Tag: nadeen payne

WNBL Player Spotlight: Townsville Fire – Nadeen Payne

FILLING Townsville’s power forward position is someone that has probably spent the most time out of all her teammates in the tropical Queensland city. Nadeen Payne, who was born in Townsville, will return to the Fire for the first time since the 2011/12 season after almost nine years away from the Sunshine State.

Following her initial two seasons with the Fire, Payne moved to South Australia to become a member of the Adelaide Lightning. After two seasons with the Lightning, the 27-year-old headed back to Queensland to become a part of the South East Queensland Stars’ inaugural season. It was after the Stars organisation went defunct after one season that Payne would then call Bendigo home for the next three years, plying her trade with the Spirit and their NBL1 affiliate, the Braves, during the off-seasons before heading out west in 2019.

After a solid season with the Perth Lynx during the WNBL20 season averaging 10.2 points per game alongside an average of 4.6 in the category of rebounds, Payne proved herself a severe threat to opposition sides. Notable performances last season included a 22-point and six-rebound performance against Adelaide, as well as a 10-point and 10-rebound double-double against the eventual champions, University of Canberra Capitals.

It was finally announced by the Fire on June 19, that the Townsville product was heading back home and Payne expressed her elation instantly, “I am really excited to be coming home, I can’t wait to play for Shannon [Seebohm], I have really enjoyed my conversations with him and the team he is putting together sounds great, I think we will surprise a lot of people when the season starts,” Payne said.

“My Mum and dad still live in Townsville, it will be great to be back around my family and playing Fire colours again, I am even more excited to learn that this season is the Fire’s 20th season and cannot wait to be a part of the celebrations and back with the local community, I think our team will be one that they will be really excited to get around.”

While Head Coach Shannon Seebohm realises that Payne possesses a unique skillset as a power forward that can shoot the ball, he finds that her ball-handling is at an elite level for players at her position.

“The thing that I knew of, but has still surprised me since I’ve been here, is her ability to put the ball on the floor as well,” Seebohm mentioned. “She has really good balance and she’s been working really hard on her finishing and her strength around the rim, as well as playing with a bit more force.”

“I feel like her skillset is going to be really suited to what we want to be able to do, and she’s going to help make other players better as well,” Seebohm summarised.

WNBL Free Agency Update: Lynx and Spirit

TO round out Draft Central’s WNBL Free Agency updates, we look at the team out west and the team out back, as the Perth Lynx and the Bendigo Spirit prepare for what will hopefully be bounce back seasons, after each of the sides missed out on postseason action in WNBL20.

PERTH LYNX

The Perth-based side were looking to make a big splash into the Free Agency pond from the get-go. To do this, newly signed Head Coach Ryan Petrik pursued the signing of WNBA Seattle Storm star, Sami Whitcomb. Whitcomb, who committed to three seasons with the Lynx between 2015 and 2018, will make her return to the club for next season under her new coach.

Following Whitcomb’s announcement, Petrik started to compile his core two days later. The re-acquisition of current Australian Opal Katie Ebzery would be the club’s next move, after the 30-year-old would finish sixth amongst league leaders in scoring (16.3 points per game) and 10th in the category of assists (4.2 per game).

Perth-native Darcee Garbin and familiar face, Alex Ciabattoni would be subequent moves for the Lynx. Garbin would be one of the two participants in a two-way trade between the Lynx and the Townsville Fire, as Nadeen Payne would head east to north Queensland. The latter of the two new additions, Ciabattoni has in the past donned the Red, Grey and Black, after a successful 2015/16 season where she would be rewarded with the Rookie of the Year accolade, which was followed by two more seasons before heading overseas to play in Italy.

The pattern of new signings for the side became more consistent, once Perth consolidated their essential picks. The weekly signings kicked off with defensive anchor in Maddie Allen, who averaged 1.8 blocks per contest last season (second only to Adelaide’s import Brianna Turner). A week later, Petrik would announce the addition of one of the League’s most promising young prospects in Nas’eya Parker-Williams, hoping to increase her minutes three-fold compared to her past campaigns.

