Tag: monique conti

WNBL Grand final preview: Southside Flyers v. Townsville Fire

IT all comes down to this day with Southside Flyers and Townsville Fire set to lock horns in a do or die grand final battle. Southside will be out for vengeance after falling in last year’s WNBL grand final while Townsville Fire have proven they have nothing to lose and everything to gain after an impressive rise through the ranks this season.

The last time these two sides met was only days ago with Southside getting the last laugh in the first semi-final and claiming an important victory, fuelling them with momentum heading into this clash. Despite having a shorter turn around then their competitors, the Fire have an insatiable thirst for a win and will be keen to provide their fans with plenty of entertainment and make full use of their homecourt advantage. It has been a roller coaster season for both sides but by late this afternoon there will be a new crowned champion with either the Flyers or Fire set to walk away with some nice silverware. A victory here would see Southside claim their first premiership since being rebranded while for Townsville it will mark their fourth premiership in history.

The WNBL minor premiers have a real pep in their step having won every outing against Townsville in the past two seasons but will have their work cut out for them against the Fire who are reinvigorated and have a real sense of momentum after stringing together a couple of strong quarters. It is fair to say that belief is strong in the Townsville unit overcoming an experienced Melbourne Boomers outfit only days ago to make their way to the grand final and give themselves a chance to hold the premiership cup aloft.

Statistically speaking, the Flyers have an insane ability to hit the basket with great accuracy and penetration to constantly keep the scoreboard ticking over, meaning that the Fire will have to be on their a-game in order to limit the opportunities in which Southside have to attack the rim. The Flyers also have the upper hand when it comes to fast break points and ability to convert points from turnovers given the high calibre of players that are able to seize the moment and take charge. Defensively the Flyers also reign supreme amassing 33 more blocks than the Fire while also highlighting their cleanliness and ability to attack the ball with 140 steals compared to 109. Southside have the ability to play with a shared mentality highlighted through their higher assists count 369 to 249.  On the flip side the Fire have proven to be tried and tested performers on the rebounding front able to reel in missed shots time and time again.

When looking at top players in either squad it is hard to go past All-WNBL First team star Liz Cambage who has made a lasting impression and will be eager to once again inflict some pain both on the scoreboard and rebound front in the grand final. The center has an impressive set of averages with 24.1 points, 8.9 rebounds and 1.7 blocks a game. She is not alone though with Sara Blicavs a real livewire out on court with her 13.9 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists while Rebecca Cole has elevated her workload throughout the season to collect 15 points, 2.2 rebounds and 4.4 assists each time she steps out on court. The Flyers also have plenty of depth with Leilani Mitchell able to change the course of a game alongside Monique Conti, Aimie Clydesdale and Jenna O’Hea.

The Fire have two key prongs in their unit with Lauren Nicholson and Shyla Heal the go-to-girls able to light up the court and cause a wave with their impact. Nicholson is a seasoned campaigner that knows how to stand up when it counts and averages an impressive 18.8 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.4 steals a game. Partner in crime, Heal is coming off a stellar performance and will be hoping to replicate similar feats today with the youngster not afraid to take the game on credit to her averages of 17.1 points, 4.7 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.4 steals. Off the bench Townsville have some good support with Zitina Aokuso a handy inclusion with her 9.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.1 assists while Nadeen Payne also brings another element to the contest.

It will be a thrilling contest between the two sides as they battle it out for the most prestigious award and honour in the WNBL. Expect the game to go down to the wire and for each player to throw everything they have at it in order to get their side over the line.

Flyers produce another dominant win to take care of Lightning

THERE has been no shortage of dominant Southside Flyers wins this season, but the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) heavyweights completely dismantled Adelaide Lightning in a dominant 111-72 victory last night. The Flyers were just unbelievably good hitting more than half of their field goals, including 57 per cent from two-point range and 38 per cent from long-range, and never looked like losing, winning every quarter by at least seven points.

From the first tip-off Southside got off to a flyer piling on 29 points to 22 in a high-scoring opening term, then blew away the Lightning with a massive 31-17 second quarter. Up by 21 already at the half, the Flyers did not take the foot off the pedal, pouring on another 30 points to 20, and the game was done and dusted as the Flyers were out to a 31-point advantage. Needing to stem the bleeding in the final quarter, the Lightning managed to make it closer, but they still lost the term by eight, going down in a one-sided contest with the Flyers flexing their muscles on their way to a whopping 39-point win.

The Flyers won all the key statistics, with their accuracy being a huge feature of the game, particularly worrying the defence when getting to the basket, nailing 19 of 23 for an 82 per cent clip, whilst the Lightning only had four free throws for the entire game. The rebounds were fairly even with 42-39 in favour of the winners, but they were clearly the better team in assists (31-17) and steals (15-4), and crucified the Lightning on their turnovers.

Adelaide had 25 turnovers to 10, with the Flyers taking full advantage, scoring 33 points to five off the turnover, as well as 20 fast break points to 11. They still had plenty of contribution off their bench thanks to 31 points compared to 22, and also only produced 10 personal fouls to 18. It was as dominant performance as there had been all season.

Liz Cambage just dominated again and was a class above, hitting 12 of her 16 field goals, getting to the line more often than the entire opposition side, and finishing with 29 points and six rebounds. She was far from alone though, as Jenna O’Hea hit 18 points, four rebounds, six assists and four steals, and Rebecca Cole had 16 points, two rebounds, two assists and two steals. Impressively, neither had a turnover on the night, nor did playmaker Leilani Mitchell who racked up eight points and seven assists.

Every player on the Flyers’ side scored, as Monique Conti made the most of more court time in the match, putting up 10 points, five rebounds, three assists and one steal in 13 minutes, while the Blicavs – Sara and Steph – combined for 16 points, 14 rebounds, five assists, two steals and two blocks.

For the Lightning, Alex Wilson hit a team-high 13 points, nine rebounds, four assists and one block, as one of five players who reached double-figure points. The Lightning shared the points around, as Chelsea Brook came off the bench for 12 points, seven rebounds and two assists. Steph Talbot (11 points, six rebounds and two assists), Abigail Wehrung (11 points, two rebounds and two assists) and Marena Whittle (10 points, three rebounds) all had an impact.

The Flyers moved to the top of the table with the victory and now can rest up before facing a Melbourne Boomers lineup that will be up for its fourth game this week, while the Lightning will need to shake off the loss for a huge clash against back-to-back premiers University of Canberra Capitals on Friday night.

Picture: Albert Perez/Getty Images

Southside rally to hand Lightning their second loss

SOUTHSIDE Flyers once again flexed their muscles showcasing their array of talent and bench depth to notch up another convincing win, downing Adelaide Lightning by 31 points in a strong showing (110-79). It is fair to say that once Southside get going there is no stopping them, able to burst out of the blocks and share the scoring around credit to their impressive skillset and incredible number of options to go to the net.

It was not all one-way traffic however, with Adelaide holding the lead at quarter time albeit by three points, proving they too have the fire power to mix it with the best. But a second quarter shooting masterclass put a dampener on that with Southside piling on a whopping 30 points to 17 to not only claim the lead but so to the ascendancy heading into the second half. The Flyers continued that vein of form, outscoring their opponents in the third and fourth quarters to secure their seventh win of the season and claim second spot on the ladder heading into Round 4.

