Tag: sara blicavs

Young guns in the WNBL: Zitina Aokuso

IN the pool of up and coming young talent rising through the WNBL ranks, Townsville Fire’s Zitina Aokuso sits at the top in terms of her dominance and ability to impose herself on the basketball court. The 21-year-old, who is making her way towards the tail end of recovering from a devastating anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury, is more eager than ever to get back out onto the court and show the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) what she has to offer.

“Rehab has been great,” Aokuso said. “There’s been tough moments, but knowing in the end, it’ll all be worth it,” she added.

With the WNBL still months away, none are working harder than Aokuso to get their bodies to peak fitness in preparation for Round 1. Working alongside friend and personal trainer Brent Gorris, the Penrith-born forward/center has had to adapt her training regime, given the COVID-19 restrictions in place.

“I’m currently seven months post-surgery,” Aokuso said. “I’ve started running which is great and I’m able to do more on-court stuff,” she added. “But having no access to basketball courts or parks, I’ve had to adjust to a basketball hoop in the driveway to shoot around… and having no access to cardio equipment, I’ve had to adapt to outdoor cycling and home-based pool sessions.”

All these measures that have been taken by Aokuso have been challenging to the WNBL youngster, but missing out on last season has provided all the motivation in the world for her on the road to recovery.

“Being on the sideline last season was one of the toughest things I’ve ever had to do,” she said.

However, playing the part of the team motivator was a role Aokuso seemed to embrace throughout last season, often dancing on the sideline, providing positive energy or giving advice to her teammates.

“The main takeaways from an off-court perspective is that I’ll never take the opportunity to do the thing I love and being able to be active for granted. But, knowing I couldn’t be on the court, I managed to find ways I could still stay involved,” said Aokuso.

Prior to Aokuso’s injury, the 195cm-tall prospect made a remarkable impact down in Victoria during her time at the Geelong Supercats, alongside the likes of WNBA draftee Ezi Magbegor and WNBL veteran Sara Blicavs. Completing a success-filled season in the NBL1, despite being knocked out in the grand final against the Kilsyth Cobras, Aokuso averaged 15.9 points, 8.6 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.1 blocks per game in what was nothing short of an impressive stint.

Given the turbulent year Aokuso has endured, Fire’s head coach Shannon Seebohm sees benefits to the experience.

“To me Zitina is one of the most exciting talents in the WNBL. She is a great person and a lot of fun to be around,” Seebohm said. “I think even though she has struggled being out injured, this is going to be great for her future development. This situation has taught her the value of hard work and resiliency, and I believe she is going to return a much fitter, stronger and skilled player. There’s a lot of reasons to be excited about Zitina’s future in our league,” Seebohm said.

While the Fire did not find a huge amount of success in the 2019/20 season, finishing their campaign at the bottom of the standings with a record of five wins and 16 losses, Aokuso is excited to get the Queensland-side back to championship form.

“We weren’t too happy with how we went last season, so we’re looking forward to having a great pre-season and we are hungry to compete for a finals spot,” Aokuso said. “I think creating a culture we can be accountable for and to live by during the season and then being able to create ways that complement the team, is the way we’ll get the best outcome,” she added.

While Aokuso says she is taking it step-by-step, she is also aware that a possible Opals selection is a real chance, but for now, she is keen to see how the Fire squad is set to stack up, a squad that everyone should keep an eye on.

NBL1 South Women’s team summary: Geelong Supercats

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 Geelong Supercats’ womens side that came agonisingly close to a title, just falling short in the 2019 NBL1 Grand Final.

2019 in Review:

Finished: 2nd (Lost in Grand Final)
Wins: 17
Losses: 3
Home: 9-1
Away: 8-2

What went right:

  • Won 14 consecutive matches
  • Arguably the most depth of any side in the competition
  • Rebounds (ranked first with 31.7 def and 42.5 overall)
  • Assists (ranked second with 20.6)
  • Defensively sound (second in both blocks and steals, and least personal fouls)

There was not too much the Supercats did wrong throughout the season, bouncing back from an early loss against Frankston Blues to go on a slaughtering 14-game winning streak to race to the top of the table. Back-to-back losses against Ringwood Hawks and eventual minor premiers, Bendigo Braves – with players missing – knocked the Supercats out of the potential top spot, though it mattered little as they returned serve on both those sides in the finals with wins. The depth of which the Supercats’ roster went was bordering on ridiculous with eight players averaging six or more points per game, showing their bench could just as easily adapt on-court as their starters. They also had six players with four or more rebounds per game, and six players with at least a steal per game, showing just how easily they could win the ball back off their opposition and set up scoring opportunities. They ranked first in the competition for defensive rebounds and total rebounds, while ranking second overall in assists, blocks and steals, whilst having the second least personal fouls. Basically, they were good at winning the ball back from the opposition and not coughing it up, which is why they had such a fantastic season.

