Tag: rebecca cole

WNBL Free Agency: Schwagmeyer heads east as clubs sign developing stars

A PERTH Lynx talent heads east, and some college young guns return to their home states to bolster the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) with the Free Agency Period continuing over the past week where we update you since the last update. Of the eight teams, seven made changes with only reigning premiers, University of Canberra (UC) Capitals not featuring due to having done a lot of the heavy lifting (re-signing) early in the period.

Adelaide Lightning:

The Lightning have been able to sign Jasmin Fejo and Taylor Ortlepp over the past weeks to add to their roster for the 2020/21 WNBL season. Fejo had a strong season in the South Australian Premier League competition for West Adelaide in 2019, averaging 16.2 points, 2.5 assists, 5.1 rebounds and 2.4 steals for the Bearcats. Ortlepp is one to watch for the Lightning ahead of the season having finished her college days at Boston where she averaged 20.1 minutes and 3.7 points per game after missing 10 games at the start of the season. She returns back to her home state where she grew up.

Bendigo Spirit:

The Spirit have looked to their own program to pick up promising young star Piper Dunlop from the Melbourne United Victorian Junior Basketball League (MUVJBL) side, Bendigo Braves. A developing future Opals star who has already gone through the national team program in her junior years. Last year the forward stepped up to represent the Braves off the bench on two occasions in the NBL1, scoring a total of four points and two rebounds in that time. She is one who can provide good support off the bench, and over the years really start to get more minutes on court.

Melbourne Boomers:

The Boomers recent Free Agency moves have involved re-signing New Zealand duo, Kalani Purcell and Antonia Farnworth. The 187cm forward came off the bench in 23 games last season, averaging 4.4 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.5 steals last season in the WNBL for the Boomers. Farnworth crossed the country from Perth Lynx ahead of last season and while she had less game time to average 2.6 points and 1.5 rebounds for the Boomers, her field goal accuracy went up. She will be hoping for more court time in the guard spots.

Perth Lynx:

Perth has re-signed some height with 191cm forward-center Maddison Allen returning to the club for the 2020/21 WNBL season. After only starting in one game in the 2018/19 season with the Lynx, that number rose to 16 last season, and playing a total of 21, lifting her numbers per game across the board. She averaged the 4.4 points, 5.2 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 1.8 blocks per game.

Southside Flyers:

The biggest re-signing of the past week has been Southside’s ability to bring back Rebecca Cole for another year. Having signed with the Flyers after previously playing with Dandenong Rangers, she averaged 16.8 points, 3.7 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.4 steals per game in season 2019/20. Cole is a vital member of the starting side for the Flyers, shooting at an strong 49 per cent from the field, and 36 per cent from long range.

Sydney Uni Flames:

The only signing who crossed from one WNBL side to another in the past week has been Alison Schwagmeyer who crossed the country from Perth Lynx to the Flames. The Sixth Player of the Year has plenty of experience and nous coming off the bench for the Lynx and will add that to the improving Flames. The American came off the bench on nine occasions – starting another nine games – to average 15.3 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game, an increase in both points and rebounds despite having less time on court. She is a valuable member of any team and will add an extra element to the Flames this season.

Townsville Fire:

The Fire signed Courtney Woods from the Northern Illinois University (NIU) Huskies in what could be a massive signing for Townsville. Another college talent who returns to her home state of Queensland, Woods broke some serious records at NIU, becoming the All-Time Leader in three pointers made and games played, as well as second all-time at NIU for overall points scored. She made 105 three-pointers in a season to break that season record as well for NIU, so comes back to Australia with some serious talent to burn. To put her 2019/20 college year in perspective, she put up numbers of 22.1 points, 7.9 rebounds and 3.3 assists. If she can live up to her potential, Woods would have a huge shot at being one of the rising stars of the competition.