Adelaide had their chances but simply could not convert going at 43 per cent from the field, only nailing 29 goals from 66 attempts. On the other hand, Southside found their rhythm shooting at 50 per cent from the field with their free throw accuracy doing the real damage converting 10 of 12 attempts at 83 per cent. The Lightning proved to be strong off the boards (40-38) while also leading the way for blocks (6-5) but that is where it stopped for Adelaide with the Flyers exploiting them on the assists front (32-24). Southside starred with their clean hands and ability to read the play racking up 12 steals to three while on the turnover front they only recorded a mere six as opposed to Adelaide’s 17.

Liz Cambage once again dominated highlighting her basketball prowess to knock back 25 points while also reeling in seven rebounds. In her 26 minutes on court Sara Blicavs impressed collecting 21 points, five rebounds and four assists while Jenna O’Hea was another key contributor for the Flyers draining 15 points, three rebounds and six assists. Aimie Clydesdale was the only other player to reach double digits for points with 12 to her name along with four assists. Leilani Mitchell was down on her usual output recording nine points but still managed to reel in 10 assists and two steals. Monique Conti also plied her trade picking up eight points, four rebounds and four assists highlighting just how many scoring options the Flyers had.

Although they did not get the job done there were a couple of key contributors for Lightning who stepped up to the plate with Abigail Wehrung leading the way with 21 points, one rebound and two assists. The next best was Marena Whittle who managed 15 points in her 30 minutes on court. Whittle also recorded nine rebounds five of which were offensive along with three assists while Brooke Basham knocked back 13 points, four rebounds and two assists going at 100 per cent from three point range. Louella Tomlinson popped up for nine points, four rebounds and four assists as Steph Talbot only managed six rebounds, four assists and seven assists.

With a win under their belt the Flyers will be hoping to repeat their efforts against the Lightning when they meet again on Wednesday at Cairns Pop-Up Arena.

 

Fire overcome half time deficit to notch up sixth win

WNBL

Townsville Fire got the job done against Sydney Uni Flames limiting them to 14 points in the second half and claiming a 14 point win (73-59). It was an even start to the game with only one point separating the two sides at quarter time before Sydney really started to find their groove in the second quarter to establish a handy lead. However, the tables quickly turned in the second half with Townsville coming out with a real pep in their step blocking every avenue to the rim for the Flames while proving to be a threat up forward going on a scoring spree and stunning Sydney.

Holding the ascendancy at half time Sydney Uni simply could not maintain that same level of intensity, dropping off as the game went on while on the other hand Townsville exploited each opportunity that came their way to impact on the scoreboard and reduced their opposition’s chances of getting any real momentum. Townsville came out with a fire in the belly determined to override their slower start to the game and secure their sixth win of the season and hold onto that third spot on the ladder.

Overall shooting percentage was a real issue for both sides with neither able to hit the 50 per cent or above mark with points proving to be hard to come by for large chunks of time. Sydney sat at a lowly 32 per cent from the field showcasing just how inaccurate they were only nailing 23 of their 71 attempts and while Townsville were not much better ay 42 per cent it did prove to be the difference. Free throw shooting seemed to be the strength of the Flames converting at 71 per cent as opposed to the Fire’s 33 per cent while points in the paint is where the victors felt most comfortable sinking 30 of their points from there. it was a high rebounding game with the Flames getting the nod thanks to their 53 in comparison to the Fire’s 40 but the tables were reversed when it came to assists and steals as Townsville reigned supreme in those two areas (20-9) and (11-5) respectively. Turnovers also proved to be a killer for Sydney Uni who were wasteful with ball in hand recording 16, seven more than their opponents.

In terms of performances it is hard to go past Lauren Scherf who had a day out just falling short of a double-double before half time but quickly hit the milestone after the break. The center was involved in just about everything recording a team-high 18 points along with a staggering 19 rebounds, 13 of which were defensive showcasing her sheer presence on the court despite the loss. Scherf also managed an impressive four blocks to round out a stats-stuffing performance. She was well aided by the likes of Lauren Mansfield who played the entire 40 minutes and managed 16 points, two rebounds, three assists and two steals while Alison Schwagmeyer also found her range with 14 points, five rebounds and five assists.

For the Fire it was the next generation of youngsters that stepped up to the plate and led the way with their drive to the basket, confidence and shooting radar well and truly on. Zitina Aokuso topped the table for Townsville draining 16 points and walking away with a double-double thanks to her 10 rebounds. Shyla Heal was not far behind amassing 15 points, five rebounds and six assists showcasing her ability to be a real playmaker for her side while also boasting the confidence to get the job done herself. The ever-experienced Lauren Nicholson played an integral role in the win finishing with 14 points and three steals as did Nadeen Payne who slotted seven points, eight rebounds and three assists.

Sydney Uni Flames will be hoping to pick themselves up and rally for their clash against the Melbourne Boomers while Townsville have plenty of time to prepare for their meeting against the struggling Perth Lynx side.

Southside dazzle in 40 point victory over Perth

SOUTHSIDE made light work of Perth Lynx claiming a convincing 40 point victory over the bottom two side (102-62). Lynx simply could not compete with the star power of the Flyers, blown out of the water from the opening term where Southside piled on 27 points to 17. The Flyers won every term by a decent margin, showcasing their ability to put their foot down and star with their ball movement, attack and overall class.

Despite Perth edging out to an early five point lead in the first quarter the Flyers flexed their muscles as the quarter went on shutting down their opposition and using their own weapons to full effect. Boasting plenty of x-factor Southside rallied to steal the lead and subsequently swing the momentum in their favour – which from that moment on, never left.

The Flyers led in every significant area shooting at a 62 per cent clip from two-point range while also highlighting their skill from downtown going at 41 per cent, nailing 12 of 29 attempts, compared to Perth who struggled to find their rhythm sitting at 26 per cent. When it came to rebounds the Flyers just pipped Lynx at the post (40-38) while they also dominated assists showcasing their willingness to dish the ball off and share it around, more than doubling their opponents (26-12). Turnovers were another main focal point and an area Perth would not be overly happy to lead in, amassing 27 while the Flyers treasured the ball only recording 12.

It is no surprise that superstar Liz Cambage led the way for Southside recording a game-high 23 points for her efforts while shooting at an overall field goal percentage of 56 per cent. Cambage also managed to ply her trade off the backboards picking up eight rebounds, six of which were defensive while also registering a block. Leilani Mitchell was not far off Cambage with the guard putting up shots from everywhere and most importantly converting at a 77 per cent rate. She walked away with 20 points to her name along with two rebounds, one assist and a steal. The ever-reliable Jenna O’Hea once again stepped up to the plate in her 21 minutes on court sinking 10 points to fill out an already impressive stats sheet of three rebounds, five assists, two steals and a block. The only other player to reach double digits for points was Sara Blicavs who recorded 20 points and seven rebounds. In a clear testament to their bench depth Monique Conti managed nine points while teammate Aimie Clydesdale also chimed in with a handy seven points of her own.

Although the Lynx could not get the job done, a couple of key players proved their worth and impact with Alexandra Sharp starring with her 17 points and five rebounds. The next closest was captain Katie Ebzery who was well and truly down on her lofty standards only managing nine points, four rebounds and four assists. It could have been a big evening for the captain if she had been more accurate shooting at a 37 per cent clip and only nailing one of her five attempts from beyond the arc. Jessie Edwards made her presence felt in her 23 minutes on court knocking back eight points and seven rebounds. She was well aided by the likes of Emma Clarke who slotted seven points and three rebounds while Ashleigh Isenbarger also chipped in with a handy eight points, six rebounds and two assists.

