow after the first break with each side’s conversion becoming scarcer after a high octane first. Perth maintained their slim lead heading into the half-time team talks by a mere four points, after both sides combined for just 25 points in the second.

Nevertheless, both sides still kept their shooting averages over 40 per cent with each team expressing similar numbers statistically. But for a side with two wins from nine outings, the Lynx were handling themselves extraordinarily well against a talented Townsville roster. Key performers in the first half for each squad included Alex Ciabattoni for the Lynx (13 points and four rebounds) and Lauren Nicholson (11 points and two rebounds), as both players showed off some lethal shooting by the midway point.

Many experts would have estimated somewhat of a comeback in the second half from Townsville, but the Lynx continued to pull away after half-time. Winning the third quarter 16-10 in another low-scoring term. As a result, Perth had themselves a solid 10-point buffer with time continuing to wind down in last night’s closer.

To the Fire’s credit, they made a couple of threatening scoring runs in the closing moments of the contest, getting to within six points at one stage. However, it would not be enough for one of this season’s hottest teams, as the Lynx would secure the upset win, their third of the season.

Quite simply it was Perth’s ability to convert from the field that got them over the line last night, shooting a remarkable 45 per cent through four quarters compared to Townsville’s 38 per cent. In addition, a plus-seven in rebounds and a plus-seven in assists gave Perth all the necessary tools to emerge victorious, coupled with the Fire‘s lack of presence in the key defensively.

Darcee Garbin further validated her international-level prowess alongside fellow Opal in Katie Ebzery, with Petrik’s star-duo scoring 21 points apiece and combining for 21 rebounds as well as eight assists. Ciabattoni also made a good impression, securing 18 points, five rebounds and three assists. Alex Sharp made a double-digit contribution with a modest 12 points and seven boards.

League MVP candidate Nicholson impressed those who tuned in with 28 points and five rebounds, as she tried to carry her team to a positive result. But only two of her teammates were impressive enough to try and make that a reality. The young duet of Zitina Aokuso and Shyla Heal worked for 11 points each as both had unexpectedly quiet nights yesterday evening.

Perth who for the first time this season have back-to-back victories under their belt will look to continue their good run of late, as a third straight win is a real possibility against the Adelaide Lightning, who they face on Sunday. Before this, however, the Fire will aim to avoid their third defeat in four clashes with a win against the two-time defending champion Canberra Capitals.

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

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.

UC Capitals end Boomers unbeaten run

MELBOURNE Boomers unblemished start to the season came to halt with UC Capitals putting a dampener on their campaign to notch up a 17 point victory (50-67). It was always going to be an almighty battle between the two sides but the back-to-back premiers proved they are still a force to be reckoned with despite somewhat of a shaky start to their season.

The Caps raced out of the blocks forcing the Boomers onto the backfoot immediately thanks to an impressive 22 to eight first term. That lead and momentum ultimately set the tone for the remainder of the game despite the Boomers pushing back in the second term albeit marginally. UC had all the answers for Melbourne and most importantly shut down their options when trying to attack the rim. The reigning premiers capitalised on their chances racking up 12 second chance points compared to six while also showcasing their speed on transition to collect five more points on fast breaks.

Three point percentage told the story with the Boomers unable to find their range and subsequently unable to score anything from beyond the arc while the Caps converted at 28.6 per cent. They also boasted a higher field goal percentage 45.6 to 33.3 while also leading the way in assists (14-9) and blocks (4-2) showcasing their overall dominance. When it came to offensive rebounds, the Boomers just pipped the Capitals at the post (14-13) but were well covered in every other facet of the game.

It was a disappointing showing for the Boomers as only one player – Cayla George – managed to reach double figures on the points scoring front with 10. She also proved to be a handy option off the boards picking up six rebounds and two assists. The next closest was youngster Ezi Magbegor who racked up nine points and five rebounds while Izzy Wright popped up for six points, one assist and three rebounds. The likes of Kalani Purcell, Madeline Garrick and Ashleigh Karaitiana were all well held with the trio combining for a mere 10 points between them, highlighting the defensive pressure stemming from the Caps.