NBL1 South Women’s team summary: Dandenong Rangers

IN light of the COVID-19 global pandemic, the National Basketball League (NBL)1 South Conference has been cancelled this year. As such, while Draft Central intended to do a preview on all teams leading up to the delayed start, it will instead be a team summary from last season and what they might look to improve on for 2021. Today’s edition looks at Dandenong Rangers womens side that had a season of two halves.

2019 in Review:

Finished: 7th
Wins: 11
Losses: 9
Home: 6-5
Away: 5-4

What went right:

  • First half of the season, went 9-1
  • Rebecca Cole’s season
  • Clean (10.2 turnovers per game the least in the competition)
  • Free-throws (78.2 per cent accuracy, ranked third overall)
  • Blocks (3.8 per game, ranked third overall)
  • Steals (10.1 per game, the best in the competition)

The Rangers’ season might have ended in the first week of finals, but the Dandenong-based side can look back and see a lot more positives than negatives from the season. They won nine of the first 10 games and at one stage looked like a clear title threat, with only a low-scoring 14 point loss to Melbourne in May ruining an otherwise perfect start to the season. Despite what occurred in the second half of the season, the Rangers had a number of statistical areas that shone through and will be areas they can continue to build on next season. They were the top side when it came to most steals and least turnovers, showing just how clean the side was in transition and when opting to use the ball. They also ranked in the top three for free-throw accuracy and blocks per game, and Rebecca Cole‘s season was outstanding with the star talent making the All-Star Five at the end of the season.

What went wrong:

  • Second half of the season, went 2-8
  • Offensive rebounds (8.3 per game, the worst in the competition)
  • Assists (14.5 per game, ranked 16th overall)

After such a promising start to the season, the Rangers fell into a hole they could not quite get out of, dropping eight of the last 10 games of the regular season to only just sneak into finals having all but seemingly locked up a spot midway through the year. In such a tight competition, the Rangers were both benefited (remaining in contention) but hindered (many teams in the finals race) by it. They struggled in both assists and offensive rebounds, often going it alone or relying on their shooting to get the job done. Working on their offensive areas to provide more avenues to score will certainly help, but in the first half of the season they were averaging 79.4 points per game outside the one loss, and that dropped to 67.1 points in the second half of the season.

Top Players:

Rebecca Cole

One of the stars of the season, and a point-scoring machine. Cole averaged 26.0 points, 4.9 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.7 steals to lead her side in all statistical areas bar rebounds. It was a huge year from the talented WNBL player who also averaged 81.1 per cent from the free-throw line and 46.2 per cent from the field. She was far from alone when it came to contributors, but she was hard to stop when on court. It was unfortunate for the Rangers and the general basketball public to only see her in 12 games, but it showed just how good her season was to make the All-Star Five off less minutes.

Colleen Planeta

The American import stood up in the absence of Cole, playing each of the 21 games and averaging almost a double-double per game. Planeta averaged a team-high 9.5 rebounds per match to go with her 18.3 points per game, and also filled the other areas with 1.9 assists, 1.9 blocks and 1.2 steals per game. She averaged greater than 50 per cent from the field, and was 87.3 per cent from the free-throw line.

Aimie Clydesdale

The other Rangers player who averaged double-figure points, Clydesdale provided the perfect support to Cole, as she averaged an almost-identical stat line outside of points. She still managed the 15.5 points per game, but had the 4.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.7 steals, and was able to take the court in 20 of the 21 matches. Her three-point shooting was elite at 39.2 per cent, and she also averaged 75 per cent from the line.

Young Gun:

Isobel Anstey

The young gun has committed to UCLA and showed in her time on court with the Rangers how bright of a future she has in the sport. She averaged 4.8 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.5 steals per game in 18.1 minutes per game, starting in two of 13 matches. One of five teenagers named on the list at the start of the season, the then 17-year-old was able to stand up against more experienced opponents and win plenty of boards. At 190cm, Anstey will be one to watch in the NCAA.

