Tag: shyla heal

WNBL Free Agency: Ebzery re-signs for another year, Lynx/Fire trade shakes up FA period

FRIDAY was a busy time for the Western Australia-based Perth Lynx, as they made a couple of moves during what was an entertaining end to the second week of Free Agency talks, the latter being a trade with the Townsville Fire.

However, prior to the trade, the Lynx made sure to lock up one of their captains, Australian Opal Katie Ebzery. The club’s current MVP and one of last season’s All-WNBL First Team recipients, Ebzery made her case known last season as one of the league’s most prolific and intelligent forces throughout the competition.

During the 2019/20 season, the 178cm-tall guard cracked the league leaders in points (16.3), assists (4.2) and minutes (33.5) per game, as she paved the way to what was an exemplary season on an individual level.

Despite the Lynx’s 8-13 record last season, falling one spot out of the postseason, the duo of Ebzery and fellow signee in Sami Whitcomb puts Perth’s road to redemption in good stead come Round 1, as the Lynx’s core group of players will bring excitement and success to the West, new Head Coach Ryan Petrik alluded to.

“Katie’s work ethic is phenomenal and her attention to detail is second to none. The pairing of Ebzery and Whitcomb will not only provide fans with some exciting basketball, it sets the standard for our program off the court as well,” Petrik said.

A day later, Perth would complete their second move in a matter of hours as they welcomed home former Townsville forward and two-time WNBL champion, Darcee Garbin, whereas the Fire would also welcome home a local of their own, with Nadeen Payne being the other participant of the transaction.

The trade sees homecomings on both sides, with each player coming off strong 2019/20 seasons.

For Garbin, her past season’s stat line shone a light on her ability to contribute to the scoreboard, averaging 14.4 points per contest, as well as averaging over six rebounds. Garbin’s counterpart in Payne, saw similar totals in points and rebounds averaging 10.2 points and 4.6 boards each time out on the floor, while also accumulating almost a steal per game.

Specifically, for Payne, she joins one of the most impressive pre-season line-ups heading into WNBL20, as she stands alongside a new look Fire squad that will most likely challenge for a title next season, a team she said she looks forward to joining.

“My mum and dad still live in Townsville, it will be great to be back around my family and playing Fire colours again, I am even more excited to learn that this season is the Fire’s 20th season and cannot wait to be a part of the celebrations and back with the local community, I think our team will be one that they will be really excited to get around.”

Garbin’s signing adds to a list containing Lauren Nicholson, Shyla Heal, Mia Murray, Kate Gaze and Zitina Aokuso.

WNBL Free Agency: Nicholson to join Fire and George back in Boom Town

SINCE Tuesday afternoon, the WNBL has had its hands full with big moves in its second week of the Free Agency period. Former Defensive Player of the Year (2018/19) in Lauren Nicholson has joined what is starting to look like a serious contender in the Townsville Fire, while former Perth Lynx star, Sami Whitcomb, is set to return to the west after an overseas stint in France.

In addition, WNBL veterans Cayla George and Brittany Smart have stated their intentions for the upcoming season, with George staying put in “Boom Town” for a third consecutive season and Smart making the move to the nation’s capital to suit up in Paul Gorris’ side.

Nicholson, who has long been praised for her defensive ability, was awarded the Adelaide Lightning’s club Defensive Player of the Year Award this past season adding to what has been a very successful WNBL career to this point.

Following the move Tuesday, Nicholson lines up next to the likes of young guns Zitina Aokuso and Shyla Heal, as well as Mia Murray in Shannon Seebohms bid to bring glory back to the far-north following a sub-par 5-16 record in WNBL20.

At a glance, Nicholson was a productive force for the Lightning last season, as she helped her side to a fourth-place finish after 21 games. She would average a consistent 14.2 points per contest, while earning her keep in the rebounding and steals categories, averaging 3.4 and 1.4 in the respective categories.

In Townsville’s media release, the location of the move and the community love for the team were the critical factors in the 27-year-old’s decision, “I am so excited about the move to Townsville and joining the Fire next season, every time I come to Townsville, I love the community feeling, the crowd and its supporters are certainly the loudest and most passionate in the league. I can’t wait to get the feeling of playing at the stadium, with them supporting me, wearing the Fire colours, it will be awesome to be a part of,” said Nicholson.

Out by the Indian Ocean, the Perth Lynx have initiated their announcements regarding next season’s signees, as Whitcomb will don the red and black for the first time since the 2017/18 campaign.

