Tag: sophie cunningham

2019/20 WNBL Round 15 preview: Capitals and Lightning look to make charge

IT is now or never for the two sides just outside the top two positions on the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) ladder with the University of Canberra (UC) Capitals and Adelaide Lightning needing victories if they are to force their way into the favourable finals spots. The season might be over for four teams, but pride is still on the line, and they can still impact the finals series with some upsets in the penultimate round of action.

UC CAPITALS vs. PERTH LYNX
Wednesday, January 22, 7pm
National Convention Centre

The standalone Wednesday night fixture is the re-scheduled Round 12 game between University of Canberra (UC Capitals) and Perth Lynx, which was delayed due to the recent heavy smoke plaguing the nation’s capital three weeks ago. With just two rounds to go, the WNBL deemed it was the right time and safe enough with the forecasted weather, for the game to go ahead. With Perth already scheduled for a Friday night game, the match had to be at least a couple of days earlier hence the Wednesday night time slot. This game will really add an extra element to the WNBL Round 15, with the Capitals able to put pressure on the top two sides. While the points differential means they cannot overtake the Boomers on one win alone, it moves them to within one victory of overtaking them. A loss however, and they could slip to fourth with an upset win for the Adelaide Lightning over Southside Flyers. So far this season the Capitals are 7-1 at home with only the Flyers having found the key to victory, and are coming off two vital wins over the Boomers and Flyers in Round 14. For the Lynx, the season might be over with a three and a half gap deficit to the Lightning, but they are the best of the rest and are the leading side to finish fifth on the table. In the two clashes thus far, the Capitals have got up by comfortable margins of 18 and 17 points in November and December respectively. Kia Nurse is coming off a 33-point game against the Flyers and now averages 20.8 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game, while Marianna Tolo has stepped up in the absence of teammates with 14.2 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game in the center, while Maddison Rocci benefited from a step-up in time and role to post 19 points in the Capitals’ win in Round 14. Perth will hope to take greater advantage of a Capitals side missing Kelsey Griffin and Keely Froling, with Katie-Rae Ebzery ever-consistent this season, posting 15.7 points, 4.7 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 1.4 steals per game. Nadeen Payne (10.3 points, 4.1 rebounds) and Lauren Mansfield (9.9 points, 3.4 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.8 steals) are the other two Lynx players who have started every match and will be crucial in the match.

BENDIGO SPIRIT vs. PERTH LYNX
Friday, January 24, 7pm
Bendigo Stadium

Backing up from Wednesday night’s game, Perth travels south to meet Bendigo Spirit on Friday night. The Lynx will have a huge chance of collecting a win over the bottom placed side, even though they have struggled on the road with a 2-5 record that could be 2-6 by the game’s tipoff. Bendigo have been much stronger at home than away, winning four of 10 at home whilst not winning a game while visiting. The teams have played twice this season and the last time they met in Bendigo, the Spirit got up by 12 points in a great win. Perth sought revenge in the Round 13 match however, knocking over Bendigo by 19 points in Perth. Neither of these sides can make finals, but a win for the Spirit would move them closer to the Fire with the bottom two sides facing off in the last round, while the Lynx can gain some separation on the bottom three sides. Bendigo has just the two players who are averaging double-figure points with Carley Ernst and Abigail Wehrung recording 12 and 10.9 points per game respectively. Ernst also averages 6.6 rebounds per game, while Wehrung has been an inspiration coming off the bench. The Spirit have had just two players start every game, with Tessa Lavey (9.4 points, 3.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists) and Kelly Wilson (8.9 points, 4.2 rebounds, 6.1 assists and 1.4 steals) providing the best playmaking abilities in the team. For the Lynx, they would love to have Imani McGee-Stafford and Ariel Atkins both up and firing in the one team, with the American duo providing great support of the boards; McGee-Stafford leading the team with 8.4 rebounds per game.