Two out of Perth’s final three roster alterations came by way of returning college hoopers. The first of which being University of Minnesota alum, Jessie Edwards, who would lead the Gophers in blocks each season during her time in the States. Concluding her three seasons in Minneapolis, Edwards would finish sixth all-time in blocks and ninth all-time in offensive rebounds. The second college recruit of the signing period came by way of Wake Forest’s Alex Sharp, who completed a spectacular career with the Deacons accumulating over 1000 points and 900 rebounds during her time in North Carolina.

The most recent piece of the puzzle was the re-signing of 19-year-old guard Tayah Burrows, who has decided to spend another season in the WNBL before heading off to the States to commence her college career, which will be key to helping Coach Petrik get his new team to a winning record.

Contracted:

Jewel Williams

Re-signed:

Katie Ebzery
Maddie Allen
Nas’eya Parker-Williams
Tayah Burrows

Signed:

Sami Whitcomb
Darcee Garbin
Alex Ciabattoni
Jessie Edwards
Alex Sharp

 

BENDIGO SPIRIT

Head Coach Tracy York has once again had her hands full this offseason, as the combination of renewing her assistant coach’s contract and not having access to imports this season, has resulted in a major facelift for the Bendigo squad heading into the WNBL21 season.

The staff from Bendigo would kick off the Free Agency period, as the team obtained the first signature of the season, with the re-signing of Demi Skinner being the first move made across all eight sides in the competition. After Skinner, would be another re-signing, as Opal nominee Tessa Lavey committed to the side for a second straight season.

With York securing the majority of her core unit, herself and assistant coach Mark Alabakov could start to shop around for fresh new talent to join their ranks and would look to an individual who is keen to make a return to the WNBL. Cassidy McLean’s first season with the Spirit in the 2018/19 season would see her average 3.1 points, 1.8 rebounds and an assist in her debut campaign, however, after sustaining a knee injury that would see her miss the 2019/20 season, she is raring to go for a more successful 2020/21 fixture. Next up would be Indiana University commit and former Melbourne Boomers development player, Paige Price. The daughter of legend Bulleen Boomer, Simone Gloster, Price looks to gain more professional experience before starting her career in the Hoosiers’ program overseas.

Other youngsters to join the fray would be long-time member of the Bendigo Braves’ NBL1 squad Piper Dunlop (Development Player), former Fordham University sharpshooter and New Zealand Tall-Fern Mary Goulding, as well as 23-year-old Shelby Britten.

York’s final two acquisitions of the offseason included Alicia Froling (twin sister of Canberra Capitals’ forward Keely Froling) as well as long-time competition veteran, Amelia Todhunter, who hopes to bestow her invaluable experience to younger players during the later stages of her championship-winning career. Meanwhile, Carley Ernst (Bendigo’s only contracted player prior to the signing period) hopes to pull together this new team and get the Spirit off the bottom of the WNBL standings after a lacklustre 2020 ending.

Contracted:

Carley Ernst

Re-signed:

Demi Skinner
Tessa Lavey

Signed:

Cassidy McLean
Paige Price
Piper Dunlop
Mary Goulding
Shelby Britten
Amelia Todhunter
Alicia Froling

Picture: Seattle Times

WNBL Free Agency Update: Fire and Flames

CONTINUING with Draft Central’s updates on the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL)’s Free Agency movements, we now look to two sides that will be looking to heat up and have bounce back seasons in 2021. First up is a Townsville Fire franchise that has had possibly the busiest offseason throughout the eight teams of the competition, as Head Coach Shannon Seebohm and his staff have strung together a championship-calibre team for the campaign to come. Following Townsville is the Sydney Uni Flames, a team who too have made some key signings during this year’s signing period, as well as an injection of youth. The Flames hope they can earn themselves a postseason appearance for the first time in three seasons.

TOWNSVILLE FIRE

In terms of redemption, the Fire perhaps have the biggest case to make in terms of attaining it. Finishing at the bottom of last season’s standings next to the Bendigo Spirit (both teams with a record of five wins and 16 losses), Townsville have their eyes set on regaining their championship form, similar to recent years. In their first step to doing this, the club re-signed one of its former champions.