On the flip side the Caps had no shortage of players able to find the basket and score but it was Jade Melbourne that stole the show dropping a game-high 20 points to accompany her three assists and two rebounds in her 32 minutes on court. She was well aided by Maddison Rocci who has continued her hot form knocking back 11 points and reeling in five rebounds while Mikaela Ruef also plied her trade to finish the game with 10 points, three assists and six rebounds. Although co-captains Kelsey Griffin and Marianna Tolo were down on their usual output they still provided that element of stability with six points apiece with the latter also proving to be a menace off the boards to register seven rebounds in her sides victory.

The Boomers next opponent is ladder leaders Adelaide Lightning in the final game of the round, giving them plenty of time to rest up and recuperate while the Capitals face Sydney Uni Flames on Saturday.

Perth records first win of the season

Katie Ebzery leading the way in Perth’s first win. Picture credit: Getty Images (WNBL)

The winless streak had to end for one of the Lynx and Spirit, and that is exactly what happened for Perth who flexed their muscles against a young and developing Bendigo side (78-65). The 13-point win saw the Lynx leapfrog into third spot, while the Spirit languish at the bottom of the ladder still searching for their first win.

Holding a narrow lead at the first break the Spirit seemed to have the game on their terms but could not maintain that same level of intensity falling away for patches throughout the game. The third term was where Perth really inflicted scoreboard pain going on a tear sinking 24 points to eight to assert themselves on the Spirit and create a handy buffer. Bendigo had glimpses of brilliance able to push the Lynx to their limits and ultimately sending panic waves through the Lynx camp in the final term thanks to a 21-point masterclass but it was little too late with the damage already well and truly done, by the time they found that gear.

Perth boasted a higher field goal percentage sitting at 44.8 per cent compared to Bendigo at 34.2 however the Spirit had the upper hand when it came to shooting from down town going at 33.3 per cent as opposed to 32 per cent. Perth led the way for both offensive and defensive rebounds with a combined 50 to 37 while they also dominated on the assists front (19-14). They relished the depth on the bench recording 23 bench points to 19 while the Lynx also starred when it came to scoring from within the paint. Bendigo showcased their speed collecting four points from fast breaks.

Although they did not get the win it is hard to go past the efforts of Carly Ernst who once again stood tall for the Spirit dropping a game-high 28 points and 10 rebounds to walk away with a double-double. She was somewhat of a lone hand with no other player reaching double digits with Tessa Lavey the next in line credit to her nine points which accompanied her nine assists and five rebounds. Chevannah Paalvast plied her trade for the Spirit amassing seven points and two assists in her 16 minutes on court.

For the victors, Katie Ebzery proved to be the go-to player sinking a team-high 24 points while also amassing three assists and eight rebounds in another strong showing. She was not alone when it came to impressive performances with youngster Darcee Garbin also stepping up to the plate and dominating to record a double-double thanks to her 14 points and 10 rebounds. Alex Ciabattoni was another key figure for Perth able to find her way to the basket with relative ease collecting 12 points for her efforts along with four assists and three rebounds while Kayla Steindl displayed her strength off the boards to dominate with 12 rebounds to her name.

Perth now looks to the star-studded Southside Flyers on Saturday while Bendigo prepare for Townsville Fire on Sunday.

Dominant UC Capitalise on first half

BACK at full strength, the University of Canberra (UC) Capitals put Bendigo Spirit to the sword in the first half of the opening match for Round 2 in the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL), coming away with a 20-point win.

The Capitals never looked like losing the first game of the new round, storming to an early six-point lead at the first break, before restricting the Spirit to just eight points in the second term to extend their lead to 18 at the main break. In a counter contrast to that term, the Spirit were up for the fight in the third quarter, outscoring the Capitals in a blockbuster 49-point term which went 25-24 in favour of the underdogs. The Capitals managed to straighten up in another strange final quarter which only yielded 21 points (12-9 to the Capitals) and helped them to a 76-56 victory.

The Capitals were smart in sharing the points around. They managed the load of each player ahead of the massive clash with Melbourne Boomers as young gun Jade Melbourne top-scored with 14 points, as well as two rebounds and two assists. Maddison Rocci had 12 points, one assist and one steal, while Mikaela Ruef was the best on court for the winners thanks to her 11 points and 11 rebounds in a dominant double-double effort.