TOWNSVILLE FIRE vs. MELBOURNE BOOMERS
Saturday January 25, 6pm
Townsville Stadium

Tipping off the Saturday night proceedings, seventh placed Townsville Fire host top two side, Melbourne Boomers in a bid to desperately improve from last round. The Fire were well beaten in both their matches and it does not get any easier here against a genuine title contender. At home the Fire are 3-5, while the Boomers are strong on the road with a 7-3 record and not afraid of winning in front of a hostile environment. On the two occasions the teams have faced off this season, Melbourne got up on both occasions, defeating Townsville by nine points back on October 27, and 16 points two months later. The Fire have missed Abby Bishop since she was mutually released from her contract, with the consistent performer averaging 15.9 points, 7.6 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 2.1 steals per game from 14 games prior to her departure. In her absence, Darcee Garbin (14.5 points, 6.3 rebounds) and Tess Madgen (12.5 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.7 assists) have carried the load, while Bridget Carleton gets around the court and provides great offensive and defensive plays for the Fire. The Boomers have been steadily building over the season with lots of depth coming off the pine, and this game is a chance to try and gain some separation on the Capitals after the Boomers went down to the reigning premiers last week. A win would also move them closer to Southside setting up an unlikely charge for top spot if results go their way. Sophie Cunningham has been impressive of late, averaging 11.4 points and 3.7 rebounds per game, while the towering duo of Cayla George and Ezi Magbegor – who combine for 26.8 points and 14.8 rebounds – will also be a handful for the Fire in this game.

SOUTHSIDE FLYERS vs. ADELAIDE LIGHTNING
Saturday, January 25, 7pm
Dandenong Stadium

The other Saturday night game might be the most touted of the round, with a top four clash on offer and a result that will directly affect the finals make-up. If the Southside Flyers can get up over the Adelaide Lightning, expect the league’s newest rebranded side to take the minor premiership given the two-game gap on the second placed Boomers. At the same time, the Lightning will be almost certainly resigned to fourth spot, and meet the Flyers in the first week of finals, which could well happen anyway. However if the Lightning get up, then it opens the door for all top four sides, with the Lightning keeping the pressure on the third placed Capitals, while the Boomers could be knocking on the door of top spot with the Flyers potentially slipping up. These sides have played twice – both in Adelaide – with the Flyers getting up on December 1 by six points, before the Lightning returned the favour in Round 12 with an 11-point victory in front of home fans to all but lock up a top four spot. Now out at Dandenong, the Flyers are a difficult team to beat, having only lost to the Capitals twice and Sydney Uni once at home. The Lightning are 50 per cent on the road with four wins from eight games, but will have gained confidence from the big win last round. Mercedes Russell has been a star all season for the Flyers, pumping out numbers of 16.7 points and 10.2 rebounds per game in the center position, well aided by the likes of Rebecca Cole (16.6 points, 3.3 rebounds and 3.8 assists) and Leilani Mitchell (16.0 points, 3.3 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 1.4 steals), while Sara Blicavs has been the side’s top player in the last few weeks. For the visitors, Brianna Turner and Stephanie Talbot continue to create headaches for the opposition, combining for 31 points, 18.5 rebounds and three blocks per game. Lauren Nicholson has also been a consistent contributor for the Lightning, as has Nicole Seekamp who has stepped up in the past month.

UC CAPITALS vs. SYDNEY UNI FLAMES
Sunday, January 26, 5pm
National Convention Centre

Depending on Wednesday and Saturday nights’ results, the UC Capitals could be battling for second spot with a win here against the Sydney Uni Flames. The Capitals need to defeat Perth Lynx and for Townsville to upset Melbourne, which granted is unlikely based on the Fire’s recent form and the Boomers’ ability to get the job done. However if it happens then it opens the door for the Capitals to access second spot with a win, and depending on the other Saturday night encounter between the Flyers and Lightning, might even give the reigning premiers a sniff at top spot. If the Lightning and Fire win, the Capitals could move to within one game of top spot, sitting pretty in second on the WNBL table. However, back-to-back losses this round would see the Capitals drop back below the Lightning in fourth spot. They are 7-1 on the table at home, while the Flames are 3-6 when on the road so they will need to defy the recent season history to cause an upset. The Flames are a much improved side on last year’s wooden spoon effort with Sydney Uni looking safe from that fate again in 2019/20. These teams have played twice this season, with the Flames causing a boilover back on October 27 with a six-point win over the Capitals, before UC clicked into gear a week later with a smashing 25-point victory. Olivia Epoupa is a versatile player who defies her 165cm height to be a real influence off the boards with 8.1 rebounds per game to accompany her 6.7 assists and 3.2 steals in a truly impressive effort. Along with Alex Delaney – who got her first start – and other youngsters in Gemma Potter and Abby Cubillo – who are getting vital time off the bench – the Capitals have plenty of depth to fill in for the injured Griffin and Froling. The Flames have had some strong contributors themselves this season, with Alice Kunek (18.9 points, 4.9 rebounds and 3.0 assists) leading the way, while Jessica Kuster (12.1 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.1 steals) and Alex Wilson (11.2 points, 5.1 assists and 3.4 rebounds) have been strong, Lauren Scherf is also building some nice form of late and will be hard to stop in the center.

