Tag: olivia epoupa

2019/20 WNBL Team of the Week: Round 14

IN a Draft Central Team of the Week first, our starting five players are made up of just two sides – the University of Canberra (UC) Capitals and Adelaide Lightning. Both sides had huge wins on the weekend, with the Capitals downing the top two teams, while the Lightning smashed Townsville Fire. In the 10-player Team of the Week, the sides made up 60 per cent of the representatives, with one player from four other sides – Perth Lynx, Sydney Uni Flames, Southside Flyers and Melbourne Boomers. After disappointing losses, neither Townsville nor Bendigo Spirit had a player in the team this round.

The UC Capitals’ trio of starters are the three that had absolutely remarkable weekends considering the mounting injury toll with star, Kelsey Griffin still out and Keely Froling also injured near the end of the first game. They smashed the Flyers on the road in a stunning performance, and along with the overtime win over Melbourne, earned three players in the Team of the Week. Kia Nurse averaged a massive 28 points, five rebounds and one steal per game on the weekend, joined in the side by two players who posted double doubles. Marianna Tolo makes the side again in center after recording numbers of 17.5 points, 10.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.0 steals, while Olivia Epoupa had 11.5 points, 14.5 rebounds, 7.5 assists and 4.0 steals in a huge couple of games.

Adelaide Lightning’s damaging duo of Stephanie Talbot and Brianna Turner round out the side in the starting forward spots. Talbot put up 16 points, 10 rebounds, three assists, three blocks and one steal against the Fire, shooting at 53.8 per cent from the field. Her partner-in-crime Turner had 15 points, nine rebounds, three assists and two blocks in the big win. Nicole Seekamp also made the bench to make it three for the Lightning, and equal most with the Capitals in the side. The four remaining spots went to players of other sides, with Perth guard Katie-Rae Ebzery and Sydney Uni center Lauren Scherf in the side, as well as forwards from the top two sides in Sara Blicavs and Ezi Magbegor who put out two consistent performances for one win and one loss each.

Among those players in consideration and unlucky not to make the cut were Bendigo duo, Tessa Lavey and Carley Ernst, Townsville duo Tess Madgen and Darcee Garbin, Southside duo Rebecca Cole and Mercedes Russell, Adelaide’s Lauren Nicholson, Perth’s Marena Whittle and Melbourne’s Cayla George.

STARTING FIVE:

G: Olivia Epoupa (UC) – 11.5 points, 14.5 rebounds, 7.5 assists, 4.0 steals, 0.0 blocks, 30.8 FG%
G: Kia Nurse (UC) – 28.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.0 blocks, 43.2 FG%
C: Marianna Tolo (UC) – 17.5 points, 10.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.0 steals, 1.5 blocks, 57.7 FG%
F: Stephanie Talbot (AD) – 16 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steals, 3 blocks, 53.8 FG%
F: Brianna Turner (AD) – 15 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 0 steals, 2 blocks, 31.3 FG%

BENCH:

G: Nicole Seekamp (AD) – 12 points, 4 rebounds, 9 assists, 0 steals, 0 blocks, 45.5 FG%
G: Katie-Rae Ebzery (PL) – 17 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 0 blocks, 46.2 FG%
C: Lauren Scherf (SU) – 14 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals, 2 blocks, 35.7 FG%
F: Sara Blicavs (SF) – 14.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.5 blocks, 39.3 FG%
F: Ezi Magbegor (MB) – 19.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 0.0 steals, 0.0 blocks, 73.9 FG%

WNBL Round 14 review: Capitals make stand with top two scalps

IN what could well be a memorable round in hindsight come the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) finals series next month, the University of Canberra (UC) Capitals have made a stand by knocking off the top two sides. The now-fourth placed Capitals, along with the former-third placed Adelaide Lightning who also had a huge win, showed they are not making up the numbers and would be pushing for a top two spot in the final two rounds.

UC Capitals (76) defeated Melbourne Boomers (75)

The third last round of the WNBL could not have opened with a better game after two genuine title contenders went toe-to-toe until the reigning premiers emerged victorious following a one-point overtime thriller. The UC Capitals had to fight hard against Melbourne Boomers to keep their top two chances alive, sinking the Boomers in the first overtime by a point in what had been a see-sawing match to that point. The Capitals led by six points at quarter time, but the Boomers clawed their way back after that, reducing the margin to five by half-time, and then one by the final break before levelling the scores at the last buzzer. Despite the momentum of the past three quarters being with Melbourne, it was UC that stepped up and won thanks to a basket from an injured Keely Froling with great defence stopping the Boomers in the dying seconds of the match during the 76-75 Capitals’ win. Despite having a broken nose and cheek which was confirmed after the match following a collision with Sophie Cunningham in the fourth term, Froling played out the game posting 12 points, nine rebounds and two assists. She ably assisted the damaging duo of Kia Nurse (23 points, seven rebounds) and Marianna Tolo (22 points, nine rebounds), while Olivia Epoupa picked up eight points 16 rebounds, seven assists and six steals in a ridiculous effort from the French guard. For the Boomers, Cunningham reached a team-high 22 points, while Stella Beck (17 points, four rebounds) and Ezi Magbegor (14 points, four rebounds) were busy, as was Cayla George (eight points, eight rebounds, two assists and two blocks). Unfortunately for Froling, she will miss at least three weeks of action, bringing her up to the start of the WNBL finals series.

DC Medal: 3 – Olivia Epoupa (UC), 2 – Marianna Tolo (UC), 1 – Kia Nurse (UC)

Adelaide Lightning (77) defeated Townsville Fire (60)

Over in Adelaide, the Lightning consolidated their third spot with an important 17-point win over bottom two side, Townsville Fire. It was a shared effort by the Lightning who burst away after an even first term. Neither team could be split at quarter time, but it was all Adelaide after that as the Lightning piled on 18 points to 11 in the second term and extended that lead to 14 by the final break. They did not stop there, winning the last term 16-13 to run out 77-60 victors in front of their home fans at Titanium Security Arena. Adelaide’s forward duo of Stephanie Talbot (16 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and three blocks) and Brianna Turner (15 points, nine rebounds, three assists and two blocks) again led the way as all starting five members reached double-figure points on the night. Lauren Nicholson (14 points, seven rebounds), Nicole Seekamp (12 points, four rebounds and nine assists) and Kathryn Westbeld (10 points, five rebounds) all provided presences off the boards, as Chelsea Brook got in on the action with eight points of her own off the bench. It was not as evenly spread for the Fire, with Tess Madgen leading the way thanks to 19 points, seven rebounds and four assists, while Darcee Garbin (16 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks) picked up a double-double after her work rebounding the baskets. Julie Vanloo reached double-figure points with 10, as well as two rebounds and three assists, while Bridget Carleton (six points, six rebounds) and Christina Boag (eight points, six rebounds) tried hard.

