Tag: olivia epoupa

2019/20 WNBL weekend preview: Round 9 – Top three clash to end round on a high

A MASSIVE clash between Southside Flyers and University of Canberra Capitals on Sunday caps off a split round of Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) action which sees the Flyers and Townsville Fire open the round on Friday night, then back up with second games. Plenty is on the line in the other games between Adelaide Lightning and Bendigo Spirit, and Perth Lynx and Melbourne Boomers.

SOUTHSIDE FLYERS v. TOWNSVILLE FIRE
Friday, December 13, 7.30pm
Dandenong Stadium

In the opening game of the round, top of the table Southside Flyers host bottom two side, Townsville Fire at Dandenong. The Fire leapt off the bottom of the table last round following a nice win over the now cellar dwellers, Bendigo Spirit by 14 points. The Fire had won just one of the eight games prior to that victory, and still remain with just two wins from nine games – the complete opposite to Southside enjoying a four-game winning streak for 10-1 ladder leaders. The matchup will be the third time these sides have clashed this year, and the Flyers have unsurprisingly won both, winning by nine points in Round 1 over the Fire, before completely taking control in the second game on November 23, scoring 91-59. Mercedes Russell will once again be a key player in the center for Southside, averaging 16.4 points and 10.1 rebounds per game and likely to be the difference on court. Leilani Mitchell (16.2 points and 6.0 assists) and Rebecca Cole (15.9 points and 3.8 assists) have been important in the guard positions for the favourites, while Townsville has had some strong individual performances from its forwards. Abby Bishop has been the shining light in season 2019/20 for the Fire, averaging 18.8 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 2.4 steals per game. Darcee Garbin is coming off an impressive performance last week and will be hoping to add to her 12.7 points and 5.8 rebounds per game, and help Townsville cause a huge upset. Both these teams play a second game in Round 9 on Sunday in different states, so management will be key.

ADELAIDE LIGHTNING v. BENDIGO SPIRIT
Sunday, December 15, 1pm
Titanium Security Arena

Heading west to South Australia, the fourth placed Adelaide Lightning are narrowly clinging to a finals position at this point of the season, just one and a half games clear of Sydney Uni, and two and a half games clear of Perth and Townsville. Whilst it may seem comfortable, Adelaide is three games away from the top three, and had a couple more losses than any of the sides about it. Having left the door to the top four ajar with a loss to Sydney Uni last week, Adelaide must simply rebound with a victory at home against this season’s cellar dwellers. Bendigo dropped to the bottom of the table with a sixth consecutive loss last weekend, going down to previous ladder carriers, Townsville. With the equal most games played in the league at 11, Bendigo must find a way to flick the switch and make a run from this point, with its season on life support if a change does not happen soon. The positive for Bendigo is that one of its wins did come against Adelaide, getting up by 13 points earlier in the season, before going down by 28 points in a forgettable performance on the road. Stephanie Talbot has been a consistent player for the Lightning this year, posting up 16.0 points, 7.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.0 steals per game, sharing the load off the boards with Brianna Turner (14.8 points, 9.9 rebounds). Lauren Nicholson (15.2 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.3 assists) has also been prominent as expected, while the introduction of Kathryn Westbeld (11.3 points, 5.0 rebounds) over the past three games has helped. The Spirit have one of the most even teams across the board, with no one standout player. Their highest scorer is Tessa Lavey, averaging just 10.7 points, as well as 3.6 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game. Kelly Wilson (9.6 points, 3.7 rebounds and 6.4 assists) and Rebecca Tobin (8.3 points, 10.0 rebounds and 2,0 assists) are others who have had some seriously dominant moments, but it is just piecing it all together.

PERTH LYNX v. MELBOURNE BOOMERS
Sunday, December 15, 1pm
Bendat Basketball Stadium

Continuing the trip west down the highway, Perth Lynx host Melbourne Boomers in Western Australia with last year’s finalists season slowly slipping away. The Lynx have to see this as a must-win, losing their past four games and winning just three from 11 to sit two and a half games adrift of fourth spot. The good news for Perth is, two of its wins have come at home, though it has hardly been a fortress, dropping three games at the same time. For the Boomers, the road trip holds no fears, recording four wins from five games when travelling and they only have to look to last week for form when Melbourne got up over Perth by nine points at the State Basketball Centre. The last time these two sides played in Perth was last season, when the Lynx got up by 14 points. Alison Schwagmeyer has been superb for the Lynx this year, averaging 16.9 points and 6.6 rebounds per game, teaming up well with fellow Americans Imani McGee-Stafford (13.8 points, 9.6 rebounds) and Ariel Atkins (9.7 points, 4.7 rebounds) when they played. Katie-Rae Ebzery has also been a reliable option at the guard position, averaging 14.5 points, 4.2 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game this season. The Boomers have had plenty of contributors across the list, with Cayla George being enormous as one of the bigs, averaging 14.0 points, 9.2 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game. Lindsay Allen (16.8 points, 3.4 rebounds and 5.5 assists) and Madeleine Garrick (12.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.1 assists) are others

TOWNSVILLE FIRE v. SYDNEY UNI FLAMES
Sunday, December 15, 1pm
Townsville Stadium

In what will be Townsville’s second game of the round, the Fire will be hoping to burn brighter and faster than their opponents when Sydney Uni Flames come to town. Back-to-back wins for Townsville will be crucial in keeping the faint hope of finals alive, but it will be a tough ask given Sydney Uni have a top four spot on the line with a win. The points difference is too great to immediately leapfrog Adelaide Lightning into a finals position, but the Flames will need to win to keep touch with the top four given the Lightning also play the bottom of the table Bendigo Spirit. These two sides have only clashed the once thus far in season 2019/20 with Sydney Uni getting up by nine points at home on November 7. Last season when the Flames finished on the bottom, Townsville won all three head-to-head encounters and will hope to channel that energy for this game. Aside from Bishop’s impact and Garbin’s recent form, Tess Madgen (11.8 points, 5.9 rebounds and 3.8 assists) and Bridget Carleton (10.9 points, 5.1 rebounds) are the other two Fire players who average double-figure points this season. For the Flames, Alice Kunek averages a team-high 17.9 points per game as well as 4.1 rebounds and 3.5 assists. Colleen Planeta‘s best is as good as anyone else in the competition with the American posting up 16.4 points and 7.4 rebounds, slightly more than American teammate, Jessica Kuster. The forward has sank 12.6 points and 6.5 rebounds per game, but has shot at a deadly 60.2 per cent from the field. Sydney Uni will be favourites in this game, but Townsville has its season on the line in this clash.

UC CAPITALS v. SOUTHSIDE FLYERS
Sunday, December 15, 5pm
National Convention Centre (Canberra)

The best game has been saved until last with third placed University of Canberra (UC) Capitals hosting top of the table Southside Flyers in the nation’s capital on Sunday evening. The Capitals are the only side to have penetrated the otherwise unflappable defence of the Flyers, winning 91-72 on the road in one of the performances of the year. It gives the Capitals great confidence coming into this clash now they return home, while for Southside, there is perhaps further motivation on top of getting the win by levelling the two teams head-to-head for this season. The Capitals’ starting five is superb, and with the success that has come, they have started blooding some youngsters as well. Kia Nurse (21.6 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.8 assists) is the key scorer, while Kelsey Griffin (17.9 points, 11.3 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 2.3 steals) is once again a Most Valuable Player (MVP) contender. Olivia Epoupa (8.1 points, 6.1 rebounds, 6.3 assists and 3.2 steals) is not a huge scorer but just contributes across all areas, while Gemma Potter has come off the bench every week gaining valuable minutes for future development. A couple of others for the Flyers who have been important up the forward end are Sara Blicavs (14.9 points, 6.6 rebounds) and Jenna O’Hea (14.6 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.7 assists) rounding out a strong starting five with Russell, Mitchell and Cole, even with the bulk of the scoring only come from those players. The Capitals depth might see them turn the tables on Southside, and have a six-game winning streak themselves, but one thing is for sure, this game is going to be a cracker.