What went wrong:

  • Grand Final Day
  • Free throws (71.1 per cent accuracy, ranked 13th in the competition)

It no doubt would have been a bitter pill to swallow having come off such a terrific season, knocked off the top side Bendigo just the week before and come in as strong favourites against Kilsyth Cobras in the 2019 NBL1 South Women’s Grand Final. Unfortunately the result was not to be, with the Cobras up and about from the first tip-off to lead by 10 at quarter time, 20 at half-time and 25 by the final break. It was done and dusted before the final term, and while the Supercats were able to score some baskets in the final term to make the margin more respectable, they were just beaten on the day.  Credit has to be given to Ezi Magbegor who played out of her skin on her way to 35 points, six rebounds, two assists and two steals, only bettered by Lauren Nicholson (36 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and three steals) who guided her side to victory in a vintage performance. Other than that performance, the other area the Supercats could have tightened up is their free throws, where they ranked 13th in the competition with a 71.1 per cent accuracy.

Top Players:

Ezi Magbegor

One of a number of teenagers who shaped the Geelong Supercats’ list and realistically could have been in the Young Gun category as well. Magbegor was a star throughout the season, with the Opals forward putting up numbers of 18.6 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.7 steals and 1.6 blocks per game, shooting a really promising 55.9 per cent from the field. She was a reliable scorer, but also a reliable shot blocker and showed why Seattle Storm snapped her up with the twelfth pick in the WNBA Draft last year.

Sara Blicavs

With so many young guns floating around in the team, Blicavs provided the Supercats with some much needed experience, as well as support off the boards to the likes of Magbegor and Zitina Aokuso. She averaged a team-high 8.8 rebounds, as well as 16.4 points, 3.1 assists and 1.8 steals in a really strong season where she was hard to beat as the side’s second oldest player – yet was still only 26-years-old.

Zitina Aokuso

Another young gun who showed some great signs developing alongside Magbegor under Blicavs, the 194cm tall went toe-for-toe with the others throughout the season in terms of output, averaging 15.9 points, 8.6 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.0 steal and 1.1 blocks per game. She was the clear third prong when it came to the Supercats’ attack, and she also shot at a greater than 50 per cent accuracy from the field, as well as a team-high 41.2 per cent from three-point range.

Young Gun:

Isabelle Bourne

There was no shortage of who could be in this category, but with Magbegor and Aokuso up in the top players, Isabelle Borne is the next choice in line after a really promising season off the bench. She played 15 games, starting five times and averaging 9.0 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game. The team’s defensive work is contagious and Bourne slotted right into the mix when on court, and is still a teenager with many years ahead.

Christmas list for 2021:

Geelong Supercats do not need a lot to add to this roster, it will be more about availabilities as a lot of these young, talented players could play overseas, or receive college scholarships if they choose to do so. Magbegor is one already gone for the WNBA, and with eight players aged under 21 on the list, the wish that the Supercats might have is keeping the list together for an assault on the 2021 title.

Summary:

It would have been a disappointing finish to the 2019 season, but Geelong Supercats would have to look back and smile at what was a really impressive year on many fronts. They had all the key ingredients to take out the title, and unfortunately were just beaten on the final day by a side in form and with a red-hot scorer on the loose. If the game was to be replayed multiple times, there is every chance the Supercats end up the NBL1 inaugural winners, but for now they will use that motivation to burn deep and prepare to tackle 2021.

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.

WNBL Semi-final 2 review: Flyers snatch three point victory to move through to grand final

THE Southside Flyers are the first side through to the 2020 Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) Grand Final with the winner from the battle between Melbourne Boomers and UC Capitals set to meet them.

Adelaide Lightning (79) defeated Southside Flyers (82)

IN their inaugural season, the Southside Flyers have made it through to their first WNBL grand final downing hosts Adelaide by yet another mere three points. It was a thrilling game of basketball with both teams leaving nothing to chance. Southside got the early ascendancy piling on 25 points to 17 in the second quarter before the Lightning struck back in the third to reduce the deficit but despite their best efforts they fell agonisingly short once again.  The Lightning threw everything they had at them knowing full well it was do-or-die but the Flyers were simply too good outclassing their opponents credit to their even contributions across the board with five players making it into double digits.