Christmas list for 2021:

A circuit breaker. The Rangers were absolutely firing in the first half of the season, but then could not get themselves out of their second half rut. If they had another player or two who could just provide that fresh look to be a circuit breaker and arrest the sliding win-loss ratio, then they could well have gone deep in 2019. They have the players to make a title challenge, it will be whether they can get them on court for long enough, and if they do, then watch out.

Summary:

The Dandenong Rangers might have fallen away in the second half of the season, but their first half gave a good enough indication that they were more than capable of matching it with the best sides. Always likely to be a successful outfit, a few tweaks here or there will put them in a good position to be a real contender come 2021.

Draft Central’s Top 10 2019/20 WNBL memorable moments: #5 – Southside Flyers’ road win against UC Capitals

WITH no basketball on for the foreseeable future due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we look at the brighter side of the sport that brought plenty of memories throughout the 2019/20 Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) season. Over the next couple of weeks we will countdown Draft Central‘s Top 10 memorable moments from the season. Some are individual events, others are season views, and even a couple are decisions that panned out for the better. Today we continue with number five, which looks at the only dint in the University of Canberra (UC) Capitals’ armour at home – Southside Flyers’ win on the road.

#5 Southside Flyers’ road win against UC Capitals

After copping a disappointing loss to the Capitals earlier in the season at their home court where they went down by 19 points, the Flyers were primed for the next encounter between the pair. At the stage of the first loss, the Flyers were living up to their name and flying, while the Capitals had made a shaky start, thumped by Melbourne Boomers in Geelong and then losing to last year’s wooden spooners, Sydney Uni Flames a couple of days later. Coming into the round, the Capitals had smashed Bendigo Spirit by 25 points on the road, and the Flyers had got up in a seven-point thriller over Melbourne back in Round 8. Already in Round 9, Southside had downed Townsville by 19 points and would fly up to Canberra the next day to face the Capitals who were fresh and raring to go.

Instead, it was the Flyers who started the stronger of the teams, leading by three points at quarter time courtesy of a 22-19 opening term. UC hit right back in the second quarter pleasing the Capitals’ fans to regain the lead by a point, then extended it out to three by the final break. A remarkable final term saw the Flyers put the foot on the gas and accelerate away with a 23-15 last quarter that home fans in Canberra would have otherwise not witnessed or would witness for the remainder of the season. In what would be the only Capitals’ home loss of the season, the score read 70-65 in favour of the visiting team. It was just that kind of day for the Flyers, with Rebecca Cole leading the points-scorers with 21, as well as three rebounds and two steals, well aided by the work of Mercedes Russell (17 points, 10 rebounds, two assists and two blocks) and former Capitals talent, Leilani Mitchell (15 points, seven rebounds and two assists).

Most of the Capitals stars were down on their output with 2018/19 Most Valuable Player (MVP) Kelsey Griffin scoring just four points, shooting at 16.7 per cent from the field, though she did pick up 12 defensive rebounds and a couple of steals. It would be revealed later that Griffin put in a monumental effort to finish the game, suffering an ankle injury in the last term but remaining out there in a bid to try and get her side over the line. She would miss six weeks through the injury. But aside from Griffin, 2019/20 MVP Kia Nurse was also down on her production, recording just 13 points at 22.7 per cent efficiency from the field, while Marianna Tolo‘s 16 points was the highest from her side, also picking up six rebounds and two assists in the loss. Olivia Epoupa was the pick of the home side with a spirited 11 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and four steals. While the result ultimately meant little in the scheme of the season – with the Capitals going back-to-back – it was certainly a moment to savour for the league’s newest franchise.

