Tag: natalie burton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Flyers snatch unbelievable win against Flames

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Flames survive second term scare from Spirit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Picture credit: WNBL

Flyers exact revenge on Boomers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lightning hit back with statement win

Pic: WNBL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pic: WNBL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cairns hub:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Townsville hub:

Bendigo Spirit vs. UC Capitals

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

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

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

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

Picture: Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images

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

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

Cairns hub:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Townsville hub:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Picture: Albert Perez/Getty Images

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mackay hub:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Townsville hub:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Southside bounces back onto the winners list

IT was a blockbuster Sunday of WNBL action as Southside Flyers, Adelaide Lightning and reigning premiers UC Capitals walked away with wins in their respective clashes to close out the opening round of action.

Coming up against a star-studded line-up it was always going to be a challenge for the Flames to compete and the Flyers proved why they are primed as clear title favourites running away with a 27-point victory (99-72). Playing their second game in as little as 24 hours the Flyers rediscovered their form after a surprise loss to run rampant against Sydney Uni, who despite throwing everything at them could not compete.

Southside led from the opening quarter and kept their foot on the pedal throughout the game to steadily build on the lead. The Flames had solid moments but the Flyers showcased their talent and endurance in the last term to put the afterburners on, nailing 27 points to 13 to notch up another convincing win. Statistically speaking the victors led in most aspects sitting at 48.6 per cent goal field percentage compared to the Flames’ 38.2 per cent while their accuracy from three-point range was also telling, all but doubling Sydney’s conversion rate of 21.4 to shoot at 44.4 per cent. The Flames were strong on the rebound outmuscling their opponents on the offensive rebounds with 23-14 while the ability of the bench players to come on and have an influence was crucial in keeping the scoreboard ticking over as the Flames notched up 33 compared to 25.

Rebecca Cole proved to have a hot hand for Southside, recording a game high 27 points in a strong showing for the seasoned campaigner. Cole also managed three assists and three rebounds in her 27 minutes on court. Teammate Jenna O’Hea was the next closest when it came to points scoring walking away with 19 for the afternoon along with seven rebounds and eight assists. Sara Blicavs also plied her trade across the court registering 14 points and eight rebounds. Given the tight turnaround superstar Liz Cambage only managed eight and a half minutes but while on court she made her presence felt dropping six points and dragging down two rebounds.

For the Flames, Natalie Burton led the way knocking back 12 points along with four rebounds. She was well aided by up and coming youngster Funda Nakkasolgu who slotted nine points for the match and also managed an assists and rebound. New comerto the squad Alison Schwagmeyer hit the scoreboard with nine points while also showcasing her all round class to collect five assists and six rebounds while Lauren Mansfield also put in the hard yards with nine points, eight assists and five rebounds to fall just short of a double-double.

Lightning come from behind to make it two straight 

Katie Ebzery finding space between the Lightning defence. Picture credit: Albert Perez/Getty Images

After a slow start, the Lightning showed they have the ability to turn it on and grind out the close games securing a five-point win over Perth (74-69) to make it two wins on the trot to start the season. Perth flew out of the blocks early to establish a four point lead before Adelaide mounted somewhat of a comeback as the two sides engaged in constant lead changes. With the game on the line the Lightning put the foot down to tare away and create some scoreboard separation with a 23-18 last quarter effort, enough to earn the win.

Adelaide were well and truly put through their paces with Perth coming out with a real fire in the belly and intensity to register their first win of the season. They built some strong momentum however in the end it was the experience of the Lightning that gifted them the win, able to withstand the pressure and go about their business. In terms of field goal percentage there was not much that separated the two sides given the overall closeness of the game with Perth going at 34.3 per cent and Adelaide at 31.3. Lynx were more accurate from beyond the arc converting at a 21.4 clip while the Lightning only managed 14.3 per cent. Points in the paint were even with 30 apiece however Adelaide shone when it came to fast breaks nailing 11 to two while their ability to score off second chances was also impressive with 21-14.

Once again, Steph Talbot showcased her class and on-court dominance dropping a game-high 24 points while also reeling in 11 rebounds to walk away with another double-double in as many games. Marena Whittle was another key contributor for the victors registering 10 rebounds to accompany her 11 points as teammate Alex Wilson also chimed in with 12 points of her own to get her side over the line. Chelsea Brook also played a crucial role, bobbing up when needed to finish with eight points, three assists and nine rebounds.

The ever-reliable Katie Ebzery was up to her usual tricks providing the Lynx with plenty of chances to secure their first win of the season. Despite the loss, she managed 23 points, two rebounds and two assists in her 33 minutes on court. Darcee Garbin also proved to have a hot hand finding the basket with relative ease to amass 17 points, two rebounds and five assists. The only other player to reach double figures in the points column was Alex Ciabattoni who sunk 10 points while managing three rebounds and  three assists.

