Tag: Paul Goriss

WNBL20 Season Review – Southside Flyers

IT was nothing but heartbreak for Cheryl Chambers and her Southside Flyers at the start of 2020. But after an even harder year that saw a WNBL season like no other, the Flyers can feel nothing but pure elation after they overcame the Townsville Fire to finally be crowned WNBL champions following six weeks of dominance.

Following the acquisitions of numerous elite talents, nobody was more excited to get WNBL20 underway than Southside, and unfortunately for the Bendigo Spirit, their heads were up first on the chopping block. As expected, the Flyers were to win their season-opener by an emphatic 42-point margin, setting the tone for the rest of the League evoking a sense of determination for the club.

A minor hiccup followed, however, to end Round 1 when Southside shockingly fell by 17 to the Melbourne Boomers, but one bad result would not linger in the minds of the Flyers for long, trouncing Sydney Uni Flames the next day, 99-72. A good momentum starter leading into Round 2.

Not for the first time this season, the Flyers would go undefeated for an entire week. First up for week two of the season were the Fire, who put up a valiant effort in the first of the two teams’ four encounters but fell 101-89 on this particular night. The latter of the week’s matchups were the Perth Lynx, who barely cracked 70 points against the Southside defence in what was a complete whitewash. The Flyers drubbing the West Australian side by 46 points.

Bad memories started to resurface from last year’s failures, when the Flyers once again fell to Paul Goriss and his Canberra Capitals by a whopping 23 points in Cairns, but this loss would mean a lot more to last year’s runners-ups, keen not to make the same mistakes as last season.

Kicking off what would be the longest winning streak of the season, another 40-point win over Perth reaffirmed the notion it was Southside’s season to lose. The Flyers then really started to kick up their margins of victories to end Round 3, beating Townsville by 24 (94-70) and then the Adelaide Lightning by 31 (110-79).

Two more double-digit victories in Round 4 over the Lightning for a second time and the Boomers built up even more steam within the Southside engine room with a round still to play, but coach Chambers’ main focus by this stage was to keep her side injury-free heading into the postseason.

A narrow four-point win over the Flames (81-77) secured the side their minor premiership, which preceded a much-needed revenge victory over the Capitals (101-82) to conclude their WNBL20 campaign with an impressive 11-win and two-loss record.

Setting up a semi-final with the Fire in a contest that would mean a Grand Final spot for the victor, the Flyers chose not to beat around the bush. Instead they burned it down, adding another double-digit triumph to their collection despite Townsville’s best effort, toppling the underdogs 106-93 and earning a spot in the big dance.

After four days off, Southside met with the season’s hosts in Townsville for a fourth time after the Fire knocked out the Boomers in the preliminary final thanks to their second chance opportunity.

Relying on the extraordinary effort made by WNBL veteran and WNBA superstar Leilani Mitchell paired with an efficient second half and returning captain in Jenna O’Hea, Southside reached the promised land, defeating the hometown side for a final time (99-82) and leaving the North Queensland hub as WNBL champions.

When the announcement was made that Liz Cambage was going to join the Flyers, it was not unexpected that she would be a major producer for the team. But nevertheless, she made an enormous contribution over the course of the season, leading the league in scoring with 23.5 points per game and blocks with 1.7 per contest, as well as averaging 8.7 rebounds in the process (ranked fourth league-wide), which resulted in an All-WNBL First Team selection and an MVP nomination. Next to Cambage in the All-WNBL side was Sara Blicavs, leading the team in minutes with 28.7 per game, averaging 13.5 points and 7.3 boards per game additionally.

Other Opals to make mention of included of course Bec Cole (15.5 points and 4.3 assists), Rachel Sporn medallist in Mitchell (11.2 points and 6.7 assists) and O’Hea (11 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.4 assists) amongst plenty of other contributors off the bench – rounding out one of the best starting fives and benches to ever grace a WNBL season.

It can be universally agreed that no other team deserved to emerge out of WNBL20 as champions more than the Flyers’ franchise. Looking down the track, whether all of Southside’s individuals return to defend their crowns happens or not in WNBL21, they certainly have a tough act follow from this season – that is for sure.

WNBL20 Season Review – UC Capitals

HAVING ruled the WNBL from late-2018 to early-2020, many were disappointed not to see the third three-peat in league history fulfilled by the University of Canberra Capitals. A lot of those who actively follow the WNBL had a glimmer of hope that Paul Goriss and his side might do it again, but it just was not to be.

The Capitals’ fairy-tale ending would fall short in WNBL20 following their Elimination Final loss to the team they knocked out in 2019/20, the Melbourne Boomers. Despite bowing out of this season earlier than they were hoping for, Canberra had a season to be proud of nevertheless.

To begin their campaign, the Capitals put their wrong foot first so to speak kickstarting WNBL20 with a major upset after being defeated by the Adelaide Lightning. Such a loss paired with the fact that their two star imports from last season could not suit up (Kia Nurse and Olivia Epoupa), brought into question just how far this Capitals unit could get.