Top 10 WNBL 2019/20 moments countdown so far:

#10 – Ezi Magbegor wins second Rookie of the Year award
#9 – Bendigo Spirit breaks road drought
#8 – Mercedes Russell stars in debut season
#7 – Southside’s flying first season
#6 – Back-to-back overtime victories shape finals series
#5 – Southside Flyers’ road win against UC Capitals

Draft Central’s Top 10 2019/20 WNBL memorable moments: #6 – Back-to-back overtime thrillers shape finals series

WITH no basketball on for the foreseeable future due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we look at the brighter side of the sport that brought plenty of memories throughout the 2019/20 Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) season. Over the next couple of weeks we will countdown Draft Central‘s Top 10 memorable moments from the season. Some are individual events, others are season views, and even a couple are decisions that panned out for the better. Today we continue with number six, looking at back-to-back overtime games in Round 13 and 14 that ultimately shaped the WNBL finals series at the expense of the Melbourne Boomers.

#6 Heartbreak for Melbourne Boomers as Flyers and Capitals both win in overtime

They might have been five days apart, but Melbourne Boomers’ back-to-back losses in overtime against fellow top three sides, Southside Flyers and University of Canberra (UC) Capitals in January ultimately shaped the finals series. With the Boomers needing a win to remain clear of the sides, as history would tell us that a victory could have handed them the extra home final against the Capitals. They went down 2-1 in the semi-finals and lost the two on the road, while winning at home, something that might have altered the WNBL Finals Series. They finished on the same amount of wins, but the head-to-head which went in the Capitals’ favour thanks to the heart-breaking 76-75 loss at the National Convention Centre in Round 14 proved to be the ultimate dagger to the heart. That game, along with the Round 13 thriller at the State Basketball Centre (which saw the Flyers defeat the Boomers 75-73) shaped the top three and locked in the finals spots even with a couple of weeks remaining.

In the Boomers-Flyers match, Melbourne got off to a great start to lead by four points at quarter time, five at the main break and six by the final change. Unfortunately a slip up in just one quarter can cost at the elite level, and it proved the case with Southside winning the final term 20-14 to draw level and force overtime. There, the Flyers took it out with an 8-6 overtime to win 75-73, despite a double-double from Ezi Magbegor (24 points, 12 rebounds, two steals and three blocks) and a cameo from Cayla George (13 points, nine rebounds, five assists and two steals). Instead it was four players recording 15 points or more for the Flyers, with Mercedes Russell (21 points, 11 rebounds and two steals) the top player, as Leilani Mitchell (21 points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals), Jenna O’Hea (19 points, six rebounds, two assists and four steals) and Rebecca Cole (15 points, five rebounds, six assists and two steals) all shared around the spoils.

Five days later it was instead the Boomers playing catch-up in a scoreline that was eerily similar to the first game. The Capitals raced out of the blocks to lead by six points – the same score as the final term in the previous match – before the Boomers roped them in over the next three terms to not only draw level, but go up by six points with 43 seconds remaining. An unsportsmanlike foul in between a couple of baskets saw the Capitals drag it back level at the final buzzer. Unfortunately for Melbourne, it was a similar story as the Caps’ reigned supreme with a 10-9 overtime to win 76-75. Kia Nurse (23 points, seven rebounds) and Marianna Tolo (22 points, nine rebounds) dominated, as Keely Froling (12 points, nine rebounds) was solid and Olivia Epoupa was the best across the entire court picking up a ridiculous eight points, 16 rebounds, seven assists and six steals. For the Boomers, it was Stella Beck (17 points, six rebounds and three assists) and Magbegor (14 points, four rebounds) who shared the load with top scorer, Sophie Cunningham (22 points, two rebounds). As hindsight would show, this game ultimately helped the Capitals win the semi-finals series and go back-to-back in the 2019/20 WNBL season.

Top 10 WNBL 2019/20 moments countdown so far:

#10 – Ezi Magbegor wins second Rookie of the Year award
#9 – Bendigo Spirit breaks road drought
#8 – Mercedes Russell stars in debut season
#7 – Southside’s flying first season
#6 – Back-to-back overtime victories shape finals series

Draft Central’s Top 10 2019/20 WNBL memorable moments: #7 – Southside’s flying first season

WITH no basketball for the foreseeable future due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we look at the brighter side of the sport that brought plenty of memories throughout the 2019/20 Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) season. Over the next couple of weeks we will countdown Draft Central‘s Top 10 memorable moments from the season. Some are individual events, others are season views, and even a couple are decisions that panned out for the better. Today we continue with number seven, with the competition’s newest side – rebranded from the Dandenong Rangers – having an impeccable first season that came close to making history.