2019/20 WNBL weekend preview: Round 6 – Top four clash to tip-off round

AFTER a weekend off with many players stepping up to Australian Opals’ duties, the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) is back with Round 6 tipping off on Friday night. The Melbourne Boomers and Perth Lynx play two games across the weekend to try and break up the mid-table gap between fourth and fifth.

ADELAIDE LIGHTNING v. MELBOURNE BOOMERS
Friday, November 22, 7pm
Titanium Security Arena

In one of two games to open Round 6 of the WNBL, Adelaide Lightning hosts Melbourne Boomers for the first time in the 2019/20 season. The top four clash could have big ramifications for both the winner and loser, with the winner to take outright third and keep in touch with the top two, while the loser will slip at least a game behind third and possibly two games behind the top two, while remaining only a game ahead of the ensuring bottom four sides. The last time these sides played was in January this year which saw the Boomers get the points in Adelaide, the third time they had won during the season after narrow wins in Melbourne in the two previous encounters. The Lightning won their last contest and will head in with the form compared to the Boomers who after winning four consecutive games, have suffered back-to-back losses. The interesting fact within the game is Adelaide is yet to lose at home from two matches, while Melbourne is yet to suffer a defeat on the road from the same amount of games.

Brianna Turner has been a key player for the Lightning this season, averaging 17.3 points, 9.3 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.2 steals, while working well in tandem with Lauren Nicholson (17.0 points, 2.7 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.5 steals). Stephanie Talbot is also enjoying a purple patch of form, sinking 14.3 points, 6.8 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.8 steals in season 2019/20. For the Boomers, Lindsay Allen has been the key player with 18.3 points, 3.5 rebounds and 6.0 assists per game, while Cayla George is averaging a double double from her six matches, thanks to 16.0 points and 10.2 rebounds per game. Madeleine Garrick is an underrated player on the Boomers side, comfortable across most areas with a 10.2-point, 3.0-rebound, 2.7-assist and 1.2-steal average.

Adelaide is in good form so will head in as favourites, but Melbourne are due to bounce back so it will be an incredibly tight contest.

SYDNEY UNI v. PERTH LYNX
Friday, November 22, 7pm
Brydens Stadium

It is still early days in the season, but both Sydney Uni and Perth would realise the importance of getting a ‘W’ in this clash. After making the finals last year, Perth sits fifth, two wins outside the top four and having only won two games from six starts. Both of those were at home which is all the more important for them to break their road trip record with a win here. For Sydney Uni, they just need a win, sitting with a far worse points difference than Perth (-69 to +11), and having lost an extra game with two wins from seven starts. Both their wins have come at home so that is a positive for the Flames, though the fact they lost to this Lynx outfit in the last start is less positive. A win would see the Flames propel themselves into fifth temporarily, and at least move within a game of fourth spot.

Alice Kunek (17.9 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.9 assists) and Colleen Planeta (14.9 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.1 blocks) have been the two staples in the Flames’ outfit week-in, week-out, while Tahlia Tupaea (10.1 points, 3.1 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.3 steals) has also started in all seven games. Jessica Kuster is one who has stepped up throughout the season, with the 188cm forward sinking 10.4 points and 5.9 rebounds, as well as a block per game. For Perth, Alison Schwagmeyer has been enormous all season, pumping out 17.8 points and 7.2 rebounds per game, only bettered in that department by Imani McGee-Stafford (14.7 points, 8.7 rebounds and 2.3 blocks). Katie-Rae Ebzery has also been a phenomenal passer this year, averaging 7.5 assists and 4.2 rebounds to go with her 16.0 points and 1.5 steals.

Perth Lynx should breakthrough for their first on the road win, but the Flames could make a statement with a win here.

TOWNSVILLE FIRE v. SOUTHSIDE FLYERS
Saturday, November 23, 6pm
Townsville Stadium

Sitting at polar ends of the WNBL ladder, the panic button would have been pressed for the Fire who have just one win from six attempts, while the Flyers are in the opposite position with just one loss from seven games. There will still be fire in the belly from the visiting side however, with the Flyers going down to UC Capitals by 19 points in Round 5 to reduce their stranglehold at the top of the table to just one game. The Flyers are unbeaten from two tries on the road, while the Fire are yet to win in front of their home fans. There is no better occasion to celebrate their first win in front of a passionate crowd than downing one of the title contenders. It will be far from easy though and the Flyers will be keen to atone for last round and hit the court with a bang. These sides last played back in Round 1, with Southside coming out nine-point winners at Dandenong.

Abby Bishop has been a real star for the Fire, posting up 20.2 points, 8.6 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.2 steals per game, the clear standout for the side in an otherwise disappointing start to the year. The issue has been consistency, with Tess Madgen (12.8 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.5 assists), Darcee Garbin (12.0 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.7 steals) and Bridget Carleton (11.2 points, 4.8 rebounds) all contributing. The Flyers on the other hand have had the same five starters every week, and allowed all bar two players to take the court in each of the seven games. Mercedes Russell has been the recruit of the off-season, with the 198cm center posting 15.6 points and 10.3 rebounds per game, complimenting the likes of Leilani Mitchell (15.9 points, 3.7 rebounds, 6.3 assists and 1.6 steals) and Rebecca Cole (14.9 points, 3.0 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.6 steals) perfectly.

It is hard to look past the ladder leaders in this game with Southside predicted to add another win to the tally, but as the Fire showed in Round 1, they can be competitive in most games.

BENDIGO SPIRIT v. MELBOURNE BOOMERS
Sunday, November 24, 2pm
Bendigo Stadium

Bendigo Spirit return from a long break at home against Melbourne Boomers who are coming off their second game for the round. Returning from no doubt a thrilling clash in Adelaide, the Boomers will be pumped up for the clash, but might also be sore compared to the fresh Spirit. A strong start is crucial for the home side given they might have the legs to outrun them in the end, though the Boomers are third for a reason and will be difficult to topple. If the Boomers go down to Adelaide it will be three consecutive losses, while the Spirit also enter the game with back-to-back losses and will be keen for a victory. Considering Bendigo is 2-1 at home it may be a great opportunity to get a victory, but Melbourne are unbeaten on the road prior to this round. The last time these sides faced was in Round 2, with an earlier clash in Round 1 – both of which were won by the Boomers. A third meeting in seven rounds will end their head-to-head fixturing for the season and Bendigo will be desperate to get a win back on their metropolitan counterparts.

Kelly Wilson (11.1 points, 3.1 rebounds and 6.4 assists) and Carley Ernst (10.7 points, 8.0 rebounds) have been the two key players in the Spirit line-up, though Marte Grays has been a welcome inclusion to the side with 10.0 points and 5.6 rebounds. Tessa Lavey has also proven to be a key playmaker in the front court with 4.3 assists to go with her 9.4 points and 3.4 rebounds per game. While the Boomers have slipped up in the past two matches, they remain a strong side across the board, with Allen, George and Garrick just three of their strong contributors. Sophie Cunningham (12.0 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists) and Ezi Magbegor (10.7 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.3 blocks) are two others averaging double-figure points this season.

Melbourne should take home the win here, though Bendigo knows how important this victory is in the context of its season.