Canberra quickly re-established themselves as a postseason contender with a bounce-back win against a highly touted Townsville Fire squad, squaring their season record up after Round 1 with a win and a loss under their belt.

A rather uncomplicated and straight-forward outcome over the Bendigo Spirit begun a successful three-game week for the two-time defending champs, most notably in their second game of Round 2 with a dominant 67-50 result over the Boomers in their first matchup. A third victory after their win against the Sydney Uni Flames to wrap up the second week of contests brought Canberra’s record to four wins out of five results, but the club’s exclamation point came at the beginning of the next week.

Once the Southside Flyers started to pick up form early on in the season it seemed like last year’s runners-ups were almost unstoppable, but the Capitals single-handedly sent shockwaves throughout the League at the start of Round 3 after a four-quarter demolition job of the eventual minor premiers by 23 points. Canberra continued their form by stringing together a second-straight undefeated week of games.

The Capitals’ winning streak of seven came to an end following their second meeting with the Boomers and in their closing contest of Round 4, again they would fall, this time to the Fire (Canberra’s only losing round of the season).

After a split in the results of the last round, firstly a win against the Perth Lynx, then a second less favourable result against the Flyers to end WNBL20, Canberra would finish the season on a record of nine wins and four losses (one of three teams to hold this record) and secure third position on points percentage thus setting up a date with the Boomers in the Elimination Final.

In a clash that demanded strong defence from both sides it was Melbourne that was able to stick to their guns that they had relied on all season, limiting the Capitals to just 68 points following their contest. More importantly, the Boomers were able to put 78 points of their own on the scoreboard, knocking out the reigning premiers in one fell swoop.

Top individual performers were various and many for coach Gorris’s side, with Maddison Rocci continuing her astonishing development over the past year averaging 16 points, 3.8 assists and 3.5 rebounds whilst leading the side in minutes with 29.4 per contest. As a result, Rocci earned All-WNBL Second Team honours solidifying her as one of the competition’s elite. It would be uncharacteristic for Canberra to have a successful season without key contributions from their co-captains Kelsey Griffin and Marianna Tolo. Griffin concluded her season with averages of 12 points, 8.1 rebounds and 1.5 steals, whereas Tolo’s statistics would read 11.3 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.1 blocks.

Surprise standouts included Keely Froling who ranked fourth in the team’s scoring and rebounding departments with 9.4 points per game and 5.7 boards per outing. All of this while WNBL rookie Jade Melbourne turned many heads in her initial season averaging 8.3 points and two assists in 22.8 minutes of play each time out.

While Canberra’s dynasty may well possibly be in its twilight stage, many might wonder what form the roster will shape up to look like in the coming years. With young talent like Rocci, Melbourne, Froling and Abby Cubillo rising through the ranks, the nation’s capital can look forward to a competitive women’s basketball team for the foreseeable future.

Capitals’ reign comes to an end, Boomers advance to prelim

THE three-peat dream for the Canberra Capitals abruptly ended last night as a result of the Melbourne Boomers diligent work on the defensive end, outlasting the reigning premiers 78-68 in Townsville. The win means Melbourne are just one win away from a WNBL Grand Final opportunity.

During the opening five minutes of the game, both sides remained level-headed as the first 20 points of the contest were shared evenly. But the first scoring run went the way of the Boomers, scoring 11 unanswered points to take control of the first period.

Ezi Magbegor’s 10 points in the first was the primary factor that led to Melbourne’s 32-20 lead over the Capitals, but Canberra did not plan on bowing out of their “three-peat bid” after just 10 minutes of play.

As soon as Paul Goriss’s trio of Maddison Rocci, Kelsey Griffin and Marianna Tolo started to click, the Capitals started to earn some success on the floor. Ultimately winning the quarter 15-9 in a more defence-oriented term. Canberra looked to make the elimination final one that would not be decided until the second half, trailing Melbourne by six at the half 35-41.

Magbegor, who went scoreless in the second, headed to half-time with 10 points and three rebounds, while providing much needed consistency inside as the Boomers shot 46 per cent in the first half compared to the Capitals 34 per cent. For the Capitals, Rocci was trying her hand as her team’s main producer with nine points at the half.

Unfortunately for Canberra all of their work from the second quarter was undone in the third, with Melbourne expanding their lead back to 11 points having 10 minutes yet to be played. However, if the Boomers were going to avoid their third-straight semi-final exit in three years, Guy Molloy’s side needed to be on their best form if they were to eliminate the two-time defending champions.

A couple of surprise standouts from each team in the third started to make their imprint on the game, with Boomers’ Izzy Wright holding 11 points and Brittany Smart having 10 of her own at the third intermission.

Even though Canberra limited Melbourne’s scoring early in the fourth, the Capitals were not urgent in their pursuit of points either due to inaccurate shooting and the inability to convert on second-chance opportunities. Drawing back to within eight points with just over two minutes remaining, Canberra tried their best to throw the kitchen sink at Melbourne, while the Boomers made the Capitals sweat for every bucket.