DC Medal: 3 – Stephanie Talbot (AD), 2 – Brianna Turner (AD), 1 – Tess Madgen (TF)

Sydney Uni Flames (62) defeated by Melbourne Boomers (76)

Melbourne bounced back from their heartbreaking one-point loss at the hands of the Capitals to rebound with a 14-point win on the road against Sydney Uni Flames on Saturday night. The Boomers got off to an ideal start in the match, leading by three points at quarter time and then extending the lead out to seven by the main break. Sydney Uni managed to stem the bleeding in the third stanza, but the visitors went all out in the last term, piling on 15 points to eight to run away with the contest, 76-62. Magbegor led from the front with a game-high 25 points, five rebounds and four assists, while George (14 points, eight rebounds, five assists and two steals) and Madeleine Garrick (13 points, four rebounds, seven assists and four steals) picked up some big numbers across the board. Coming off the bench, Monique Conti was busy with six points and four assists in a playmaking role, while Beck also reached double-figure points with 10, accompanying her two rebounds and two blocks. For the Flames, Brittany Smart showed her talent off the bench posting a team-high 18 points as well as three rebounds, while Lauren Scherf‘s dazzling form continued with a double-double of 14 points, 11 rebounds, three assists, three steals and two blocks in a huge effort despite the loss. They were the only two players to reach double-figure points as Jessica Kuster (six points, nine rebounds) and Alex Wilson (five points, six assists) both had inaccurate games on the scoring front but worked tirelessly.

DC Medal: 3 – Ezi Magbegor (MB), 2 – Cayla George (MB), 1 – Lauren Scher (SU)

Bendigo Spirit (76) defeated by Southside Flyers (91)

Southside Flyers’ remarkable season continued with a 15-point win over cellar dwellers Bendigo Spirit on the road. Heading into the match these teams were at opposite ends of the ladder and it showed in the first three quarters as the Spirit could not quell the fired-up Flyers. Southside burst out of the blocks to add 24-15 in the first term, and by half-time the margin was a whopping 16 points, The trend continued into the third with a 24-17 term to open up a 23-point advantage before Bendigo gave its home fans something to smile about with a solid final term to cut the deficit back to 15 but fell short 76-91. Rebecca Cole led the way for the Flyers with 22 points, five rebounds and five assists, while Mercedes Russell‘s double-double season continued with 13 points, 12 rebounds and two assists on the night. Also racking up plenty of points were Leilani Mitchell (19 points, three rebounds, four assists and two blocks) and Sara Blicavs (18 points, eight rebounds and two assists) in a strong starting five effort. Coming off the bench, Kiera Rowe was efficient with eight points at 75 per cent from the field. For the Spirit, Tessa Lavey was the dominant points-scorer with 20, as well as three rebounds, three assists and two steals, while Carley Ernst (15 points, five rebounds, two assists and two blocks), and Abigail Wehrung coming off the bench (15 points, six rebounds) were also strong. After a big point-scoring effort last round, Shyla Heal only managed the four, but picked up a team-high eight rebounds on the night.

DC Medal: 3 – Rebecca Cole (SF), 2 – Mercedes Russell (SF), 1 – Sara Blicavs (SF)

Perth Lynx (95) defeated Townsville Fire (62)

Finals might be out of the question for last year’s fourth placed side, but it did not stop the Perth Lynx making a huge statement at the Bendat Basketball Centre on Sunday evening. The Lynx smashed fellow bottom four side, Townsville Fire on the way to a 33-point shellacking in front of home fans, winning three of the four quarters and putting in one of the most dominant 10-minute terms all season. The Lynx led by six points at quarter time and were out to a 13-point lead at the main break. Townsville reeled the home team back in by three to cut the deficit to 10 at the last change before Perth put the foot down in a one-sided affair seeing them slam home 37 points to 14 and blow the game out of the water in a massive 95-62 win. Alison Schwagmeyer came off the bench to lead the way for the winners, posting 21 points and four rebounds, while Marena Whittle (17 points, four rebounds and two assists) also provided great cover when injected into the game. Katie-Rae Ebzery was the Lynx’s best, picking up figures of 17 points, eight rebounds and two assists, while Lauren Mansfield (14 points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals) and Nadeen Payne (10 points, six rebounds) also picked up double-figure points. For the Fire, it was Garbin who picked up the points, registering 19 points and five rebounds on the night, while Carleton had a double-double of 12 points and 12 rebounds, and Madgen had 10 points, five rebounds and two assists.

DC Medal: 3 – Katie-Rae Ebzery (PL), 2 – Alison Schwagmeyer (PL), 1 – Marena Whittle (PL)

Southside Flyers (74) defeated by UC Capitals (98)

The Perth-Townsville game was not the only statement made by a WNBL team on Sunday night, with reigning premiers UC Capitals making sure the competition had not forgotten about what they were capable of in season 2019/20. Despite missing both Kelsey Griffin and Keely Froling to injury, the Capitals banded together and produced a remarkable performance on the road against the premier team of the competition this season. They made their intentions clear from the get-go with a 30-20 opening term and by half-time, the home crowd was silenced as the Capitals led by a whopping 18 points. While many would have forgiven them for not running out the game given the extra rotations for youth, the Capitals stepped it up, scoring a further 21-14 in the third term to lead by as much as 25 at the final break before Southside managed to get some respect back with a 20-19 final term in what was a horror showing, going down 74-98. Nurse was unbelievable posting a round-high 33 points to go with three rebounds and three assists, while Epoupa (15 points, 13 rebounds, eight assists and two steals) and Tolo (13 points, 12 rebounds, six assists, two steals and two blocks) both picked up double-doubles. Maddison Rocci thrived with season-high points of 19, as well as three rebounds and two steals, while Alex Delaney also impressed with 13 points and two rebounds. For the Flyers, Russell had a strong game of 18 points and 10 rebounds, while Blicavs had another good performance of 10 points and eight rebounds. Mitchell (14 points, five assists) was the other prominent scorer for the losing side.

DC Medal: 3 – Kia Nurse (UC), 2 – Olivia Epoupa (UC), 1 – Marianna Tolo (UC)

DC Medal Leaderboard:

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

2019/20 WNBL preview: Round 14 – Make or break round for Capitals

CLASHES against the top two sides makes Round 14 of the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) a belter for the University of Canberra (UC) Capitals. Aside from those couple of thrilling contests, Adelaide Lightning is still looking to keep a step ahead in third, while the Boomers and Flyers hope to solidify their top two spots ahead of finals.

UC CAPITALS vs. MELBOURNE BOOMERS
Friday, January 17, 7pm
National Convention Centre

Opening up the weekend is a huge top four clash between reigning premiers, UC Capitals and Melbourne Boomers. With a four-game gap between fourth and fifth, the Capitals are secure in the knowledge they will play finals, but will hope to win this game to draw one win closer to the top two Boomers. Finishing fourth means the Capitals will not be able to host two home finals in the series, and will be travelling for the majority of the time – predominantly to Victoria. If they can win, then it leaves the race for second wide open, as the Southside Flyers look to have secured top spot on the WNBL table. In the two previous meetings the teams are one win apiece with the Boomers thrashing the Capitals by 35 points back in Round 3, before the Capitals earned a hard-fought three-point win a couple of weeks later. The Capitals have proven to be near-impossible to beat at home with a 6-1 win-loss record there, though the Boomers are just as impressive on the road with six wins from eight encounters. In the absence of injured star Kelsey Griffin, Keely Froling has stood up of late to be a bonafide starter, posting 14.4 points and 7.4 rebounds per game this season, teaming well with the equally impressive Marianna Tolo (13.8 points, 7.9 rebounds and 1.7 blocks). Tolo will be particularly important to try and quell the influence of Cayla George and Ezi Magbegor of whom the pair of forward-center’s combining for 26 points and 15 rebounds.