UC CAPITALS v. PERTH LYNX
Sunday, November 24, 5pm
National Convention Centre

The final game of the round will have equally as important ramifications on the season with the second placed University of Canberra (UC) Capitals hosting Perth Lynx at the National Convention Centre on Sunday evening. The Capitals will have the longest wait of any side in the competition having not played since November 9 and will have a 15-day gap between matches, while the Lynx will be coming off a Friday night clash against Sydney Uni Flames. Mathematically if the Lynx can win both games, they are back in contention with the top four sides and adding a bit of points difference would not go astray either. But for the Capitals, coming off a fresh win over Southside Flyers, the reigning premiers will be keen to keep the streak going and add to their three-straight wins of late. Yet to lose at home they will be difficult to beat, while the Lynx are yet to win on the road and will be keen to take home a pair of victories when they travel to NSW/ACT this round.

The reigning premiers have a multitude of stars across the court with Kia Nurse (20.3 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.6 assists) the scoring machine working well once again with Kelsey Griffin (16.9 points, 11.3 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.6 steals). Keely Froling has been a strong performer this season putting up numbers of 16.1 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.6 assists, while Olivia Epoupa (8.9 points, 6.3 rebounds, 6.4 assists and 4.0 steals) has been a huge addition to the already impressive outfit. For the Lynx, much has been spoken about the regular starters, but Ariel Atkins has been important since landing in Australia, playing two games off the bench for an average of 13.5 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists, while Lauren Mansfield has also showed her clean hands with 9.8 points, 3.3 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 1.8 steals.

The Capitals are strong favourites and hard to beat at home so it will be difficult to see them losing, but the Lynx will hope that they bring form throughout the weekend and stage a massive upset.

2019/20 WNBL Team of the Week: Round 5

UNIVERSITY of Canberra (UC) Capitals have broken a Draft Central Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) Team of the Week record in Round 5, having a massive four players in the 10-player side after a couple of impressive wins in Victoria. Along with the Capitals, Adelaide Lightning and Perth Lynx both had two players following their impressive victories, with Southside Flyers and Townsville Fire having one representative. Melbourne Boomers, Bendigo Spirit and Sydney Uni Flames missed out on a representative for Round 5.

When you defeat the top two sides, it is always going to be a good weekend and the Capitals had that with five players considered for the Team of the Week. While Keely Froling narrowly missed out this week across the two-game average, the Capitals had a massive three starters in our team following the inclusion of Kia Nurse (21.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists), Marianna Tolo (17.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.0 blocks) and Kelsey Griffin (16.0 points, 11.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 4.0 steals) with Tolo making her debut in our team. Olivia Epoupa also made the side, earning a bench spot with 10.0 points, 4.5 rebounds, 7.5 assists and 3.5 steals across the weekend.

Adelaide Lightning had two players in the team with Brianna Turner‘s 22 points, eight rebounds, two assists, one steal and one block earning her a starting forward spot, with partner-in-crime, Stephanie Talbot taking up a bench spot. Perth Lynx’ Katie-Rae Ebzery rounds out the starting five with a round-high 28 points, as well as four rebounds, five assists and two steals, shooting at 62.5 per cent from the field. She is joined in the team by her teammate and center, Maddison Allen.

Looking to the bench, Leilani Mitchell stood tall in her Southside Flyers’ loss to her former side the Capitals, while Abby Bishop backed up her effort from last week to make our Team of the Week again despite Townsville’s loss. It was a hard week to pick just 10 players, with Lindsay Allen and Cayla George (Melbourne), and Alice Kunek and Colleen Planeta (Sydney Uni) pushing for selection but narrowly missing out. Also in our thoughts for selection were Perth’s Lauren Mansfield, Townsville’s Darcee Garbin and Southside’s Mercedes Russell.

STARTING FIVE:

G: Katie-Rae Ebzery (PL) – 28 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, 0 blocks, 62.5 FG%
G: Kia Nurse (UC) – 21.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 0.0 steals, 0.0 blocks, 45.7 FG%
C: Marianna Tolo (UC) – 17.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 0.0 steals, 1.0 blocks, 70.0 FG%
F: Kelsey Griffin (UC) – 16.0 points, 11.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 4.0 steals, 0.5 blocks, 42.4 FG%
F: Brianna Turner (AL) – 22 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 1 block, 47.1 FG%

BENCH:

G: Leilani Mitchell (SF) – 23 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, 1 block, 61.5 FG%
G: Olivia Epoupa (UC) – 10.0 points, 4.5 rebounds, 7.5 assists, 3.5 steals, 0.5 blocks, 45.0 FG%
C: Maddison Allen (PL) – 8 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 0 steals, 3 blocks, 33.3 FG%
F: Stephanie Talbot (AL) – 16 points, 4 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 steals, 1 block, 40.0 FG%
F: Abby Bishop (TF) – 14 points, 5 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 steals, 0 blocks, 40.0 FG%

WNBL Round 5 review: Final three games see UC capitalise in Melbourne

REIGNING premiers, University of Canberra (UC) Capitals made it a weekend away in Melbourne to remember, downing the Boomers on Saturday after also getting the better of the Flyers on Thursday night. They moved to second on the table, while other results on Saturday saw Adelaide Lightning smash Bendigo Spirit, and Perth Lynx win their first game since Round 1 to down the Flames for the second time this season and move to fifth on the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) ladder.

Perth Lynx (93) defeated Sydney Uni Flames (74)

Despite a rocky start to the season and having not won since Round 1 – and only against the Flames – Perth’s victory over Sydney Uni moved the Lynx to fifth spot on the table, one of four sides with two or less victories this season and opening up a large gap between the finals-bound places and the rest. The Lynx made their intentions clear early, slamming home 31 points to 15 in the opening term on Saturday night, before extending the half-time lead to 20. They were not going to take the foot off the jugular after the break, adding 22 points to 15 in the third term to end the contest. The Flames managed to grab some important points back in the final term as the Lynx gave plenty of up-and-coming stars a run, but the game was over and they won 93-74. Katie-Rae Ebzery was simply superb for the Lynx, recording a game-high 28 points, four rebounds and two steals, while Lauren Mansfield was a great playmaker thanks to 13 points, seven assists, four rebounds and two steals. Alison Schwagmeyer – while down on her usual point-scoring output – had 10 points, nine rebounds and three steals, as Nadeen Payne and Marena Whittle also added 10 points each to the cause. For the Flames, Colleen Planeta stepped up in defeat to sink 23 points and eight rebounds, while Alice Kunek was the only other major scorer with 14 points, five assists and three rebounds. Lauren Scherf had just eight points but helped out around the court with seven rebounds and five assists.

DC Medal: 3 – Katie-Rae Ebzery (PL), 2 – Colleen Planeta (SU), 1 – Lauren Mansfield (PL)

Adelaide Lightning (105) defeated Bendigo Spirit (77)

Adelaide ensured it had some breathing space in the top four thanks to a big win over Bendigo Spirit at home. The Lightning added 28 points to 18 in the opening term, then extended the lead to 17 by the main break. They put together a four quarter performance in front of the home crowd at Titanium Security Arena, winning the last two quarters, 23-16 and 25-21 to run away 28-point winners, 105-77. Brianna Turner was the top scorer on the court with 22 points, eight rebounds and two assists, while Stephanie Talbot had 18 points, four rebounds, eight assists and two steals in a big performance. Chelsea Brook and Lauren Nicholson were busy throughout the game with 16 points apiece with Brook also recording six rebounds. Nicole Seekamp might have had just the 10 points on the board, but came close to a double double, setting up teammates for nine assists on the night. For the losers, Carley Ernst picked up a team-high 17 points and six rebounds, while Shyla Heal tried her hardest off the bench with 16 points and three assists. Kelly Wilson was the other Spirit player to reach double figures in the points column with 15, as well as two rebounds. It was a disappointing night for Bendigo who go into the week’s break having to regroup after the big loss, while Adelaide will head in knowing it is close to the top three sides.