Unfortunately for Lynx the job does not get any easier faced with the UC Capitals tonight who are on a five game winning streak, while Southside will be gearing up for an enthralling clash with Townsville Fire who have been in ripping form the past couple of outings.

Lightning hold off gallant Spirit side

Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images

It was a nail-biting encounter from the opening jump ball with Bendigo Spirit throwing everything they had at Adelaide Lightning only to fall agonisingly short of their first win for the 2020 season (83-89). The class and execution of Adelaide came to fruition, able to withstand the pressure and come out the other side to record their third win of the condensed season.

The lead ebbed and flowed throughout the match with Bendigo claiming the ascendancy heading into the half time break and it looked like it could continue that way with Tessa Lavey dictating the play and opening up a seven point lead midway through the third. But the Lightning struck back with some clever play to outscore the Spirit in the second half 47 to 40. Bendigo seemed to tire as the game went on and were unable to go with Adelaide who kicked it up a gear and could sense a win in the making.

Adelaide had the upper hand when it came to overall field goal percentage going at 44 per cent compared to Bendigo who only converted at 33 per cent. However when it came to three point shooting, Bendigo convert4e 14 of 34 attempts at 41 per cent as Adelaide only managed a 33 per cent clip nailing nine of their 27 attempts. On the rebounding front the Spirit also seemed to have the upper hand reeling in 47 compared to 44. Assists were relatively even with only one splitting the two sides, 18 to 19, while when it came to steals the Lightning showcased their defensive mindset picking up seven opposed to the Spirit’s four.

Despite the loss Carly Ernst was a key figure in the Bendigo outfit, knocking back 22 points, however she shot at a lowly 33 per cent – something she would be hoping to improve on for future games. She also managed a double-double thanks to her eleven rebounds, ten of which were defensive, while also accumulating two assists. It is fair to say that Lavey stole the show starring in her 40 minutes out on court and managing 33 points, nailing four of six shots from three-point range at 66 per cent while also recording three rebounds and six assists. Outside of the aforementioned duo, Demi Skinner was the only other main contributor slotting 17 points in her 21 minutes on court while also amassing three rebounds and one assist in her sides loss.

For the Lightning it is no surprise that Steph Talbot was once again one of the best on court recording 22 points, 12 rebounds (nine defensive) and five assists to cap off an important win. Talbot was impressive from the field  going at 63 per cent but it was Alex Wilson that topped the table for Adelaide recording 23 points, six rebounds and six assists to really push her side over the line. Abigail Wehrung also chimed in with a handy 15 points in her 28 and a half minutes on court showcasing her ability to stand up under pressure and deliver. Marena Whittle plied her trade off the boards collecting eight rebounds to accompany her eight points while the only other player to make a real splash was Louella Tomlinson who slotted eight points.

Lightning are set to come up against Sydney Uni Flames on Saturday while the winless Bendigo have UC Capital next.

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.

Madgen makes a Booming return, Melbourne knock off Flames in Thursday opener

WITH the mission being to win a championship for the first time since 2011, the Melbourne Boomers are on the right track to start their WNBL20 campaign, with a 15-point victory over the Sydney Uni Flames, 85-70.

A 14-point score difference in the second and third quarters proved to be the difference in the end, as the Boomers’ main weapons found their strokes after the first quarter break.

Melbourne’s starting five was as expected with Cayla George and Ezi Magbegor going shoulder-to-shoulder in the Boomers frontcourt with Maddie Garrick, Tess Madgen and Stella Beck filling the spots outside the perimeter. But many were keen to see how Flames Head Coach Katrina Hibbert lined up her squad for the opening tip. Time would divulge the line-up as being Lauren Mansfield, Alison Schwagmeyer and Anneli Maley running the backcourt, and former Opal Natalie Burton defending the rim with Lauren Scherf.

Early rebounds from George paved the way for the opening points of the contest with Madgen making her return to the Boomers official, putting up the initial two points of the game down the lane. The ensuing play throughout the remainder of the first period would be rather even in terms of scoring, with the Flames edging their noses in front for nine of the first ten minutes.

Coach Guy Molloy made his first rotation change six minutes into the first by injecting Kalani Purcell and Ashleigh Karaitiana, which shifted momentum following a layup and a charge from the pair. With less than a minute to play in the first, Beck would drill a three to return the lead to Melbourne and conclude proceedings in the opening 10 minutes, putting the score at 17-15 in favour of the Boomers.

Following a relatively quiet first quarter from both sides, the first score of the second came after two minutes with Purcell capitalising on good aggression to the rim. But the Flames hit back quickly with Carly Boag earning herself an And-One and Mansfield tying it up shortly after with a triple of her own.

Magbegor went through 14 minutes of play without putting her name on the scoresheet, but she quickly bucked that trend with an And-One to reassert her team’s control giving her side a 40-34 buffer. In the twilight minutes of the second quarter Melbourne’s Opals started to shine through, as the combination of Madgen and George put their skillsets on display by putting a double-digit cushion between the two teams.

Madgen, who led the game in scoring heading into halftime with 70 per cent shooting would compile 15 points along with four rebounds and help the Purple and Gold to a comforting 43-31 lead. Meanwhile, Garrick was next up on deck with eight points and George had a rebound for every first-half-point of her own, producing six points and six rebounds in 20 minutes of play.

A quiet first two periods for the Flames saw Mansfield (seven points) and Scherf (six points) leading their roster in the scoring totals, whereas Schwagmeyer was embracing her new role as a starter with five points and a triplet of assists.

Magbegor started the second half picking up steam, knocking down three free-throws and a put-back layup to get Melbourne off on the right foot in their pursuit of a Game One win. On the other hand, a disjointed Sydney Uni offence struggled to convert early in the third quarter. Mansfield, however, came through after three minutes to get her ninth point of the contest.

Midway through the third phase, Molloy’s squad would crack the 20-point-lead mark with five minutes left in the third thanks to a 12-2 start succeeding half-time, as he made the most out of his starters – namely 30-year-old Madgen and her 22 points in 25 minutes, and Magbegor who had a double-double prior to the third intermission for the Boomers, who were up 64-48 with 10 minutes to play.

While the fourth seemed like a formality, the Flames put up a scrappy end quarter to bring the margin back to a respectable number. Sporadic highlights from secondary prospects like Funda Nakkasoglu and Shanae Greaves brought the deficit back to 15, but the damage had already been inflicted by last season’s third seed, as Melbourne coasted home to a dominant 85-70 triumph.

Shooting 47 per cent overall as a team compared to Sydney Uni’s 32 per cent, Melbourne were on another level when it came to putting points up on the scoreboard. A plus-13 on the boards summed up the Boomers’ performance (48-35), as a season-opening win seemed imperative to the team even before the first whistle.

In her return to the side for the first time in five seasons, Madgen put on a clinic during her 33 minutes of court time. She found her mark on ten field goals, which in-turn led to 23 points, five assists and four rebounds on the night. Magbegor had a quiet first half which led to a resounding second, resulting in a 16-point and 11-rebound performance for the 21-year-old, whereas Garrick left the floor with 14 points of her own. George accounted for eight points and nine rebounds.