Converting on a fast-break layup following Tess Madgen’s missed bonus free-throws, Smart reduced the deficit to seven. However, two made free throws from Maddie Garrick put the result beyond all doubt in last night’s opener as Melbourne advanced to Friday’s preliminary final while Canberra’s reign in the WNBL came to an honourable end.

Knocking down 44 per cent of their attempts (30-67), the Boomers were able to convert on the majority of their shots while limiting the Capitals to just 68 points, a testament to their moniker of the “League’s Best Defence”. Despite their prominent depth evidenced by their 28 bench points, Canberra now goes home early for the first time in three seasons, with Melbourne emerging superior in various categories such as rebounds, assists and blocks.

Magbegor concluded her performance with a dominant 20-point and 11-rebound double-double effort, while Molloy’s backcourt duo of Garrick (15 points, five rebounds and four assists) and Madgen (13 points, nine rebounds and six assists) proved to be lethal after four quarters. Last and certainly not least, Cayla George dominated on the glass with seven points and 12 rebounds, whereas Wright also notched up 13 points after 40 minutes in her coming out performance of the season.

Although five Capitals players reached double-digit figures, it was not enough to get themselves over the line with Smart leading the way with 15 points off the bench. The WNBL’s sixth highest scorer in Rocci, earned 14 points, seven assists and four rebounds in the loss, while the team’s co-captains in Griffin (12 points and 11 rebounds) and Tolo (10 points and eight rebounds) both made sizeable contributions.

The Boomers will be focusing solely on recovery as they have less than 36 hours to regain their strength in what will be a much-anticipated prelim final on Friday night, bearing in mind the fact that Melbourne are still searching for their first title in more than a decade.

Capitals back on top of WNBL standings, waltz by timid Lightning

BOUNCING back from their previous loss against the Melbourne Boomers, the University of Canberra (UC) Capitals returned to top-of-the-table form, with a convincing 85-65 triumph over the Adelaide Lightning, who now fall victim to a three-game losing streak in this ever-crucial part of the campaign.

The Capitals came out firing on all cylinders, knocking down five of their first six attempts as they found themselves up 14-2 just three minutes in against a sluggish Lightning squad early on.

Paul Goriss’s side would not let up on the Adelaide squad in the opening 10 minutes at all, keeping their opponents to single digits at the turn of the first term 25-8, while shooting 100 per cent (10-10) from the free throw line, with Maddison Rocci, Marianna Tolo and Kelsey Griffin all contributing six points each in that stint of time.

In a much more two-sided second quarter, Adelaide started to knock down their shots and get some points on the board. Led by their starting five, the Lightning would only play three bench players during the first half and with key individual Ally Wilson scoreless after two, last year’s semi-finalists found themselves in a sticky situation at the main break, down 25-46. Whereas Rocci had the opposite problem with 14 points up to this stage.

Canberra was proving to be a continual nuisance on the boards as the contest wore on, accumulating a plus-20 in the rebounding category by three-quarter-time, and more astonishingly was the fact that 16 of their 42 rebounds came at the offensive end, leading to 21 second chance points and a 72-38 score line with a period to play.

Coach Goriss and his staff wanted to keep his core unit on the floor for as long as possible to give his starters a quality run, but eventually the Capitals secondary unit made their way onto the floor with five minutes remaining. With the game beyond doubt, an empty 27-13 fourth quarter victory for Adelaide made the final result more respectable, but Canberra would emerge clear-cut 20-point victors, taking the contest 85-65.

A stagnant first half for Adelaide dampened their efficiency from the floor, shooting 38 per cent from the field and only 62 per cent from the free-throw line. It was also critically hurtful in the rebounding department for the Lightning, ultimately losing the category 31-45. On the other hand, Canberra made their foes on the night pay with the result, following their splendid discipline in the paint and points off of offensive rebounds, compiling 36 and 21 points in each respective statistic. Finishing the night with 46 per cent shooting from the field and 88 per cent consistency from the line, the two-time defending champions had their best form on display last night to say the least.

Rocci led the way for the reigning premiers with 18 points and three assists in her 20 minutes of court time. Backing her up were co-captains Griffin (15 points, nine rebounds) and Tolo (12 points, four blocks and three rebounds), while Brittany Smart and Mikaela Ruef made valuable contributions in the process.

For Stephanie Talbot, it was another routine dominant performance with a game-high 21 points, eight rebounds and two steals, while fellow forward Chelsea Brook was the only other Lightning individual to clock up double-digit point totals with 14.

After their bounce back win, the Capitals will line-up in what will be a pivotal contest between two top-four sides as they face the Townsville Fire on Sunday night, while Adelaide looks to end their three-game slide and knock off a lowly Perth Lynx side hungry for some more good fortune the game after.

Lynx too hot for Fire, string together first back-to-back wins of the season

Alex Ciabattoni in action for Perth Lynx. Picture credit: WNBL

FOR the first time this season, the Perth Lynx have obtained back-to-back wins after their upset victory over the Townsville Fire. Strong first and final quarters were enough to fend off Shannon Seebohm’s squad after 40 minutes, squeezing out the win 84-75.