DC Medal: 3 – Brianna Turner (AL), 2 – Stephanie Talbot (AL), 1 – Chelsea Brook (AL)

Melbourne Boomers (76) defeated by UC Capitals (79)

In the final game of the round, UC Capitals took back second spot with a huge 79-76 victory over Melbourne Boomers, completing a season-defining weekend away in Melbourne. Having knocked off the previously undefeated Southside Flyers on Thursday night, the Capitals handed the same fate to the Boomers, starting strongly to open a 10-point lead by quarter time. Melbourne went one better in the second quarter to turn it around and lead by a point themselves courtesy of a 26-15 second term, before extending that to four by three quarter time. The reigning premiers refused to lie down however, forcing their way back into the contest to deliver a 29-22 final term to record a narrow 79-76 victory. Kia Nurse was again the top points scorer with 22, as well as three rebounds and three assists, as Kelsey Griffin did as she pleased with nine rebounds, three assists and five steals to accompany her 18 points in a best on court performance. Marianna Tolo started this week and had 18 points, five rebounds and two blocks, while Olivia Epoupa finished with a productive five rebounds, eight assists and four steals to go with five points. For the Boomers, Lindsay Allen (18 points, six assists) and Sophie Cunningham (18 points, three rebounds and two steals) tried hard throughout the contest, while Cayla George had 10 points, eight rebounds and four assists in defeat.

DC Medal: 3 – Kelsey Griffin (UC), 2 – Kia Nurse (UC), 1 – Cayla George (MB)

DC Medal Leaderboard:

13 – Kelsey Griffin (UC)
12 –
11 – Mercedes Russell (SF), Cayla George (MB)
10 – Brianna Turner (AL)
9 –
8 – Lindsay Allen (MB)
7 – Alison Schwagmeyer (PL), Leilani Mitchell (SF), Abby Bishop (TF)
6 – Jenna O’Hea (SF), Keely Froling (UC), Katie-Rae Ebzery (PL), Colleen Planeta (AD), Stephanie Talbot (AL)
5 – Alice Kunek (SU), Tahlia Tupaea (SU), Olivia Epoupa (UC)
4 – Imani McGee-Stafford (PL), Kelly Wilson (BS), Kia Nurse (UC)
3 – Carley Ernst (BS), Rebecca Tobin (BS)
2 – Crystal Langhorne (AD), Madeleine Garrick (MB), Micaela Cocks (TF), Rebecca Cole (SF), Chelsea Brook (AD)
1 – Bridget Carleton (TF), Lauren Nicholson (AL), Sophie Cunningham (MB), Jessica Kuster (SU), Nicole Seekamp (AL), Tess Madgen (TF), Sara Blicavs (SF), Ariel Atkins (PL), Lauren Mansfield (PL)

2019/20 WNBL review/preview: Round 5 – Midway point of round

WITH the split round taking place in Round 5 of the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL), we recap the two games that took place overnight, while previewing the remaining three matches this weekend.

Sydney Uni Flames (82) defeated Townsville Fire (73)

Sydney Uni Flames have leapt past two sides on their way to sixth following an all-important home win against Townsville Fire last night. The Fire were coming off a terrific road win against Perth Lynx, but could not follow on from a strong second term to be overrun by the Flames and sent to the bottom of the table. Sydney Uni gained the advantage early, piling on 28 points to 21, before the Flames’ worst quarter of the season saw them struggle with just nine points to Townsville’s 21, heading into half-time with a five-point deficit. They picked up in the second half however, cutting the deficit to one by the final break, before a barnstorming 28-18 last quarter saw them extinguish the Fire, 82-73. Alice Kunek was the standout with 22 points, four rebounds, four assists, two blocks and one steal for the Flames, while Jessica Kuster (17 points, six rebounds) and Alex Wilson (16 points, three rebounds scored highly. Tahlia Tupaea (12 points, eight rebounds, three assists and two steals) and Colleen Planeta (11 points, six rebounds) rounded out a strong starting five effort with their work off the boards. For the Fire, Darcee Garbin was a standout with 19 points, seven rebounds and two assists, while Abby Bishop continued her good form of late with 14 points, five rebounds, seven assists and three steals. Tess Madgen (12 points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals) was impressive as well in defeat.

DC Medal: 3 – Alice Kunek (SU), 2 – Tahlia Tupaea (SU), 1 – Abby Bishop (TF)

Southside Flyers (72) defeated UC Capitals (91)

The UC Capitals emerged from their Round 3 slumber to make it two massive wins in a row, knocking off the previously undefeated Southside Flyers on the road. In the first of two games in Victoria, the reigning premiers put the challenge to the ladder leaders with a dominant first half, posting 27-19 in the opening term, then 29-14 in the second quarter to lead by 22 points heading into the main break. It was hard to fathom for the home crowd who were left a little stunned at Dandenong Stadium, as Southside managed to chew back three points in the third term, but could not make any inroads by the final buzzer to go down by 19 points, 72-91. The Capitals’ big guns were all firing once again as Kelsey Griffin lead the way with 14 points, 13 rebounds, three assists, three steals and one block, while Keely Froling‘s work off the bench was superb, notching up a double-double as well, posting 20 points, 10 rebounds, two assists and one block. Kia Nurse lead the scoring with 21 points, four rebounds and three assists, while Marianna Tolo (16 points, seven rebounds) and Olivia Epoupa (15 points, four rebounds, seven assists and three steals) were also prominent. For the Flyers, Leilani Mitchell stood up against her former side, sinking 23 points and collecting five rebounds, three assists, one steal and one block for the losers. Mercedes Russell had the 15 points and five rebounds but was quiet by her standards, while Sara Blicavs (11 points, six rebounds) was busy off the boards but had seven turnovers on the night. It was an evening to forget for the Flyers who will be keen to put that one behind them as they have a 16-day break until their November 23 clash with cellar dwellers, Townsville.

DC Medal: 3 – Kelsey Griffin (UC), 2 – Keely Froling (UC), 1 – Olivia Epoupa (UC)

Looking ahead to the rest of the round, three games take place tomorrow night across three different states, with Thursday night’s winners hoping to make it a double-win weekend in Round 5.

PERTH LYNX vs. SYDNEY UNI FLAMES
Saturday, November 9, 7.00pm
Bendat Basketball Centre

Fresh off a victory over fellow bottom three side Townsville, Sydney Uni could really make inroads this weekend if they can topple the out-of-sorts Perth Lynx. While the Lynx have the home court advantage, they have dropped their past four games, two of which were at home with the most disappointing to the previously winless Townsville in Round 4. The last time these two sides met was in Round 1, with Perth claiming what would become its only victory of the season thus far, defeating Sydney Uni, 79-62. Last season the Lynx won all three clashes, including a massive 46-point belting in November. It will be the third straight time these sides have met at Bendat Basketball Centre, and Perth is desperate for a win to get back on track. Alison Schwagmeyer has been a shining light this season, posting up 19.4 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game, while Katie-Rae Ebzery (13.6 points, 4.2 rebounds) and Nadeen Payne (13.4 points, 4.4 rebounds) has been the other consistent player off the boards. Imani McGee-Stafford has used her 201cm frame to have an impact in three games having had to recover from an ankle injury. She has averaged 14.7 points, 8.7 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 2.3 blocks thus far this season, and if back out on court could make it a trio of Americans, with Schwagmeyer and last week’s debutant, Ariel Atkins (19 points, seven rebounds and four assists). Meanwhile the Flames have had an up-and-down start to the season, but their American imports have also impressed, with Planeta (13.5 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.3 blocks) and Kuster (11.2 points, 6.2 rebounds) solid, while Australian Kunek has been Sydney Uni’s best with 18.5 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists across all six starts. The Flames are too far behind on points difference to overtake Adelaide, but should the Flames win and Bendigo Spirit lose, they would move to fifth on the table.