Southside showed an extra layer of class with its accuracy from beyond the arc sitting at 48 per cent as opposed to the Lightning who only managed 35 per cent. Although Adelaide secured more rebounds mainly thanks to Brianna Turner (45-42), the Flyers’ work defensively to pick pocket their opponents was a key difference recording 10 steals to seven. Statistically speaking it is hard to separate the sides with accuracy sitting at a similar percentage for both sides but it was the Flyers ability to stand up under pressure that eventually got them over the line.

The Southside Flyers had a point to prove- that they could knock off their rivals away from home and they proved that in style. It was a complete performance from the travelling team with Rebecca Cole taking the reins and dominating the points scoring stats with 19 to her name along with 10 rebounds to record another double-double for the season. Leilani Mitchell also proved hard to stop knocking back 18 points of her own and drawing even with teammate Aimie Clydesdale who also managed 18 points. Mitchell fell just short of a double-double racking up nine assists highlighting her impressive vision and strong attacking sense. Despite being down on her usual output Mercedes Russell still made her presence felt with 15 points, four rebounds and three assists, while Sara Blicavs played a strong support role with her 12 points to get her side over the line and into the big dance.

Lightning’s Brianna Turner starred in the clash with the American import doing all she could to keep side within reach of the Flyers. Turner shone from the get go recording a game-high 25 points and mind-boggling 18 rebounds, 15 of which were defensive. But it did not stop there with Turner also managing four blocks showcasing her impressive ability to switch between attack and defence with ease. The forward led the way for the Lightning with Stephanie Talbot failing to have much of an impact on the scoreboard with nine points but racked up nine rebounds and eight assists. Nicole Seekamp also struggled to get going in her sides loss while Lauren Nicholson and Kathryn Westbeld showed their scoring prowess with 16 and 18 points respectively. But unfortunately, the Lightning could not find their mojo in either attack or defence notching up their second straight loss to the ladder leaders and their ultimate dismissal from finals.

2019/20 WNBL preview: Semi-finals – Flyers a win away from grand final as Lightning look to even series

GAME 2 of the semi-finals between Adelaide Lightning and Southside Flyers will help decide which team progresses through to the next stage of the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) finals.

Adelaide Lightning v. Southside Flyers

After a disappointing three-point loss, Adelaide Lightning play host to an in-form Flyers outfit that will be looking to inflict more pain on opposition this season. The Lightning will be hoping to draw on the home crowd advantage with the boisterous fans spurring them on at every point. The home side had their chances in their first clash but simply let it slip away when it counted while the Flyers on the other hand capitalised on every tiny error.

It was a relatively even match-up throughout Game 1 of the semi-final series with both sides posting similar numbers on the scoreboard and shooting at around the 36 per cent mark from the field highlighting just how evenly poised both sides were. The Lightning reaped in the rewards of their bench players outscoring their opponents 16 to seven showcasing just how dangerous they can be and the variety of options they have when going to basket. Another key difference proved to be the points in the paint (32-40) with the Flyers unable to convert in close but sinking them from down town sitting at 35.3 per cent while the Lightning lingered at 22. 2 per cent instead, doing most of their damage up close and personal.

The Flyers will have the belief that they can stand up to the pressure and whatever the Lightning throw at them having rode the wave only two days ago. Three players recorded double figures for Southside in their narrow win with Mercedes Russell leading the scoreboard assault with 20. Russell was unstoppable at both ends of the court racking up a huge 19 rebounds to accompany her 20 points to reel in yet another double-double and guide her side to a hard-fought victory an effort she will be hoping to replicate in her second semi-final. Teammate Rebecca Cole was just as handy posting up 13 points of her own and showcasing her rebounding knack with six and an impressive four steals. Leilani Mitchell was solid knocking back 15 points while Sara Blicavs had a relatively quiet game by her lofty standards an area she will want to rectify coming into this clash.

With the loss still fresh in their mind expect the Lightning to come out firing and most importantly with a point to prove. They have the talent and the depth to topple the highly touted Flyers having done it previously in the season and will be looking to knock them off their perch with the likes of Lauren Nicholson and Stephanie Talbot at the helm. Both have proven they can tear a game wide open with their strength and commitment. Import Brianna Turner fell just short of another double-double last game recording 11 points and nine rebounds but considering that was one of her quiet games could kick it up a whole other level in front of her home crowd. Throw in the likes of Chelsea Brooks and Kathryn Westbeld who had strong showings in their last encounter and the Lightning might just have what it takes to get the win.

If the Flyers are to get over the top of Lightning once again, they will have to shut down their bench players’ ability to come on and have an impact while continuing to attack the basket themselves. On the other hand, the Lightning must limit the Flyers second chances under the ring and deny any easy avenues to goal.