The Capitals simply made more of their chances, shooting at a higher clip from the field (37 to 31 per cent), and whilst neither side could hit the range from three-point land (25 to 19 per cent and just nine makes for the match), the Capitals scored 12 second chance points to six. Once again it was the playmaking experience of the Capitals over the Spirit that stood out, as the reigning back-to-back premiers had 20 assists to 13, as well as 10 steals to seven, and less turnovers (9-16).

Aside from the three double-figure scorers, there were plenty around the mark with co-captain Marianna Tolo putting up nine points, five rebounds and five assists in just 18 minutes, while Keely Froling came close to a double-double with nine points and nine rebounds. She would want to forget her field goal shooting though, hitting just one of 11 from the field. Making a successful return, co-captain Kelsey Griffin produced eight points, four rebounds, three assists, two steals and one block in 14 minutes of action.

For the Spirit, Carley Ernst and Tessa Lavey provided the crucial tag-team effort in terms of scoring to try and drag their team over the line. Ernst hit up 15 points, 10 rebounds, two assists and one block, while Lavey finished with 13 points, three assists and two steals as the pair combined for half of the team’s entire score (28 points). Mary Goulding was strong off the boards with six points, eight rebounds and two assists, while Alicia Froling denied opponents time and time again with two points, five rebounds and four blocks. Off the bench, Jennie Rintala notched up six points and six rebounds in 14 minutes.

Now the Capitals prepare for the huge Melbourne Boomers clash on the back of two impressive wins, whilst the Spirit will search for their first points of the season against Perth Lynx.

Melbourne Boomers’ Cayla George shoots her team to victory. Picture credit: Albert Perez/Getty Images

Third quarter the difference as Boomers hold off determined Lynx

Melbourne Boomers have held off a determined Perth Lynx outfit to remain undefeated from three games in the 2020 WNBL season thus far, whilst the Lynx remain winless despite their best efforts. In what was a see-sawing affair, the Lynx started strong, but the Boomers stepped up when it counted in the second half to win by six points, 62-56.

Perth led the contest for 28 minutes up until Kalani Purcell drilled two free throws to hand her side the lead for the first time in the third term with just 128 seconds left in the quarter. Up until that point, the Lynx had pieced together a healthy six-point lead at the first break, then managed to go toe-to-toe with the Boomers in the second term to lead by five at half-time, 37-32.

The momentum was starting to turn bit by bit in the third as Melbourne chewed back the minor deficit and showed off its defensive ability with 18-6 in the quarter to lead by five themselves at the final break. From there they had the scent of victory, never conceding the lead as Perth managed to level the scores a number of time, but the experience of the Boomers shone through, winning by six points in a thriller.

The story of the match was again accuracy, as the Boomers hit 59 per cent of their two-point range shots, but their usually-dominant three-point radar was off, with none of the 20 attempts going in. Perth’s ability to hit five triples – albeit at just 19 per cent accuracy – kept the Lynx in the contest, as they still averaged 45 per cent form the field. Perth also shaded the Boomers in rebounds (41-40), but the same difference reversed to the Boomers in assists (13-12) and second chance points (11-10). The two key areas where the Boomers stood up were defensively, producing five blocks to zero, and 12 steals to eight.

Cayla George steadied the side in crucial moments on her way to an impressive 25 points, five rebounds and two blocks to lead from the front, while Maddie Garrick hit 12 points, three rebounds, four assists, one steal and one block in an all-round performance. Stella Beck‘s shooting was off with just one in seven from the field for two points, though she picked up seven rebounds, as well as two assists and two steals in the win. Ezi Magbegor scored seven points, eight rebounds, two assists and one steal from 23 minutes on court, while Izzy Wright was the most impressive off the bench, finishing with six points, seven rebounds and three steals.

For the Lynx, Ashley Sharp was the clear standout, picking up a massive double-double of 15 points and 12 rebounds, and was the most accurate shooter on court of the starters, shooting at 54 per cent from the field, including five of six from two-point range. Kayla Steindl helped out off the boards with eight points, nine rebounds, two assists and two steals, while Darcee Garbin‘s strong start to the season hit a roadblock with the talent only hitting two of 10 from the field for four points and four rebounds in 33 minutes. Jessie Edwards stood up off the bench though, recording nine points and four rebounds in the loss.

Now the Lynx will need to regroup and will start favourites against the Spirit in a battle of the bottom two sides, while the Boomers will look to keep their winning streak alive against the Capitals.