ADELAIDE LIGHTNING vs. BENDIGO SPIRIT
Saturday, November 9, 7.00pm
Titanium Security Arena

In a massive mid-table clash, Adelaide Lightning will be keen to steal back third spot from UC Capitals with a win. In what will be just the Lightning’s second home game – they won their other one against the Flames in Round 1 – they will be hoping to provide plenty of highlights to the crowd. Last time these sides met was last week when Bendigo upset Adelaide by 13 points. Last season, the Lightning won its clash at home and one on the road, while Bendigo won the middle game of the trio. With an identical points difference to the reigning premiers but a win behind, the Lightning must salute here to be any chance of snatching third spot, while Bendigo can grab Adelaide’s fourth spot if the Spirit get up by at least 27 points. Crystal Langhorne injured herself after a massive opening round debut for the Lightning where she put up 20 points and 13 rebounds, with fellow American import, Brianna Turner having to shoulder the load up forward with 16.4 points and 9.6 rebounds across the five games. Lauren Nicholson (17.2 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.0 assists) and Stephanie Talbot (13.6 points, 9.6 rebounds) have been big off the boards, while Nicole Seekamp (12.6 points, 8.4 assists and 3.2 rebounds) has been the playmaker. For the Spirit, Rebecca Tobin has averaged 14 points, nine rebounds and two steals from just two matches, while Marte Grays has put up 11.2 points and 5.8 rebounds thus far this season. Without a genuine standout and the points shared across the board, others who have impressed include Kelly Wilson (10.5 points, 7.3 assists and 3.3 rebounds), Tessa Lavey (10.0 points, 4.5 assists and 3.7 rebounds) and Carley Ernst (9.7 points, 8.3 rebounds) who have become integral members of the starting five.

MELBOURNE BOOMERS vs. UC CAPITALS
Saturday, November 9, 7.00pm
State Basketball Centre

The final game of the round is just as crucial as the other two, with second spot up for grabs between Melbourne Boomers and UC Capitals. The Capitals are now on a two-game winning streak after a disappointing Round 3 that included losses to the Boomers and Flames. It was the manner in which the Capitals’ lost to the Boomers that would burn deeply in the reigning premiers’ minds, losing 107-72 in Geelong. Now at the State Basketball Centre, the Capitals will be keen to have a change of fortunes, and while that result has put a wide gap between the two teams, a Capitals’ win would still see them move past the Boomers having already collected the scalp of the Flyers last night and will look to knock off both top two sides in one weekend. The Capitals’ win over the Flyers was their first on the road for the season having won every game at home, while Melbourne’s loss to Southside last round was the Boomers’ first home loss of the year. Griffin has backed up her MVP winning ways with another double-double season to-date with 16.7 points, 11.7 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.2 steals per game. She has plenty of support across the court though, with Nurse (20.0 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.5 assists) doing her thing up the scoring end, while Froling (17.8 points, 7.7 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.2 blocks) could make a case as one of the most improved this season. The inclusion of Frenchwoman, Epoupa has also been massive, averaging a balanced 9.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 6.2 assists and a remarkable 4.0 steals per game. While they have been impressive, the Boomers have also had an even contribution of stars with Cayla George leading the way thanks to a double-double effort of 17.2 points, 10.6 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.4 blocks. American duo, Lindsay Allen (18.4 points, 6.0 assists and 4.0 rebounds) and Sophie Cunningham (10.8 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.2 assists) have also contributed on the scoring front. UC’s form heading into the game is hard to ignore, but Melbourne had no trouble against the Capitals in Round 3 and could well hand out another punishment here.

2019/20 WNBL preview: Round 5 – Thursday night action on the east coast

THE University of Canberra (UC) Capitals and Sydney Uni Flames do the double over Round 5, with just the two matchdays tonight and Saturday for five games. The teams then have a break for a week, before recommencing on Friday, November 22 with Round 6 tipping off. In this part we focus on the first two games of the round happening tonight.

SYDNEY UNI FLAMES vs. TOWNSVILLE FIRE
Thursday, November 7, 7.00pm
Bryden’s Stadium

Townsville Fire was able to finally break through for a win, leapfrogging their opponents this round in doing so. In a battle of the bottom two sides in the WNBL, Townsville has had the upperhand in recent times, winning all three games between the teams in the 2018/19 season. Yet to face-off in 2019/20, the Flames host the first match between the pair, and will be hoping to find the form that saw them upset UC Capitals in Round 3. Townsville did what few can and knocked off Perth over in Western Australia, though the Lynx have been out of form of late and remain anchored in the bottom three with these sides. The Fire have predominantly relied on Abby Bishop for points, becoming one of the more damaging forwards in the league, posting up 21.8 points and 9.5 rebounds per game, as well as 2.8 assists and 2.0 steals. She is ranked first in her side across every statistical area with the exception of assists, where Tess Madgen (3.6) ranks higher. Madgen has been a valuable player for the Fire as well, averaging 13 points and six rebounds per game. Bridget Carleton and Darcee Garbin have started every game and combined for 21 points and 11 rebounds per game. For the Flames, they have some spread talent across the starting five, with Alice Kunek (17.8 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.6 assists) and Colleen Planeta (14.0 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.4 blocks) have been the standout performers, though Lauren Scherf (9.8 rebounds) and Jessica Kuster (6.2 rebounds and 10.0 points) work off the boards has been impressive. At home, Sydney Uni will feel confident in victory, though Townsville will go in as favourites given their impressive win last round.

SOUTHSIDE FLYERS vs. UC CAPITALS
Thursday, November 7, 7.30pm
Dandenong Stadium

In the first of two top four clashes for the Capitals, they travel for a weekend in Victoria to face the Flyers and Boomers back-to-back over three days. The first clash takes place on Thursday evening, with the undefeated Southside now two wins and four points clear on top. Mercedes Russell is the recruit of the year for the WNBL so far, sinking 15.7 points, 11.2 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.3 blocks per game. With the starting five all averaging over 14 points per game, the firepower within the team is amazing. Rebecca Cole (15.3 points, 3.5 blocks and 4.0 assists), Sara Blicavs (15.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.5 steals), Jenna O’Hea (15.2 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 2.3 steals) and Leilani Mitchell (14.7 points, 3.5 rebounds, 6.8 assists and 1.7 steals) are all valuable players who have provided consistency to the line-up having set-up the same every week. For the Capitals, they have three key scorers this season with last year’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) Kelsey Griffin averaging a double double of 17.2 points and 11.4 rebounds, as well as 3.0 assists and 2.0 steals. Keely Froling has been superb this season with 17.4 points, 7.2 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.2 blocks, while Kia Nurse has stood tall to back up her work from last season, averaging a team-high 19.8 points. Olivia Epoupa has also been a key addition to the team, while only averaging the 8.4 points, her work up both ends of 7.0 rebounds and 6.0 assists has been crucial in setting her teammates up. This is set to be a thriller, with Southside clear favourites, but you can never underestimate the work of the Capitals’ top-end when it comes to crunch time and the reigning premiers will be ready for the clash. It also marks the first time Mitchell will face her old side, which will be an interesting facet of the Thursday night battle.

2019/20 WNBL Team of the Week: Round 4

REIGNING premiers, University of Canberra (UC) Capitals were back on the board in a big way, both with an important win over Sydney Uni Flames, and in our Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) Team of the Week for Round 4. The Capitals had three players named in our 10-player team, one more than Perth Lynx and Townsville Fire, who surprisingly played each other in a tight game. Southside Flyers, Melbourne Boomers and Adelaide Lightning all had a player in the team to round it out, with Bendigo Spirit and Sydney Uni missing out this week.