Capitals notch up first win of 2020 season 

Maddison Rocci in action against Fire. Picture credit: WNBL

Back-to-back premiers, UC Capitals proved that they are still a team to watch with a strong showing against Townsville. After a shock loss in the season opener the Capitals came out with a point to prove and that they did earning a 11-point victory. The Capitals had not taken the court since Wednesday night with the break between games clearly paying dividends as they came out refreshed and with a clear game plan. Townsville were coming off a similar break but simply did not have the legs to go with UC who found their rhythm to capitalise against their still developing opponents.

Down at half-time the Capitals flipped the script in the third term to really turn the screws on the Fire going on a 22-10 point scoring spree. From there on the Capitals seemed to hold all the momentum and have all the answers for everything Townsville threw at them. UC showcased their class sitting at 45.8 per cent from the field while the Fire managed 36.1 per cent. The reigning premiers also highlighted their long range shooting sitting at a 35.3 per cent clip as opposed to 26.3 per cent. They dominated on the assists front with 18 to eight and also led the way in rebounds amassing 38 to 29. When it came to bench points the Fire made the most of their depth registering 25 points compared to 10 while they also made the Caps pay for their turnovers converting 15 points to five.

Maddison Rocci’s season only continues to get better, notching up another impressive performance amassing 24 points, seven assists and three rebounds. Rocci led the way for the Capitals while Marianna Tolo proved her worth once again, knocking back 13 points, three rebounds and two assists in a strong showing. With an impressive QSL season under her belt Mikaeala Ruef made her presence felt once again for the Caps nailing 10 points while also proving to be a menace on the rebounding front to draw in 13 and record a double-double. Keely Froling was the only other player to reach double figures for UC managing 11 points and nine rebounds.

Townsville had a couple of key contributors with Lauren Nicholson and Shyla Heal both plying their trade and impacting the scoreboard in a big way. Nicholson topscored with 19 points and four rebounds while Heal converted 18 points to accompany her four rebounds and four steals. Youngster Zitina Aokuso also worked her way into the game notching up nine points in her 20 minutes on court.

Mansfield’s first quarter sets the tone, Flames fan Spirit 100-63

THE Bendigo Spirit have once again suffered a debilitating outcome, going down 63-100 against a red-hot Sydney Uni Flames outfit in Saturday’s opener, who exploded out of the gates with a 34-point first quarter.

Neither team made any alterations to their Starting Fives, with Bendigo lining up Tessa Lavey, Ameilia Todhunter, Mary Goulding, Alicia Froling and Carley Ernst. Meanwhile, the Flames stuck with the formation of Lauren Mansfield, Alison Schwagmeyer, Anneli Maley, Nat Burton and Lauren Scherf.

Both teams were coming off demoralising season opening losses to two of the top ranked sides in the competition, so both sides made the most of their chances early. The Spirit knocked down five of their opening eight attempts, as the Flames stacked it on at the free-throw line, making their opening six attempts from the charity strike, which added to 14 points in the initial four minutes of the contest for side.

It was newly signed recruit Mansfield that led the way for Sydney Uni’s ridiculous efficiency in the first quarter leading to a 34-25 lead, as she would contribute 14 points to the Flames’ 34 throughout the opening 10 minutes. Schwagmeyer also added eight points of her own to the side’s numbers that gave them the solid nine-point buffer after one.

The Flames picked up where they left off, as Burton used her uncanny ability to find the loose ball to convert on two straight attempts in the first minute of the second term. But the Spirit replied in turn, as Ernst hit her third three of the game as Coach Tracy York’s side looked to wind back the early double-digit deficit.

Slowly but surely the star duo of Lavey and Ernst hustled on with their side’s offensive output, minimising Sydney Uni’s lead down to as little as seven points before the end of the first half. However, Shanae Greaves’ bucket with less than a minute remaining in the second put the lead back at 11 points heading into the main break. Bendigo’s tandem would each obtain 11 points by this stage with Lavey in particular dishing out seven assists and grabbing five rebounds through 18 minutes of play.

While the Flames continued to find points after Mansfield’s first quarter, Sydney Uni’s 45 per cent shooting as a team as well as their 11 made free-throws were the main factors in their 51-40 advantage at the mid-way point.

After a scoreless second from Mansfield, she started the third off remedying her scoring drought with her fifth three, which was followed up with a Scherf jumper quickly distancing the two teams by 16 points. Furthermore, the former Lynx prospect continued to shred Bendigo’s defensive schemes, concluding the third with 24 points under her belt and helping the Flames to a convincing 80-54 lead with the final 10-minute phase yet to play.

Bendigo’s woes continued into the fourth, scoring a mere nine points to round out Saturday’s opener. But Sydney kept rolling in their scoring totals, capping off a 49-point second half with 20 more in the fourth, as the Flames polished off Bendigo in emphatic fashion 100-63.