Following a WNBA championship with the Seattle Storm and two seasons with French powerhouse, Basket Lattes, Whitcomb brings an abundance of success and experience to newly signed head coach, Ryan Petrik’s side.

Whitcomb averages over 20 points per game to this point in her WNBL career, as the backcourt prospect will prove to be a handful for opposing sides with the goal of helping the Lynx return to the postseason.

Down in Victoria, the Melbourne Boomers announced that co-captain George (next to Maddie Garrick) would be staying at the club for another year, as the 31-year-old WNBL Hall of Fame inductee will be a part of Guy Molloy’s 2020/21 squad.

Completing her WNBL20 season with averages of 14.3 points, 8.5 rebounds and four assists per game, George continues to ride a string of successful seasons in the Purple and Gold as the Boomers can look to both their team leaders for next season’s affairs.

Looking to the nation’s capital, where Gorris has added some more experience to the defending champs, as Smart has signed on for a one-year contract in the ACT, according to the club.

Coming off a minimised season (seven games), Smart would still maintain almost 10 points per game in the games she would participate in, indicating there is more to be offered by the 35-year-old.

Smart enters her sixth season in the WNBL and will look to be a guiding force for the Caps, as they look to make history and win three consecutive championships for the first time since the Adelaide Lightning dynasty of 1994-96 led by Rachael Sporn.

Draft Central can also confirm that the following Canberra signings during the Free Agency period have all agreed to one-year contracts for the 2020/21 season, per the Capitals administration.

Marianna Tolo, Kelsey Griffin, Keely Froling, Maddison Rocci, Abby Cubillo, Alex Delaney and Tahlia Tupaea.

WNBL Free Agency: Garrick re-signs as McLean joins Spirit

MELBOURNE Boomers have re-signed Maddie Garrick as Bendigo Spirit announced a new recruit in the two moves over the past 24 hours in the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) Free Agency Period. The two moves followed from a big first few days of Free Agency which saw a number of players re-signed and a couple – Shyla Heal and Tahlia Tupaea – join new clubs.

The sole signing to the WNBL on Friday was Bendigo Spirit bringing in recently-turned 21-year-old Cassidy McLean, a former young star at the club. The 178cm forward had signed on to play with Bendigo Braves in the NBL1 competition, but that was scrapped due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite the disappointment of not playing in what was effectively the WNBL off-season, McLean has had extra time to recover from an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear she suffered in March, 2019. Talking to the NBL1 website about her move to the Braves and subsequent Spirit, McLean said she had learnt a lot living with star basketballer, Tessa Lavey.

“I was living with Tessa when I came back to Bendigo for the NBL1, but it only ended up being about three weeks,” she said. said. “That was the first time I had met Tessa and we got to know each other. She is a great person, not just a wonderful basketballer. “It will be great getting to learn from her because she has experienced so much and gone to the Olympics and played at World Cups. They are all things I’d like to do in the future.”

Last year McLean had represented Newcastle Hunters in the Waratah Basketball League after heading north at the conclusion of the 2018/19 WNBL season. Whilst the season did not go to plan, the talented youngster has had plenty of time off to gain strength in her knee and be ready and raring to go for WNBL21.

Garrick was the sole re-signing on Friday, with the 179cm guard putting pen to paper for the Boomers. She averaged 11.2 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.8 steals representing the Boomers in the 2019/20 WNBL season, playing all 23 games in a remarkable run of form.

WNBL Free Agency: Heal and Tupaea become first to switch teams

TALENTED teenager Shyla Heal became the first Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) player to switch allegiances for the 2021 WNBL season. Amongst a high number of re-signings for the University of Canberra Capitals – six players re-signed to the reigning premiers – Heal moved from Bendigo Spirit to the Sunshine State to take a chance with Townsville Fire.

Speaking to Heal last week, the 18-year-old has the intention of nominating for next year’s WNBA Draft, and she is determined to have a strong season with the Fire alongside another talented youngster in Zitina Aokuso. In a breaking announcement today, Sydney Uni Flames point guard Tahlia Tupaea has also headed inland and signed on with the Capitals. The talented 23-year-old who has had her fair share of bad luck through injuries since debuting at the age of 15 – the second youngest in WNBL history – will look to have a clean run in the nation’s capital.

The other big talking point was Alanna Smith returning to Australia from College to line-up with Adelaide Lightning next season. She was drafted in the first round – eighth overall pick – in last year’s WNBA Draft to go to the Phoenix Mercury after graduating through Stanford.