Townsville picked up its first win of the season and had an impressive two players in the starting line-up. Abby Bishop had a dominant performance with a round-high 31 points, as well as 11 rebounds, four assists and two steals in one of the performances of the weekend. She was joined in the starting side by captain Micaela Cocks, who picked up 22 points, five rebounds, five assists and three steals in the Fire’s win over Perth Lynx. A Lynx debutant was named in the other starting five guard spot beside Cocks, with American import, Ariel Atkins shooting 19 points and compiling seven rebounds and four assists in a big performance to tip-off her WNBL career. She was joined in the overall Team of the Week by teammate, Katie-Rae Ebzery.

Another American import who has had an amazing season so far is Mercedes Russell, with the Southside Flyers’ center having another couple of big games. Russell posted 15.5 points, 13.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 2.0 blocks and 1.5 steals, while shooting at 73.7 per cent from the field. Rounding out the starting five is UC Capitals’ Keely Froling who was named second forward in back-to-back weeks. She had 19 points, seven rebounds, three assists, two blocks and one steal in the Capitals’ win over the Flames, but was far from the sole contributor, joined in the side by teammates Olivia Epoupa and Kelsey Griffin who make up two of the five bench players. Adelaide’s Brianna Turner and Melbourne’s Cayla George fill out the final two spots in the 10-player squad.

Others who were unlucky to miss out on a spot include Bendigo’s Rebecca Tobin and Kelly Wilson, Southside’s Rebecca Cole and Sara Blicavs, Adelaide’s Stephanie Talbot, Townsville’s Tess Madgen and Sydney Uni’s Alice Kunek.

STARTING FIVE:

G: Micaela Cocks (TF) – 22 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals, 0 blocks, 75.0 FG%
G: Ariel Atkins (PL) – 19 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, 0 blocks, 50.0 FG%
C: Mercedes Russell (SF) – 15.5 points, 13.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.5 steals, 2.0 blocks, 73.7 FG%
F: Abby Bishop (TF) – 31 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, 0 blocks, 47.8 FG%
F: Keely Froling (UC) – 19 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, 2 blocks, 61.5 FG%

BENCH:

G: Olivia Epoupa (UC) – 12 points, 8 rebounds, 10 assists, 4 steals, 0 blocks, 85.7 FG%
G: Katie-Rae Ebzery (PL) – 14 points, 4 rebounds, 9 assists, 3 steals, 0 blocks, 35.7 FG%
C: Cayla George (MB) – 22 points, 13 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals, 1 block, 50.0 FG%
F: Brianna Turner (AL) – 21 points, 12 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals, 2 blocks, 38.9 FG%
F: Kelsey Griffin (UC) – 19 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals, 0 blocks, 47.1 FG%

WNBL Round 4 review: Townsville ignites season as Bendigo strike at home

THERE was plenty of action in Round 4 of the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) with the Flyers flexing their muscles once again with a convincing 13 point while Townsville Fire registered their first win of the season in a hard-fought battle against Perth.

Bendigo Spirit (67) defeated Adelaide Lightning (54)

It was a massively spirited performance by Bendigo to get the points against Adelaide Lightning in what was a crucial game for ladder positions. The Spirit kept in touch with the top four thanks to the 13-point win, and won three of the four quarters, after levelling the first term. They restricted the Lightning to just eight points in the last term, in a dour affair, showing that the home side can play just as well defensively as they can offensively. Rebecca Tobin was magnificent off the boards with a double double with 12 points and 12 rebounds, as well as a couple of steals and blocks. Abigail Wehrung (16 points, three rebounds) recorded the most points for her side in the low-scoring win, while Demi Skinner (11 points, two rebounds) also contributed off the bench in what was a good night for the bench players, scoring 37 of the 67 points. It was a different story for the Lightning, with Adelaide not getting a point from its bench, instead with just four players posting up points on the night. Brianna Turner (21 points and 12 rebounds) picked up a double double, as did Stephanie Talbot (13 points, 10 rebounds), while Nicole Seekamp (nine points, seven assists and three rebounds) was solid.

DC Medal: 3 – Rebecca Tobin (BS), 2 – Brianna Turner (AL), 1 – Stephanie Talbot (AL)

UC Capitals (91) defeated Sydney Uni Flames (66)

Despite a somewhat sluggish start, there was no cause for concern from the reigning premiers as the University of Canberra (UC) Capitals exacted their revenge on their NSW/ACT rivals, Sydney Uni Flames, winning 91-66. The 25-point win was fairly comprehensive given the Flames had got the better of the Capitals in Round 3, with the Capitals also going down early in the weekend to make it back-to-back losses. They bounced back with a big win in this clash at home, as they had contributors across the floor. Kia Nurse was the top points scorer with 21, as well as four assists and three steals, while it was hard to decide the best influence as Kelsey Griffin got back to some of her best basketball thanks to 19 points, eight rebounds, four assists and three steals. The damaging duo was not the only Capitals to impact in a multitude of ways, as Olivia Epoupa (12 points, eight rebounds, 10 assists and four steals) came agonisingly close to a triple double, and Keely Froling‘s work off the bench (19 points, seven rebounds, three assists and two blocks) was also noted. For the losing side it was hard to find winners on the court, as Alice Kunek (17 points, five rebounds and two assists) and Jessica Kuster (16 points, four rebounds, two assists and twos steals) were the two main contributors as a number of their usual reliable stars being down on numbers. Lauren Scherf still managed nine rebounds to go with her six points and four assists, but the Flames will be keen to bounce back from the night.

DC Medal: 3 – Keely Froling (UC), 2 – Olivia Epoupa (UC), 1 – Kelsey Griffin (UC)

Perth Lynx (88) defeated by Townsville Fire (93)

In a memorable night for the visitors and another forgettable one for the home side, Townsville Fire celebrated their first win of the season while piling on more pain to Perth Lynx. In what was their fourth consecutive loss after an initial Round 1 win, Perth looked good to bounce back in the first half, winning both the opening two quarters to lead by six at half-time. It proved to not be enough however, as Townsville raced home with a 20-15 final term to force overtime. It was there the momentum of the Fire kept building as they outscored the Lynx 13-8 in the period to record an all-important victory, 93-88. Abby Bishop was the star of the show with 31 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and two steals, while Micaela Cocks led from the front for her side, posting up 22 points, five rebounds, five assists and three steals. Tess Madgen was the other Fire player to reach double figures thanks to 14 points, nine rebounds and five assists. For the Lynx, Alison Schwagmeyer‘s strong start to the season continued with another 23 points, as well as three rebounds and three assists, while Ariel Atkins came off the bench in her first game of the season since landing in Australia from the US, putting up 19 points, seven rebounds, four assists and a steal. Katie-Rae Ebzery (14 points, nine assists, four rebounds and three steals) contributed across the court and was always prominent.

DC Medal: 3 – Abby Bishop (TF), 2 – Micaela Cocks (TF), 1 – Ariel Atkins (PL)

Southside Flyers (93) defeated Bendigo Spirit (80)

For the second time in as many weeks, Southside Flyers emerged victorious against Bendigo Spirit, defeating their lower ranked Victorian counterparts by 13 points in the Sunday evening game. Southside remained undefeated with the victory and headed into Monday’s night’s blockbuster with Melbourne Boomers with the same form line as their opponents. In the win against Bendigo, Southside flew out of the blocks to put up 24 points to 18 in the first term, then won the second to lead by seven at half-time. Bendigo forced its way back into the contest with a 21-16 third term to get within a basket, but Southside steadied to run away with it 30-19 in the last quarter and secure the 93-80 win. Mercedes Russell was superb once again, picking up a double double with a massive 15 rebounds to go with her 12 points, four assists, three blocks and two steals, while Rebecca Cole (23 points, four assists and two steals) and Sara Blicavs (21 points, three rebounds and three steals) were the strong scorers. Leilani Mitchell had six assists with her 16 points, while Jenna O’Hea (12 points, four rebounds and three assists) also reached double-figure points. For the Spirit, Tobin had 16 points, six rebounds and two steals, while Kelly Wilson was just as impressive with 15 points, four rebounds, seven assists and two steals. Wehrung (13 points) was the other Spirit player to reach double-figure points, but it was not enough across the board.