Sydney Uni’s team scoring numbers reflected their mountain of point, shooting 43 per cent from the field and adding 20 free-throws to those shots that missed their marks. Headline outings for the Flames consisted of Mansfield (24 points, five assists and four rebounds), Schwagmeyer (12 points and three rebounds) and Funda Nakkasoglu (14 points off of two threes).

While the highlights were few and far between for the Spirit, who now head into next week winless from their two opening games, Bendigo moved the ball well. This came especially from Lavey, who flirted with a triple-double yesterday tallying 15 points, 10 rebounds and six assists. Ernst produced noticeable numbers as well with 14 points, while young gun Paige Price put on a display of her own with 11 points in 14 minutes of court time.

The Spirit face the two-time defending champion Canberra Capitals to begin Round 2, hoping to keep their opponents under 100 points for the first time this season. On the other hand, Sydney Uni has little time to dwell on yesterday’s triumphs, going up against the Southside Flyers later today.

Boomers hammer home from deep, make statement win over Southside

Cayla George in action against Southside Flyers. Picture credit: WNBL

Everyone knew that winning a WNBL title was not going to be a walk in the park, but not many would have predicted the Southside Flyers going down in only their second game of the season. But this was indeed the case, as the Melbourne Boomers’ exemplary range was enough to strike down the international-level squad.

With both sides maintaining their Starting Fives, the Boomers had Maddie Garrick and Tess Madgen handling the ball with Stella Beck, Ezi Magbegor and Cayla George filling the remaining slots. For the Flyers it was the same five as their first game, Bec Cole and Leilani Mitchell in the backcourt, and Jenna O’Hea, Sara Blicavs and Liz Cambage down low and on the wing.

The Melbourne derby started with a blistering pace from both squads, scoring the majorities of their points early in the offence from fast-break points. But midway through the first quarter a 7-0 run from the Flyers would gift them control of the encounter before the teams’ secondary squads got their shift in the second half of the first.

Two of the best benches in the WNBL were able to show off what they were made of with Southside able to stave off a potential opening quarter comeback from the Boomers to close out a 22-12 lead at the first break.

Melbourne coach Guy Molloy employed his side to play one stop at a time and with this mindset, the Boomers would climb back into the contest six minutes into the second quarter. The side’s captain in George made several great plays including a spot-up three to make it a one-possession game on a 9-0 run.

Despite numerous instances where the Boomers looked like possibly stealing the lead before half-time, Southside’s depth prevented them from doing so. This coupled with Cambage’s second quarter double-double and Cole’s 11 points allowed the Flyers to hold their noses in front at the main break, 40-35, whereas George had 13 points and five rebounds of her own through two terms.

Continuing to hammer Cheryl Chambers’ fortress, a Madgen three would give the Boomers a short-lived lead halfway through the third, which was quickly overturned by Mitchell’s corner three on the next play. This time Melbourne would not waiver in their determination to take control of the possible Grand Final preview, as George nailed her second three-pointer of the game before handing the duties over to the bench.

A strong left-handed layup by Tall-Fern Penina Davidson and a buzzer-beating scoop layup by Beck marked a strong end to what was an out-and-out third phase for Molloy’s roster, as they led by seven at the final break.

Southside’s fourth quarter comeback quest began with a nice post-move and mid-range jumper by Cambage to make the game a shootout between two top teams. Leading the charge was Madgen, who made it rain in the fourth with two pivotal triples to keep the Flyers at bay.

Two more threes from Beck and Ashleigh Karaitiana – her fifth for the night – with less than two minutes to play put the exclamation mark on what was nothing short of a phenomenal shooting night from the Boomers. Melbourne walked away with their confidence sky high, trumping the Flyers 89-72 and upsetting the title favourites.

While both sides shot tremendously, the Boomers shooting 41 per cent and the Flyers shooting 40 per cent, Melbourne made the difference from beyond the arc shooting a total of 16 threes compared to Southside’s four. The same trend could also be found in turnovers, as Molloy’s women forced 16 turnovers, five more than Chambers’.

George turned it up last night with 24 points, eight rebounds and four assists, while Karaitiana shot the lights out from deep obtaining all 18 of her points from behind the three-point-line. Madgen was also a major factor in the same setting, knocking down five threes to go with her 24 points, nine rebounds and five assists. The only concern is that the 30-year-old seemed to roll her ankle severely late in the fourth quarter, forcing her to exit the game early.

Looking to bounce back to their dominant ways in less than 24 hours, the Flyers could not support Cambage’s 24 points and 19 rebounds despite leading comfortably at half-time. Cole and Sara Blicavs each accounted for double-digit totals with 13 and 11 points respectively.

Melbourne can look forward to a well-earned rest day at the top of the standings, as the Boomers head to Mackay on Monday to face off with the Perth Lynx.

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.