Given the likelihood of Brianna Turner‘s unavailability – due to the league not having imports – the power forward position is Smith’s for the taking. It allows her to team up with Lauren Nicholson and Steph Talbot in the City of Churches to try and bring Adelaide a title after being on the verge of being a contender the last couple of seasons.

The Spirit might have lost Heal over the Free Agency Period, but have re-signed Demi Skinner and Tessa Lavey, whilst Jenna O’Hea put pen to paper for another season with Southside Flyers. The Capitals re-signed six players in a spree early in the period, with Maddison Rocci, Abby Cubillo, Alex Delaney and Keely Froling joining Kelsey Griffin and Marianna Tolo in the capital to try and mount a title defence.

Three players have also announced their retirement from the league with Adelaide’s Nat Hurst, Bendigo’s Gabe Richards and Sydney Uni’s Sarah Graham calling it a day.

Young Guns in the WNBL: Shyla Heal

COMING off a stellar season with the Bendigo Spirit, Shyla Heal continues to drive home the message that “age is just a number”, with the 18-year-old developing into one of the Womens National Basketball League’s (WNBL) top guards and currently sits as one of the league’s biggest unsigned prospects.

As Heal’s contract with the Spirit would wind down following the conclusion of the 2019/20 season, Bendigo have at this stage tendered an extension, but it would seem that the NSW-born star is keen to test the waters of free-agency and find a more consistent role in a starting point-guard position.

In the past, Heal has openly stated her intentions to participate in next year’s WNBA draft, her development is key if she is to give herself the best chance of success but is still keen to make a championship push wherever she lands.

“Any team I play on I always want to win, I’m a competitor. Any season I go into I want to win a championship, so that’s definitely the main thing,” Heal explained. “But development is really important to me considering I’m still young and the draft is coming up. So, in summary, first, win a championship, second, get better every day.”

Following a fragmented and injury-prone second season with the Perth Lynx in 2018/19, the move to Bendigo was a suitable one, as Heal would land herself in a team that would give her a good number of minutes, thus allowing her to develop at a tremendous rate and aid her side in numerous facets of their games.

“She plays both ends of the floor really well,” Spirit Head Coach Tracy York said. “She’s a great defender and loves to defend end-line to end-line which is fantastic and not seen from a lot of guards these days, but she’s great sticking to someone like glue,” she added.

Not only does Heal’s defensive ability stand out to York, but her ability to put numbers on the scoreboard has proved beneficial on various occasions too, with York noting Heal’s scoring prowess and ability to take on defenders.

Heal’s progression throughout the season would be evident in her 21 games from last season. She averaged 9.8 points, three rebounds and 1.2 assists per game through her first 10 contests of the season. But, from Bendigo’s first matchup with the Townsville Fire all the way to the conclusion of the season, Heal’s averages increased to 14.2 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game, including a 30-point demolition job of her old side Perth late in the season.

While Heal’s statistics would rise over her campaign, her minutes did too. Participating in 22.7 minutes per game over the first half of the season, York would continue to increase Heal’s workload, increasing her minutes per game to 27 by the end of Round 16.

Heal’s season stat line finished with 12.1 points per outing, along with 4.1 and 1.6 being the averages for her rebounding and assist categories, while shooting at a 43.8 per cent clip from the field.

As numbers would go up, the main takeaway from last season for Heal was the experience she gained each time out and going up against a high level of competition on a more consistent basis.

“Just gaining more experience against veterans like Leilani Mitchell [for example], picking up things from her game and adding it to mine,” Heal said . “Little things like that, I think were really big for me this season, especially playing behind Tessa Lavey and learning little things from her,” Heal followed up with.

However, Heal would finish the season feeling she had a lot more to offer, after the Sapphire-selectee would play a lot of the time at the shooting-guard position, as opposed to her regular point-guard spot. The Spirit finished the season equal last with the Townsville Fire, resulting in a five win and 16 loss campaign.

“This season kind of left me hungry,” Heal said. “I didn’t really play the one [point-guard] spot much, which is my usual position. So, I didn’t really get to show the league what I could actually do playing my proper position.”

Heal developed a close relationship with Lavey both on and off the floor at Bendigo, with the two being flatmates. Lavey earned herself an Opals selection to this year’s Olympic Games, with Heal lapping up all the wisdom she can from the basketball veteran.

“For me it was obviously a great friendship,” Lavey said. “I like to think she can message me at any time and ask questions and I’m always happy to help Shyla out because she’s a really good person,” she added.

Taking on a mentoring role for Heal, Lavey was able to feed off the youngster’s energy in-game, creating what was a two-way street for helping each other’s games.