Back in early June, the re-acquisition of Mia Murray, who was a part of the Fire’s three most recent titles, sees her return after two seasons away from the game due to raising her son. Murray, a local favourite in the North-Queensland community, enters into her eighth season hoping to help guide the influx of new and young players to enter the league, while former captain Micaela Cocks leaves the team to focus on the birth of her new child.

A number of young stars to join the team include former member of the Spirit in Shyla Heal, who made the move up north to attain a more consistent role at the starting point guard position. The one-two combination between Heal and the fully recovered Zitina Aokuso could very well become one of the most potent frontcourt/backcourt duos in years to come. Other signings include Lauren Nicholson from the Adelaide Lightning and Nadeen Payne of the Perth Lynx, with the latter returning her home state after the Fire traded for her in an exchange with Darcee Garbin, a resident of Perth.

The final signing for the team needed some extra frontcourt presence to further assist rim protection for Aokuso, seeing 193cm-tall centre Lara McSpadden join the fray, coming over from Sydney Uni Flames. Having already played under Seebohm in the junior national circuit, the two will need little time to re-establish familiarity with their playing and coaching styles, which could be beneficial to the squad.

Rounding out the roster are returning overseas prospects Megan McKay (St Mary’s College and Wasserburg), Courtney Woods (Northern Illinois University) and Stephanie Reid (University of Buffalo), while other contracted players include Kate Gaze and Development Player Aliza Fabbro.

Contracted

Aliza Fabbro
Kate Gaze
Zitina Aokuso

Re-signed

Nil

Signed

Shyla Heal
Mia Murray
Lauren Nicholson
Nadeen Payne
Megan McKay
Courtney Woods
Steph Reid
Laura McSpadden

 

SYDNEY UNI FLAMES

For a team that finished sixth out of the eight teams participating in the WNBL, the Flames were one of the biggest underachievers during the WNBL20 season, despite their .333 winning percentage. Nevertheless, the Flames have made plenty of alterations to their roster in an attempt to take a positive step in their team’s outcomes for next season.

With Lauren Scherf the lone contracted player, the initial procurements for next season came by way of other WNBL teams. Opals guard and former Lynx member Lauren Mansfield averaged 10 points and five assists per game, and also stands strong amongst some of the best defensive backcourt players throughout the league. Meanwhile, young Southside Flyer Anneli Maley adds a prominent presence around the rim after a year with last season’s runners-up. Maley also boasted ridiculous numbers in the 2019 NBL1 competition, averaging 20 points and a mammoth 15 rebounds per game, which earned her the fixture’s Youth Player of the Year award.

Subsequent moves building upon Katrina Hibbert’s team would be the gaining of Alison Schwagmeyer, last season’s Sixth Woman of the Year. Hibbert made a point of signing Schwagmeyer to add her to a new core group of players looking to make a playoff push for next season. Another addition to the group was Florida Gator and member of Galatasaray S.K., 24-year-old sharpshooter Funda Nakkasoglu. The signing of Nakkasoglu marked the beginning of a blitz of new faces.

The next of Hibbert’s signings would be the addition of Kiera Rowe on a one-year-deal and the contract extension of Shanae Greaves a week later. And after securing Opal legend Natalie Burton and former Flame Carly Boag, Coach Frog [Hibbert] had only a single piece remaining to complete her squad. The final move for Sydney’s signing period ahead of November 20 would be the re-signing of Maddie O’Hehir. Having been a Development player with the Flames since the 2017/18 season, O’Hehir will remain with the Franchise for an additional year.

Contracted

Lauren Scherf

Re-signed

Maddie O’Hehir
Shanae Greaves

Signed

Lauren Mansfield
Anneli Maley
Alison Schwagmeyer
Funda Nakkasoglu
Kiera Rowe
Natalie Burton
Carly Boag

WNBL Free Agency: Ebzery re-signs for another year, Lynx/Fire trade shakes up FA period

FRIDAY was a busy time for the Western Australia-based Perth Lynx, as they made a couple of moves during what was an entertaining end to the second week of Free Agency talks, the latter being a trade with the Townsville Fire.