#7 Southside Flyers stunning first WNBL season under rebrand

In a fresh rebrand, Southside Flyers looked to include more of the region outside of Dandenong from the previous Rangers’ side that in its own right had been quite impressive through the WNBL. In at number seven for our countdown, we look at the Flyers’ first season in the competition. While the minor premiers ultimately fell short of the top prize, there was plenty to celebrate in season 2019/20. They finished top of the table comfortably (with a 17-4 win-loss record), and then went on to win both their semi-finals to advance through to the Grand Final Series. Whilst both games were thrillers against the reigning premiers, University of Canberra (UC) Capitals, it was not to be, bowing out in the final game of the season.

In our last countdown we noted how impressive Mercedes Russell has been averaging a double-double per game, but equally important were the likes of Rebecca Cole, Sarah Blicavs, Jenna O’Hea and Leilani Mitchell. Both O’Hea and Mitchell had joined the club from rival organisations to form a formidable starting five that was hard to top. Add in the youth of Anneli Maley and Kiera Rowe, and the importance of Aimie Clydesdale off the bench, and the Flyers had a really strong squad as a whole. While they were not able to get the chocolates in the end, they really made life difficult for the opposition and it showed in the end result of a minor premiership and grand final.

Top 10 WNBL 2019/20 moments countdown so far:

#10 – Ezi Magbegor wins second Rookie of the Year award
#9 – Bendigo Spirit breaks road drought
#8 – Mercedes Russell stars in debut season
#7 – Southside’s flying first season

Draft Central’s Top 10 2019/20 WNBL memorable moments: #8 – Mercedes Russell stars in debut season

WITH no basketball on for the foreseeable future due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we look at the brighter side of the sport that brought plenty of memories throughout the 2019/20 Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) season. Over the next couple of weeks we will countdown Draft Central‘s Top 10 memorable moments from the season. Some are individual events, others are season views, and even a couple are decisions that panned out for the better. Today we continue with number eight, looking at the star import from season 2019/20 who dominated for the Southside Flyers.

#8 Mercedes Russell dazzles for Flyers in stunning debut season

Each year WNBL clubs try and spot a diamond from overseas and very few get it wrong when turning their attention to the WNBA in particular. As has been the case with the University of Canberra (UC) Capitals’ Kia Nurse, Mercedes Russell proved to be a huge hit for the Southside Flyers, playing through the center position and having ridiculous amounts of rebounds game-in, game-out as well as plenty of points, picking up double doubles galore throughout the 2019/20 season. She did not hit a three-pointer during the season, but her work up close was better than most, averaging 56 per cent from two-point range.

At 198cm, Russell towered against most of her opponents, putting up numbers of 16.7 points, 9.7 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.0 block per game. She could still improve her shooting from the line (65.9 per cent), but her dominance off the boards made her a damaging threat to any opposition. Her reward for effort saw her named the Robyn Maher Defensive Player of the Year. She teamed up well with fellow big, Marianna Tolo for the Flyers, and was also named in the WNBL All-Star Second Team with another teammate, Rebecca Cole. The 24-year-old will head back to the Seattle Storm where she was a member of the WNBA Championship side.

Top 10 WNBL 2019/20 moments countdown so far:

#10 – Ezi Magbegor wins second Rookie of the Year award
#9 – Bendigo Spirit breaks road drought
#8 – Mercedes Russell stars in debut season

2019/20 WNBL season review: Southside Flyers

IN their inaugural season since changing their name to the Southside Flyers the girls in blue proved they were one to watch immediately making a name for themselves as a real powerhouse in the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL). The Flyers made it all the way to grand final but stumbled at the final hurdle going down in both matches unfortunately putting a dampener on otherwise a good start to the franchise.