The Flames will need to move on quickly and revert back to the basics if they are to bounce back in two days against the Bendigo Spirit, but Sydney Uni had some solid performances, nevertheless. Mansfield recorded a team-high 17 points off the back of three triples, while Scherf led the way in rebounds with seven next to her 10 points. But surprisingly in her return to the WNBL, Nakkasoglu came up big with 12 points comprising of two three-pointers and 100 per cent accuracy from the charity strike (6/6).

After a long time away from the city she admires, Madgen noted post-game how much she was looking forward to playing for Melbourne once again, “I love Melbourne, I love the Boomers and we have got a great team,” said Madgen. “[We have] a lot of really good players and a great coaching staff. It has been a long preseason so it is really good to be out there and play,” she added.

Two days from now, the Boomers size up their cross-town rivals the Southside Flyers in what will be a battle of raw talent on both sides, as two of the best clubs in the country go at it head-to-head in Townsville’s Saturday night double-header.

Picture: WNBL

Flyers reinforce notion as “team-to-beat”, thrash Spirit by 42

Liz Cambage made a successful return to the WNBL on Thursday. Picture credit: WNBL

This year’s championship-favourites proved why they hold that title last night in a 40-minute demolition job of the Bendigo Spirit. The Flyers’ international-calibre depth was on display throughout all four quarters led by their marquee signing Liz Cambage and her “hit squad” of long-time Opals, lashing Bendigo 102-60.

Southside’s star-studded line-up was as expected with Leilani Mitchell and Bec Cole in the backcourt being supported by Jenna O’Hea, Sara Blicavs and Cambage. For the Spirit, Amelia Todhunter, Tessa Lavey, Mary Goulding, Alicia Froling and Carley Ernst got the nod to start the contest.

Froling and Mitchell got the scoring going for their respective teams, but two minutes in, Cambage made her presence known with seven-straight points, setting in motion an early advantage to the Flyers.

Cole got her range going five minutes in with a three-pointer, but Lavey and the Spirit proved pesky opponents in the infancy stages of the game. Despite this, former Opal Rachel Jarry put a dent in Bendigo’s ploy with a three and a jumpshot to extend Southside’s first-quarter lead, which was followed up by a last-second layup from Aimie Clydesdale to conclude a 60 per cent shooting first quarter of play with the Flyers up 22-12.

Bendigo came out of the opening intermission with a focused intent, following five-straight points from Ernst. But for every bit of headway the Spirit made, Southside’s depth undid their work again and again. This problem was further compounded by a 14-0 Flyers run topped off by an O’Hea corner three and in the blink of an eye, the score sat at 43-19 halfway through the second.

To wrap up the first half, both sides exhibited their secondary units, as Southside continued their lead upwards thanks to individuals like Stephanie Blicavs and Monique Conti, as the half time score would read 30-56 in favour of the Flyers.

Headlining their ridiculous efficiency through two quarters (63 per cent conversion rate) were the Southside starters, as the team’s core unit spread out the scoring load up until the midway point of the contest. More specifically, Cambage led the way with 13 points and three rebounds next to her frontcourt partner in crime Sara Blicavs, who totalled eight points and eight rebounds after 20 minutes.

Spirit Head Coach Tracy York relied heavily on her marquee duo in Ernst and Lavey, as the two combined for 33 minutes and 18 points in the first half, whereas Froling hustled her way to seven rebounds.

Bendigo enjoyed a rare scoring stint in the third term with an 8-2 run three minutes into the second half, lighting a small fire under the squad. Unfortunately for the Spirit, more of the same from Cambage was to follow, as she used her size and her strength to bully all opponents defending her around the rim.

Southside continued their barrage from deep thanks primarily to Steph Blicavs and Jarry in the third quarter alone, even including Development Player Saraid Taylor on the action as she polished off a triple with a minute remaining in the championship quarter. Clydesdale almost made the quarter better, getting off a last second three-pointer just milliseconds after the buzzer had sounded.

A foregone conclusion long before the fourth quarter, the Flyers ran out Thursday night’s closer with a complete four quarter performance, outscoring the Spirit 22-13 in the fourth, cracking the 40-point lead mark with 102 seconds to play and achieving 100 team points on the game with 40 seconds left, culminating in a head-to-toe 102-60 rout of Bendigo.

Looking at both teams statistically, the Spirit would get the better of the Flyers in free-throw percentage, but virtually every other aspect of the game belonged to Southside. Most noticeable from last night’s victors was their accuracy from the field, as last year’s runners-ups converted on 38 baskets from 71 attempts (53 per cent). This also included 13 threes from 26 assists in what was nothing less than a one-sided affair.

In just 20 minutes of play, Cambage would set a game-high total in points with 19, while Sara Blicavs continued to uphold her reputation as a rebounding machine with a double-double performance of 17 points and 12 boards. Cole (12) and Mitchell (10) also secured double digits, as Conti impressed off the bench with her fast-paced style of play and silky handles – she finished with nine points and three rebounds.

Knowing full well that they face the Sydney Uni Flames in a couple of days, the Spirit have the chance to bounce back from what just transpired. Some positives could be taken away from last night, especially from specific individuals. Ernst earned herself a solid 16-point and seven-rebound effort, whilst Froling made her first contest back since her injury a respectable one on the glass, finishing with four points and 11 rebounds. In what was a lacklustre shooting night for the captain, Lavey’s eight points from 18 per cent accuracy will be a night to forget, as she prepares herself to lead the Spirit into Saturday’s clash.

In her post-game interview, Sara Blicavs pointed to the team’s eagerness to get back on the floor as their primary motivator in what was a total team effort, “I think we were just excited to get back on the court you know?” said Blicavs.

“We are obviously from Victoria, so we have been in lockdown for about six months and we have not played a game since the Grand Final in March, so we were just eager to get out here.

“We were a little bit nervous; but I think pre-game we got a lot of our energy out which was good, and we came out on court and executed,” she finalised.

WNBL fans have to wait for Saturday night in what will be a meeting of two behemoths, with the Flyers taking on the Melbourne Boomers who are coming off a convincing win against the Flames. A true test of strength will be showcased, as we gain insight into what a possible Grand Final matchup could look like.

2020 WNBL Round 1 weekday preview: Mackay and Townsville hubs tip-off as all eight teams commence

IN 2020 the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) is a little different compared to usual, with the rounds stretching over more days with extra games. At Draft Central, we will preview the weekday games, followed by the weekend games separately to ensure the permutations in the second half of the round are as accurate as possible.

We tip-off Round 1 with all eight sides competing in the North Queensland hubs, starting in Mackay on Wednesday, and then heading to Townsville on Thursday in what should be a blockbuster opening round of action.

* Game times are local/AEDT

ADELAIDE LIGHTING vs. UC CAPITALS
Wednesday, November 11, 5/6pm (Mackay)

Opening the new season is 2019/20 finalists, Adelaide Lightning going up against reigning premiers, UC Capitals. The Capitals will be keen to retain their title in the 2020 shortened season despite losing a couple of key imports over the off-season. In the absence of volume shooter and league Most Valuable Player (MVP) Kia Nurse, and Grand Final Series MVP Olivia Epoupa, the Capitals will have a slightly different starting five heading into the season.

The quartet of Australians crucial to the success fo the Capitals all re-signed with co-captains Kelsey Griffin and Marianna Tolo, and rising stars Keely Froling and Maddison Rocci all rejoining the side. Sydney Uni Flames’ Tahlia Tupaea was tipped to be the fifth member of the starting side for coach Paul Gorriss. Along with Tupaea, the Capitals have also brought in former Lightning talents Hannah Kaser and Ashley Taia to add some spice to the mix, as well as up and coming youngster Jade Melbourne.