ADELAIDE LIGHTNING vs. TOWNSVILLE FIRE
Friday, January 17, 7pm
Titanium Security Arena

Down in South Australia, third placed Adelaide Lightning will be keen to take advantage of the result from the Capitals-Boomers clash and either move one win closer to Melbourne or one win further away from UC. The season is done and dusted for Townsville who sit four and a half games outside of fourth spot. The Fire will still be keen to have a strong finish to the year and push for fifth spot, and back-to-back wins over Round 14 would likely see them achieve that spot, albeit temporarily. The Lightning are fairly strong at home with a 6-3 win-loss record, while the Fire on the road have been shaky to say the least, winning just two of nine attempts this season. Both of the clashes between these sides in the 2019/20 season have been in Townsville with the Lightning easily taking the wins both times thanks to margins of 18 and 26 points respectively. Brianna Turner (16.2 points, 9.9 rebounds and 1.9 blocks) has been a ray of consistency this season, combining well with the all-round efforts of Stephanie Talbot (14.8 points, 8.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.0 blocks per game). Nicole Seekamp has been steadily building in the guard position, while the inclusion of Kathryn Westbeld in replacing Crystal Langhorne as a forward has been a positive one. For the Fire, Abby Bishop has missed the last few games but it has not hurt the Fire who have recorded back-to-back wins and jumped off the bottom of the table. Tess Madgen (12.3 points, 5.4 rebounds) and Darcee Garbin (14.1 points, 6.2 rebounds) have been quite handy for the team over the course of the season.

SYDNEY UNI FLAMES vs. MELBOURNE BOOMERS
Saturday, January 18, 5pm
Brydens Stadium

In what will be a quick turnaround for the Boomers, Melbourne heads from the nation’s capital to Sydney for a match against Sydney Uni Flames. A couple of wins could see them draw level with Southside Flyers, but a couple of  losses all but rules them out of a run for top spot. Not only could that be the case, but both third placed Adelaide and fourth placed UC would be on the Boomers case heading into the final two rounds of the season. Sydney Uni have won three of eight at home, while the Boomers are confident on the road and will start favourites despite the short turnaround. Player management will be crucial for the visiting side over the weekend as the Boomers have one eye on the finals series. In the two matches this year, Melbourne has brought home the chocolates on both occasions, winning by 13 points in Melbourne before toppling Sydney Uni by 23 points on the road. For the Flames to win they will need to be at their best, led by Alice Kunek (18.9 points, 4.9 rebounds and 3.0 assists) and Jessica Kuster (12.5 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 1.1 blocks). Lauren Scherf had a standout game last season and is averaging eight points and eight rebounds per game, and will need another huge one to topple the likes of George and Magbegor. Restricting the Boomers’ bigs will be key to victory, though Sophie Cunningham (11.2 points, 3.8 rebounds) and Lindsay Allen (15.3 points, 4.9 assists) are a couple of Americans who continue to cause headaches for the opposition.

BENDIGO SPIRIT vs. SOUTHSIDE FLYERS
Saturday, January 18, 7pm
Bendigo Stadium

In the most anticipated one-sided game of the round, top takes on bottom when Southside Flyers travel up the highway to face Bendigo Spirit. The Flyers have had a superb first season in the WNBL after the rebrand from Dandenong Rangers, sitting two games clear with 14 wins from 17 games, while Bendigo has struggled at times with just four wins from 13 games. The one positive heading into this match is the fact that all four of Bendigo’s wins have come at home, though Southside are 8-1 on the road. In their two previous encounters this season – both at home for Southside, the Flyers have won by eight and 13 points. Bendigo’s Carley Ernst is the key rebounder in the side, picking up 6.7 boards a game to accompany her 11.8 points. Kelly Wilson (8.9 rebounds, 6.1 assists and 4.1 rebounds) and Tessa Lavey (8.8 points, 3.4 rebounds and 3.8 assists) are others who have had strong seasons despite the unfavourable results for the Spirit. The Flyers have had no shortage of contributors, and Mercedes Russell has set the tone as the premier center in the competition, averaging a double-double of 16.9 points and 10.1 rebounds per game. Rebecca Cole (16.7 points, 3.2 rebounds and 3.7 rebounds) and Leilani Mitchell (15.9 rebounds, 3.5 rebounds and 5.6 assists) are others have worked hard, playing as important guards in the ladder-leading side.

PERTH LYNX vs. TOWNSVILLE FIRE
Sunday, January 19, 2pm
Bendat Basketball Centre

In one of two Sunday games, Perth Lynx play their first game of the round against a Townsville Fire side travelling across the border after their clash against the Lightning on Friday night. The Lynx would need incredibly favourable results to have any chance of making finals, sitting four games outside of the top four with just two rounds remaining. Realistically it is beyond last year’s finalists, though ensuring they do not finish in the bottom two would also be a huge motivation to win this match. The Lynx are 4-5 at home, while the Fire are only 2-7 on the road so expect the Lynx to be favourites without being a sure thing – especially considering Townsville toppled them back on November 2 in Western Australia by five points before Perth sought revenge with a five-point win of their own up in North Queensland. Perth has a number of players who have produced solid performances throughout the year, with an even team performance rather than standout individuals. Katie-Rae Ebzery (15.6 points, 4.5 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 1.4 steals) has led the way from the likes of Alison Schwagmeyer (15.4 points, 5.8 rebounds) and Lauren Mansfield (9.7 points, 4.6 assists). While the Australian cohort of the Fire have been up and about, the international imports in Bridget Carleton (11.6 points, 6.1 rebounds) and Belgian Julie Vanloo (8.8 rebounds, 4.2 assists) have also contributed this year.

SOUTHSIDE FLYERS vs. UC CAPITALS
Sunday, January 19, 5pm
Dandenong Stadium

The match of the round could well be the final game of the weekend. The top-of-the-table Southside Flyers make the trip up to Canberra following a night clash with Bendigo Spirit the day before, to take on the UC Capitals in a ladder-defining clash. The Flyers can lock up top spot with a big weekend, while a couple of losses could see the Boomers pounce on top spot. Arguably the Capitals have even more to lose if they go down in their clashes against the top two sides because it would rule them out of a top two spot and a double home final. These sides have played twice this season with the Capitals winning on the road to hand Southside its first loss back in early November, before the Flyers knocked off the Capitals in their only loss at home. While Southside seldom lose at home, the Capitals have shown the formula to do it, and it could be a thrilling contest. The forwards have been good at providing some strong rebounding and point-scoring abilities with the likes of Jenna O’Hea (14.1 points, 4.9 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 1.7 steals) and Sara Blicavs (13.6 points, 6.8 rebounds) leading the way for the Flyers. The Capitals have an equal amount of enviable depth with other starters Kia Nurse (19.9 points, 3.8 rebounds), Olivia Epoupa (7.8 points, 7.3 rebounds and 6.6 assists) and Maddison Rocci (7.6 points, 2.5 assists) all crucial in combining for a successful team this season.