DC Medal: 3 – Mercedes Russell (SF), 2 – Kelly Wilson (BS), 1 – Rebecca Cole (SF)

Stay tuned for the review of the blockbuster match between the undefeated Melbourne Boomers and Southside Flyers.

DC Medal Leaderboard:

8 – Cayla George (MB), Lindsay Allen (MB), Mercedes Russell (SF)
7 – Alison Schwagmeyer (PL), Leilani Mitchell (SF), Brianna Turner (AL), Kelsey Griffin (UC)
6 – Jenna O’Hea (SF), Abby Bishop (TF)
5 –
4 – Colleen Planeta (AD), Imani McGee-Stafford (PL), Stephanie Talbot (AL), Keely Froling (UC), Olivia Epoupa (UC), Kelly Wilson (BS)
3 – Carley Ernst (BS), Katie-Rae Ebzery (PL), Tahlia Tupaea (SU), Rebecca Tobin (BS)
2 – Crystal Langhorne (AD), Kia Nurse (UC), Madeleine Garrick (MB), Alice Kunek (SU), Micaela Cocks (TF)
1 – Chelsea Brook (AD), Bridget Carleton (TF), Lauren Nicholson (AL), Sophie Cunningham (MB), Jessica Kuster (SU), Nicole Seekamp (AL), Tess Madgen (TF), Sara Blicavs (SF), Ariel Atkins (PL), Rebecca Cole (SF)

WNBL 2019/2020 preview: Round 4 – Unbeaten all-Victorian clash set for Monday blockbuster

ALL eyes could turn to a packed out State Basketball Centre on Monday night when the two undefeated sides, Melbourne Boomers and Southside Flyers go head-to-head for the first time in Round 4 of the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL). The Flyers still have to get past Bendigo Spirit the day before, but providing they can win, it sets up a tantalising match-up.

BENDIGO SPIRIT v. ADELAIDE LIGHTNING
Friday, November 1, 7:00pm
Bendigo Stadium

Playing off for the first time this season, the Spirit are hoping to bounce back from their third loss of the season, coming up against third placed Adelaide Lightning who have found some form with back-to-back wins in the past two rounds. The Lightning are poised if one of the top two Victorian teams slips up, especially after the UC Capitals dropped both games last round. For Bendigo, they have just one win from their first four games and will be keen to get one-up on the Lightning and keep in touch with the top few sides. Last time these sides met was last season in January, with Nia Coffey dropping 37 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and two blocks on the Spirit as the Lightning ran our 11-point winners. On that day, the now Perth Lynx forward Nadeen Payne was Bendigo’s best with 21 points, four rebounds and an assist. In season 2019, Lauren Nicholson has been the prolific scorer for the Lightning, averaging 18.8 points, while Brianna Turner has been arguably Adelaide’s best player to-date with nine rebounds to accompany her 15.3 points, as well as an assist, block and steal per game. For the Spirit, Marte Grays has been a terrific addition to the side this season, with the American averaging 15.8 points, 4.0 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 1.3 steals. Carley Ernst has also been prolific with 10.3 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.8 assists, while Kelly Wilson has been the playmaker with 10.3 points, 3.5 rebounds and 7.5 assists. Adelaide go into this game as favourites, but Bendigo will be keen to upset the Lightning in front of the Spirit faithful.

UC CAPITALS v SYDNEY UNI FLAMES
Saturday, November 2, 5:00pm
AIS Arena

The reigning premiers, University of Canberra (UC) Capitals do not have to look too far back for motivation against their NSW/ACT rivals, suffering a shock loss to last year’s wooden spooners last round despite being undefeated heading into the weekend. The Capitals also dropped a game to the undefeated Boomers in an un-Capitals like performance, going down by 35 points. The Flames on the other hand finally found form with the win after three consecutive losses, ensuring they moved off the bottom to leapfrog Townsville Fire and remain just percentage out of the top four. Given UC’s heavy loss to the Boomers, a win to the Flames by three points or more would see them move past the highly fancied Capitals. The Capitals are unlikely to have a worse weekend any time soon, with Kia Nurse, Keely Froling, Kelsey Griffin and Olivia Epoupa providing a really strong top four. Nurse, Froling and Griffin all average 16.8 points or more, with Griffin also averaging a double-double with 12.3 rebounds, while Froling (7.3 rebounds) has been a great help off the boards. For the Flames, Colleen Planeta has been busy since crossing from the Lightning, averaging 15.3 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.8 blocks. Alice Kunek (18.0 points, 4.3 rebounds and 4.0 assists) and Lauren Scherf (6.8 points, 10.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.0 steal) have also provided great coverage and support across the court. The Capitals deservedly go in as favourites despite last weekend’s results. While the Flames will hope to make history repeat itself, the Capitals will be keen to repay the favour bestowed upon them in Round 3, with a return victory at home.

PERTH LYNX v. TOWNSVILLE FIRE
Saturday, November 2, 6.30pm
Bendat Basketball Stadium

Two sides that are yet to play each other in the calendar year are the Perth Lynx and Townsville Fire. You have to go back to December 14 last year for the last time these sides met, when Townsville upset the Lynx by 25 points at home. It came after Perth won the first two encounters, at home and away by 10 and eight points respectively. Both teams usually put in a close contest aside from the last outing, and expect plenty to be on the line with the sides in poor form of late. The Lynx have dropped their past three matches of the season, only lessened by the Fire who are the only side yet to put up a win from four encounters. Considering they have dropped all their games to-date, the Fire have maintained relative competitiveness, while the Lynx have been incredibly unlucky, with an overtime loss against the Lightning in Round 3 a perfect example. Alison Schwagmeyer is having some sort of season this year, with 18.5 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game, while Payne (16.0 points, 4.0 rebounds) and Imani McGee-Stafford (14.7 points, 8.7 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 2.3 blocks) have been superb for the Lynx as well. Last week, Katie-Rae Ebzery stepped up to bring her points average into double figures, now averaging 13.5 points, but crucially, 7.8 assists and 4.3 rebounds as the key playmaker for Perth. The Fire have been led by Abby Bishop who has averaged 18.7 points, 9.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 2.0 steals per game, while Tess Madgen (12.8 points, 5.3 rebounds), Bridget Carleton (11.5 points, 5.0 rebounds) and Darcee Garbin (11.3 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.5 steals) have also provided support across the court. Perth would see this game as an absolute must-win at home against the last placed, winless Fire, but Townsville will also see this match as an opportunity to pounce against a side that has dropped off a tad in the past two rounds.