Ladder: 1st (Runners-up)
Win-loss: 17-4

The Flyers were impressive in front of a home crowd recording eight victories at home from a possible 11 games, however it was their ability to win on the road that made them even more daunting. Southside made it nine from 10 away at home highlighting just how damaging they can be in any environment. From Round 1 the newly formed team had a real aura about them claiming convincing wins going on a six-game winning streak before running into trouble against eventual premiers in Round 6. They flexed their muscles against top four side in Melbourne Boomers with a hard-fought seven point victory in the early stages while also showing that they had the ability to mix it with the best downing UC Capitals in Round 9.

They claimed the minor premiership credit to their impressive season but it is fair to say that the Flyers will be disappointed they did not take home the silverware going down two and three points respectively in the grand final series against UC Capitals. They showed their ability to prevail in the close matches getting over the line in both semi-finals against Adelaide Lightning to move through to the grand final but simply could not generate enough scoring power to upset the reigning premiers.

The Flyers had no shortage of stars across the court, with four players averaging double digits in points scored showcasing just how deadly their attacking unit was throughout the season. Rebecca Cole led the way with a team-high average of 16.8 points per game, with import Mercedes Russell not far behind with 16.7 and falling just short of a season average double-double with 9.7 rebounds per game. Russell was a real playmaker for the Flyers and played a whopping 22 games for the season showcasing her durability and reliability consistently able to have an impact. Opals duo Leilani Mitchell and Jenna O’Hea both played major roles in the Flyers dominance with the two combining to be a formidable force. Despite only standing at 165cm Mitchell averaged 15.9 points per game along with a team-high 5.3 assists showcasing her ability to create opportunities to hit the scoreboard. O’Hea did not skip a beat making the move from the Boomers to cross-town rivals downing 14.1 points a match while also making her presence felt off the backboards with 4.9 rebounds a game. Sometimes overshadowed by her teammates, Sara Blicavs played a good support role for the Flyers with the 189cm forward able to hit the scoreboard with an average of 13.5 points and seven rebounds per game. While the Flyers had a wealth of A-class players the likes of Louella Tomlinson and Aimee Clydesdale will be hoping to lift their load if they are to go one better next season.

All in all, it was a comprehensive season for the Flyers who will be licking their lips ahead of the 2020/21 season if they can keep their list together and gain more support from their second tier players.

2020 WNBL: Kia Nurse hits three pointer to secure Capitals’ ninth flag

WITH only 22 seconds left to win the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) Grand Final, Kia Nurse nailed arguably the most important three pointer of her career to run out 71-68 winners. In what will go down as one of the most memorable and clutch moments in WNBL history, the Canberra Capitals were in dire need of a star as the Southside Flyers were up but fell with just over 20 seconds left. Nurse, as usual, rose to the occasion surmounting her legacy as one of, if not the greatest players in WNBL history.

The first half was all about one player and one player only, Rebecca Cole who dropped a whopping 21 points in just the first half. It seemed Cole’s hot hand carried over the whole team who finished the half with 49 per cent shooting accuracy, going 6/13 from long range compared to the Capitals who could only shoot a disappointing 36 per cent. It looked like the Capitals’ winning streak at home going all the way back to October 2018, was now at jeopardy. Down 10 at halftime, previously trailing by 16, one must believe that Capitals coach Paul Goriss must have had the speech of all speeches as they outscored the Flyers 21-9 in the third quarter. They shut down Cole who would only score just two more points for the game, they started hitting it from deep, and they locked down defensive rebounds. 