“Strictly on the court, Shyla is a competitor,” included Lavey. “We fed off each other very well,” she said.

“Shyla in some games struggled a lot just to get into the game and she was really worried about that, so the things I would say to her were ‘focus on the next thing’, or if she’s not scoring I’d say ‘you can always be doing something else’,” the 27-year-old said, ultimately summarising what would blossom into a formidable partnership for the blue and yellow.

What is Heal focusing on now? For now, the 18-year-old has set various goals for herself, bearing in mind the new restrictions COVID-19 have put in place.

“At the start of Corona I said I’m going to focus on building heaps of muscle and getting stronger through stair running, weights in my garage and all that stuff,” Heal said.

This training regiment and structure would transfer to cardio with her father [Shane], on playing fields such as ovals, for around two to two and a half hours per session, roughly six times a week, as Heal prepares to market herself to possible teams during the offseason.

But for now, in terms of decisions, all Heal can do is wait, as the rest of the league and WNBL fans await an announcement for when the Free Agency period will open.

Draft Central’s Top 10 2019/20 WNBL memorable moments: #9 – Bendigo breaks road drought

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 nine, an upset in the final round of the season that meant a lot to the competition’s last placed side.

#9 Bendigo Spirit breaks road drought with win over Townsville Fire

It took until the final round of the year, but Bendigo Spirit finished the 2019/20 WNBL season on a high with a victory against Townsville Fire. Up until that point, Bendigo had not won a road trip all season, and indeed the last victory when travelling was November 18, 2018 when the Spirit triumphed over 2018/19 WNBL wooden spooners, Sydney Uni. That day the team was different, with Natalie Hurst and Rebecca Tobin combining for 11 points each in a low-scoring team effort during the 67-55 victory. This season, Hurst had moved on and Tobin only managed the seven games. Instead it was Carley Ernst leading the way with the forward picking up a double double in the Spirit’s win over Townsville Fire on February 1, some 441 days later.

Ernst led all the major statistical areas, picking up team-highs in points (26), rebounds (10), assists (seven) and steals (two) to spur her team onto victory. Tessa Lavey picked up an equal team-high seven assists to go with 21 points and four rebounds, while former Perth Lynx young gun, Shyla Heal had 14 points, five rebounds and five assists in the win. To show just how much the Spirit had changed in that 15-month period, Abigail Wehrung was the only player to be on court for both away wins. In 2018, she had nine points, three rebounds, three assists and two blocks, while in the most recent victory, she had five points, five rebounds, two assists and one block, but was far more accurate with her field goal percentage. Whilst in the scheme of the season, Bendigo still finished on the bottom of he table and Townsville escaped the wooden spoon, it was a nice way for the Spirit to finish off the season. Credit has to be given to Christina Boag in the loss though, with the Fire talent picking up 22 points, 15 rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks in a clear standout performance for her side. Both teams will be looking to rise up the ladder in the 2020/21 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

2019/20 WNBL season review: Perth Lynx

PERTH Lynx had a relatively disappointing 2019/20 season in the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL). Despite having plenty of talent and opportunity to take control of the season they seemed to be missing a piece to change the game when required.

Ladder: 5th
Win-loss:
8-13

From 13-8 to 8-13, Perth did not qualify for playoffs for the first time since they changed the team name back to Perth Lynx. Bringing in the dynamic duo from Bendigo was a highlight, as Nadeen Payne came off an impressive 10.2 points, 4.6 rebounds season, while Marena Whittle, one of the league’s most promising up and comers soon to enter prime, put up 10.3 points and 4.8 rebounds. Payne and Whittle did not need a couple games to settle in to the team like some newcomers might have needed, instead they played aggressively from the opening tip, feeding to one another through the classic pick and roll. Perth made some great additions before the season, expanding their depth on an international scale, finding Americans, Imani McGee-Stafford and Ariel Atkins. Both proved to be solid pickups, as the pair averaged over 10 points a game for the season. Lynx’s core grew exponentially, signing three local Lynx Academy players to the roster, with Jewell Williams, Nes’eya Williams and Taylah Burrows. However even with all the new and exciting recruits, the loss of Shyla Heal who left for Bendigo to become their leading scorer, was just the type of player the Lynx could have used down the stretch to reach the playoffs. This season also brought an end to coach, Andy Stewart‘s contract with the veteran still unsure what next season brings.