While the Capitals largely have a known list, the Lightning will be vastly different to the team that fronted up last season. Chelsea Brook, Steph Talbot are the only two expected starters who got on court last season, with Jasmin Fejo predicted to play a key role in 2020. With veteran Lauren Nicholson heading north to Townsville and captain Nicole Seekamp retiring, the Lightning have brought in key player Marena Whittle, and had added talented college graduate Alana Smith but unfortunately injury has ruled her out for the year. Others who have joined returning back to the country include Taylor Ortlepp, Ella Batish and Carlie Smith, as well as WNBL talents Alex Wilson (Sydney Uni Flames), Louella Tomlinson (Southside Flyers) and Abbey Wehrung (Bendigo Spirit).

The UC Capitals will head in as favourites for the clash coming in as reigning premiers and with more stability in their line-up, but the Lightning will be an exciting team to see how they gel.

PERTH LYNX vs. TOWNSVILLE FIRE
Wednesday, November 11, 7/8pm (Mackay)

Two sides that will be keen to build on their 2019/20 season will be Perth Lynx and Townsville Fire who missed out on the post-season finals. The Fire will be no stranger to the weather conditions in the far north, but find themselves the visiting team in this encounter with the Lynx. The Fire have made a number of changes to invigorate their lineup with both young stars and experienced heads joining the team. The Lynx will also look largely different after some off-season changes, including assistant coach Ryan Petrik stepping up to replace outgoing head coach Andy Stewart.

The biggest intrigue of the match will be the changing of colours of Nadeen Payne and Darcee Garbin who effectively were involved in a trade with the players switching allegiances. Payne went from Perth to Townsville, whilst Garbin joined the Lynx from the Fire. Young gun Shyla Heal was the huge signing of the off-season for the Fire, with up-and-comers Megan McKay, Lara McSpadden and Courtney Woods all strengthening the outfit. Steph Reid crossed from Southside Flyers for more court time and enjoyed a strong QSL season, whilst Lauren Nicholson’s arrival from the Lightning added that experience needed at the Fire around the young talent.

The Lynx did not waste any time by announcing veteran and former Lynx star Sami Whitcomb back for the season, but unfortunately she was mutually released for family reasons. The re-signing of Katie Ebzery was as important as any, whilst Garbin was a welcome inclusion. The omissions are going to hurt, with not only Payne going, but Lauren Mansfield and Alison Schwagmeyer heading to Sydney Uni, and Marena Whittle joining Adelaide Lightning. Perth also brought in some local players with Kayla Steindl, Ashleigh Isenbarger and Mackenzie Clinch-Hoycard all joining the fray, while Jessie Edwards signed on from the Lightning among a number of other re-signings.

It seems the two sides are at the opposite ends of the off-season success with Townsville bringing in a host of big guns, whilst Perth has lost a number of key players making it tough for the Lynx. With the home state advantage, expect the Fire to start off strongly here.

MELBOURNE BOOMERS vs. SYDNEY UNI FLAMES
Thursday, November 12, 6/7pm (Townsville)

Tipping off Thursday nights’s action in Townsville, two sides that will believe they can go deep in the finals series go head-to-head. The Melbourne Boomers have kept a relatively strong line-up together, whilst Sydney Uni Flames have bolstered their hopes of pushing into the finals series. Given the losses the Lightning have had, the Flames are a huge chance to force their way into the top four, and alongside Townsville are the other side likely to crack into the finals.

The Boomers announced signing Tess Madgen from Townsville and quickly tied up Madeleine Garrick, Cayla George and Ezi Magbegor within the first month of the re-signing period. Kalani Purcell, Antonia Farnworth, Penina Davidson, Stella Beck and Rachel Brewster all followed, with Eliza Wright, Hope Terdich and Rachel Antoniadou stepping up from NBL1 level. Possibly the most underrated signing of the period came in late October with the announcement that Tall Black, Ashleigh Karaitiana would join the side after a big QSL season and she will only strengthen that outfit. The three losses were Monique Conti to the Flyers, Paige Price to Bendigo and Chelsea D’Angelo out with an Achilles injury, but the Boomers are still a formidable unit.

The Flames will be an incredibly different outfit in 2020, possibly four of the starting five coming from other sides. June 24 marked a big day for the Flames, announcing he recruitment of Anneli Maley from Southside Flyers, and even bigger the coup of Lauren Mansfield from Perth Lynx. Alison Schwagmeyer followed Mansfield to the Flames, while Kiera Rowe joined Maley in crossing from Southside. The inclusions replaced the likes of Tahlia Tupaea, Brittany Smart and Lara McSpadden who all departed, whilst Turkish-Australian national Funda Nakkasoglu was allowed to sign having dual citizenship being born in Melbourne. Natalie Burton also returned to her home country and will slot straight into the four spot with Lauren Scherf the other key starter for the Flames. Carly Boag (Finland) also returned home to Australia from Europe and will add to the strength of the side.

Melbourne Boomers have the known form and will be favourites in this game, but the Flames have a lot of unknown about them. That can work in their favour once they gel, and could be a dangerous team this season.

BENDIGO SPIRIT vs. SOUTHSIDE FLYERS
Thursday, November 12, 8/9pm (Townsville)

The final game of the first half of the round might be the most anticipated. Not necessarily due to the result, but more so to see the much anticipated starting five of the Southside Flyers. Last year’s runners-up have got enough Opals to open a jewellery shop, and they are favourites for the overall title. Some have suggested it could be the greatest line-up ever assembled, which could well be true which only adds to the pressure and intrigue. Bendigo Spirit will have the toughest assignment up first, with a much more inexperienced lineup compared to the Flyers.

The Spirit lost American Rebecca Tobin who chose to head to Romania, as well as Abbey Wehrung (Adelaide) and Shyla Heal (Townsville) who will all be big losses. They have signed up college returnee Georgia Pineau who should help provide some extra young talent to the team, as well as Amelia Todhunter and Piper Dunlop out of the NBL1 competition. Dunlop is a rising star and one to watch, whilst Mary Goulding has returned from Sweden, and Jennie Rintala crossed over from the Lightning. Paige Price adds some great young talent to the Spirit taking over from Heal, while the re-signings of Alicia Froling, Cassidy McLean and Tessa Lavey were crucial, with the latter also testing herself at AFL Women’s, but will be present in the hub.

Southside Flyers on the other hand went from strength to strength over the off-season. Losing crucial import Mercedes Russell to Turkey due to the no-imports rule, they set about re-signing everybody else. Jenna O’Hea, Rebecca Cole, Sara Blicavs, Aimie Clydesdale and Rebecca Pizzey all signed on in between a host of incredible signings. Steph Blicavs crossed from Adelaide, Rachel Jarry stepped up from NBL1, and Monique Conti came over from cross-town rivals the Boomers. But by far the biggest both physically and metaphorically was Liz Campage with the WNBA champion the biggest signing of the off-season and turning the Flyers into the standout team. The Flyers did lose a few, with Steph Reid going to Townsville, Louella Tomlinson heading to Adelaide and Kiera Rowe going to Sydney Uni, but the inclusions far outweigh the omissions.

It is hard to look past Southside in any game this season just about, and when they are coming up against an inexperienced Bendigo lineup, the Flyers are comfortably the favourites in this one.