WNBL Semi-final 1 review: Southside escapes slow start to run out three-point winners in Dandenong

MINOR premiers, Southside Flyers are a win away from a 2019/20 Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) Grand Final place after downing Adelaide Lightning by three points at Dandenong Stadium last night. Given Southside’s strength at its home court and Adelaide’s less-than-ideal road record, the Flyers were heavily fancied to move through to the season decider without too much fuss.

Unfortunately for the home fans, the visiting team was not on board with the script and came out all-guns blazing in the first term, piling on 25 points to 17 to race out to an eight-point lead at the first break. The Flyers made inroads back into the contest in the second term with a 17-14 quarter and drew within five at half-time. Needing a special effort in the second half, the Southside team that everyone had come to know returned to the court, powering its way to a massive 22-7 term, restricting the Lightning in every way possible to go from a five-point deficit to a huge 10-point lead at the final break. Adelaide was determined not to give up however, as the Lightning hit back in the final term, drawing within five points midway through the term, but the firepower of the premiership favourites gave the home team some breathing space. Leading by 10 points with less than four minutes on the clock, the Flyers looked home and hosed, but one last effort from the visitors resulted in them scoring eight of the last nine points to get within three, but ultimately fall short, 68-65.

Center, Mercedes Russell again stood tall for the Flyers, having a ridiculous game of 20 points and 19 rebounds, with an even spread of 11 defensive and eight offensive, while also picking up three assists and a steal in a clear best-on-court performance. She was not alone however, as Leilani Mitchell – who shot a crucial three midway through the final term to draw within five points – finished with 15 points, four assists, two rebounds and a steal. Rebecca Cole also reached double-figure points with 13, as well as six rebounds, four assists and four steals in a real team effort. Elsewhere, Anneli Maley‘s effort of the bench was strong, only recording four points, but having seven rebounds, a steal and block on the night. Sara Blicavs had a quieter night with nine points, but had five rebounds, two steals and an assist.

For the Lightning, Lauren Nicholson stepped up as one would expect from a player with her experience, finishing with 14 points and seven rebounds, while Stephanie Talbot (13 points, nine rebounds, six assists and three steals) was unsurprisingly Adelaide’s best, as Brianna Turner (11 points, nine rebounds, five blocks and two assists) was also strong. In terms of scoring, the other player of note was Chelsea Brook coming off the bench to contribute 11 points, four rebounds, an assist and a steal, while Nicole Seekamp had four points, but five rebounds and five assists.

With Southside holding a 1-0 lead in the three-game series, Adelaide will try and force a deciding third game if the Lightning can get up at home when the teams face off at Titanium Security Arena on Saturday night from 7pm.

2019/20 WNBL preview: Semi-finals – Southside Flyers looking to continue home dominance against Lightning

THE finals battle between the Southside Flyers and Adelaide Lightning is set to tip off tonight with both sides vying to get their finals campaign off to a hot start. It is the first of three games and given their recent form should make for a cracking match-up between the two teams.

The Southside Flyers finished on top of the ladder for a reason and will be hoping to romp it home against the fourth placed Lightning. They are in hot form winning four of their past five games highlighting just how dominant they can be. On the other hand, the Lightning have had a scattered past dropping three of their past five but finals is a completely different ball game. The last time these two sides played the Flyers ran away with a 12-point victory but the Round 12 clash saw the tables reversed with Adelaide collecting an 11-point win, something they will take a lot of confidence out of. The Flyers have an impressive record at home winning eight of their 11 clashes, while the Lightning have struggled throughout the season on the road only registering four wins from their 10 games, tilting the scales in favour of Southside.

Since changing their name at the start of the 2019/20 season the Southside Flyers have not skipped a beat, taking their game to a whole other level. Their variety of scoring options makes them a constant threat with players able to pop up if their teammate is well held. Rebecca Cole is a scoring machine leading the way for her side with an average of 16.9 points per game and 3.2 rebounds. The combination of Leilani Mitchell and Mercedes Russell proved to be a deadly duo and the two will be hoping to replicate their hot form to get their side over the line. Mitchell is a real play maker able to dish off passes with an average of 5.2 assists per game while her scoring prowess is just as impressive with 15.9 points per game. Sara Blicavs can do damage on the scoreboard while Jenna O’Hea oozes composure and experience across the court.