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

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

UC Capitals (76) defeated Melbourne Boomers (75)

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

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

Adelaide Lightning (77) defeated Townsville Fire (60)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Perth Lynx (95) defeated Townsville Fire (62)

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

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

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

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

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

DC Medal Leaderboard:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WNBL Round 13 review: Flyers edge out Boomers in OT, Fire rout Caps

WITH the season coming to a close and only three rounds now remaining, the top four is close to being decided as the Lynx need an unbeaten run for even the slightest chance of a playoff spot, for which they took the first step in doing so, toppling Bendigo. Meanwhile, the Townsville Fire may have showed precursor signs of what is to come next season, as they walloped an abysmal Capitals outfit by a whopping 33 points in the round’s shock result. Meanwhile the Flyers edged out the Boomers in a nail-biting game of the round that ended in overtime.

Adelaide Lightning (69) defeated by Melbourne Boomers (74)

The round kicked off in South Australia for what was the most important game of the season prior to tip-off for the Lightning. A win for Adelaide would have tied them for second on the standings with their opponents, the Boomers. As both sides matched each other on the scoreboard through the first quarter, neither team managed to gain a considerable edge on one another. But it was the Melbourne side that produced the game’s first sizeable lead, outscoring Adelaide by nine heading points into half-time. The Lightning would answer back however with a late scoring charge in the final quarter, bidding to upset one of this season’s title contenders. With a 21-14 final period by Adelaide thanks to efficient scoring from the field (40.6 per cent), it took astonishing three-point accuracy for the Boomers to hold off the home-side. Melbourne outplayed the Lightning from behind the arc, shooting a total of nine three-pointers compared to Adelaide’s mere two, which would lead to a close five-point win, creating more wiggle room for Melbourne in the top-four as a result. Sophie Cunningham came up big for the Boomers, knocking down four of their shots from deep and finishing with 18 points, as well as five rebounds. While Cayla George led the side with 14 points, seven rebounds and seven assists, it was further compounded by Ezi Magbegor’s 14 points and eight rebounds adding more depth to the visitors’ scoring efforts. For the Lightning, player of the game honours went to Brianna Turner who ended her game with a solid double-double (23 points and 11 rebounds) and four blocks, while Nicole Seekamp obtained her own with 11 points and 11 assists. Adelaide’s defeat ended their four-game winning streak leaving them in the top four, while the Boomers put themselves within arm’s reach of the league-leading Southside Flyers who they would matchup with on Sunday night.

DC Medal: 3 – Brianna Turner (AD), 2 – Sophie Cunningham (MB), 1 – Ezi Magbegor (MB)

Townsville Fire (102) defeated UC Capitals (69)

The shock of the weekend took place in Queensland’s far-north as the seventh-placed Townsville Fire blew the third-placed Capitals out of the water. The Fire outscored the Canberra side in three out of four quarters, including a crushing final period outscoring the Caps 34-14. With the Fire winning in all facets of the game, it came with no surprise that Townsville ran away with the contest early on. The lone saving grace for the away team was their consistency from the free-throw line shooting 18 of 20 (90 per cent). It was an all-around effort from Townsville, as six players would finish with double digits, most notably from Tess Madgen who totalled 26 points. The Fire also recorded a duo of double doubles from Julie Vanloo (16 points and 10 assists) and Bridget Carleton (13 points and 11 rebounds) as they were the main perpetrators in the dismantling of the Capitals. Both Marianna Tolo and Kia Nurse squeezed out 17 points for UC, while Keely Froling recorded a double-double of her own with 15 points and 10 boards. The Fire, who are out of finals contention, are showing promising signs for the upcoming season as a result of Friday night’s performance earning their fourth victory of the season in the process, whereas the Capitals who are sitting pretty in third, need to re-adjust leading into the postseason after such a dismal performance.