Picture: WNBL

2020 WNBL season preview – Part 2: Finalists to line up for another crack at title

IN the second part of our two-part Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) season preview, we look at the four finalists from last year and where they stand. Expect them all to be there at the pointy end, getting stronger over the journey and making it a highly competitive season in 2020.

Southside Flyers

Without a doubt the premiership favourites and team to beat in the WNBL 2020 season. The Southside flyers have not only been able to retain key players, but added some elite talents with a starting five that could well be an international line-up. Over the off-season, they lost Mercedes Russell under the import rule, and then the experienced Louella Tomlinson to Adelaide Lightning. Steph Reid headed to Townsville Fire and both Anneli Maley and Kiera Rowe headed to Sydney Uni Flames.

Whilst those players provided great depth to the club, the Flyers brought in the biggest off-season coup of the lot, signing WNBA talent Liz Cambage to the roster. With Cambage an upgrade on an already elite Russell at the five, then adding in Stephanie Blicavs to join her sister at the club, as well as young gun Monique Conti, the Flyers were literally flying through the off-season. Aside from the inclusions, the Flyers re-signed almost their entire list, with Jenna O’Hea, Sara Blicavs, Rebecca Cole, Aimie Clydesdale and Leilani Mitchell among the key signings.

WHY THEY CAN WIN IT:

On paper there is littler doubt this team could win it, littered with a ridiculous amount of Opals. Their talent is unmatched and they deserve favouritism.

WHY THEY CAN’T WIN IT:

The only reason they might not is due to gelling reasons with such star power across the court. It is hard to imagine them struggling, and they will get to the finals alone on talent, but they will have a lot of top stars fighting for minutes which will be the envy of the competition.

CHANGES:

INS: Liz Cambage (International), Stephanie Blicavs (Adelaide), Monique Conti (Melbourne), Rachel Jarry (NBL1)
OUTS: Anneli Maley, Kiera Rowe (Sydney Uni), Steph Reid (Townsville), Louella Tomlinson (Adelaide), Mercedes Russell (International)
RE-SIGNINGS: Jenna O’Hea, Rebecca Cole, Sara Blicavs, Aimie Clydesdale, Leilani Mitchell, Rebecca Pizzey, Taylah Gilliam, Saraid Taylor, Amy O’Neill

POTENTIAL STARTING FIVE:

Bec Cole
Leilani Mitchell
Jenna O’Hea
Sara Blicavs
Liz Cambage

>> Southside Flyers team preview

PREDICTION: 1st-2nd

The Southside Flyers are the team to beat in season 2020, with talent across the entire court. Not only is their starting five ridiculously strong, but even their bench is clearly a class above any others. They are the standout team and it would take a brave person to back against them this season.

UC Capitals

The reigning back-to-back premiers were quick on the trigger to announce a host of re-signings at the start of the off-season to secure their line-up for a crack a at a three-peat. Whilst it was announced early that they would be without their Most Valuable Player (MVP) Kia Nurse, and Grand Final MVP Olivia Epoupa, they were able to secure everyone else. Only young gun Gemma Potter departed the club for College in the United States, whilst the big guns such as co-captains Marianna Tolo and Kelsey Griffin, Keely Froling and Maddison Rocci all re-signed.

In terms of their inclusions, the Capitals added some extra strength to the line-up with Tahlia Tupaea and Brittany Smart both making the move from Sydney Uni Flames. Hannah Kaser was the other WNBL player to switch allegiances, coming from Adelaide Lightning, while Jade Melbourne took the step up from the AIS and Ashley Taia earned a contract following her QSL season. Abby Cubilo, Alex Delaney and Mikaela Ruef were the other players to re-sign with the reigning premiers.

WHY THEY CAN WIN IT:

They have continuity in their team, they will have a fully fit Griffin and the team knows what it takes to win the title. They have done it twice back-to-back and the team is largely the same minus their couple of imports. If their young guns can step up, they are every chance.

WHY THEY CAN’T WIN IT:

Southside Flyers have brought in some imposing players, while Melbourne Boomers have not got any worse. It will be interesting to see if the Capitals can cover the loss of Nurse and Epoupa this season which will go a long way to determining their fortunes in 2020.

CHANGES:

INS: Tahlia Tupaea, Brittany Smart (Sydney Uni), Hannah Kaser (Adelaide), Jade Melbourne (NBL1), Ashley Taia (QSL)
OUTS: Kia Nurse, Olivia Epoupa, Gemma Potter (International)
RE-SIGNINGS: Marianna Tolo, Kelsey Griffin, Keely Froling, Maddison Rocci, Abby Cubilo, Alex Delaney, Mikaela Ruef

POTENTIAL STARTING FIVE:

Tahlia Tupaea
Maddison Rocci
Keely Froling
Kelsey Griffin
Marianna Tolo

>> UC Capitals team preview

PREDICTION: 1st-3rd

The UC Capitals are too good not to be there at the pointy end. They are a superb team, and whilst the Flyers will be hard to beat with all their firepower, expect the Capitals to give it a red hot crack and go for a three-peat. If they can play at the level they are capable of, they are the best chance of winning another flag.

Melbourne Boomers

The Melbourne Boomers have gone close the last couple of years, but have not been able to come away with any silverware. Remaining one of the most solid units over the off-season, the Boomers only lost a trio of young guns, whilst picking up a top talent from Townsville. Paige Price (Bendigo), Monique Conti (Southside) and Chelsea D’Angelo (Achilles, released) were the three main departures from the club, with the Boomers always relying on Australian talent, so the import rule did not impact them as much as other sides.

Madeleine Garrick, Cayla George, Ezi Magbegor and Kalani Purcell form a dominant four, and throw in the Fire’s Tess Madgen who has made the move to the Boomers, and Guy Molloy will head in with another title-contending unit. Antonia Farnworth, Penina Davidson, Stella Beck and Rachel Brewster re-signed as well as a number of state-league talents, including Tall Black shooter Ashleigh Karaitiana who could prove important coming off the bench.

WHY THEY CAN WIN IT:

The Boomers are a settled unit with very few changes to the side that has challenged the last couple of years. The addition of Madgen is a positive one, and it is hard to see them not at least giving it a crack, even if they do fall short again.

WHY THEY CAN’T WIN IT:

Southside and UC Capitals still have the firepower, though the Boomers might be on par with the Capitals given their losses over the off-season. The Flyers will be hard to beat on paper, but the continuity of the Boomers over a short season might help.

CHANGES:

INS: Tess Madgen (Townsville), Eliza Wright, Hope Terdich, Rachel Antoniadou (NBL1), Ashleigh Karaitiana (QSL)
OUTS: Paige Price (Bendigo), Monique Conti (Southside), Chelsea D’Angelo (Achilles)
RE-SIGNINGS: Madeleine Garrick, Cayla George, Ezi Magbegor, Kalani Purcell, Antonia Farnworth, Penina Davidson, Stella Beck, Rachel Brewster

POTENTIAL STARTING FIVE:

Maddie Garrick
Tess Madgen
Ezi Magbegor
Kalani Purcell
Cayla George

>> Melbourne Boomers preview

PREDICTION: 1st-4th

The Melbourne Boomers are a tough team to beat, and it will take the best of the Flyers and Capitals to get it done. They are certainly among the top sides in the competition, and whilst the Flyers are deserving favourites, the Boomers have enough talent to step up in big games.