Both sides boasted blistering scoring totals in the initial quarter of the meeting, with the Lynx holding a slim 27-25 lead after 10 minutes despite both sides shooting over 50 per cent in a score heavy period.

It was clear that even though Perth was out of finals contention prior to tip off, Ryan Petrik’s side came to play last night as they moved the ball with exemplary precision in the first half and found their points in the paint.

The rate of scoring started to slow after the first break with each side’s conversion becoming scarcer after a high octane first. Perth maintained their slim lead heading into the half-time team talks by a mere four points, after both sides combined for just 25 points in the second.

Nevertheless, both sides still kept their shooting averages over 40 per cent with each team expressing similar numbers statistically. But for a side with two wins from nine outings, the Lynx were handling themselves extraordinarily well against a talented Townsville roster. Key performers in the first half for each squad included Alex Ciabattoni for the Lynx (13 points and four rebounds) and Lauren Nicholson (11 points and two rebounds), as both players showed off some lethal shooting by the midway point.

Many experts would have estimated somewhat of a comeback in the second half from Townsville, but the Lynx continued to pull away after half-time. Winning the third quarter 16-10 in another low-scoring term. As a result, Perth had themselves a solid 10-point buffer with time continuing to wind down in last night’s closer.

To the Fire’s credit, they made a couple of threatening scoring runs in the closing moments of the contest, getting to within six points at one stage. However, it would not be enough for one of this season’s hottest teams, as the Lynx would secure the upset win, their third of the season.

Quite simply it was Perth’s ability to convert from the field that got them over the line last night, shooting a remarkable 45 per cent through four quarters compared to Townsville’s 38 per cent. In addition, a plus-seven in rebounds and a plus-seven in assists gave Perth all the necessary tools to emerge victorious, coupled with the Fire‘s lack of presence in the key defensively.

Darcee Garbin further validated her international-level prowess alongside fellow Opal in Katie Ebzery, with Petrik’s star-duo scoring 21 points apiece and combining for 21 rebounds as well as eight assists. Ciabattoni also made a good impression, securing 18 points, five rebounds and three assists. Alex Sharp made a double-digit contribution with a modest 12 points and seven boards.

League MVP candidate Nicholson impressed those who tuned in with 28 points and five rebounds, as she tried to carry her team to a positive result. But only two of her teammates were impressive enough to try and make that a reality. The young duet of Zitina Aokuso and Shyla Heal worked for 11 points each as both had unexpectedly quiet nights yesterday evening.

Perth who for the first time this season have back-to-back victories under their belt will look to continue their good run of late, as a third straight win is a real possibility against the Adelaide Lightning, who they face on Sunday. Before this, however, the Fire will aim to avoid their third defeat in four clashes with a win against the two-time defending champion Canberra Capitals.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lightning hit back with statement win

Pic: WNBL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pic: WNBL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Townsville above .500 again, knock off Spirit thanks to third quarter swing

IN the space of about five minutes, the Townsville Fire flipped the script in yesterday’s clash against the Bendigo Spirit, outscoring them by 17 points in the third quarter to ride home their third win of the season 91-81. Meanwhile the Spirit are still searching for the required recipe to win their first game of the campaign, as their losing skid extends to five games.

Bendigo pushed the pace early in the first quarter, getting out to a 17-5 lead halfway through the opening period, which completely dumbfounded the Fire’s defence in the process. This would dominate the headlines in the opening 10 minutes, but six-straight points from Townsville brought the deficit to a more respectable number with some much-needed momentum.

A late And-One from Tessa Lavey repositioned the Spirit with a commanding quarter time lead ahead 26-15, as each of Bendigo’s starters got their names on the scoresheet early on with a 50 per cent conversion rate aiding them.

However, head coach Shannon Seebohm relied on his side’s depth to help will them back into the contest trailing by just four points at one stage in the second. Nevertheless, back-to-back threes from Mary Goulding and Cassidy McLean would sour the Fire’s momentum just a few moments later, re-establishing the double-digit advantage.

Saving the day in the first half for the Fire was Megan McKay, who earned her minutes with her rebounding, totalling six boards through the first two periods along with seven points. Bendigo would conclude the opening half with the lead after two quarters for the first time this season, 47-40, as Lavey led the way with 12 points and six assists while Goulding had herself 13 points as well. Meanwhile, Townsville’s leading scorer in Lauren Nicholson had 11 points throughout all 20 first half minutes.

As Townsville gradually tightened the deficit, Shyla Heal was huge with her mid-range game, knocking down three-straight buckets to pressure the Spirit further and then eventually tally her thirteenth point of the match to put the Fire in front six minutes into the third.