DC Medal: 3 – Tess Madgen (TF), 2 – Julie Vanloo (TF), 1 – Keely Froling (UC)

Sydney Uni Flames (76) defeated by Townsville Fire (83)

With the Fire hot off the back of their best performance so far this season, there was a considerable amount of momentum as they travelled down to Sydney to take on the sixth placed Flames. With both teams out of the finals race, it was a battle of pride, as both sides were keen on finishing their seasons on a good note. The “Battle of the Inferno” started off with high-paced offensive and little defensive success, as both sides cracked the 20-point mark by the end of the first period. However, due to a lacklustre 14-point second quarter by the Fire, Sydney Uni held a double-digit lead heading into the main break. But once again, the scoring depth that was on display two days earlier by Townsville came to fruition as a strong second half was enough to rally the Fire to a hard fought seven-point victory in New South Wales. With 14 successful three-point attempts from the Fire compared to the Flames’ four, it was enough to offset the damage Sydney had caused with their points in the paint (48-28). This coupled with five Townsville players reaching double-digits, it was difficult for the Flames to alter their game plan which had been successful throughout the opening two quarters. The Fire’s leading scorer on this occasion was Darcee Garbin who accumulated 18 solid points as well as four three-pointers for good measure. Carleton rounded out a successful weekend one rebound short of another double-double with 15 points and nine rebounds. The Flames’ key contributor was their marquee forward in Alice Kunek, who piled it on to finish with 30 points, going seven from seven from the free-throw line. As Townsville went back-to-back during the round and the Flames lost their third game on the trot, the Fire sit a single game back on the Sydney-side in the standings, as both sides look to finish with a respectable fifth-placed finish.

DC Medal: 3 – Darcee Garbin (TF), 2 – Alice Kunek (SF), 1 – Bridget Carleton (TF)

Perth Lynx (100) defeated Bendigo Spirit (81)

The Perth Lynx have taken the first step of their monumental task of stealing a postseason berth, with a convincing 19-point drubbing of the bottom-of-the-table Spirit. The Lynx would set the tone early with a 32-point first quarter and would not be outscored in any quarter following that. It was matter of capitalisation throughout the contest, as it was Perth that dominated the inside game with 32 of their points coming from around the basket. They were also big on turnover points racking up 17 compared to Bendigo’s 12 and conclusively, they ran the Spirit off the floor taking the fast-break points category 11-2. For the Lynx, both Mareena Whittle and Nadeen Paine secured 19 points each with both of them combining for six three-pointers, as Katie Ebzery produced a solid night with 11 points, six rebounds and six assists. For the Spirit, Shyla Heal shot the lights out, tallying 30 points for her struggling side along with six rebounds, whilst Carly Ernst left the arena with 11 points and 10 rebounds. The victory for the Lynx keeps their season hopes alive a week longer, as the Lightning’s loss to Melbourne leaves Perth 3.5 games out of fourth position with five games remaining over the next three weeks. With Adelaide only needing two wins to secure a finals position, the top four might be decided by the end of next round.

DC Medal: 3 – Shyla Heal (BS), 2 – Mareena Whittle (PL), 1 – Katie-Rae Ebzery (PL)

Melbourne Boomers (73) defeated by Southside Flyers (75)

Fans who were able to make it the State Basketball Centre in Melbourne were treated to a possible preview of this season’s Grand Final series as it was first versus second to round out Round 13. For most of the game, it seemed that the home side held a relatively tight grip on the game through three quarters winning each of them by four, one and one points. But a desperate Flyers side came out of their shell, to string together a last minute comeback to force the match into overtime, thanks to four consecutive free-throws in the final minute from Rebecca Cole and Leilani Mitchell. But in extra time, it fell once again to Mitchell to knock down free throws in the clutch with 39 seconds left, to which she rose to the occasion knocking them down and putting the game out of reach, resulting in the two-point nail-biter and 21 points along with it on the night. Jenna O’Hea closed out her night with 19 points and Mercedes Russell honed in on the boards, collecting another double-double to her collection this campaign (18 points and 11 rebounds). Magbegor dominated throughout the 45 minutes of basketball, with 24 points and 12 rebounds despite her team’s crushing defeat. The win by the Flyers prevented the Boomers from tying them in first position on the ladder. Instead the deficit for Melbourne fell back to two games and their winning streak ends at four for the second seeded team.

DC Medal: 3 – Leilani Mitchell (SF), 2 – Mercedes Russell (SF), 1 – Ezi Magbegor (MB)

DC Medal Leaderboard:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WNBL Round 9 review: Southside flies further ahead

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

Southside Flyers (81) defeated Townsville Fire (62)

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

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

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

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

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

Adelaide Lightning (91) defeated Bendigo Spirit (75)

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

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

Perth Lynx (68) defeated Melbourne Boomers (66)

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

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

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

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

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

DC Medal Leaderboard:

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

WNBL Round 8 review: Southside edges out Boomers in top-of-the-table clash

THE top-of-the-table Southside Flyers put distance between themselves and the second seeded Boomers, after edging out Melbourne by seven points in Dandenong, extending their winning streak to four. In terms of streaks, the Capitals increased their winning streak to six and Townsville snapped their losing streak of three games without captain Micaela Cocks, while losses by Perth and Bendigo lengthened their losing streaks to four and six.