Adelaide Lightning

Even though the Lightning might be lower down on this list, there is genuine hope they can repeat their last two season and make finals. The loss of veteran, Lauren Nicholson would have hurt the Lightning, with Steph Blicavs the other massive out for the Lightning. Both players headed off to the east coast to play with Townsville and Southside, though the one benefit is that Blicavs missed last season due to her pregnancy, so effectively Nicholson is the only starting five net out. The other two that were due to come in but have since had to be released were state league talent Jasmin Fejo (pregnancy) and college graduate Alanna Smith (ankle) who would have provided some excitement. Natalie Hurst (retired), Jessie Edwards (Perth), Jessie Rintala (Bendigo) and Hannah Kaser (UC Capitals) were the others to depart.

The Lightning have brought in some vital experience though, with Sydney Uni’s Alex Wilson expected to slot into the guard spot alongside Perth’s Marena Whittle making that a pretty handy, and most importantly steady duo. Steph Talbot and Chelsea Brook provide some strength and consistency through the forwards, and whilst Brook might start as the five, bringing in another veteran in Louella Tomlinson from Southside means Brook might slide to the four. Abby Wehrung is a pretty handy sixth player, with some impressive state leaguers in Carlie Smith and Ella Batish also joining, and a quartet of international young talents in Taylor Ortlepp, Morgan Yaeger, Brooke Basham and Aimee Brett returning to Australia.

WHY THEY CAN WIN IT:

Despite losing Nicholson and Blicavs, the damage to the team from last season that was effectively done was just Nicholson out, and a mix of youth and experience in. They have enough versatility to get the job done and bringing in veterans helps steady the team and allow them to gel quicker. This season should be more competitive and could allow for some upset wins.

WHY THEY CAN’T WIN IT:

In a short season it still will take a little time to gel and adding extra talent to the starting five is great, but it will be interesting to see how they fare against the top three teams. They need a lot to go right to knock them off.

CHANGES:

IN: Marena Whittle (Perth), Taylor Ortlepp, Morgan Yaeger, Brooke Basham, Aimee Brett (International), Louella Tomlinson (Southside), Carlie Smith (QSL), Alex Wilson (Sydney Uni), Abby Wehrung (Bendigo), Ella Batish (NBL1)
OUT:  Lauren Nicholson (Townsville), Jessie Edwards (Perth), Jessie Rintala (Bendigo), Steph Blicavs (Southside), Hannah Kaser (UC Capitals), Natalie Hurst (retired)
RE-SIGNED: Steph Talbot, Chelsea Brook

POTENTIAL STARTING FIVE:

Alex Wilson
Marena Whittle
Steph Talbot
Chelsea Brook
Louella Tomlinson

>> Adelaide Lightning team preview

PREDICTION: 4th-6th

Overall the Lightning are not to be underestimated. There is every chance they force their way into the four. In a short season with a quick turnaround between games, it will be interesting to see how they first gel, and secondly deal with the body management given some of their older talents. Still an outside contender.

Young Guns in the WNBL – Paige Price

IN what has been a busy few weeks in the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) Free Agency period, the Bendigo Spirit have made their intentions known for next season with numerous signings over the last couple of months.

According to Spirit General Manager Ben Harvey back in late-June, Bendigo will be focused on adhering to their “development philosophy” for next season, as the franchise looks to gather positive results in the WNBL21 campaign. With this in mind, the recruitment of 17-year-old Paige Price seemed the perfect fit as she prepares for her second season in the WNBL and stint with the University of Indiana next year.

For Price, her introduction to the game originated from her family and their involvement in basketball from the day she was born. Simone, Price’s mother, was no stranger to the Australian basketball scene having played 135 games in the WNBL with the Bulleen Boomers while her father’s (Adam) coaching and love for the game provided a good basis and teaching point for Price.

But, perhaps the biggest influence for Price’s initial attraction to the game of basketball, was her older brother, Aden.

“My whole family was pretty much into basketball when I was growing up,” Price said. “But, with Aden playing at a high level with Victorian state teams, I always went and watched his games. And me sitting courtside with dad, he always made me watch the leaders of that team to make sure I knew what I was doing when I was growing up and playing. But yeah, he definitely influenced me, because we were always outside practicing and he was always getting me better.”

While playing for fun in her younger years was good for Price, she soon realised her hunger to succeed and elevate her game would arrive before her eventually. That stage came at the age of 12, as Price realised she could start to create options in various situations of a game and project the qualities of a team-leader.

After hard work and serious dedication to her craft, it was a few years later that Price started to make noticeable headway in Australia’s junior pathways. This came after being selected as the captain of Vic Country’s U16 State Championships side and then leading the team to a silver medal in 2018. She once again lead the Vic Country side in Under 18’s, establishing herself as one of the top-prospects for her age outside Melbourne’s metropolitan area.

From there and even before, the accolades started to accumulate, winning numerous Victorian Junior Basketball Association and state titles with clubs like the Melbourne Tigers, Knox Raiders, the Dandenong Rangers (in which she became a Development Prospect for the WNBL side as a 14-year-old) and the Southern Peninsula Sharks.

The next step for Price, however, came a year later when the youngster’s career became international. She was selected to lead the Australian Under 15’s side at the FIBA Oceania Championships in Papua New Guinea, under the guidance of Bendigo Head Coach, Tracy York, who recites nothing but positives for her former captain.

“Paige can shoot the three, but she can also get to the rim if she needs to,” York said. “She reads the play well, she’s very coachable and she’s an athletic type of player, which definitely bodes well for her.”

Described by York as a really good relationship between captain and coach, the two helped lead the side to a convincing 60-point demolition job of New Zealand in the Gold Medal match. This rounded out a successful international campaign, as Price was named in the tournament’s All-Star Five.

“I think as you would like to do with all your players, but it doesn’t always happen, is you want to gel well together with them,” York said. “But with Paige, she’s coachable, she likes seeking advice, asking what she can work on and she’s very mature for her age, so she was able to lead that Under 15 group very well,” she continued.

“She likes the way I coach, and I like the way she plays and then everything else becomes quite easy along the way, whether you’ve got a hard game or an easy game or whatever it is,” York concluded.

For Price, finding out that she was representing her country was something that she remembers very vividly, as it is something she had been pursuing since she was very young. “It was an incredible feeling representing Australia,” Price reminisced. “Because it makes you feel like you’ve done something special and you actually have a chance to make an impact in the basketball world.”

Having achieved the feat of representing her country, it was time to look to bigger and better things from an individual perspective, as Price started advertising herself to numerous Division One NCAA institutions in Year 10, the earliest one can start applying here in Australia. But it was not until 2019 that the offers started to come in for the teenager, prompting Price and her father to fly to the U.S for unofficial visits on the Pacific Coast and in the Deep South.

Price visited Arizona State, Oklahoma, UCLA among others (she also visited Duke prior to the trip as a part of a NPP side that competed in a tournament earlier). But, it was the collective-goal mindset of another college in the Mid-West that grabbed the Melburnian’s attention.

Price considers herself a very big person on “family culture” says the soon-to-be Bloomington-resident, as opposed to some of the individuality of some other schools, which is why she was drawn to what the University of Indiana had to offer from a team-based perspective.

The Hoosiers, a Big 10 member of the NCAA Division I Collegiate Basketball system, exudes historical importance in the history of basketball within the United States, with citations of Women’s Basketball going as far back as 1891 in what was known as the “Maxwell Era”. This making the fact that Price will be the first ever Australian to enrol with the institution even more impressive.