2019/20 WNBL preview: Round 12 – Finals race set to narrow

IT is make or break time in the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) this round, with finals well and truly on the line. If the results go the way as planned, there could be as much as a four-game gap between fourth and fifth making it incredibly difficult for the sides outside the finals spots to force their way into the top four.

PERTH LYNX vs. SOUTHSIDE FLYERS
Friday, January 3, 6.30pm
Bendat Basketball Centre

In one of three Friday night games, a well-rested Southside Flyers returns to WNBL action against a Perth Lynx side that has been steadily improving after a mid-season slump. The Lynx have hardly made Bendat Basketball Centre a fortress this year, but remain stronger at home than on the road which is where their troubles have come from. The Flyers are coming off a rare loss, going down to Sydney Uni Flames back on December 21, which was their last game prior to the Round 12 clash. They are sitting pretty on top of the table, two games clear, and after missing a couple of key players in that game, will be keen to bounce back with an important win here. These teams have played twice so far this season, with Southside getting up at home both times, including in Perth with an 82-68 triumph back on November 29. Alison Schwagmeyer has been a force this season off the boards for the Lynx, leading their points scoring with 16 per game in 2019/20. Katie-Rae Ebzery and Lauren Mansfield have also provided plenty with their movement across the court despite both being sub-180cm. Mercedes Russell missed the last game for the Flyers, but has been superb this year, averaging just about a double-double when it comes to points (16.1) and rebounds (9.9), to be the standout center in the competition. Jenna O’Hea also missed the last game, with the Opals star another standout player this year for the top-of-the-table side. Southside head into this contest as strong favourites, but you can never discount the Lynx.

TOWNSVILLE FIRE vs. ADELAIDE LIGHTNING
Friday, January 3, 7.00pm
Townsville Stadium

With a line now all but put through their name for season 2019/20, Townsville Fire host their first game of 2020 on Friday night in a bid to try and wreck the Lightning’s chances of making finals. The Fire have slipped to three consecutive losses, including a disappointing one-point loss to Bendigo Spirit which all but ended their hopes of making finals this season. Five games adrift of the fourth placed Lightning makes it difficult given the time remaining in the season, but there is still plenty to play for in the last month. For Adelaide, it is much higher stakes, needing a win to retain the breathing space ahead of Sydney Uni and Perth who have both been sniffing around for that all-important top four position. The last time these two teams met was back in October, when Adelaide triumphed up in Townsville with an 86-68 victory. The Lightning will be hoping for much of the same in this clash, having won just one of the three encounters from the 2018/19 WNBL season. The two standouts for the Lightning are Stephanie Talbot and Brianna Turner. Talbot is averaging more than 16 points and eight rebounds per game, whilst getting close to a couple of steals and more than a block per game in a strong all-round effort. Turner on the other hand is a rebounding machine, averaging a double-double of points and rebounds, whilst providing a great defensive option close to the defensive basket, blocking opponents’ shots almost twice per game. For the Fire, Abby Bishop has had an outstanding season, and while her game last round was quiet by her standards, she still averages a team-high 15.9 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.2 steals per game. Darcee Garbin (13.4 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.1 steals) and Tess Madgen (12.1 points, 5.9 rebounds and 3.7 assists) are handy contributors, while Bridget Carleton picked up a double-double last round and averages 11.5 points and 5.7 rebounds per game following her 19 and 12 respectively last round. Adelaide should get the win here, as the Lightning have a good record in Townsville, though the Fire would love to cause a few headaches for the visitors.

BENDIGO SPIRIT vs. UC CAPITALS
Friday, January 3, 7.00pm
Bendigo Stadium

In the third and final game of the Friday night trio, reigning premiers UC Capitals travel to Bendigo to take on the last placed Spirit. Whilst finals is out of reach for the potential wooden spooners, last round was a positive when the Spirit snapped a nine-game losing streak to down Townsville Fire. The Capitals have been able to make the best of an absence of Kelsey Griffin who is currently out due to an ankle injury. Last round’s win against Perth Lynx showed the Capitals have the depth to match it with anyone, as Olivia Epoupa, Marianna Tolo and Keely Froling all picked up double doubles. These sides have played twice in the past month, with the Capitals naturally getting up both times given the Spirit’s form of late. The wins were by 25 and 10 points respectively, though the Spirit will hope to ride on last week’s performance and put in a much better effort at home than the December 6 drubbing. The Spirit have three players averaging more than 10 points per game this year, with Carley Ernst leading the way with 11.4 as well as 6.5 rebounds. Demi Skinner (10.6 points, 3.3 rebounds) and Abigail Wehrung (10.3 points, 2.4 rebounds) have been busy this season, while Kelly Wilson (9.3 points, 5.6 assists, 4.1 rebounds and 1.4 steals) has been a balanced contributor. Coming off an important confidence-boosting win at home last week, the Spirit have had all three of their wins in Bendigo, with a 3-5 record there. The Capitals have been a little more shaky on the road with a 4-3 record, but should get the job done against the bottom side. Given what is on the line, being level with the Boomers in second spot, it is crucial for the Capitals to make up the 32-point differential between them and the second placed Melbourne to try and push their way into the top two.

ADELAIDE LIGHTNING vs. SOUTHSIDE FLYERS
Sunday, January 5, 1.00pm
Titanium Security Arena

Playing their second game of the round and back-to-back games on the road, Southside Flyers head to Adelaide where they take on Adelaide Lightning at Titanium Security Arena on Sunday afternoon. The Lightning crucially held onto their top four spot last round, triumphing in style over reigning premiers, UC Capitals, and would love nothing more than a win against Southside Flyers here. These two teams have faced in South Australia this season already, with the Flyers getting up 91-85 back on December 1. After such a long break between games, it will be interesting to see how Southside pulls up in a second match two days after the first. Adelaide also plays its second game of the round, and will have more travelling to do, heading home from Townsville after the Friday night match, but will at least be at home for the match. Along with Talbot and Turner who have been the two standouts this year, Lauren Nicholson and Nicole Seekamp have shared in more than 25 points, six rebounds and nine assists between them. They are among a starting five that all average a steal per game, while Chelsea Brook has shown she is capable of putting up solid numbers when called upon to do so. The Flyers might have missed two of their top stars back in Round 10, but the likes of Rebecca Cole, Leilani Mitchell and Sara Blicavs ensures the league’s newest rebranded side has no problem with depth. Anneli Maley might not have a lot of points to her name, but she provides good rebounding depth off the bench and will be one who continues to be an option coming onto the court throughout games. The Flyers can almost secure top spot, and one would think a top two spot, with back-to-back victories in this round.