Bendigo Spirit (66) defeated by UC Capitals (91)

The opening game of Round 8 saw the WNBL’s most and least in-form teams go head to head in Ballarat, as the Spirit were sporting a four-game losing streak and the Capitals stringing together five consecutive victories prior to Friday’s encounter. From the outset however, it was the Capitals that controlled the game, leading at every break and dominating in all facets of the game. UC took control on the boards as well, earning 10 more total rebounds compared to the Spirit which then transferred to a good scoring output from their starting five. Most impressively, scoring came from Kia Nurse who scored numbers in bunches, finishing with 32 points whilst shooting 7-10 from three-point range. She was assisted by Kelsey Griffin who put a double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds, alongside Marianna Tolo and her 16 points. For the struggling Spirit, only three players managed to crack double digits with Tessa Lavey (17), Shyla Heal (15) and Gabrielle Richards (14) combining for most of Bendigo’s scoring. Nevertheless, the Capitals ran away with the game by 25 points extending their winning streak to six games hot on the heels of the Melbourne Boomers who sit second in the standings. Another loss was added to Bendigo’s record extending their streak to five with their next contest to come a couple days later against the Townsville Fire.

DC Medal: 3 – Kia Nurse (UC), 2 – Kelsey Griffin (UC), 1 – Olivia Epoupa (UC)

Adelaide Lightning (79) defeated Perth Lynx (69)

After suffering back-to-back losses for the first time this season, the Adelaide Lighting were looking to reclaim the title of victor against the Perth Lynx who were in the midst of a similar situation. Both clubs fought hard in what was a battle of strengths and weaknesses as Adelaide punished Lynx inside the key and Perth showed off their prowess from the perimeter. In the end it was the consistency of baskets from close range that won out as Brianna Turner compiled 24 points, 13 rebounds, five steals and five blocks as she put on her best performance of the season so far. With the help of Lauren Nicholson and her 21 points, the Lightning were able to pull away from Perth and earn the first victory of their double-header weekend, while also handing the Lynx their third consecutive loss. Performances worth noting from Perth entailed Imani McGee-Stafford’s double-double (14 points and 11 assists) as well as Katie Ebzery’s respectable 18-point performance where she shot 70 per cent from the field.

DC Medal: 3 – Stephanie Talbot (AL), 2 – Lauren Nicholson (AL), 1 – Nicole Seekamp (AL)

Southside Flyers (89) defeated Melbourne Boomers (82)

The Round 8 game of the week took place in Melbourne’s South-East as the league’s top teams did battle at Dandenong Stadium. Both the Southside Flyers and the Melbourne Boomers were enjoying sizeable winning streaks leading into their Saturday night clash, with both teams knowing that one of them had to end. Both sides shot the ball well and when shots did not fall, both the Flyers and Boomers were there to grab their misses. The main difference between the sides came down to free-throws, as the Flyers went 22-23 from the line compared to the Boomers who only managed 7-9. This combined with the Flyers elite starting five’s performance, enabled Southside to continue their winning streak to four games, whilst being the first team to reach ten victories and snap the Boomers’ three game winning streak in the process. Southside’s starting side combined for 83 of their 89 points, led by Jenna O’Hea who notched up 22 points and six assists in her side’s victory. Melbourne’s Cayla George was the Boomers’ leading points getter, while also grabbing eight total rebounds. Despite the loss, Melbourne needed to readjust quickly, as they had to take care of a Perth Lynx squad that was also keen for a bounce back win only 24 hours later.

DC Medal: 3 – Jenna O’Hea (SF), 2 – Cayla George (MB), 1 – Sara Blicavs (SF)

Sydney Uni Flames (81) defeated Adelaide Lightning (69)

After Adelaide’s hard-fought win over Perth on Friday night they had their sights set on going two games clear of .500, but in their way were the Sydney Uni Flames who needed to claw their way back into top four contention and a win against the fourth seed itself would be a good first step in achieving that. Colleen Planeta was once again the go-to woman as she dominated around the basket racking up 28 points and 12 rebounds, which was further bolstered by Alice Kunek’s 21 points. The performance by the duo helped facilitate the Flames to halt the Lightning’s intentions and finish off the game with a convincing 12-point triumph. Key scorers for the visiting Lightning were Brianna Turner, who accumulated 19 points as well as seven rebounds and Stephanie Talbot, who put up 18 points and seven rebounds. The Lightning’s loss put them back on a .500 record at five wins and five losses, whereas Sydney Uni now trail the Lightning in the standings by a game and a half as a result of Sunday’s victory.