While the women’s team is yet to win the National Championship, they have competed in the ‘Big Dance’ six times, getting as far as the Second Round in the tournament for the third time in the program’s history just last year. Furthermore, Indiana is currently seeded at Number 20 in the AP rankings nationwide.

An additional factor to Price’s commitment, was the blossoming relationship that she and Head Coach Teri Moren have started to grow the few times they have communicated.

“We were definitely friendly straight away and I could talk to her about anything,” Price said. “We had a connection that just clicked instantly, as well as with Assistant Coach Glenn Box. They definitely made me feel comfortable and they were super welcoming and friendly, and they had a warm personality which is exactly what I was looking for.”

The Zoom call with the rest of the team was the deciding factor for Price, as later in the same day with her parents beside her, she made the decision that she would be wearing Red and White come the Fall semester next year in Bloomington.

Looking back to the present, Price prepares for her upcoming season with Bendigo, hot off the heels of her debut season in the WNBL as a Development Player with the Melbourne Boomers. This came after a year with the Australian Institute of Sport’s Centre of Excellence program in the NBL1 competition as a Scholarship Holder.

Provided she only made two on-court appearances during the WNBL20 season, the six-foot-two prospect considers that initial season in the WNBL essential in preparing for the style of play she can expect overseas and in her development as a professional too.

“Just training with those professional bodies and the experience of those players, it definitely helped my game a lot,” Price said. “It also gave me an insight into the level that I have to be at in order to make an impact in a top-league like that.”

The women in Guy Molloy‘s squad last season always held each other accountable, and that was something Price was a big proponent of. But in terms of individuals that had a profound effect on her, Price appreciated the leadership and motivation that Boomers’ captains Cayla George and Maddie Garrick brought to the table. As well as the camaraderie that grew between fellow rising stars like Chelsea D’Angelo, Penina Davidson and Monique Conti.

Now, Price looks ahead to the WNBL21 season in Bendigo, once again under the guise of coach York. But this time the case has been made by the gaffer, now going into her second season of her contract, that minutes are not guaranteed for most of the squad, and being one of the younger inclusions in the side, this includes Price.

“It will definitely be a ‘work for what you get’ scenario for all of us, but I’ll definitely be taking the challenge on,” Price stated. “I love working hard and especially going against these bigger bodies I’m definitely going to enjoy it as well.”

But like so many others who strive to compete at the top level, a lot of sacrifice and time goes into this mission, especially by those around you. The same goes for Price and her family, as she remains grateful for everything her family has done to help her develop into the player she is today.

“I definitely could not be where I am today without them,” Price said. “For example, I used to train with my sister Ebony when I was younger. So, just things like that and having that kind of support I’m lucky to have, as well as my parents always driving me to be the best that I can be.”

Price is currently finishing her Year 12 studies and will join the Spirit later in the year, once COVID-19 restrictions ease.

To read the Hoosiers’ statement following Paige Price’s commitment – Read Here

NBL1 South Women’s team summary: Melbourne Tigers

IN light of the COVID-19 global pandemic, the National Basketball League (NBL)1 South Conference has been cancelled this year. As such, while Draft Central intended to do a preview on all teams leading up to the delayed start, it will instead be a team summary from last season and what they might look to improve on for 2021. Today’s edition looks at Melbourne Tigers’ womens side that showed some promise but could not maintain consistency throughout the year with a lot of close losses.

2019 in Review:

Finished: 12th
Wins: 8
Losses: 12
Home: 5-6
Away: 3-6

What went right:

  • Competitive throughout with seven of the 12 losses being single-digit defeats
  • Started solidly with a 5-4 record
  • Blocks (4.5 per game, the best in the competition)
  • Louella Tomlinson’s season

Melbourne had a mixed bag of a season that had little consistency, but there was still optimism for the future despite an 8-12 record. The Tigers only had five double-digit losses, indicating for the most part they were in the game. They started solidly with a 5-4 record from nine matches and with Louella Tomlinson on fire throughout the year, they were able to work hard defensively to remain in the contest. They were the top blocking side in the NBL1 competition, averaging 4.5 per game, which helped them win in low-scoring contests and remain close when losing. Young guns, Monique Conti and Kasey Burton also impressed throughout the season with strong performances and the highest volume points and almost a double-double respectively.

What went wrong:

  • Struggled on the road with just three wins from nine games
  • Won just three of the last eight games
  • Scoring (72.9 points per game, ranked 15th overall and 41.8 per cent two-point accuracy and 70 per cent free-throw accuracy ranked 16th overall)

The season just simply did not quite go to plan for the Tigers, with scoring being the biggest issue. They averaged the 72.9 points per game which ranked 15th overall, and when they did get their chances, they averaged just 41.8 per cent and 70 per cent from the two point range and free-throw line which put them in the bottom three sides. While having Jenna O’Hea for longer than three games would have made a massive difference, the Tigers still struggled on the road with just three wins from nine games and finished the season in disappointing fashion with just three wins from eight games after being in finals contention mid-season.

Louella Tomlinson

The standout performer on the team, Tomlinson’s experience was vital in leading her side throughout the year. In the absence of O’Hea, Tomlinson did the bulk of the damage across the board, recording team-highs in rebounds (10.6), assists (5.1) and blocks (3.5). Playing in 17 of her team’s 20 games, Tomlinson finished the year with a double double average thanks to 16.3 points to accompany her double-figure rebounds total. Like her teammates, Tomlinson’s accuracy could improve, but by sheer weight of numbers she was a dominant performer in an inconsistent side.

Monique Conti

The pocket rocket showed that another season of AFL Women’s football did not slow her round ball abilities as a key player in the Tigers outfit. Despite standing at sub-170cm, Conti still put up big numbers of 20.4 points, as well as 4.8 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 1.4 steals. What set her aside from her teammates was Conti’s ability to drill the long-range shot, with 33.8 per cent efficiency, and a team-high 53 total makes from outside the arc.

Kasey Burton

The versatile up-and-comer had a really promising season in terms of her ability to pad plenty of stats and have an impact across the court. She came close to a double double thanks to 9.8 points and 8.3 rebounds. Alongside that, Burton also picked up 2.5 assists and 1.5 steals per game, being the only member to start in every single game last season. She was another contributor from long-range with 25 successful makes, though coming at a 28.4 per cent accuracy. Teaming up with Conti, the pair has the ability to be a real damaging duo of the future.

Young Gun:

Katie Bugden

The then 21-year-old managed to play in 16 games and start 10 of those, stepping up with an increased role than what might have been initially expected. In that time she produced an average of 8.5 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 0.9 steals per game and a solid all-round performance. Her shooting accuracy could improve with just 37.4 per cent from two-point range and two from 23 when it came to three-point range. Her experience from being a starter so often will give her confidence going into 2021.

Christmas list for 2021:

Another shooter or two. The Tigers had a clear deficiency in the scoring department, certainly in terms of both volume and accuracy. Throwing in an additional player who can average double-figure points would be a huge acquisition, and getting someone of O’Hea’s quality to play for a full season could be the difference between finals or not.

Summary:

The Melbourne Tigers have plenty to work on for the future with a number of areas that could improve for 2021. They have a good core of players and some really talented youth prospects coming through the ranks who could be set for more court time in the season ahead. While they need to tweak their ability to score, the Tigers were good at stopping shots, and had plenty of reasons to be pleased with aspects of the way they played.