2020 WNBL Round 2 weekday preview: Last year’s semi-finalists to clash in bumper week

EIGHT games will be squeezed over the next four days in what will be a bumper week of Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) action. With one round down and four more to go, teams have started to get an early feel for the action again, and a repeat of the two semi-finals from last year will take place this week across the two hubs of Mackay and Townsville.

Mackay hub:

UC Capitals vs. Bendigo Spirit
Perth Lynx vs. Melbourne Boomers
Melbourne Boomers vs. UC Capitals
Bendigo Spirit vs. Perth Lynx

Only one side will leave the Mackay hub winless as Bendigo Spirit takes on Perth Lynx in a battle of the bottom two teams. The pairing will first have the chance to overcome title contenders, University of Canberra (UC) Capitals and Melbourne Boomers respectively, before the Capitals and Boomers go head-to-head in the earlier game on Wednesday in what is a repeat of last year’s semi-final. The Boomers are one of only two unbeaten sides after Round 1, with a couple of wins giving them the chance to remain poised to overtake Southside Flyers in the next week. Meanwhile UC Capitals are 1-1 from their season thus far, whilst the Lynx and Spirit sit at two losses from as many games.

If we look at the two bottom teams, the key battles will be at both ends of the court. Carley Ernst has been a prolific scorer for the Spirit in her two games, averaging the 15 point, four rebounds and one block in her two games this season, and she will likely spend time going head-to-head with Darcee Garbin who is a little smaller, but just as potent, with 13.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 2.0 blocks and 1.5 steals, showing she can do a little of everything.

Jessie Edwards has the extra height in the paint for the Lynx, averaging the six points and five rebounds, as Alicia Froling will aim to nullify some of that influence with a massive nine rebounds already in her two games to go with five points per game. In the backcourt, Tessa Lavey built up from game one to game two, averaging 11.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and an impressive 6.5 assists so far this season. With her team struggling to find a playmaker on offence, she is averaging almost half of her team’s 14 assists per game. Perth are in a similar boat with Garbin and Taylah Burrows (2.0 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists) leading the way.

Katie-Rae Ebzery is the third highest scorer from the quartet of teams in the Mackay hub this week, with the Lynx Opal shooting 17 points per game, to go with her 2.5 rebounds and 2.0 blocks. For a sub-180cm player, Ebzery is able to deny the opposition really well and provide good defence on court, then get forward and apply scoreboard pressure.

The blockbuster match of the hub will be the rematch of last year’s semi-final between the Capitals and Boomers, though fresh off an upset win over title favourites Southside Flyers, the Boomers will this time be favoured. The big question mark for the Capitals will be whether or not co-captain Kelsey Griffin can return from injury, because being one of the biggest stars in the competition, she automatically adds and extra element of X-factor for the reigning back-to-back premiers.

In her absence, Keely Froling has made the starting position her own, putting up big numbers of 15.0 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists, whilst Mikaela Ruef has seamlessly returned without an issue thanks to a massive 9.5 rebounds and 11.5 points per game. The fact that she often shares the five spot with Marianna Tolo, or has the flexibility to role into the four shows the amount of depth the Capitals have.

If there is one thing to take away from the Capitals thus far in season 2020, it is the development of the young talent. One only has to look at the likes of Maddison Rocci who has grabbed her starting spot with both hands, dominating on offence with 22.5 points per game, the third highest in the competition. Her head-to-head with the red-hot Tess Madgen (23.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 5.0 assists) is one that everyone will be glued to their devices watching. Spectators cannot forget about Jade Melbourne who has been a special talent since arriving with the team this season, averaging the six points and three rebounds, but showing enough to suggest long-term she is a starting five player.

The Boomers have quickly established themselves as a team not willing to muck around, and whilst Opals, Cayla George and Ezi Magbegor were ultimately beaten by Liz Cambage in their win over the Flyers, the team had enough of a shared load to get over the line. George is putting up 16.0 points, 8.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists, whilst Magbegor is 11.0 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.5 steals. The front court duo are well supported by  Ashleigh Karaitiana who has slotted into the three spot with a huge second game against the Flyers, deadly from range – 54.5 per cent – and averaging 11.5 points.