Despite Carley Ernst putting up substantial numbers in the third, Townsville flipped the game on its head and did the same themselves. A 29-11 third quarter for the Fire would reverse the roles for both sides with the score sitting at 69-58 in favour of this season’s hosts. Two early buckets from Bendigo’s duo Lavey and Ernst, provided promising signs early on in the fourth for the Spirit, but the Fire’s tall frontcourt consisting of McKay, Mia Murray and Zitina Aokuso hustled enough in the later stages of the game to fend off Tracy York’s side long enough to get the Fire over the finish line.

A slow start to the game for the Fire was remedied in the second half, allowing them to earn the come from behind win and put their record at three wins and two losses after their hard-fought 91-81 victory. Townsville’s backcourt was instrumental in the win, with Heal being a key contributor against her former side after her 22 points, six rebounds and three assists next to Nicholson’s 20 points and three rebounds. Aokuso also provided a major boost in her 25 and half minutes of play, putting up 21 points and five rebounds.

These performances will need to continue in one way or another as they size up the Melbourne Boomers later today in the second leg of their weekend double-header.

On the other hand, it can easily be argued that yesterday’s efforts from Bendigo involved numerous highlights, a number of those being individual performance like Lavey and Goulding’s 19 points apiece. It also slots nicely next to Ernst’s 15 points, eight rebounds and five assists. The Spirit’s lesser victories in yesterday’s clash put them in good stead for their upcoming meeting on Tuesday against the Fire for a second time, where we will get to see if Coach York changes her tactics in the repeat fixture.

SOUTHSIDE LEVELS PERTH, AWAIT CAPITALS FOR GRAND FINAL REMATCH

Pic: WNBL

ANOTHER impressive wining margin lined the belt of the Southside Flyers last night, as their 12-player roster came back from an early deficit in the opening period to emerge on the other side with another statement win, following a 46-point thrashing of the Perth Lynx, 117-71.

As mentioned, the opening moments of the contest occurred from deep as the first five made field goals from both teams came from three-point range, with Darcee Garbin and Katie Ebzery leading the charge.

With play settling down slightly and the tempo slowing, Perth continued to make their shots count, knocking down their first five attempts from behind the arc, while Liz Cambage did her best to quell the Lynx’s shooting lethality in the opening phase, with 13 points at the first break.

Five triples from Perth and 21 combined points from Garbin and Ebzery helped the Lynx to a 26-21 lead heading into the second, as Flyers captain Jenna O’Hea found early foul trouble. Still, Cambage commenced the second the same way she finished the first by putting the ball in the net, before Stephanie Blicavs tied things up a minute into the second term.

With every minute that went by in the second, the Flyers picked apart Perth’s offence more and more. At the conclusion of the first half, Southside had forced 10 turnovers from the Lynx, which in turn would lead to 18 points from takeaways and a 54-42 lead at the main break.

Even though both teams had shot remarkably well with Southside shooting 50 per cent and Perth shooting 48 per cent, Cambage (19 points and seven rebounds), Sara Blicavs (10 points and four rebounds) and Bec Cole (10 points) were all the major difference makers during the second quarter, as Cheryl Chambers tried her best to slow the production of Garbin (18 points and four rebounds) and Ebzery (13 points and four assists).

Unable to derail the Southside train, Perth’s care of the basketball continued to waver with their turnovers accumulating into the third quarter still. Capitalising on this, Cole increased her statistics while the Flyers’ secondary unit contributed to the blowout third period which saw Southside tally 35 points compared to the Lynx’s 14 and hold a commanding 89-56 lead.

Despite the result being determined prior to the start of the fourth, both coaches saw it suitable to let their younger prospects earn some ample WNBL court time. Both Rebecca Pizzey and Monique Conti impressed in the fourth for the Flyers, while Perth’s Jewel Williams had a couple of memorable moments to add to her night.

Match proceedings would end with Southside winning in rather fashionable form, coming out 46-point victors in the 117-71 demolition of Perth. It was the combined efforts of Cambage (21 points and seven rebounds), Cole (20 points and five assists) and Sara Blicavs (19 points and six rebounds) that accounted for the majority of the Flyers’ success last night, which bodes well for the squad as they get their chance at redemption in Monday’s Grand Final rematch against the Canberra Capitals.

For the Lynx, it was Garbin’s show, following what was a red-hot first quarter which ultimately culminated in a 24-point and seven-rebound outing, whereas Ebzery (13 points and five assists) and Alex Sharp (10 points) added chunks of points to fill out the box score. Perth has a chance to bounce back against the Sydney Uni Flames on Monday as they hope to gain some traction in the mid-table logjam, in a season that could easily slip away from Ryan Petrik’s side if they cannot find positive results soon.

CAPITALS HOLD ON AGAINST RESILIENT FLAMES, EXTEND WINNING STREAK TO FOUR

Pic: WNBL

THE University of Canberra Capitals have solidified themselves as serious contenders in the WNBL this season, after obtaining their fourth win in a row following a scrappy affair against the Sydney Uni Flames, winning by five points 68-63 to close out yesterday’s trio of games.