SOUTHSIDE FLYERS v. BENDIGO SPIRIT
Sunday, November 3, 5:00pm
Dandenong Stadium

Whilst the previous head-to-head had a 10-month gap between games, Southside played Bendigo just last round and will be hoping to double the dose this weekend with a second home match. These sides faced off at this very venue in Dandenong, with the Flyers getting up by eight points. While the result will be fresh in supporters’ minds, it was the likes of Sara Blicavs (23 points, two rebounds and two steals), Mercedes Russell (18 points, 11 rebounds) and Leilani Mitchell (13 points, five rebounds and seven assists) who applied the pressure to the Spirit. Grays was superb in a losing side with 22 points and nine rebounds, while Tessa Lavey helped herself to 17 points, four rebounds and seven assists in arguably her best game to-date. Gabrielle Richards (14 points, five rebounds) was also important, while Wilson was quiet on the points front with just seven, though she had six assists and three rebounds. Southside is living up to its name, flying into season 2019/20 with four straight wins to open the season. Russell has been a superb inclusion to the side, averaging 15.8 points and 10.3 rebounds, while Mitchell (UC Capitals) was another one who has stepped into the side with ease, averaging 14.8 points, 5.0 points and 7.8 assists, as well as almost two steals per game. Jenna O’Hea (16.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, 5.8 assists and 3.5 steals) has had a remarkable start to the season, while Rebecca Cole and Blicavs have also averaged 13.8 points per game in what has been as good of a start to the season as the Flyers would have hoped from their starting five. Expect the Flyers to win this game, but they would not want to hand the Spirit any momentum because Bendigo fought back right into the contest last weekend.

MELBOURNE BOOMERS v. SOUTHSIDE FLYERS
Monday, November 4, 7:30pm
State Basketball Centre

The first WNBL Monday night fixture of the season could not be more highly anticipated with two Victorian clubs likely to head into the clash undefeated at the top-of-the-table. Both teams are currently 4-0 heading into Round 4, with the Flyers taking on the Spirit a day before this clash to try and leapfrog the Boomers – at least temporarily – into top spot. Melbourne’s points difference this season has been remarkable, with plus-63 compared to its opponents, making Southside’s plus-34 look somewhat inadequate. However the Flyers have got the job done each and every time, including against high quality opponents. Now they take on the benchmark in the competition, with arguably the strongest starting fives in the competition going head-to-head. While we mentioned above about Russell, Mitchell, O’Hea, Cole and Blicavs having an impact thus far in season 2019/20, the Boomers’ starting five have also all averaged double-figure points this season. Lindsay Allen has led the way with 19.8 points, 5.0 rebounds and 6.0 assists, while Cayla George is averaging a double-double courtesy of her 16 points and 10 rebounds per game. Ezi Magbegor (11.5 points, 4.3 rebounds), Sophie Cunningham (11.0 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.0 assists) and Madeleine Garrick (11.0 points, 3.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.5 steals) have all been impressive. The head-to-head clashes in this game are exciting with a great mix of youth, experience and international talent on show and the game is not to be missed. The Boomers look likely to start favourites, but Southside has been building nicely this season and will be keen to get one-up on the ladder leaders.

WNBL 2019/2020 preview: Round 3 – Boomers and Capitals face-off in undefeated battle

THREE teams remain undefeated heading into Round 3 of the Women’s NBL and will be looking to extend their lead at the top of the table. On the other end of the scale both Townsville Fire and Sydney Uni Flames have failed to register a win so far and will hoping to edge their way off the bottom of the ladder.

MELBOURNE BOOMERS v. UC CAPITALS
Friday, October 25
7:30pm

Both sides will be riding high heading into the match-up with an unblemished record. The reigning premiers have three wins on the trot while the Boomers have notched up two wins from their two games making for a high intensity battle on Friday night. The Capitals welcomed back co-captain Mariana Tolo last week and with another game under her belt will be hoping to have an even bigger impact to keep her sides undefeated start to the season rolling. Other key players such as Kia Nurse, Kelsey Griffin and Keely Froling will be hoping to flex their muscles given their scoring prowess for the Capitals. If they can unleash early it will go a long way in setting up another possible win. But the Boomers will be wanting to maintain top spot on the ladder with Cayla George and Ezi Magbegor influential across the boards. George is their leading points scorer with 36 for the season so far while Lindsay Allen is no stranger to the scoreboard either amassing 12 points last week in the win.

SOUTHSIDE FLYERS v. BENDIGO SPIRIT
Saturday, October 26
5:00pm

The Southside Flyers are the other side in the competition to have not dropped a game so far this season and will be wanting to keep that momentum going. Bendigo secured their first win of the season last week against the Perth Lynx and will be seeking to keep that streak running. The Flyers have a host of key players that could cause havoc for the Spirit with Jenna O’Hea the most impactful of the lot already boasting a tally of 60 points for the season. Leilani Mitchell has proved to be a handy inclusion in the side making her presence felt both on the on scoreboard and off it racking up 10 assists, six rebounds and 14 points last week. Mercedes Russell has not skipped a beat so far this season while the likes of Sara Blicavs and Louella Tomlinson are pivotal to the Flyers line-up. The Spirit have their fair share of game changers such as Marte Grays, Carley Ernst and Tessa Lavey but must get on top early if they are any chance to stop the Flyers.

PERTH LYNX v. ADELAIDE LIGHTNING
Saturday, October 26
6:30pm

Perth and Adelaide have both had a relatively inconsistent start to the season and will be aiming to get some structure and momentum into their gameplay this round. Perth are coming off a loss while Adelaide prevailed by 20 points last match and will be drawing on that confidence heading into the clash. The Lightning currently sit in fourth spot while Lynx are hot on their tail in fifth making for exciting battle. The likes of Lauren Nicholson and Stephanie Talbot lead the way for the Lightning with their on-court presence and ability to go to post. Crystal Langhorne has proved to be a deadeye with ball in hand making no mistake sitting at 80 per cent from field goals and 100 per cent from three-point range. Lynx are led by scoring machine Alison Schwagmeyer with the ball all but guaranteed to go through the hoop when she has ball in hand amassing a whopping 65 points so far this season. Imani McGee-Stafford and Nadeen Payne have proved to be a dynamic duo with the two not afraid to back themselves and hit the scoreboard.

SYDNEY UNI FLAMES v. UC CAPITALS
Sunday, October 27
2:00pm

In their second game for the round, the UC Capitals will need to make the most of their opportunities despite playing the bottom of the ladder Sydney Uni Flames. With a short turn around expect the Capitals to hustle hard and look to their big game players to stand up under the pressure. Meanwhile the Flames will be hoping to capitalise on their oppositions weakness and exploit them with speed and fast breaks to catch them off guard. French import and Capitals star, Olivia Epoupa had a stand out game last week and will be looking to replicate her efforts again this week with seven steals, eight rebounds, four assists and 13 points. Teammates, Froling, Griffin, Nurse and Tolo will also be hoping to keep their winning ways afloat. Flames duo Colleen Planeta and Alice Kunek have had a profound impact for their side so far this season given their points scoring ability and general game sense with 55 and 48 respectively for the year. Jessica Kuster is another handy player notching up a double-double last round despite the loss with 10 rebounds and 16 points. Tahlia Tupaea cannot be underestimated with her ability to hit the scoreboard and cleverly crafted passes.

TOWNSVILLE FIRE v. MELBOURNE BOOMERS
Sunday, October 27
4:00pm

First meet seventh in what is shaping up to be an interesting contest between the Boomers and Townsville Fire. The Boomers will be heading into their second game of the round and while they currently sit undefeated have only played Bendigo Spirit before this round. This could be the time for the Fire to strike having pushed sides but fading away in previous encounters. Townsville have a number of important players that can wreak havoc if let off the hook early with Darcee Garbin, Abby Bishop and Tess Madgen able to use their experience to hurt the Boomers. Youngster Bridget Carleton will be hoping to continue her hot start to the season while Christina Boag is yet to miss a shot sitting at 100 per cent from field goals. Melbourne will be wanting to maintain their composure and not get frazzled by the Fire pressure. Expect Sophie Cunningham to play a major role for the Boomers having already locked away 29 points while Monique Conti has shown she can have an impact when brought on.