DC Medal: 3 – Colleen Planeta (SU), 2 – Alice Kunek (SU), 1 – Stephanie Talbot (AL)

Townsville Fire (94) defeated Bendigo Spirit (80)

The Townsville Fire who had up until Sunday, only won one of its opening eight games this season, looked to break that trend and come out victorious at home against the only other team in the competition that was performing worse than themselves, the Bendigo Spirit. With the Fire coming out successful in areas such as field goal percentage, assists and points from turnovers, Townsville was able to capitalise on their opportunities in front of their home crowd, which was desperate for a win. Led by Darcee Garbin, who finished with 27 points and seven rebounds, the Townsville Fire were able to hold off Bendigo for their second win of the season, winning the bout by double-digits. Despite Bendigo succumbing to their ninth loss on the season and cementing their place on the bottom on the ladder, Demi Skinner managed to take 26 points away from the contest. Townsville now hold a record of two wins and seven losses.

DC Medal: 3 – Darcee Garbin (TF), 2 – Tess Madgen (T), 1 – Tessa Lavey (BS)

Melbourne Boomers (72) defeated Perth Lynx (63)

The Boomers were at-risk of slipping to third place behind the UC Capitals who had just won against Bendigo, so the home side knew of the increased importance of the contest. It was a scrappy contest with both sides failing to gain the upper hand early on. Individual performances, points from turnovers and calm nerves from the free throw line proved to be some of the separating statistics in the final game of the round with the Boomers holding the upper hand. Melbourne would outscore the Lynx 18-10 from the line, which would be critical in the side’s nine-point victory over Perth, retaining their rank as second on the WNBL Ladder, trailing only the team that had defeated them the day before. The individual performances from Madeleine Garrick and Sophie Cunningham who both finished with 17 and 15 points each helped to get the Boomers over the line to notch up their eighth win for the season. Garrick was accurate from the free-throw line nailing five from six. McGee-Stafford collected her second double-double for the weekend as she totalled 11 points and 11 rebounds alongside Alison Schwagmeyer who was the Lynx’s top-scorer with 13. The two losses for Perth over the weekend extended their losing streak to four, as they sit a game above Townsville in sixth place.

DC Medal: 3 – Madeleine Garrick (MB), 2 – Imani McGee-Stafford (PL), 1 – Lindsay Allen (MB)

DC Medal Leaderboard:

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

2019/20 WNBL weekend preview: Round 6 – Top four clash to tip-off round

AFTER a weekend off with many players stepping up to Australian Opals’ duties, the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) is back with Round 6 tipping off on Friday night. The Melbourne Boomers and Perth Lynx play two games across the weekend to try and break up the mid-table gap between fourth and fifth.

ADELAIDE LIGHTNING v. MELBOURNE BOOMERS
Friday, November 22, 7pm
Titanium Security Arena

In one of two games to open Round 6 of the WNBL, Adelaide Lightning hosts Melbourne Boomers for the first time in the 2019/20 season. The top four clash could have big ramifications for both the winner and loser, with the winner to take outright third and keep in touch with the top two, while the loser will slip at least a game behind third and possibly two games behind the top two, while remaining only a game ahead of the ensuring bottom four sides. The last time these sides played was in January this year which saw the Boomers get the points in Adelaide, the third time they had won during the season after narrow wins in Melbourne in the two previous encounters. The Lightning won their last contest and will head in with the form compared to the Boomers who after winning four consecutive games, have suffered back-to-back losses. The interesting fact within the game is Adelaide is yet to lose at home from two matches, while Melbourne is yet to suffer a defeat on the road from the same amount of games.

Brianna Turner has been a key player for the Lightning this season, averaging 17.3 points, 9.3 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.2 steals, while working well in tandem with Lauren Nicholson (17.0 points, 2.7 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.5 steals). Stephanie Talbot is also enjoying a purple patch of form, sinking 14.3 points, 6.8 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.8 steals in season 2019/20. For the Boomers, Lindsay Allen has been the key player with 18.3 points, 3.5 rebounds and 6.0 assists per game, while Cayla George is averaging a double double from her six matches, thanks to 16.0 points and 10.2 rebounds per game. Madeleine Garrick is an underrated player on the Boomers side, comfortable across most areas with a 10.2-point, 3.0-rebound, 2.7-assist and 1.2-steal average.