However, prior to the trade, the Lynx made sure to lock up one of their captains, Australian Opal Katie Ebzery. The club’s current MVP and one of last season’s All-WNBL First Team recipients, Ebzery made her case known last season as one of the league’s most prolific and intelligent forces throughout the competition.

During the 2019/20 season, the 178cm-tall guard cracked the league leaders in points (16.3), assists (4.2) and minutes (33.5) per game, as she paved the way to what was an exemplary season on an individual level.

Despite the Lynx’s 8-13 record last season, falling one spot out of the postseason, the duo of Ebzery and fellow signee in Sami Whitcomb puts Perth’s road to redemption in good stead come Round 1, as the Lynx’s core group of players will bring excitement and success to the West, new Head Coach Ryan Petrik alluded to.

“Katie’s work ethic is phenomenal and her attention to detail is second to none. The pairing of Ebzery and Whitcomb will not only provide fans with some exciting basketball, it sets the standard for our program off the court as well,” Petrik said.

A day later, Perth would complete their second move in a matter of hours as they welcomed home former Townsville forward and two-time WNBL champion, Darcee Garbin, whereas the Fire would also welcome home a local of their own, with Nadeen Payne being the other participant of the transaction.

The trade sees homecomings on both sides, with each player coming off strong 2019/20 seasons.

For Garbin, her past season’s stat line shone a light on her ability to contribute to the scoreboard, averaging 14.4 points per contest, as well as averaging over six rebounds. Garbin’s counterpart in Payne, saw similar totals in points and rebounds averaging 10.2 points and 4.6 boards each time out on the floor, while also accumulating almost a steal per game.

Specifically, for Payne, she joins one of the most impressive pre-season line-ups heading into WNBL20, as she stands alongside a new look Fire squad that will most likely challenge for a title next season, a team she said she looks forward to joining.

“My mum and dad still live in Townsville, it will be great to be back around my family and playing Fire colours again, I am even more excited to learn that this season is the Fire’s 20th season and cannot wait to be a part of the celebrations and back with the local community, I think our team will be one that they will be really excited to get around.”

Garbin’s signing adds to a list containing Lauren Nicholson, Shyla Heal, Mia Murray, Kate Gaze and Zitina Aokuso.

2019/20 WNBL season review: Perth Lynx

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

Ladder: 5th
Win-loss:
8-13

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

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

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

2019/20 WNBL season review: Bendigo Spirit

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

Ladder: 7th
Win-loss: 5-16

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

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

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

2019/20 WNBL preview: Round 16 – The final frontier

AFTER 15 rounds and three and a half months, the final round of the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) season is here. The 2019/20 run home was somewhat anti-climatic with the four finalists decided well out from the conclusion. Second and third spot can still change depending on results from the round, while the bottom four sides have pride on the line in Round 16.

SYDNEY UNI FLAMES vs. BENDIGO SPIRIT
Thursday, January 30, 7pm
Brydens Stadium

There is only realistically pride on the line for these two sides in one of two Thursday night encounters. For the Flames, a win would secure sixth spot on the ladder, given seventh placed Townsville is only a win behind and also takes on wooden spoon-bound Bendigo Spirit. The Spirit will need to win their two remaining matches if they are to overtake the Fire, sitting a win behind as well as a 35-point differential from seventh to eighth. A loss here guarantees Bendigo the wooden spoon. Sydney Uni has won both previous matches against the Spirit, winning by five and seven points on the road, and now return home for the third and final head-to-head. Bendigo have not defeated the Flames since November 18, 2018, so will need to produce a special effort to get across the line and pick up win number five. Considering they are also yet to win on the road from eight encounters does not spell confidence. Jessica Kuster played well last time for the Flames, and is averaging 12.4 points and 6.5 rebounds after starting 17 of a possible 19 games. Along with Brittany Smart who earned her first start last round and put up 21 points, three rebounds and two blocks, the American duo could be quite a handful for the Spirit defenders. Tessa Lavey and Kelly Wilson are two of the guards likely to be tasked with trying to limit their influence, with Lavey averaging 9.5 points, 3.3 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game, while Wilson has put up numbers of 8.4 points, 4.1 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game. Sydney Uni should lock up sixth with a solid win here.