The Adelaide Lightning have a plethora of players that can hit the scoreboard with Brianna Turner the number one go-to girl for the visiting side. She is a real barometer for the side with her drive to the basket and scoring prowess averaging a double-double with 16.7 points and 10.5 rebounds. She can single handily change the outlook of a game while teammate Stephanie Talbot is no stranger to the big stage. Talbot is strong both in attack and defence racking up a whopping 60 blocks for the season while averaging 14.1 points per game highlighting her versatility on the court. Guard, Nicole Seekamp is another key contributor for Adelaide and will be hoping to use her height and strength to advantage to have an influence on the court.

It will have to be a full court effort from the Lightning if they are any chance to topple the Flyers who have been in scintillating form as of late. If Southside can contain the Lightning’s key players they will be able to dictate the flow of the game.

2019/20 WNBL Team of the Week: Round 16

ALL eight Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) teams are represented in our Draft Central WNBL Team of the Week for Round 16, with Melbourne Boomers and Adelaide Lightning recording two players each in our 10-player team, while the other six sides had one representative each.

Adelaide’s damaging duo of Stephanie Talbot and Brianna Turner again produced some huge numbers, as Talbot averaged 14.0 points, 8.5 rebounds and 6.5 assists over the weekend, while Turner put up numbers of 12 points and 18 rebounds. They have found a way up either end of the court, while Melbourne’s Cayla George and Ezi Magbegor both fill out the center positions. While Magbegor picked up a clear double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds, it was George’s almost triple-double of 24 points, 12 rebounds, nine assists, three steals and two blocks that was absolutely outstanding.

There were plenty of double-doubles in our Team of the Week this week with Christina Boag standing up in a disappointing loss for Townsville Fire, recording 22 points, 15 rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks to be named as a starting forward. Rounding out the starting five, University of Canberra (UC) Capitals’ key scorer, Kia Nurse made the team once again with 28 points, nine rebounds, three assists and two steals to her name in Round 16.

The bench featured a number of players who have been in the team before, with Perth Lynx’s Ariel Atkins and Bendigo Spirit’s Tessa Lavey making up the two guards, while Southside Flyers’ Sara Blicavs and Sydney Uni’s Jessica Kuster slotting into the forward spots. There were a number of unlucky omissions in the side for this week, including UC duo, Kelsey Griffin and Marianna Tolo, Bendigo duo, Shyla Heal and Carley Ernst, Adelaide’ Nicole Seekamp – who was injured in the Lightning’s first game – Sydney Uni’s Lauren Scherf, and Southside Flyers’ Mercedes Russell.

STARTING FIVE:

G: Kia Nurse (UC) – 28 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 0 blocks, 39.1 FG%
G: Stephanie Talbot (AL) – 14.0 points, 8.5 rebounds, 6.5 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.5 blocks, 37.0 FG%
C: Cayla George (MB) – 24 points, 12 rebounds, 9 assists, 3 steals, 2 blocks, 57.1 FG%
F: Brianna Turner (AL) – 12.0 points, 18.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 0.0 steals, 2.0 blocks, 32.1 FG%
F: Christina Boag (TF) – 22 points, 15 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks, 58.5 FG%

BENCH:

G: Ariel Atkins (PL) – 20.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 4.0 steals, 0.0 blocks, 53.3 FG%
G: Tessa Lavey (BS) – 17.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 6.5 assists, 2.5 steals, 0.0 blocks, 58.3 FG%
C: Ezi Magbegor (MB) – 15 points, 12 rebounds, 2 assists, 0 steals, 1 block, 50.0 FG%
F: Sara Blicavs (SF) – 18 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals, 0 blocks, 100.0 FG%
F: Jessica Kuster (SU) – 18.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 2.5 steals, 1.5 blocks, 59.3 FG%

WNBL Round 16 review: Capitals secure second with final round win

THE University of Canberra (UC) Capitals were able to stand up when it counted and secure second spot ahead of the Melbourne Boomers – the Capitals’ opponents in the upcoming 2019/20 Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) finals series. The other spots were already locked in prior to the final round, with Southside Flyers earning the minor premiership and will face fourth placed Adelaide Lightning in the other semi-final. Perth Lynx, Sydney Uni Flames and Townsville Fire avoided the wooden spoon with Bendigo Spirit’s last round win over the Fire falling three points short of leaping off the bottom of the table.