UC CAPITALS vs. PERTH LYNX
Sunday, January 5, 2.00pm
AIS Arena

Two sides who go at it for a second time in Round 12 are the UC Capitals and Perth Lynx who head to Canberra to face-off at AIS Arena from 2pm on Sunday. The Capitals return from Bendigo to host the clash, while the Perth cross to the eastern seaboard after a home game on Friday night. Depending on the Capitals’ result against Bendigo – which in fairness to the Spirit is expected to be a win against the bottom side – UC could well go outright second with a second victory here. The Boomers play a few hours later against the Flames in a day that if both sides win, the finals race is just about decided. Given the Capitals’ 6-1 record at home and Perth’s 2-5 record on the road, it is clear to see which team is favourite heading into this clash. Also taking into account the fact the Capitals knocked off the Lynx by a comfortable 17 points in the last outing just a week earlier – in Perth – showed they have the form and confidence to knock over the sixth placed side. There are a lot of permutations this round, but if Adelaide Lightning get the win over Townsville as expected and the Lynx lose both games, it would mean the Lynx must chase down a five-game deficit outside the top four with just four rounds remaining. It will be the third time these teams have faced off with the 17-point win to UC actually the lesser of the two victories from the reigning premiers in this head-to-head. The Capitals also won by 18 points in Canberra back in November. While the double-double trio caught headlines last round for the Capitals, you cannot forget the impact Kia Nurse has each and every week, averaging a handy 20.3 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.1 steals per game. The other starter is Maddison Rocci who has been flying under the radar with more than seven points and almost three assists per game. Add in Gemma Potter who has received court time every game to average almost three points and a rebound per game, and the Capitals have some youth coming through the ranks. Perth would hope to piece together a much better performance this week against the Capitals and along with Schwagmeyer and Ebzery, they need more consistency standing up each week. Imani McGee-Stafford and Ariel Atkins are a couple of American imports who show signs of breaking games open and the former is averaging 10.6 points and 8.4 rebounds, while the latter is 9.8 and 4.6 respectively. With Mansfield and Nadeen Payne also putting up solid numbers and Marena Whittle coming off the bench, the Lynx have the talent, they just need to build greater consistency, particularly on the road. This will be a tough game to win but give them a world of confidence if they can pull it off.

SYDNEY UNI FLAMES vs. MELBOURNE BOOMERS
Sunday, January 5, 5.00pm
Brydens Stadium

In a game that will likely have some big ramifications for the finals race, fifth placed Sydney Uni Flames take on top two side, Melbourne Boomers. With the UC Capitals having the luxury of already having played two games prior to this tip-off, the Boomers could find themselves fighting for second spot in this game. The Flames have shown they are capable of knocking off some serious talent, taking down the Flyers in Round 10, but will still be hurting from the loss of Colleen Planeta for the season. The Boomers will have an eye on the WNBL finals considering their season, and with their depth will be favourites in this one. These sides have only played once thus far this season, with the Boomers getting up by 13 points at home. They have not played in Sydney since October 21, 2018, where the visiting side also got the chocolates on that day in an 87-75 triumph. Neither of these sides have played earlier in the round, so earn a nice break heading into this final game of Round 12. Alice Kunek is the Flames’ leading points scorer, and will share the load left by Planeta with Jessica Kuster and Alex Wilson who both average double-figure points. Lauren Scherf is an underrated player coming off the bench with seven points and eight rebounds per game, and could be the one who stands up and consolidates her starting spot with Tahlia Tupaea rounding out the five. The Boomers also have plenty of firepower across the court with Lindsay Allen and Cayla George averaging more than 30 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists and three steals between them. Sophie Cunningham, Ezi Magbegor and Madeleine Garrick are the other three regular starts, all of whom average double-figure points. Last round was the first time the Boomers had a different starting five, with Cunningham absent, and Antonia Farnworth stepping up to play that role. Expect Melbourne to go all-out to try and hold onto second spot, but Sydney Uni will be keen to cause yet another upset.

WNBL Round 11 review: Spirit snaps nine-game losing streak

IT was a massive round of Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) action, with Bendigo Spirit snapping a nine-game losing streak to draw level with Townsville Fire in the bottom two spots, while the top four seems almost done and dusted with a two and a half-game gap between fourth and fifth.

Adelaide Lightning (78) defeated UC Capitals (68)

It took until overtime, but Adelaide Lightning managed to get the job done at home against the reigning premiers, University of Canberra (UC) Capitals by 10 points. The Lightning proved to be a crowd-pleaser in Adelaide, desperately needing a win to retain fourth spot with the likes of Sydney Uni Flames and Perth Lynx edging closer, while the Capitals had to claim victory in order to temporarily take second spot. It was the Capitals who started the stronger of the sides, piling on 21 points to 16 in the first term, then led by seven at half-time to look pretty solid at the main break. But the third term out of nowhere saw the Lightning take back the momentum and completely dominate the play, sinking 17 points to nine to remarkably lead at the final break, albeit by a solitary point. A high scoring final term resulted in the Capitals drawing level by the end of regular time, but the momentum was with the Lightning who shot 17 points to seven in the overtime to run out as comfortable winners as an overtime victory goes. Stephanie Talbot led the charge for the home side with a massive 21 points, 16 rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocks, teaming well off the boards with partner-in-crime, Brianna Turner (11 points, 14 rebounds, two blocks and one steal). Lauren Nicholson (15 points, two rebounds and two steals) and Nicole Seekamp (seven points, seven rebounds and nine assists) provided good support, while Chelsea Brook showed how bright of a future she has with 14 points and four rebounds off the bench. The Capitals had a couple of standouts in the absence of Kelsey Griffin, with Marianna Tolo starring thanks to 22 points, 12 rebounds, two assists, two steals and two blocks, while Kia Nurse sank 16 points, and had five rebounds, five assists and three steals. Olivia Epoupa (seven points, 12 rebounds, four assists and four steals was prominent across the board, while Maddison Rocci (eight points, five rebounds) and Keely Froling (seven points, six rebounds and four blocks) provided plenty of rebounding power.

DC Medal: 3 – Stephanie Talbot (AD), 2 – Marianna Tolo (UC), 1 – Brianna Turner (AD)

Melbourne Boomers (77) defeated Townsville Fire (61)

Melbourne took full advantage of a UC Capitals loss with both games on simultaneously, as the Boomers gained some vital breathing space in second spot as they grabbed their tenth win in their final game of 2019. Playing at home against bottom two side, Townsville Fire, the Boomers were strong favourites to take it out, and despite some resistance in the first term which saw both sides head into quarter time with 20 points apiece, Melbourne clicked after that. The Boomers scored 23 points to 16 in the second term to lead by seven at half-time, and had increased their lead to 11 by the final break. Not willing to take the foot off in the final term, Melbourne added 18 points to 13 in the last quarter to secure a fairly comfortable win, 77-61. Cayla George was the standout on court, sinking 27 points and helping herself to three rebounds and two steals. Lindsay Allen (10 points, three assists, two rebounds and two steals) was the other player to reach double figures from the starters, while Stella Beck (14 points, three rebounds and two assists) did it coming off the bench. The home side dominated rebounds, 38-29, with the likes of Ezi Magbegor (nine) and Kalani Purcell (nine) leading the way, with Purcell also picking up six assists and four steals to be the ultimate team player as she contributed just four points. For the Fire, Abby Bishop again led proceedings in the scoring department, adding 19 points, five rebounds, two assists and two steals, while Tess Madgen helped herself to 13 points, three rebounds and four assists. Julie Vanloo (10 points, two steals) also reached double figures, while Darcee Garbin might have had a night to forget in terms of shooting (one from seven from the field), but still recorded seven rebounds and three assists. Kate Gaze came off the bench for five points, three rebounds, three assists and two steals in a solid performance.