ADELAIDE LIGHTNING vs. PERTH LYNX
Thursday, January 30, 7pm
Titanium Security Arena

Adelaide Lightning have a tough final couple of weeks, going down to Southside Flyers last round, and now face fifth placed Perth Lynx and reigning premiers, University of Canberra (UC) Capitals in Round 16. The Lightning are at home, and have a 7-3 record there, while Perth have been a little shaky on the road, winning three of a possible nine games when travelling. Both teams have a positive points differential, with Perth having already secured fifth spot last round by winning. They cannot catch the Lightning in fourth, but would round off a good year if they can upset two finalists – they face Melbourne Boomers on Saturday – in the last round of the season. In their previous encounters, Adelaide has won both times, winning over in Perth by four points back in October, before making it two wins with a 10-point home victory over the Lynx in December. The Lightning have had their injury concerns this season, but have tended to rely on a couple of players in Brianna Turner (16.3 points, 9.8 rebounds) and Stephanie Talbot (14.9 points, 8.6 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.1 blocks). While others have stepped up at times, those two have been among the best in the league and often been the difference in matches. The Lynx have just been inconsistent, with their stars on paper not quite aligning on the same night. Katie-Rae Ebzery is the exception, with the Australian Opal being a ray of consistency all season long, posting numbers of 16.4 points, 4.7 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 1.5 steals per game. American, Alison Schwagmeyer has predominantly come off the bench but has been solid as well with 15.3 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game. Adelaide have been more consistent and should win here, although Perth have impressed over the past month.

UC CAPITALS vs. ADELAIDE LIGHTNING
Saturday, February 1, 5pm
National Convention Centre

After a two-day gap, Adelaide plays its final game of the season, against a hungry UC Capitals determined to sneak into second spot on the ladder. The Capitals also need Perth Lynx to cause an upset on Saturday night against Melbourne Boomers based on the fact that the points differential between the Capitals and Boomers is 74, and would need two massive margins to have any hope of toppling them if both sides win. If the Capitals get up here, then they will watch with earnest later that evening to see if they will have one or two home finals in the first week of the WNBL finals series. The Lightning also have plenty to play for even though they might not physically be able to move up the ladder. The last thing the South Australian side needs is a couple of losses heading into finals, especially one against a finals-bound side. If both these teams cause upsets against their Victorian opponents in the semi-finals – as Adelaide did last year – then they will face off in the decider. This year Adelaide has tended to be the side that was better than the rest, but still a clear fourth side in the competition. Knocking off the Capitals on the road – who have only lost to the top of the table Southside Flyers there – would be a massive confidence booster, though the Lightning are 4-5 when travelling. In the two clashes this year, they have been split, with the respective home teams winning. The last time they played in Canberra, the Capitals got up in a close one, 90-83, though that was all the way back in Round 1. Adelaide won by 10 points in late December back on its home court. Despite injuries this year, last year’s Most Valuable Player (MVP), Kelsey Griffin is working back into form coming off the bench, scoring 20 points and seven rebounds.  Kia Nurse (21.0 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.4 steals) has been a scoring machine all season, wile Olivia Epoupa (8.2 points, 7.9 rebounds, 6.8 assists and 3.2 steals) just fills up the stats sheet with great versatility. Aside from the damaging duo of Turner and Talbot, Nicole Seekamp and Lauren Nicholson can hold their heads high this season, putting up consistent numbers at different times during the season, while Chelsea Brook is an impact player off the bench. The Capitals will be too strong here, and with what is on the line, expect them to take no prisoners in front of a home crowd.