The Lynx assembled a deep line-up this year, having a whopping six players who averaged more than 10 points a game – almost seven with Laura Mansfield scoring 9.6 points per game while leading the team in assists with 4.5. This depth was cemented with Alison Schwagmeyer-Belger winning the Sixth Woman of the Year Award. A literal celebration of having the best player on the bench compared to every other team. However with such depth but a lack of success, the Lynx clearly lacked that superstar player. The type of player who comes up big in the fourth, who gets you a bucket when you desperately need one, who when entering the game, the entire atmosphere changes. Katie Ebzery is the closest player they have to that description, leading the team in points with 16.3 and receiving WNBL All-Star First Team honours for the season. Even though Ebzery was seventh in the league for scoring, fans might look at Maddison Allen, as a player for the future, having led the team in blocks this season with 1.8, as a glimpse into the distant future. 

With players like Kelsey Griffin dominating the league, Perth becomes more and more dependent on Mcgee-Stafford making the leap from vital second or third option to MVP contender. McGee-Stafford pulled down more boards than anyone on the team with 8.4 per match while nearly putting the most points on the scoreboard with 15.3. The Lynx are also keeping a close eye on Atkins’ development. Formally named in the WNBA Rookie Team and WNBA All-Defensive Second Team, the Lynx have a high bar for Atkins to reach next season. Atkins led the charge on defence all year, achieving the most steals a game with 1.9. But maybe the dark horse contender to lead Perth back into the playoffs is Williams. Williams made the most of every opportunity she was given, playing 20 out of 21 games, shooting the lights out with a 51.7 field goal percentage along with a 45.5 three point percentage. With the sport becoming more three point reliant, and given that young Williams leads her team in both categories at only 19, do not be surprised if every other team in the league try and steal her. But with so much room to improve, hopefully Lynx can rack up more than eight wins next season. 

2019/20 WNBL season review: Bendigo Spirit

IT was a case of new faces, same story, for the Bendigo Spirit during the 2019/20 Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) season, with the side fortunate to not finish on the bottom of the ladder after having a few bumps along the way.

Ladder: 7th
Win-loss: 5-16

This season for Spirit was categorised by fresh faces. Recruiting so many players, it was almost a completely new line-up from last year. To go with this brand new roster, the Spirit brought in a brand new coach in Tracey York. But with new faces came the issue of key old names missing, such as 2018/19 leading scorer, Nadeen Payne who left to join the Perth Lynx, along with Marena Whittle. The Lightning acquired Natalie Hurst while the Flyers grabbed Louella Tomlinson, and Jessie Rennie left for the USA. Nevertheless, Spirit was able to bring in Tessa Lavey and Carley Ernst from Dandenong Rangers, Shyla Heal from Perth and Kelly Wilson from Canberra. The Spirit also picked up Kasey Burton from Melbourne, and Marte Grays from the USA as their final piece for what was a chaotic offseason. Yet with so many fresh faces came very little team chemistry as the Spirit finished second last, again. But even with such an uncharted roster, a winning culture would surely be set as long as the team was captained by Wilson, or so was thought. Fresh off winning the NBL1 MVP for the Bendigo Braves, putting together 19.3 points, 10.5 assists, 6.4 rebounds and 2.0 steals a game, the Spirit were optimistic about their chances. But their dysfunction went far beyond a lack of common bond among players.

Rebecca Tobin, Spirit’s best player from last season, looked to have taken her game to the next level when playing in the NBL1, averaging 16.3 points, 12.8 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.6 blocks per game from 15 matches. However misfortune would follow as Tobin was sidelined after a knock to the head during a training session right before the season. Playing just a third of the season, Tobin would only average 8.3 points a game. This would be a massive factor for what was certainly a derailed season. Placing in the bottom two in both steals and blocks per game, while also being second in turnovers, the Spirit simply struggled defensively. The side’s concentration on bringing in new players this season instead of building up last season’s combinations ultimately proved to be their downfall, with the changes on court falling short from expectations.

The Spirit had a very tough schedule to begin the season, playing seven teams that would make the playoff across their first eight games. It was not exactly the fairytale story Gabe Richards wanted to end her career on. A two-time champion who wore the Bendigo Spirit uniform for almost every season the Spirit has been alive in the WNBL, her presence will be sorely missed. However the torch may be in the hands of new recruit, Shyla Heal, who by all standards had a breakout season. Daughter of Australian basketball legend, Shane Heal, Shyla was expected to be a key contributor from the jump, learning from the more experienced players, her role was initially about being the spot up shooter in the offence. But at only 18 years of age, she put the league on notice and led her team in points per game with 12.1. Definitely a player to follow, who will not only be the Spirit’s franchise player, but maybe one day the face of the league.

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)