When Marianna Tolo gave the Capitals their first lead of the game, adding to a remarkable 15 point run, the momentum had officially switched, but the Capitals were far from victors. The two teams traded shots in the fourth quarter, as the lead changed several times. But when league MVP, Kelsey Griffin stole the ball and passed to Nurse, all fans were standing in anticipation. Breaking free, Nurse nailed a three point shot from the top of the key to put the Capitals ahead 71-68. The Flyers looked to their team’s leading season scorer, Cole who had been on a tear in the first half but had recently gone cold. Driving to the basket, Cole threw up a contested shot that bounced off the rim to be rebounded by none other than Nurse. Fouled instantly she went straight to the free throw line and surprisingly missed the first, bouncing in and out of the basket. With little time left, it could be argued Nurse missed the second intentionally as making it would have given the Flyers time to recuperate and draw up a play in a timeout. Although, the Capitals height came in favourably once again, as Tolo sealed the rebound and hence sealed the game.

Southside’s lack of roster depth was a crucial aspect of this game as they did not have a single bench point the entire game, even with Aimie Clydesdale playing 32 minutes but only having a disappointing two assist three rebound game. Clearly fatigue played a role as the Capitals had 17 points off turnovers, most coming in the second half. It was evident how exhausted the Flyers were by watching their sloppy defence, finishing the game with 21 fouls. This foul trouble forced the Flyers to bench some of their more important players like Jenna O’Hea who picked up her third foul four minutes before half time, forcing her to ride the bench. Although Cole who finished the game with 23 points, three rebounds and four assists in only 26 minutes, went quiet in the second half mostly due to incredibly tight defence which opened the floor offensively, sadly the rest of the team struggled to pick up the slack. 

Although Nurse’s dagger from three turned the game, and Tolo’s rebound was the final icing on the cake, it was Olivia Epoupa who left the grand final with the Rachael Sporn Grand Final MVP medal, collecting 16 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds. In what was likely her last game in the WNBL, suspected to play in her native country-France, her last dance for Australia was unforgettable. Luckily the Capitals were still able to rise even with last year’s grand final MVP Kelsey Griffin having a quiet five point, one assist, 13 rebound night. Nurse not only delivered in the dying minutes but was sensational from the very beginning putting up 18 points accompanied with Tolo’s 19 point, 12 rebounds performance. 

Capitals won their ninth flag in unbelievable fashion, filled with plenty of twists and turns to go back-to-back. Epoupa, along with Nurse and Griffin will go down in the record books as some of the greatest to play in the league, forming their legacy in front of a ecstatic home crowd of 4481 at the AIS Arena.

Capitals a win away from glory as Flyers look to repeat history

BOTH Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) teams know that there is a maximum two games left in the season, and for the University of Canberra (UC) Capitals, there is no better time to strike than tonight. The reigning premiers came from behind in Game 1 to upset the Southside Flyers on the road and get up by just two points in an enthralling contest. It put the Capitals 1-0 up and turned the tables on the favouritism for the title, given both sides’ ability to create a fortress out of their home court. UC Capitals in particular have been unbelievably dominant at AIS Arena, winning all bar one game at the venue.

That one blemish is what the Flyers will hold onto in this match as indeed it was the Southside team that toppled the Capitals in the nation’s capital. On that night, Southside got up by five points, coming from three points down at the final break to win 70-65. Rebecca Cole shot a game-high 21 points, while Mercedes Russell finished with a double-double of 17 points and 10 rebounds. Former Capital, Leilani Mitchell (15 points, seven rebounds) was also prolific in the win, while Marianna Tolo (16 points, six rebounds) and Kia Nurse (13 points, five rebounds) were the prominent scorers in the losing side, while Olivia Epoupa (11 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and four steals was the best on the court for the Capitals.

Fast forward to last week, and the Capitals turned the tables on the minor premiers, claiming an 82-80 win at the State Basketball Centre, breaking a four-game winning streak by the league’s top side. Though it was not the first time it had happened, because the previous loss for the Flyers was again a defeat at the hands of UC, and again on Southside’s home court. That time it was much uglier with a 24-point win, but last week’s victory has more relevance, and there was not much between the sides by the final buzzer.