Little could separate the Flames and the Capitals early on, but the efforts that Anneli Maley made in the opening 10 minutes proved fruitful for Sydney Uni, with the 22-year-old fighting towards seven points and five rebounds in that time. Coupled with Lauren Scherf’s six points, the Flames would pull away at the end of the first quarter leading 23-11 and forcing eight turnovers off of Canberra in the process.

No Capitals players stood out tremendously in terms of scoring during the first half, but rather Paul Goriss’s side spread out the points production after reducing the deficit to just a couple of baskets during the second quarter.

The same could also be said for the Flames, but their method of scoring was slightly different, as they found the majority of their points from either mid-range, the free-throw line or through second chance points, whereas Canberra kept punishing Sydney Uni in the paint with baskets around the rim.

Leading 39-32 at the main break, the Flames shot average at best, converting on 37 per cent from the field, but Katrina Hibbert’s side inherited a huge boost thanks to their 11 free throws (eight more than the Capitals). Furthermore, Lauren Mansfield started to find her stroke with 11 points after two terms.

Things in the third did not start any better for the Capitals, as they fell behind by double-digits. But a strong move by Marianna Tolo and a fast-break And-One by Tahlia Tupaea made the contest a tight one well into the third.

An 11-4 run by the Caps with three minutes remaining in the penultimate period had Canberra nipping at the heels of the Flames in what was shaping up to be a sprint to the finish line, where either side were threatening to take over.

To round off a tumultuous third phase, a beautiful assist and bucket on consecutive possessions from Kelsey Griffin would secure the Capitals a four-point lead with 10 minutes remaining 57-53, and with Maddison Rocci leading the charge submitting 14 points and four rebounds, a win was certainly within view.

Both sides fought tooth and nail in what was a perfect way to finish off yesterday’s fixtures, where plenty of bodies hit the deck, missed shots were contested by multiple individuals and loose balls were jumped on by both teams in hard-nose smash-mouth brand of basketball. But Canberra seemed to be wading away midway through the fourth and Coach Hibbert’s side needed a dramatic boost with less than five minutes remaining.

With 48 seconds remaining, the game hung in the balance for both sides with one point being the difference. Luckily for the defending champions, Griffin was able to force Mansfield’s fourth turnover and again strip Alison Schwagmeyer just 30 seconds later, which cemented the victory for the Capitals after Keely Froling laid up the game-sealing bucket with three seconds left, therefore allowing Canberra to win the contest 68-63 in a down to the wire slugfest. The victory continuing their winning streak to four games.

It was another impressive night for Rocci, who had 17 points and five assists to show for last night’s efforts, as more of Canberra’s contributors from last season added solid performances. Griffin (11 points, nine rebounds and four assists) and Froling (15 points, 10 rebounds) provided relief on the boards, while Tolo also tallied 13 points of her own. The Capitals now need to hunker down and prepare for a formidable Southside Flyers squad that is still stinging from their Grand Final defeat last season, a side that has also significantly improved since then.

The Flames had their regular performers on display again, as Scherf led the way in scoring with 19 points. Whereas, Maley had another double-double night with 13 points and 12 rebounds next to Mansfield’s 16 points from 36 minutes on the floor. Sydney Uni now have their own concerns considering they now find themselves on a three-game skid and are tied for second-last with the Perth Lynx, who they face next on Monday in a game that will prove to be crucial regarding the future of the fourth seed.

WNBL20 Team Preview – University of Canberra Capitals

A NUMBER of teams throughout the WNBL have made major signings to upgrade their squads, but the two-time defending champion University of Canberra Capitals have done the opposite, with the exception of replacing imports and filling up the secondary unit.

There is a reason that Capitals’ head coach Paul Goriss has kept most of his core unit the same – that is because Canberra remain the “big kids on the playground”. Despite teams like Melbourne Boomers, Southside Flyers and Townsville Fire looking like heavy favourites for next season, a level of respect needs to be owed to the nine-time WNBL champions and that is what Draft Central will look at in this edition of WNBL20 team previews.

Canberra’s backbone of their roster, Kelsey Griffin and Marianna Tolo have long been known as the most knowledgeable and most skilled frontcourt-duo in recent WNBL history. Signifying the durability and consistency of both, the combo is set to be a reliable contributor on the boards for yet another campaign. Griffin, who missed out on a chunk of last season due to injury, still managed 15 points, 10.8 rebounds and over two assists per game in her litany of solid performances. Meanwhile, more of the same came from Tolo, accounting for 14.6 points, 7.6 rebounds and two assists of her team’s stats each game during the same stretch of time.

The depth of his frontcourt was a major focus point for Goriss leading up to the next six weeks, and it took a major dive when citizenship status complications arose for Mikaela Ruef prior to the start of last season. But these issues have since been resolved, as Ruef is ready to ball after an impressive campaign in the Queensland State League (QSL), averaging 22.9 points and 18.8 rebounds with the Logan Thunder. Backing her up is Keely Froling, who was a crucial piece to the Caps’ rotation following Griffin’s injury last season. Putting up averages of 12.2 points and 6.9 rebounds per game, she rounds out an impressive collection of forwards for Canberra.