DC Medal: 3 – Cayla George (MB), 2 – Abby Bishop (TF), 1 – Stella Beck (MB)

Bendigo Spirit (79) defeated Townsville Fire (78)

Last placed Bendigo Spirit snapped a nine-game losing streak by holding on in a one-point thriller over fellow bottom two side, Townsville Fire. While Bendigo’s hopes of making finals were all but over prior to the game, the Spirit effectively ended the Fire’s chances by toppling them in the contest. It also meant Bendigo moved to within points difference of the Fire in seventh place on the ladder. In the match, neither side could be split at quarter time, before Townsville hit the front by two points at the half. Bendigo regained control by the final break with a powerful 27-21 third quarter, which earned a response from the visiting side. In one of the nail-biters of the season, Townsville scored 15 points to 12 in the last quarter, but it would not be enough to get the points. Carley Ernst led the way for the Spirit, sinking 24 points and picking up six rebounds and two assists in the process, while Abigail Wehrung helped herself to 18 points, six rebounds, four assists and two steals. Demi Skinner (16 points, five rebounds) and Shyla Heal (12 points, five rebounds) also reached double figures in what was a terrific team effort. For the losing side, Bridget Carleton shone across the board to be arguably the best-on despite the loss, picking up 19 points, 12 rebounds, three assists and two blocks. Tess Madgen (17 points, five rebounds and two assists) and Darcee Garbin (13 points, four rebounds) also were prominent in the starting line-up, while Micaela Cocks (10 points, two rebounds) contributed coming off the bench.

DC Medal: 3 – Bridget Carleton (TF), 2 – Carley Ernst (BS), 1 – Abigail Wehrung (BS)

Perth Lynx (59) defeated by UC Capitals (76)

The University of Canberra (UC) Capitals have drawn level with Melbourne Boomers in second spot after a dominant second term helped the reigning premiers overcome Perth Lynx on the road by 17 points. Neither side could be split in the opening term, but a 26-11 rout in the second stanza saw the Capitals race out to a 15-point half-time lead. Perth cut the deficit to 12 by the final break, before the Capitals put the foot back on the pedal with a 17-12 last term to run out 76-59 winners at Bendat Basketball Centre. Three Capitals picked up double doubles, with Tolo (21 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and four blocks), Froling (14 points, 11 rebounds) and Epoupa (10 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists) all reaching the milestone. Nurse was not too far behind to make a dominant starting four with 23 points, seven rebounds and five assists, while Rocci had six points, three rebounds and six assists in the win. For the Lynx, Katie-Rae Ebzery was a lone hand in attack with 25 points, four rebounds, two assists and two steals. The next highest scorers were Ariel Atkins (eight points, four rebounds and two steals) and Imani McGee-Stafford (eight points, six rebounds), while Marena Whittle amassed 13 rebounds to go with four points.

DC Medal: 3 – Olivia Epoupa (UC), 2 – Marianna Tolo (UC), 1 – Keely Froling (UC)

Sydney Uni Flames (72) defeated by Adelaide Lightning (80)

Adelaide has consolidated fourth spot with a crucial eight-point win over Sydney Uni Flames on the road. The Lightning moved two and a half games clear of the Flames in fifth, with Perth Lynx’s loss also helping give the Lightning a crucial break inside the finals spots. The Lightning got off to a good start to lead by two points at quarter time, but the Flames refused to throw in the towel, maintaining the narrow deficit by the main break. It was the third term where Adelaide kicked away with a 17-10 quarter to open up a nine-point advantage. Wary of a comeback in front of their home fans, the Lightning did not allow the Flames to gain too much momentum in the fourth term, with Sydney Uni only cutting the deficit by one at the final whistle to go down 72-80. Kathryn Westbeld continues to improve for the Lightning, starting and producing 17 points, four rebounds and three assists for the afternoon, while Talbot was best-on for the Lightning, sinking 13 points, and having nine rebounds and nine assists – just one rebound and one assist away from a triple-double. Nicholson (13 points, three rebounds and two assists) and Seekamp (13 points, six rebounds, five assists and two steals) also contributed plenty of points for the evening. For the losing side, Alice Kunek was a standout with 26 points, four rebounds and four assists, while Jessica Kuster (14 points, six rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocks) and Alex Wilson (14 points, two rebounds, four assists and three steals) also reached double-figure points.

DC Medal: 3 – Stephanie Talbot (AD), 2 – Alice Kunek (SU), 1 – Kathryn Westbeld (AD)

DC Medal Leaderboard:

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

2019/20 WNBL Round 11 preview: Top four spots on the line to close out the year

FIVE Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) games will be played between Christmas and the New Year with the top of the table Southside Flyers to have a week off, while University of Canberra (UC) Capitals, Adelaide Lightning and Townsville Fire all play two games.

ADELAIDE LIGHTNING vs. UC CAPITALS
Friday, December 27, 7:00pm
Titanium Security Arena

In the first game post-Christmas, fourth placed Adelaide Lightning will be keen to bridge the gap between themselves and third spot on the ladder, UC Capitals. This top four clash could well determine if a spot in the top three is still up for grabs, or whether or not the reigning premiers can consolidate their position with the top two Victorian sides. For Adelaide, a win keeps the Lightning in touch with the top three, while a loss throws them back to a mid-table log-jam. These teams have played just once this season, with the Capitals getting up at home by seven points. With Kelsey Griffin missing last round, it was the likes of Keely Froling who stood tall, picking up 30 points and taking her average to 14.3 points per game as well as 6.8 rebounds. Kia Nurse has been a consistent scorer for the Capitals with 20.4 points per game, while Olivia Epoupa continues to rack up the stats across the board, averaging 8.3 points. 6.8 rebounds, 6.3 assists and 3.3 steals per game. For the Lightning, the damaging duo of Stephanie Talbot (16.0 points, 8.2 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.8 steals per game) and Brianna Turner (15.8 points, 10.3 rebounds, 1.8 blocks and 1.1 steals) have been the key players throughout the 2019/20 WNBL season.

MELBOURNE BOOMERS vs. TOWNSVILLE FIRE
Friday, December 27, 7:30pm
State Basketball Centre

In Victoria, Melbourne hosts Townsville in a bid to retain second spot on the table after snatching it last round. The Boomers host the Fire who are just about out of finals contention, winning just three games from 12 so far this season and are three games outside the top four. For the Boomers, grabbing a top two spot will be crucial in their hopes of making it one step further than last year, and have a 5-2 win-loss record at home, while Townsville is just 1-5 when on the road this season. In these side’s only other head-to-head, Melbourne got up by nine points up in Queensland, with them previously winning both fixtures at home in the 2018/19 season, albeit by a combined 10 points. One can expect this will be an exciting contest, with the likes of Boomers Lindsay Allen (16.4 points, 3.4 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 1.3 steals) and Cayla George (13.4 points, 8.8 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.5 blocks) leading the charge, while Ezi Magbegor has been in good form of late. Abby Bishop continues to dominate games for Townsville, standing up each and every week to average 16.5 points, 8.2 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 2.4 steals per game, while Darcee Garbin (14.3 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game) and Tess Madgen (11.6 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.1 steals) have also been strong performers.