Cole again was the top scorer in the match, putting up 23 points as well as recording seven assists, two rebounds and two blocks, while last year’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) Kelsey Griffin was back to her best with a stunning 18 points, 12 rebounds and two assists. She combined well with the 2019/20 MVP Nurse, who sank 18 points herself and collected five rebounds and two assists. Tolo (15 points, four rebounds and four assists) and Epoupa (14 points, nine rebounds, six assists and four steals) were also busy around the court. Aside from Cole, the Flyers shared the points around with Mitchell (15 points, five rebounds, five assists and two steals) and Russell (13 points, nine rebounds) busy, as was Jenna O’Hea who returned to the court after an injury layoff to put up numbers of 14 points and six rebounds. Despite injuring her hand, up-and-coming young gun Maddison Rocci has said she will fight through the pain in Game 2 to try and win back-to-back titles.

The game tips off from 7.30pm at AIS Arena tonight with the UC Capitals strong favourites to sweep the series. The Flyers have had too good of a season to go down without a fight however, and this promises to be a ripping contest. Both these teams would be deserving favourites in the clash, but given UC’s record at home, it is hard to see them losing.

WNBL Grand Final G1 review: Cap’s one win away from back-to-back glory

IN the first game of the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) grand finals series the Capitals clenched victory over a gallant Flyers side by a mere two points.

Southside Flyers (80) defeated by UC Capitals (82)

The league’s top two teams finally met in a clash that embodied everything the WNBL, as both the Southside Flyers and the UC Capitals went to war at Dandenong Stadium. Both sides came out of the block shooting at an efficient rate, but the real talking point came when Jenna O’hea, who had been out the last six weeks due to injury, made her impact known instantly. Coming off the bench after three minutes, O’hea scored seven straight points getting into a groove very early on. Leading by a bucket after the first quarter, the Capitals struggled to fend off a gritty Flyers side that had barely let anything slip through the cracks throughout this season’s campaign. With the Flyers getting to the basket fast and often, and making free-throws when they could, a four-point lead was what Southside had to deal with, against a Capitals side that has been unstoppable for almost a month now. Rebecca Cole led all scorers with 18 first-half points, setting the tone for the home side.

With both sides going back and forth at one another, a deep two from Leilani Mitchell on the buzzer separated the sides by six points with the final quarter yet to play. But the Capitals would stubbornly not fall away, matching the flyers basket for basket until the final buzzer. Then, with less than a minute and a half to play, a spinning layup with contact by Olivia Epoupa put the Caps up by two. The final possession led to a turnover by the Flyers and fell into the hands of an elated MVP in Kia Nurse, as the Capitals stole Game 1 in Dandenong, taking home the win 82-80.

It was the perfect ending for Nurse, as she led her side on the court and on the scoreboard, finishing her night with 19 points and five rebounds. While no single player achieved twenty points on the day, it was an overall effort, as four players reached 14 points or more. Kelsey Griffin was next on the podium next to Nurse, with 18 points and 12 rebounds to her name. While, Marianna Tolo and Epoupa each finished 15 and 14 points respectively, as Epoupa also snagged nine rebounds and six assists. For a disappointed flyers side, Cole rounded up her night with a solid 23 point and seven assist night, meanwhile Mitchell was good for 15 points, five rebounds and five assists. O’hea provided 14 points and six rebounds off the bench in 33 and a half minutes in her return to action.

The Flyers now travel up to Canberra to try and win an almost impossible game, as through 14 match-ups this season at the AIS Arena, the Capitals have only lost once (13-1). But, with the only team having beaten this team at home being the Southside Flyers at the start of this season, perhaps WNBL fans can expect some déjà vu. If not, then the Capitals will win back-to-back titles, possibly their ninth in franchise history.

Game 2:

7:30pm @AIS Arena, Canberra

March 4, 2020