Another individual that showed up to the QSL season was Maddison Rocci, with the newly nominated Australian Opal leading the competition in scoring with USC Rip City, averaging 32.5 points per game. In addition to these numbers, the 22-year-old continues to increase her production in the WNBL, thus making her a must-see guard that is rising through the ranks with a noticeable confidence in her game. Consolidating Goriss’ main weapons is the newly signed Flames guard, Tahlia Tupaea, who embodies a unique presence whenever she steps on the floor. Unquestionably one of the strongest guards across all eight sides, Goriss noted in his interview with Draft Central how much he dreaded facing Tupaea over the course of last season.

Adding to the team’s familiarity are two re-signings that occurred during Canberra’s Free Agency signing blitz, in Alex Delaney and Abby Cubillo, who provided the side valuable aid off the bench in gaining their latest WNBL title. Furthermore, the Capitals employed the services of Hannah Kaser, who replaces Gemma Potter due to NCAA obligations, and 35-year-old veteran Brittany Smart from Sydney, who adds a cluster of experience to the original 10-player unit.

The Capitals-faithful learned on Tuesday what their full roster would look like following the club’s announcement of their two Development Players, Ashley Taia and Jade Melbourne. Taia averaged 11.5 points per game alongside Ruef for the Logan Thunder, whereas Melbourne sits as a promising young prospect, currently a scholarship holder at Basketball Australia’s Centre of Excellence.

Season Opener for the University of Canberra Capitals – Wednesday November 11th – 6:00pm (AEDT) vs Adelaide Lightning @ McDonald’s Mackay Multi-Sports Stadium, Mackay

WNBL Player Spotlight – Sydney Uni Flames – Lauren Scherf

AFTER eight weeks of in-depth analysis on the five core players for each WNBL side in preparation for the new season, we conclude Draft Central‘s Spotlight series focusing on the Sydney Uni Flames center, Lauren Scherf, as she gears up for what will be her eighth season in the League at just 24 years of age.

Hailing from Melbourne, Scherf quickly established herself as a player to watch throughout her debut season in the 2014/15 WNBL campaign. Her first season in terms of tangible efforts went relatively well, helping her side to a record of 12 wins and 10 losses, and therefore a postseason slot. As a result, Scherf was awarded the League’s Rookie of the Year award.

Scherf served two more seasons with the Rangers, helping the team reach the finals in both years, before singing with a reanimated Canberra Capitals franchise.

While Scherf’s first season under the Capitals’ head coach Paul Goriss was not as successful compared to previous seasons, falling five games out of the top four, the following season would be one that would go down in the history books not just for the club, but also Scherf too.

Exploding out of the nation’s Capital, Canberra would earn themselves their first minor premiership since the 2008/09 season. This followed up by the Capitals’ 2-1 series win against the Adelaide Lightning in 2019 breaking a decade-long drought of championship success for the Capitals and Scherf received her first and only title ring to this day.

Despite earning the franchise’s eighth championship (the most ever for a WNBL club), Scherf moved on to the third club of her career and also the Capitals’ cross-state rivals in the Sydney Uni Flames. The chance to play under head coach Katrina Hibbert provided Scherf the chance to really establish herself as a prominent frontcourt presence and this was an exciting premise for Scherf in 2019.

“I just really liked what Frog had to offer. I loved playing under Gorrie [Paul Goriss], he coached me really well and I enjoyed what he had for me,” Scherf said in an interview with the Canberra Times.

“I’m really looking forward to her coaching, trainings have been great and I’m working really hard. The calibre of girls Sydney have brought in, there’s a lot of talent there. It really helps, getting a lot of insight from everyone,” Scherf added.

As expected, Scherf dominated on the boards in her WNBL20 campaign, averaging eight rebounds per contest. She also managed to put up 8.3 points each time out alongside a block per game and maintaining 73 per cent from the free throw line – amongst the highest across all centers.

Scherf will look to another season of exemplary rebounding and neutralising opposition bigs in the upcoming season. Her first challenge of the fixture will arrive on Thursday, November 12 against the Melbourne Boomers, most likely matching up on Australian Opals Cayla George or Ezi Magbegor.

WNBL Player Spotlight – Canberra Capitals – Marianna Tolo

TO complete Draft Central’s Player Spotlights on the University of Canberra Capitals this week, we focus on the second half of the side’s backbone in four-time Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) champion and former Defensive Player of the Year, Marianna Tolo.

The club announced on the second day of Free Agency that they re-signed their co-captain, which would precede the signing blitz of an additional five players in the following few days. Head coach of the Capitals Paul Goriss knew that signing Tolo first would be a major morale boost to the local fan base of Canberra and the club as a whole.

“It’s great for the fans and it’s great for sponsorship,” Goriss said to Draft Central. “It’s great to see that players are sticking by us and are prepared to stay here when they could go to Europe and earn a lot more money than what they would playing in the WNBL.”