Adelaide is in good form so will head in as favourites, but Melbourne are due to bounce back so it will be an incredibly tight contest.

SYDNEY UNI v. PERTH LYNX
Friday, November 22, 7pm
Brydens Stadium

It is still early days in the season, but both Sydney Uni and Perth would realise the importance of getting a ‘W’ in this clash. After making the finals last year, Perth sits fifth, two wins outside the top four and having only won two games from six starts. Both of those were at home which is all the more important for them to break their road trip record with a win here. For Sydney Uni, they just need a win, sitting with a far worse points difference than Perth (-69 to +11), and having lost an extra game with two wins from seven starts. Both their wins have come at home so that is a positive for the Flames, though the fact they lost to this Lynx outfit in the last start is less positive. A win would see the Flames propel themselves into fifth temporarily, and at least move within a game of fourth spot.

Alice Kunek (17.9 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.9 assists) and Colleen Planeta (14.9 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.1 blocks) have been the two staples in the Flames’ outfit week-in, week-out, while Tahlia Tupaea (10.1 points, 3.1 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.3 steals) has also started in all seven games. Jessica Kuster is one who has stepped up throughout the season, with the 188cm forward sinking 10.4 points and 5.9 rebounds, as well as a block per game. For Perth, Alison Schwagmeyer has been enormous all season, pumping out 17.8 points and 7.2 rebounds per game, only bettered in that department by Imani McGee-Stafford (14.7 points, 8.7 rebounds and 2.3 blocks). Katie-Rae Ebzery has also been a phenomenal passer this year, averaging 7.5 assists and 4.2 rebounds to go with her 16.0 points and 1.5 steals.

Perth Lynx should breakthrough for their first on the road win, but the Flames could make a statement with a win here.

TOWNSVILLE FIRE v. SOUTHSIDE FLYERS
Saturday, November 23, 6pm
Townsville Stadium

Sitting at polar ends of the WNBL ladder, the panic button would have been pressed for the Fire who have just one win from six attempts, while the Flyers are in the opposite position with just one loss from seven games. There will still be fire in the belly from the visiting side however, with the Flyers going down to UC Capitals by 19 points in Round 5 to reduce their stranglehold at the top of the table to just one game. The Flyers are unbeaten from two tries on the road, while the Fire are yet to win in front of their home fans. There is no better occasion to celebrate their first win in front of a passionate crowd than downing one of the title contenders. It will be far from easy though and the Flyers will be keen to atone for last round and hit the court with a bang. These sides last played back in Round 1, with Southside coming out nine-point winners at Dandenong.

Abby Bishop has been a real star for the Fire, posting up 20.2 points, 8.6 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.2 steals per game, the clear standout for the side in an otherwise disappointing start to the year. The issue has been consistency, with Tess Madgen (12.8 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.5 assists), Darcee Garbin (12.0 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.7 steals) and Bridget Carleton (11.2 points, 4.8 rebounds) all contributing. The Flyers on the other hand have had the same five starters every week, and allowed all bar two players to take the court in each of the seven games. Mercedes Russell has been the recruit of the off-season, with the 198cm center posting 15.6 points and 10.3 rebounds per game, complimenting the likes of Leilani Mitchell (15.9 points, 3.7 rebounds, 6.3 assists and 1.6 steals) and Rebecca Cole (14.9 points, 3.0 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.6 steals) perfectly.

It is hard to look past the ladder leaders in this game with Southside predicted to add another win to the tally, but as the Fire showed in Round 1, they can be competitive in most games.

BENDIGO SPIRIT v. MELBOURNE BOOMERS
Sunday, November 24, 2pm
Bendigo Stadium

Bendigo Spirit return from a long break at home against Melbourne Boomers who are coming off their second game for the round. Returning from no doubt a thrilling clash in Adelaide, the Boomers will be pumped up for the clash, but might also be sore compared to the fresh Spirit. A strong start is crucial for the home side given they might have the legs to outrun them in the end, though the Boomers are third for a reason and will be difficult to topple. If the Boomers go down to Adelaide it will be three consecutive losses, while the Spirit also enter the game with back-to-back losses and will be keen for a victory. Considering Bendigo is 2-1 at home it may be a great opportunity to get a victory, but Melbourne are unbeaten on the road prior to this round. The last time these sides faced was in Round 2, with an earlier clash in Round 1 – both of which were won by the Boomers. A third meeting in seven rounds will end their head-to-head fixturing for the season and Bendigo will be desperate to get a win back on their metropolitan counterparts.