BENDIGO SPIRIT vs. TOWNSVILLE FIRE
Saturday, December 28, 7:00pm
Bendigo Stadium

Townsville has less than 24 hours to turnaround from the contest against the Boomers in order to face bottom placed Bendigo Spirit up at Bendigo Stadium. It is fair to say a loss for the Fire here would rule them out of the finals race, and join the Spirit as the other team out of contention. Bendigo has a chance to draw within points difference of the Fire if it can get a good result here, but with nine consecutive losses, the Spirit have not had the start to the season they would have liked. The good news for Bendigo is they are better at home than on the road, winning both their games there, but they came early in the season, though Townsville are worse on the road with the 1-5 record. Carley Ernst was again prolific in the Spirit’s performance last round, averaging 10.5 points and 6.6 rebounds per game this season, while Demi Skinner has progressed from the bench to the starting line-up, averaging 10.2 points and 3.2 rebounds per game. Kelly Wilson is the other standout player this season for the Spirit, posting up numbers of 9.9 points. 4.0 rebounds, 5.6 assists and 1.4 steals per game. Bridget Carleton has been a valuable addition to the fire this season, with the Canadian putting up numbers of 11.4 points and 5.4 rebounds per game, while Belgium’s Julie Vanloo averages the 8.1 points and 3.6 assists.

PERTH LYNX vs. UC CAPITALS
Sunday December 29, 1:00pm
Bendat Basketball Centre

Staying in the finals race last weekend, sixth placed Perth Lynx will hope to stand up against the reigning premiers, UC Capitals at home when the teams clash on Sunday afternoon. The Lynx are just half a game outside of fifth from Sydney Uni Flames, and a game and a half from fourth placed Adelaide Lightning as both those teams clash in Sydney later on in the afternoon. In this match, the Capitals will eye off second spot once against after Melbourne snatched it in Round 10. The Capitals have only played five games on the road, registering a 3-2 win-loss record, while the Lynx have split their home games at three wins and three losses apiece. In their only other encounter this season, the Capitals easily got the win at home, producing an 18-point win over the Lynx. Alison Schwagmeyer (16.3 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.1 assists) has been important for the home side this season, as have Katie-Rae Ebzery (14.7 points, 4.3 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 1.4 blocks) and Imani McGee-Stafford (11.0 points, 8.7 rebounds and 1.4 blocks). The Capitals have no shortage of contributors this season, with others who have been strong performers across the board including Marianna Tolo (11.0 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks), Maddison Rocci (7.1 points, 2.4 assists) and Gemma Potter (2.8 points, 1.2 rebounds) who have been involved in all games when available.

SYDNEY UNI FLAMES vs. ADELAIDE LIGHTNING
Sunday, December 29, 5:00pm
Brydens Stadium

To round out the weekend, Sydney Uni Flames will be eyeing off fourth spot with a do-or-die clash against Adelaide Lightning. Adelaide has first crack at retaining fourth spot courtesy of a match against UC Capitals on Friday night, but lose that and it is game-on here. The winner will secure fourth in that scenario, and while Sydney Uni’s points difference is a concern (minus 64), it has started to build some good form of late, winning both games last weekend, including an all-important victory over Southside Flyers. The Flames were able to topple the Lightning just a couple of weeks ago in Sydney and will be aiming to repeat the dose in this Round 11 match. Back in Round 1, Adelaide got the chocolates with a 10-point win in South Australia. Sydney holds a positive 3-2 record at home, while the Lightning are two from six when on the road. Alice Kunek has mirrored the team’s form as she racks up double doubles with ease, averaging 18.1 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game, teaming well with Jessica Kuster (12.6 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.2 steals). Colleen Planeta (15.7 points, 6.8 rebounds) has been constantly along the best and will leave a hole in the line-up after it was confirmed she injured her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in the Flames’ last game, while Alex Wilson (11.9 points, 3.3 rebounds and 4.9 assists) is always prominent. Talbot and Turner have been the key duo this season for the Lightning, but Lauren Nicholson (14.0 points, 2.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.6 steals per game) and Nicole Seekamp (11.6 points, 3.3 rebounds and 7.1 assists) are always carefully monitored by the opposition. A crucial game to close out the round and the year.

2019/20 WNBL Team of the Week: Round 9

ALL eight Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) sides are represented in our Draft Central Team of the Week for Round 9 after a highly competitive round of action. There were a number of strong efforts across the board, with Adelaide Lightning and Melbourne Boomers ending up with two players apiece in our team for the Round. All of the other six sides managed a nominee in the 10-player squad, with a handful of unlucky omissions as well.

Adelaide Lightning easy accounted for Bendigo Spirit on the weekend, with the Lightning rewarded with two starters in the team this week. Stephanie Talbot narrowly missed out on a triple-double thanks to 17 points, 10 rebounds, nine assists and two steals, while teammate Brianna Turner was superb across the board with 23 points, 13 rebounds, two assists, three steals and five blocks. The Boomers on the other hand, had two players on the bench this week, with Ezi Magbegor named as the relieving center, while Cayla George earned a spot as a forward. They went down to Perth Lynx, who had just the one player in Alison Schwagmeyer, but in what was largely a team effort to get it done.

Also in the starting line-up is University of Canberra (UC) Capitals’ Olivia Epoupa, who once again filled the stats sheet with 11 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and four steals, joining Talbot as a starting guard. The other starting forward was Townsville Fire’s Darcee Garbin, who was the clear standout for the Fire across two games, averaging 21.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.0 steals. The remaining starter in our Team of the Week was Mercedes Russell, whose season continues to get better and better, posting up 14.5 points, nine rebounds and two assists across two wins for the Southside Flyers in Round 9. The two other players to fill out bench sports were stars in losing sides, with Sydney Uni Flames’ Alex Wilson, and Bendigo Spirit’s Carley Ernst.

There were a number of unlucky players to miss out this round, including Townsville duo, Tess Madgen and Bridget Carleton, Southside’s Jenna O’Hea, Perth’s Katie-Rae Ebzery, Bendigo’s Demi Skinner and UC’s Marianna Tolo, who were all considered for a spot this round.

STARTING FIVE:

G: Stephanie Talbot (AL) – 17 points, 10 rebounds, 9 assists, 2 steals, 1 block, 41.2 FG%
G: Olivia Epoupa (UC) – 11 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists, 4 steals 0 blocks, 50 FG%
C: Mercedes Russell (SF) – 14.5 points, 9.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.0 steals, 1.5 blocks, 42.3 FG%
F: Brianna Turner (AL) – 23 points, 13 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals, 5 blocks, 64.3 FG%
F: Darcee Garbin (TF) – 21.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.0 blocks, 58.6 FG%

BENCH:

G: Alison Schwagmeyer (PL) – 15 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 0 steals, 0 blocks, 50.0 FG%
G: Alex Wilson (SU) – 20 points, 3 rebounds, 5 assists, 0 steals, 0 blocks, 40.0 FG%
C: Ezi Magbegor (MB) – 15 points, 7 rebounds, 1 assist, 3 steals, 0 block, 43.8 FG%
F: Carley Ernst (BS) – 21 points, 9 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 2 blocks, 53.3 FG%
F: Cayla George (MB) – 14 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, 1 block, 50.0 FG%

WNBL Round 9 review: Southside flies further ahead

SOUTHSIDE Flyers have moved three and a half games clear on top of the Women’s National Basketball (WNBL) ladder after back-to-back victories over the weekend made it six consecutive wins for the home side. The other results also fell the Flyers’ way, with Melbourne Boomers going down to Perth Lynx, meaning Southside is four wins ahead of Melbourne, but the Boomers have a game in hand.