“Just to have that consistency and continuity, it really gives the group some stability and people love coming to watch the likes of Tolo play, so it was a huge signing to be able to keep her for a third season in a row,” Goriss said.

Having also been a part of the Capitals’ squads that earned title glory back in the 2009 and 2010 winning seasons, Tolo cemented her Canberra legacy alongside Kelsey Griffin last season, as the pair won the franchise’s ninth title in their history. But Tolo’s season on an individual level was nothing short of elite. The 31-year-old achieved a well-earned stat line of 14.6 points per game, as well as collecting 7.6 rebounds each time out on the floor. Tolo also managed to maintain a ridiculously good field goal percentage, converting on 53.4 per cent of her shots over her 20-game season.

Tolo, who is a definite inclusion for next year’s Olympic Games as an Australian Opal, saw re-signing with the Caps as the perfect option for her preparations especially given the current situation regarding COVID-19. “It’s hard to say no when we have just won back to back. I had initially thought of going overseas but because the Olympics was postponed to next year as well as the ongoing Coronavirus situation… it seemed like the perfect decision to make,” she said in her announcement.

“I know that the way we train and play will prepare me perfectly for Olympics. The UC Capitals also really look after their players, so I know that they always consider my health during the season. They have been great with managing my injuries,” she added.

In terms of leadership, which was outlined in Kelsey Griffin’s Player Spotlight piece, both Tolo and Griffin are the perfect combination to lead Goriss’ side according to the coach, but the Capitals’ gaffer described what effect his center has on the squad and how she has maintained her level of greatness to this point of her career.

“Going back, she has always prided herself on the defensive end,” Goriss said. “She’s always prided herself in getting those tougher matchups and neutralising the other team’s defence and she loves doing that ‘grunty’ kind of work, as opposed to the offensive part of the game. But she’s always been about the team first and sometimes I still feel we’re just scratching the surface with her at the offensive end of the floor.”

For the rest of Draft Central’s Player Spotlights on next season’s Canberra Capitals squad – Click HERE

WNBL Player Spotlight – Canberra Capitals – Kelsey Griffin

CAPITALS co-captain and one half of Canberra’s backbone, Kelsey Griffin means as much to Paul Goriss’ squad as oxygen does to a human being. After Griffin announced at the start of the Free Agency period that she would be a part of the squad for next season, the Capitals franchise could breathe a huge sigh of relief – Goriss in particular.

“Kelsey has been an unbelievable leader,” Goriss said in an interview with Draft Central. “More so from two aspects of her game, her work ethic on and off the court, whether it’s during individuals or triggering team practice and studying for games.

“She’s meticulous in her preparations for games and everything that she does. That applies to gym, taking care of her body, her diet, her nutrition and all those other things. She’s been one of the most professional players that I’ve ever had,” he added.

Last season as a whole was slightly hindered but not the end of the world for the 2019 Most Valuable Player. Suffering a high-grade ankle sprain in the mid-December clash against the Southside Flyers, Griffin was sidelined for close to six weeks leading her into the postseason which allowed younger players to get extra minutes in at the tail-end of the season.

Making an early return with three games remaining in the season, Griffin averaged over 10 points and eight rebounds to round out her campaign. Over the course of her 14 regular season games, Griffin managed to maintain a double-double (15 points and 10.8 rebounds per game), averaging 3.2 steals per game and 1.2 blocks to add to the list of statistics. To top off Griffin’s exceptional yet shortened season, the 33-year-old collected 13.6 points and 10.6 rebounds each time out in their championship playoff run. This also included a seven-steal performance against the Melbourne Boomers in Game 1 of their semi-final series.

“Her work ethic allows her to compete and get those numbers still,” Goriss said. “If you just saw her preparation in how she practices, you can see it is exactly how she plays. There’s no middle ground and there’s no taking it easy. She has to do everything perfect or to the best of her ability. So, it doesn’t really surprise me that she gets the numbers that she gets, but I do sometimes take it for granted,” Goriss said.

More important to the local fan base was the fact that Griffin’s announcement to return emerged a day after her counterpart Marianna Tolo. With the two leaders making their intentions for next season public knowledge, Goriss also reflected on Griffin’s style of leadership and how she complements Tolo in that regard.

“They’re kind of like the yin and the yang,” said the head coach. “They’re both very similar, but their styles of leadership are very different. Tolo is more the caring type and Kelsey is very ‘grab it by the scruff of the neck’. But that’s why they both work so well together, because they’re similar in some respects and different in others. It’s the perfect combination.”

Griffin was originally preparing for 3×3 basketball for the Olympics, but she disclosed that she has been nursing her injured shoulder during the off-season instead. “This down time has been incredible for reflection. I have had a good chance to slow down and re-prioritise what is important to me. It’s been really good for me,” Griffin said.

The WNBL has yet to confirm the start date for the WNBL21 season, but Griffin goes into the 2020/21 campaign a four-time WNBL champion, a League MVP and a three-time Finals MVP. Needless to say, onlookers are eager to see what the Alaskan-born phenom has in store for the next chapter of her career.