TOWNSVILLE FIRE vs. BENDIGO SPIRIT
Saturday, February 1, 6pm
Townsville Stadium

In what has ultimately been a disappointing season for both these teams, the final match for them ends up being a bottom two clash. Townsville Fire host Bendigo Spirit just to solidify seventh spot on the table, with the only chance of moving up (or losing their spot) is if Bendigo defeat Sydney Uni Flames on Thursday night. If the Flames get up, then neither of these sides can move, and Bendigo ends the season on the bottom of the table, regardless of result. The Spirit are yet to win a game on the road, having lost here back in early December when they went down by 14 points. Bendigo did manage to grab a rare win just before the New Year, defeating the Fire at home by a point in a tight contest. Townsville are only 3-6 at home, but are still likely to get the job done here given Bendigo’s inability to win on the road this season. Townsville heads into the clash with a three-game losing streak, while the Spirit are at three, and will be four if they go down to the Flames on Thursday. For the home side, Bridget Carleton has proven to be a great recruit this season, averaging 11.6 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game. Darcee Garbin (14. points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.1 steals) has also been solid, as has Tess Madgen (12.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.6 assists). The Fire have just not had the offensive connection that other sides have, with just one player averaging more than four assists per game. Bendigo is in the same boat, with only Wilson and Lavey managing more than two assists per game, while Carley Ernst (11.6 points, 6.6 rebounds) and Abigail Wehrung (11.1 points, 2.6 rebounds) have been the two scorers to average double-figure points this season. Townsville to win at home, but will be a sombre affair knowing the reality of the season.

SOUTHSIDE FLYERS vs. SYDNEY UNI FLAMES
Saturday, February 1, 7pm
Dandenong Stadium

To finish off their year, the top of the table Southside Flyers will be hoping to win in front of a home crowd against Sydney Uni Flames. The last time these sides met at Dandenong, Sydney Uni caused a boilover, with the Flames’ disappointing road record of 3-7 surprisingly including the minor premiers (as well as wooden spooners, Bendigo twice). The game in question came on December 21, when the Flames took the chocolates by seven points. Earlier in the season back in Round 2, Southside Flyers defeated the Flames by 13 points on the road. With a 7-3 record at home, the Flyers are very solid there and will want to finish off the season in style with a big win over a side that found a weakness last time the team’s clashed. Rebecca Cole has been the leading points scorer for the Flyers, averaging 17.2 points per game, while Mercedes Russell has put up a double-double this season of 16.6 points and 10 rebounds. Leilani Mitchell has enjoyed her move south from the Capitals, also being a key contributor, one of five players to average more than 13 points per game this season. Sydney Uni will head into the clash as massive underdogs, but have been able to provide some minutes to players off the bench once the season had slipped away, with the likes of Sarah Graham (18 games), Lara McSpadden (14) and Kimberley Hodge (five) all coming off the bench in each of their games. This will be a tough one for the Flames to repeat, coming into the round with a five-game losing streak, but they will be confident to knock over the Flames two days prior. The Flyers are a hard team to beat and finished top of the table for a reason, so expect them to take this game out.

MELBOURNE BOOMERS vs. PERTH LYNX
Saturday, February 1, 7pm
State Basketball Centre

The final game of the WNBL regular season pits top two side, Melbourne Boomers up against fifth placed Perth Lynx. The Boomers simply have to win this game because a loss could see them slip to third spot on the table. Luckily they will know where they stand with the third placed UC Capitals taking on the Adelaide Lightning earlier in the day. If as expected the Capitals get up in that clash, then they will temporarily take second spot. Melbourne has to win this game to lock up second spot again, with a far superior points difference. If they lose and slip to third, it means they will face the Capitals in Canberra, twice, which is something no side wants to do given the Capitals’ 9-1 record with a loss to Southside Flyers the only blemish. By winning this match, Melbourne gets the two home finals, and can try and utilise the 6-3 home record to best effect. In saying that, the Boomers had the same opportunity against the Lightning last year and lost in Game 1, going out in straight sets. Melbourne defeated Perth by nine points here in early December, before facing off a week later back in Perth where the Lynx returned the favour. Perth are also playing a second game two days earlier, so it will be interesting to see how they manage the load in the final round and the confidence they take from that clash. This season has been about Melbourne’s big duo of Ezi Magbegor (13.2 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.1 blocks) and Cayla George (14.4 points, 8.3 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.3 blocks) who hold the key to both offensively and defensively hurting opposition teams. The Lynx have a number of players who can stand up and match them off the boards or around the court, with Ariel Atkins (9.9 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.6 steals) and Nadeen Payne (10.3 points, 4.5 rebounds) among those who have the talent to impact a contest. Melbourne has to win to give itself a realistic chance of the WNBL title, and lock up second spot, so expect them to do just that, in a competitive game.