Southside Flyers (81) defeated Townsville Fire (62)

In a battle of two sides up opposite ends of the WNBL ladder, it was no surprise to see the ladder leaders and premiership favourites come out on top in a 19-point win at Dandenong Stadium. Southside led early on with a five-point advantage at quarter time that increased to nine by the main break. The Flyers really put the Fire on ice in the second half, piling on 21 points to 12 in the third term to effectively end the contest. The final quarter was a low-scoring affair with just 13 points scored, as Southside again won the term to eventually get home, 81-62. Jenna O’Hea was the top scorer for the winners, posting up 17 points, five assists and three rebounds, while Sara Blicavs (13 points, eight rebounds) and Mercedes Russell (12 points, eight rebounds) were also prominent from the starting whistle. Anneli Maley showed what she has to offer, coming off the bench to pick up a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds. For the Fire, Darcee Garbin was a lone hand on the scoring front, piling on 28 points and five rebounds, with Bridget Carleton‘s nine points the next highest. Julie Vanloo had a game-high eight assists, while Tess Madgen and Abby Bishop had six rebounds a piece in what were low scoring games for the duo.

DC Medal: 3 – Darcee Garbin (TF), 2 – Mercedes Russell (SF), Anneli Maley (SF)

Townsville Fire (61) defeated Sydney Uni Flames (57)

There is no place like home, and Townsville lived up to the famous saying by saluting with a four-point win over fellow bottom four side, Sydney Uni Flames. The Fire overcame the disappointing loss to Southside on Friday night with a tight 61-57 victory over the Flames to knock Sydney Uni out of fifth spot, and move the Fire to within a win of the Flames’ in sixth. Townsville had its work cut out from the get-go, leading by just a point at the first break and two by half-time. Sydney Uni was not about to just lie down however, as the Flames drew level by the three quarter time whistle thanks to a 14-12 term. Townsville got back on top in the final term to win the quarter 19-15, and it was ultimately the difference between the two sides on the night. Unlike Friday night, the Fire had their quartet of stars firing with Garbin again leading the way thanks to 15 points, 12 rebounds and two assists, while Carleton also picked up a double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds. Madgen (15 points, nine rebounds and three assists) and Bishop (11 points, eight rebounds, four assists and two steals) were more prominent in the match to help Townsville to a much needed win. For the Flames, it was a performance not too dissimilar to Townsville’s effort on Friday night, with Alex Wilson being a lone hand on the scoring front. She dropped 20 points, as well as five assists and three rebounds, with Alice Kunek and Lauren Scherf the next highest points scorers with nine apiece, though they also shared in five rebounds and a steal each. Jessica Kuster was also strong off the boards with seven points, eight rebounds and four steals.

DC Medal: 3 – Bridget Carleton (TF), 2 – Darcee Garbin (TF), 1 – Tess Madgen (TF)

Adelaide Lightning (91) defeated Bendigo Spirit (75)

Adelaide maintained its top four spot with a very impressive 16-point win over cellar dwellers, Bendigo Spirit. The Lightning were too strong for Bendigo in the opening term with a 28-15 quarter, then extended the lead to 17 by half-time. To the visiting side’s credit, the Spirit refused to be dampened despite the heavy deficit, forcing their way back into the contest with a 19-15 term to put it back to a more manageable 13 points. It would prove to be a bridge too far to cross, as the Lightning took no chances, striking with a 23-20 final term to secure the 91-75 victory. Brianna Turner was massive for the winners, posting up 23 points, 13 rebounds, two assist, three steals and five blocks in a memorable performance. She was well aided by the likes of Stephanie Talbot (17 points, 10 rebounds, nine assists, two steals a a block) who was equally as effective, narrowly missing out on a rare triple-double. Nicole Seekamp (13 points, three rebounds and five assists) and Lauren Nicholson (10 points, three assists) also reached double-figure points, as did Chelsea Brook (16 points, three rebounds) coming off the bench. For Bendigo, Carley Ernst had a big impact starting on the bench with a team-high 21 points, nine rebounds and two blocks, while Demi Skinner (17 points, eight rebounds) and Shyla Heal (16 points, four rebounds, four assists and three steals) were also prominent.

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

Perth Lynx (68) defeated Melbourne Boomers (66)

In a crucial game, Perth Lynx stepped up to the plate to knock off Melbourne Boomers by two points and retain fifth spot on the table. The Lynx needed the victory to keep in touch with fourth placed Adelaide Lightning, and also restore the faith with a big scalp in front of home fans. It was far from an easy night, with the Boomers turning a four-point quarter time deficit into a seven-point half-time lead following a huge 22-11 second quarter. Perth put the afterburners on in the third term to double the visitor’s score thanks to 18 points to nine, and move two points clear. That proved to be the final deficit as both sides traded blows in the final term, but it was the Lynx who came out on top in a 68-66 win. Katie-Rae Ebzery top-scored for the Lynx, posting up 16 points, four rebounds and three assists, while Alison Schwagmeyer came off the bench to be an influence on court with 15 points, six rebounds and four assists. Lauren Mansfield (15 points, four assists, two rebounds and two steals) and Nadeen Payne (10 points, five rebounds and two assists) both reached double-figure points, while Imani McGee-Stafford surprisingly did not score but put up nine rebounds in the win. Despite the loss, Cayla George was arguably best on court with 14 points, 10 rebounds and three assists, while Ezi Magbegor (15 points, seven rebounds and three steals) and Sophie Cunningham (16 points, four rebounds and three assists) were also strong on the night.

DC Medal: 3 – Cayla George (MB), 2 – Alison Schwagmeyer (PL), 1 – Katie-Rae Ebzery (PL)

UC Capitals (65) defeated by Southside Flyers (70)

In the final game of the round, Southside overcame its only conqueror this season, recording an important five-point victory over reigning premiers, University of Canberra (UC) Capitals. The Flyers ensured they had a good start to get away to a three-point lead, but it was not long before the home side reeled them back in as the Capitals scored 18-14 in the second term to hit the front. They extended the lead to three points by the final break, before Southside found an extra wind and flew home with a 23-15 final term to run away with the 70-65 contest in what was an enthralling battle between two title contenders. Rebecca Cole was the most prominent scorer with 21 points, three rebounds, one assist and two steals, while Russell was again a standout thanks to her 17 points, 10 rebounds, two assists and two blocks. As she did in her side’s loss against the Capitals, former UC player Leilani Mitchell was busy with 15 points, seven rebounds and two assists in the win. For the Capitals, Marianna Tolo topped the scoreboard with 16 points, six rebounds and two assists, while Kia Nurse (13 points, five rebounds and two assists) and Olivia Epoupa (11 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and four steals) were ultra impressive. Star forward Kelsey Griffin was well restricted to just four points, but managed 12 defensive rebounds, two steals and a block in the loss.

DC Medal: 3 – Mercedes Russell (SF), 2 – Olivia Epoupa (UC), 1 – Leilani Mitchell (SF)

DC Medal Leaderboard:

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

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.