This group will answer plenty of questions this week, but the Boomers might be marginally favoured to win both, with the Capitals getting up in their clash against the Spirit. The Spirit also could get their act together in the bottom of the table match against the Lynx, though it is hard to split them, just like if Griffin returns for the Capitals.

Townsville hub:

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

Interestingly enough, the Townsville hub has arguably the bigger question marks around the results based on the first round of action. It looks early like both Adelaide Lightning and Sydney Uni Flames will not be easy beats, with the Lightning already toppling the UC Capitals and the Flames taking care of the Spirit. The big question will be how they fair against the biggest challenger in the league in Southside Flyers, as well as a team that is touted as the most improved in Townsville Fire.

The Fire and Flames clash tomorrow will be a hotly contested match, and not just because of their names, but because both are battling for what could be that fourth spot on the table. Similarly, the Lightning have the two crunch games against the Flyers and Flames to really see where they are at. If the Lightning or Flames come away with a win, or even two wins, then that will go a long way to seeing up their season in a condensed year.

Starting with the title favourites, the Flyers are 2-1 after a loss to rivals Melbourne Boomers either side of wins over the Flames and Spirit. They should be able to win against both the Lightning and Fire at their best, but both teams have enough talent to worry the Flyers if they have an off night. It is no surprise to see Cambage leading the way, but despite 24 points and 19 rebounds against the Boomers, it was not enough to drag her team over the line. Limited minutes – eight – in the win against the Flames brought her average down to 16.3 points, 8.7 rebounds and 1.7 blocks, but it’s well over a double-double when looking at the 40-minute average.

Cambage should have no shortage of support around her with Opals all across the court from Sara Blicavs helping her off the boards (14 points, nine rebounds as well as 2.3 steals), Jenna O’Hea (10.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 4.0 assists) covering the court well, and Rebecca Cole being the prolific scorer (17.3 points, 3.3 assists) coming off a 27-point game last start. Leilani Mitchell is able to fly under the radar this season, but her tenacity and ability to scrap for every possession, as well as feed to those potent scorers has been noticed, as she put up 8.7 points and 6.3 assists to rank equal second in that area.

Lauren Mansfield has been one of the top transfers in the WNBL for the Flames, coming across from the Lynx and assimilating in without any issues. She is averaging 16.7 points, 6.3 assists and 3.3 rebounds in her time, whilst teammate Alison Schwagmeyer (10.0 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 2.0 steals) has similar enjoyed the extra time on court. Turkish-Australian national Funda Nakkasoglu has come off the bench for 11.7 points per game in coming into the Australian league, while Anneli Maley, Lauren Scherf and Natalie Burton are all bigs who are averaging 7.0 points and 5.0 rebounds or more thus far in the season.

Townsville Fire might be the most interesting team to watch, with the the potent scoring back court duo of Lauren Nicholson and Shyla Heal. Coming from Adelaide Lightning and Bendigo Spirit respectively, the experienced Nicholson has averaged 17.5 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.5 assists this season, whilst the young star Heal has put up 16.5 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists. No doubt the Fire would love to get more points out of the rest of the team, but they have been quite prolific off the boards, as Nadeen Payne (5.0 points, 6.5 rebounds) has helped support the returning Zitina Aokuso (8.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.0 steals) with minutes.

Adelaide Lightning have been an even team performance led by Steph Talbot who was simply unbelievable in her first two games. Clearly the player of the first round, Talbot dropped 27.5 points, 12.0 rebounds, 4.0 steals, 3.0 assists and 2.0 blocks across her matches in some sensational outings, including stepping up in overtime against the Capitals with eight points. The new recruits have also come in and done well as Abigail Wehrung (16.0 points, 9.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists) and Alex Wilson (13.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 1.5 steals) have seamlessly slotted into the five. Wilson will have a chance to face her old team the Flames in a blockbuster showing.

The Townsville hub has plenty of potential to answer a lot of questions with two more teams having a crack at the Flyers. With the Fire back in front of home fans you can never discount them, whilst the Flames are much improved too. That Sydney Uni-Townsville clash is potentially an early head-to-head to determine a fourth from fifth position. Expect the Flyers to still win both, with the feeling that Adelaide and Townsville get up over Sydney Uni, though the Flames could easily win both as well showing just how tight the competition is.