Sydney Uni Flames (78) defeated Bendigo Spirit (68)

A strong final quarter saw Sydney Uni Flames get the points in their final home game of the WNBL season, securing a 10-point victory over Bendigo Spirit. The Flames raced out of the blocks early to gain the advantage and lead by eight points at the first break. Desperate to get off the bottom of the ladder, Bendigo fought back to cut the deficit to just one point at the main break. They then took the ascendancy from that quarter into the third, taking the lead by two and looking good with 10 minutes to play. Sydney Uni finished the stronger of the sides, putting the foot down and pleasing the home crowd with a 20-8 final term to win, 78-68. Brittany Smart was strong with 22 points, three rebounds and four steals, well aided in the starting side by Jessica Kuster (16 points, nine rebounds, three assists, three blocks and two steals). Lauren Scherf was important off the boards with 12 points, eight rebounds as well as four assists, while Alex Wilson came agonisingly close to a double-double or even a triple-double with 10 points, nine rebounds, eight assists, two steals and two blocks. Shyla Heal stood up in defeat for the Spirit with 17 points and four rebounds, while Abigail Wehrung (15 points, five rebounds and three assists) and Tessa Lavey (14 points, five rebounds, six assists and four steals) were also prominent.

DC Medal: 3 – Jessica Kuster (SU), 2 – Alex Wilson (SU), 1 – Brittany Smart (SU)

Adelaide Lightning (75) defeated Perth Lynx (74)

In an important game for confidence, fourth placed Adelaide Lightning survived a thriller against fifth placed Perth Lynx. The Lightning led early by three points at the first break, but the Lynx kept in the contest with a 21-20 second term to cut the deficit back to two, and by the final break scores were level. With nothing separating both sides keen for a win, the Lightning stepped up in the crucial final quarter to win, 75-74 and finish at home on a high prior to finals. Brianna Turner put up a ridiculous 24 rebounds to go with 16 points, three assists and two blocks, hauling her side across the line when it counted. Stephanie Talbot was unsurprisingly impressive again for the home team, posting numbers of 13 points, five rebounds and four assists, while Nicole Seekamp helped herself to 17 points, five rebounds, eight assists and three steals. Kathryn Westbeld showed off her talents in the starting side with six points, seven rebounds and three assists for the Lightning. Nadeen Payne picked up a double-double for the losers, recording 11 points and 10 rebounds as well as three steals. Maddison Allen had 15 rebounds to go with four points and three blocks. From a points perspective, Ariel Atkins and Katie-Rae Ebzery both recorded a team-high 16 points.

DC Medal: 3 – Brianna Turner (AL), 2 – Nicole Seekamp (AL), 1 – Nadeen Payne (PL)

UC Capitals (73) defeated Adelaide Lightning (71)

The UC Capitals gained a hard-fought but important win over the Lightning ahead of the WNBL finals series. While the pair have opposite semi-finals in a fortnight, the Capitals were able to hold firm against a side that started strongly, and hold them off by two points at the National Convention Centre. The Lightning led by two points at quarter time, but the Capitals regained control at a place that has become a fortress this season for them, taking the lead by a point at the main break. They extended that out to two by the last change but the Lightning refused to go away. Both sides threw everything they had in the final quarter, and in the end they could not be separated, which meant the home team got up by the three quarter time margin of two points, 73-71. Kia Nurse had another night out on the scoresheet with 28 points, nine rebounds, three assists and two steals, while Kelsey Griffin returned to the starting line-up and had 10 rebounds, two steals and three blocks to go with seven points. Maddison Rocci again picked up double-figure points with 16, as well as two rebounds and two steals. Marianna Tolo‘s good form also continued, having 13 points, six rebounds, three assists and four blocks. For the Lightning, Talbot picked up a double-double with 15 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists, and while Turner did not reach the feat, finished the weekend with an average of 18 rebounds following another huge game on the boards with 12, as well as eight points, two assists and two blocks. Lauren Nicholson had an impressive 16 points, three rebounds and four assists, while Westbeld picked up 10 points, two rebounds and three assists.

DC Medal: 3 – Kia Nurse (UC), 2 – Stephanie Talbot (AL), 1 – Maddison Rocci (UC)

Townsville Fire (69) defeated by Bendigo Spirit (89)