2019/20 WNBL Team of the Week: Round 15

IN a short round of the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL), just four games were played and therefore it made for an even playing field with every player making the team having played one game. Of the individual performers who made the cut, two were from Perth Lynx, Adelaide Lightning and the University of Canberra (UC) Capitals, with one representative from four other sides, as Bendigo Spirit was the only team without a nominee for Round 15.

Perth’s Katie-Rae Ebzery was the easy choice to start as a guard following her terrific 28 points, six rebounds, two assists, three steals and three blocks as the only player across the competition who recorded at least two of each of the five main statistics. She is joined in the side by teammate, Ariel Atkins who picked up a double-double and is on the bench ready to provide support. Meanwhile in the forward half of the court, Adelaide Lightning’s Stephanie Talbot again made the side following a double-double with 16 points, 10 rebounds, six assists, three steals and one block, shooting at 61.5 per cent from the field. Talbot and partner-in-crime, Brianna Turner both impressed despite the Lightning’s loss, and earned spots in the 10-player side. The UC Capitals were the other side with two players on the team, as Kia Nurse and Marianna Tolo both filled out two of the bench spots in the guard and center positions respectively.

Back to the starting side, and the other guard is Southside Flyers’ Leilani Mitchell. She was surprisingly the only Flyer to make the side despite the impressive win, but shone the brightest across the board with 21 points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals, though it is fair to say Rebecca Cole, Sara Blicavs and Mercedes Russell were all unlucky to miss out after being considered. Ezi Magbegor slotted into the starting center position in a round where there were plenty of possible players for the spot, picking up 21 points, five rebounds, two assists and three blocks. Like the Flyers, the Boomers were unlucky not to have another nominee, though both Sophie Cunningham and Sara Blicavs were considered. The final starting spot went to Sydney Uni’s Jessica Kuster following the forward’s 17 points, six rebounds, eight assists, five steals and one block, and an impressive 66.7 per cent shooting efficiency from the field.

Rounding out the bench was UC Capitals’ Marianna Tolo in the center position, and Townsville Fire’s Bridget Carleton who slotted into the bench forward role. Those who were unlucky to miss out and were considered for a spot included UC Capitals’ Maddison Rocci and Kelsey Griffin, Bendigo Spirit’s Shyla Heal and Gabrielle Richards, Townsville Fire’s Darcee Garbin, and Perth Lynx’s Nadeen Payne.

STARTING FIVE:

G: Katie-Rae Ebzery (PL) – 28 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals, 3 blocks, 52.4 FG%
G: Leilani Mitchell (SF) – 21 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, 0 blocks, 57.1 FG%
C: Ezi Magbegor (MB) – 21 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 0 steals, 3 blocks, 60.0 FG%
F: Stephanie Talbot (AL) – 16 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals, 1 block, 61.5 FG%
F: Jessica Kuster (SU) – 17 points, 6 rebounds, 8 assists, 5 steals, 1 block, 66.7 FG%

BENCH:

G: Kia Nurse (UC) – 25 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals, 0 blocks, 45.0 FG%
G: Ariel Atkins (PL) – 16 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists, 0 steals, 0 blocks, 60.0 FG%
C: Marianna Tolo (UC) – 11 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 0 steals, 2 blocks, 44.4 FG%
F: Brianna Turner (AL) – 20 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 4 blocks, 53.3 FG%
F: Bridget Carleton (TF) – 16 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 steals, 0 blocks, 66.7 FG%

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Southside Flyers (81) defeated Adelaide Lightning (69)

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

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

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

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

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

DC Medal Leaderboard:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DC Medal Leaderboard:

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