It might have mattered little in the scheme of the WNBL finals series, but the result of this game meant plenty to both sides. In a battle of the bottom two sides, Bendigo Spirit needed to win by 23 points in order to leap off the bottom of the ladder and overtake Townsville Fire. Both teams have had disappointing seasons this year, but Bendigo was yet to win on the road so Townsville started as strong favourites at its home court. It was the Braves that quietened the crowd early, leading by six points at quarter time and held a 12-point lead by the main break. Sensing a blowout, the crowd was nervous but the Fire responded to match it with the Spirit and only concede an extra point in the third term. Bendigo needed to win the last by 10 points in order to grab seventh spot on the table, and it did all it could in that quarter, piling on 24 points though it would not be enough, running out a comfortable 20-point winner but falling short of sentencing Townsville to the wooden spoon. Carley Ernst was simply sensational for the Spirit, scoring 26 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists in an almost triple-double effort. Lavey was her partner-in-crime with 21 points, seven assists and four rebounds, while Heal also reached double-figure points from the starting line-up with 14, as well as five rebounds and five assists.  Coming off the bench, Gabrielle Richards picked up 11 points and six rebounds in the win. For the Fire, Christina Boag had a memorable game to round out the season, picking up huge numbers of 22 points, 15 rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks. Darcee Garbin (14 points, six rebounds and three assists) and Micaela Cocks (11 points, five assists) also reached double-figures, while Tess Madgen had seven rebounds and four assists, but only five points.

DC Medal: 3 – Carley Ernst (BS), 2 – Christina Boag (TF), 1 – Tessa Lavey (BS)

Southside Flyers (78) defeated Sydney Uni Flames (61)

The ladder-leading Southside Flyers got the job done on Saturday with a 17-point win over Sydney Uni Flames at Dandenong. While top spot was never in doubt for the league’s newest side, the Flyers finished off the season in style to prepare for the WNBL finals. Meanwhile the Flames were unable to cause an upset, though they did have a promising final term, scoring 21 points to 11 to stop what looked like a complete annihilation brewing. At the final break, Southside led by 27 points after winning each of the first three quarters by six, four and 17 respectively, completely dominating the third term. They were able to give valuable court time to some of their younger players, and gave Ringwood Hawks’ utility, Jacqueline Trotto a debut. Sara Blicavs was strong for the winners, picking up a team-high 18 points, eight rebounds and six assists to be the clear standout for the Flyers. Mercedes Russell had 17 points and three rebounds, while Anneli Maley played her best game of the season off the bench with 11 points and six rebounds, Rebecca Cole had 10 points, three rebounds and three assists to also reach double-figure points. For the Flames, Kuster was a lone hand up the scoring end with 21 points, six rebounds, two assists and three steals, the only visiting player to surpass 10 points. Scherf and Madeleine O’Hehir both had nine points on the night, but it was a lean performance from the team in the Flames’ last match of the season.

DC Medal: 3 – Sara Blicavs (SF), 2 – Jessica Kuster (SU), 1 – Mercedes Russell (SF)

Melbourne Boomers (104) defeated Perth Lynx (75)

From an almost-blowout to an actual blowout, Melbourne Boomers took no chances, convincingly putting Perth Lynx to the sword in the second against fifth clash. They never looked like losing this match, piling on a whopping 32 points to 14 in the opening term, and by half-time the margin was out to 23 points. The home fans were up and about wile the visiting fans were hoping for the final buzzer, as Melbourne continued its strong control in the second half, winning that half by six points. Perth to its credit managed to stem the bleeding in the half, particularly in the last term, while Melbourne gave some of its bench players more time to spread the load and manage them ahead of the post-season series. Cayla George had a big day out with one assist away from a triple-double, posting up 24 points, 12 rebounds, nine assists, three steals and two blocks in the big win, while Ezi Magbegor also recorded a double-double thanks to 15 points, 12 rebounds and two assists. Madeleine Garrick (17 points, three assists) and Sophie Cunningham (10 points, two rebounds) performed well, while Kalani Purcell (17 points, six rebounds, three assists and two steals) was sensational off the bench in her best performance of the season. For Perth, the Lynx had just 26 rebounds on the night, with Atkins and Marena Whittle both picking up eight apiece, as well as combining for 41 points in an otherwise low-statistical night. Ebzery could also hold her head high after 15 points and two assists.

DC Medal: 3 – Cayla George (MB), 2 – Ezi Magbegor (MB), 1 – Ariel Atkins (PL)

DC Medal Leaderboard:

32 – Cayla George (MB)
31 –
30 – Mercedes Russell (SF)
29 –
28 –
27 –
26 – Stephanie Talbot (AL)
25 –
24 –
23 – Brianna Turner (AL)
22 – Kelsey Griffin (UC)
21 – Kia Nurse (UC)
20 – Katie-Rae Ebzery (PL)
19 – Olivia Epoupa (UC)
18 –
17 –
16 – Lindsay Allen (MB), Alice Kunek (SU)
15 – Ezi Magbegor (MB)
14 – Alison Schwagmeyer (PL), Leilani Mitchell (SF), Jessica Kuster (SU)
13 – Abby Bishop (TF)
12 – Colleen Planeta (AD), Darcee Garbin (TF), Marianna Tolo (UC)
11 – Keely Froling (UC), Carley Ernst (BS)
10 – Jenna O’Hea (SF), Sara Blicavs (SF)
9 – Madeleine Garrick (MB)
8 – Bridget Carleton (TF), Tess Madgen (TF), Rebecca Cole (SF)
7 –
6 – Imani McGee-Stafford (PL)
5 – Tahlia Tupaea (SU)
4 – Kelly Wilson (BS), Sophie Cunningham (MB), Ariel Atkins (PL), Tessa Lavey (BS), Nicole Seekamp (AL)
3 – Rebecca Tobin (BS), Lauren Nicholson (AL), Shyla Heal (PL), Mareena Whittle (PL), Alex Wilson (SU)
2 – Crystal Langhorne (AD), Micaela Cocks (TF), Chelsea Brook (AD), Lauren Mansfield (PL), Julie Vanloo (TF), Christina Boag (TF), Maddison Rocci (UC), Nadeen Payne (PL)
1 –  Anneli Maley (SF), Stella Beck (MB), Abigail Wehrung (BS), Kathryn Westbeld (AD), Lauren Scherf (SU), Brittany Smart (SU)

2019/20 WNBL Team of the Week: Round 15

IN a short round of the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL), just four games were played and therefore it made for an even playing field with every player making the team having played one game. Of the individual performers who made the cut, two were from Perth Lynx, Adelaide Lightning and the University of Canberra (UC) Capitals, with one representative from four other sides, as Bendigo Spirit was the only team without a nominee for Round 15.

Perth’s Katie-Rae Ebzery was the easy choice to start as a guard following her terrific 28 points, six rebounds, two assists, three steals and three blocks as the only player across the competition who recorded at least two of each of the five main statistics. She is joined in the side by teammate, Ariel Atkins who picked up a double-double and is on the bench ready to provide support. Meanwhile in the forward half of the court, Adelaide Lightning’s Stephanie Talbot again made the side following a double-double with 16 points, 10 rebounds, six assists, three steals and one block, shooting at 61.5 per cent from the field. Talbot and partner-in-crime, Brianna Turner both impressed despite the Lightning’s loss, and earned spots in the 10-player side. The UC Capitals were the other side with two players on the team, as Kia Nurse and Marianna Tolo both filled out two of the bench spots in the guard and center positions respectively.

Back to the starting side, and the other guard is Southside Flyers’ Leilani Mitchell. She was surprisingly the only Flyer to make the side despite the impressive win, but shone the brightest across the board with 21 points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals, though it is fair to say Rebecca Cole, Sara Blicavs and Mercedes Russell were all unlucky to miss out after being considered. Ezi Magbegor slotted into the starting center position in a round where there were plenty of possible players for the spot, picking up 21 points, five rebounds, two assists and three blocks. Like the Flyers, the Boomers were unlucky not to have another nominee, though both Sophie Cunningham and Sara Blicavs were considered. The final starting spot went to Sydney Uni’s Jessica Kuster following the forward’s 17 points, six rebounds, eight assists, five steals and one block, and an impressive 66.7 per cent shooting efficiency from the field.

Rounding out the bench was UC Capitals’ Marianna Tolo in the center position, and Townsville Fire’s Bridget Carleton who slotted into the bench forward role. Those who were unlucky to miss out and were considered for a spot included UC Capitals’ Maddison Rocci and Kelsey Griffin, Bendigo Spirit’s Shyla Heal and Gabrielle Richards, Townsville Fire’s Darcee Garbin, and Perth Lynx’s Nadeen Payne.

STARTING FIVE:

G: Katie-Rae Ebzery (PL) – 28 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals, 3 blocks, 52.4 FG%
G: Leilani Mitchell (SF) – 21 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, 0 blocks, 57.1 FG%
C: Ezi Magbegor (MB) – 21 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 0 steals, 3 blocks, 60.0 FG%
F: Stephanie Talbot (AL) – 16 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals, 1 block, 61.5 FG%
F: Jessica Kuster (SU) – 17 points, 6 rebounds, 8 assists, 5 steals, 1 block, 66.7 FG%

BENCH:

G: Kia Nurse (UC) – 25 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals, 0 blocks, 45.0 FG%
G: Ariel Atkins (PL) – 16 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists, 0 steals, 0 blocks, 60.0 FG%
C: Marianna Tolo (UC) – 11 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 0 steals, 2 blocks, 44.4 FG%
F: Brianna Turner (AL) – 20 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 4 blocks, 53.3 FG%
F: Bridget Carleton (TF) – 16 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 steals, 0 blocks, 66.7 FG%