Kelly Wilson (11.1 points, 3.1 rebounds and 6.4 assists) and Carley Ernst (10.7 points, 8.0 rebounds) have been the two key players in the Spirit line-up, though Marte Grays has been a welcome inclusion to the side with 10.0 points and 5.6 rebounds. Tessa Lavey has also proven to be a key playmaker in the front court with 4.3 assists to go with her 9.4 points and 3.4 rebounds per game. While the Boomers have slipped up in the past two matches, they remain a strong side across the board, with Allen, George and Garrick just three of their strong contributors. Sophie Cunningham (12.0 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists) and Ezi Magbegor (10.7 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.3 blocks) are two others averaging double-figure points this season.

Melbourne should take home the win here, though Bendigo knows how important this victory is in the context of its season.

UC CAPITALS v. PERTH LYNX
Sunday, November 24, 5pm
National Convention Centre

The final game of the round will have equally as important ramifications on the season with the second placed University of Canberra (UC) Capitals hosting Perth Lynx at the National Convention Centre on Sunday evening. The Capitals will have the longest wait of any side in the competition having not played since November 9 and will have a 15-day gap between matches, while the Lynx will be coming off a Friday night clash against Sydney Uni Flames. Mathematically if the Lynx can win both games, they are back in contention with the top four sides and adding a bit of points difference would not go astray either. But for the Capitals, coming off a fresh win over Southside Flyers, the reigning premiers will be keen to keep the streak going and add to their three-straight wins of late. Yet to lose at home they will be difficult to beat, while the Lynx are yet to win on the road and will be keen to take home a pair of victories when they travel to NSW/ACT this round.

The reigning premiers have a multitude of stars across the court with Kia Nurse (20.3 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.6 assists) the scoring machine working well once again with Kelsey Griffin (16.9 points, 11.3 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.6 steals). Keely Froling has been a strong performer this season putting up numbers of 16.1 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.6 assists, while Olivia Epoupa (8.9 points, 6.3 rebounds, 6.4 assists and 4.0 steals) has been a huge addition to the already impressive outfit. For the Lynx, much has been spoken about the regular starters, but Ariel Atkins has been important since landing in Australia, playing two games off the bench for an average of 13.5 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists, while Lauren Mansfield has also showed her clean hands with 9.8 points, 3.3 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 1.8 steals.

The Capitals are strong favourites and hard to beat at home so it will be difficult to see them losing, but the Lynx will hope that they bring form throughout the weekend and stage a massive upset.

WNBL Round 5 review: Final three games see UC capitalise in Melbourne

REIGNING premiers, University of Canberra (UC) Capitals made it a weekend away in Melbourne to remember, downing the Boomers on Saturday after also getting the better of the Flyers on Thursday night. They moved to second on the table, while other results on Saturday saw Adelaide Lightning smash Bendigo Spirit, and Perth Lynx win their first game since Round 1 to down the Flames for the second time this season and move to fifth on the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) ladder.

Perth Lynx (93) defeated Sydney Uni Flames (74)

Despite a rocky start to the season and having not won since Round 1 – and only against the Flames – Perth’s victory over Sydney Uni moved the Lynx to fifth spot on the table, one of four sides with two or less victories this season and opening up a large gap between the finals-bound places and the rest. The Lynx made their intentions clear early, slamming home 31 points to 15 in the opening term on Saturday night, before extending the half-time lead to 20. They were not going to take the foot off the jugular after the break, adding 22 points to 15 in the third term to end the contest. The Flames managed to grab some important points back in the final term as the Lynx gave plenty of up-and-coming stars a run, but the game was over and they won 93-74. Katie-Rae Ebzery was simply superb for the Lynx, recording a game-high 28 points, four rebounds and two steals, while Lauren Mansfield was a great playmaker thanks to 13 points, seven assists, four rebounds and two steals. Alison Schwagmeyer – while down on her usual point-scoring output – had 10 points, nine rebounds and three steals, as Nadeen Payne and Marena Whittle also added 10 points each to the cause. For the Flames, Colleen Planeta stepped up in defeat to sink 23 points and eight rebounds, while Alice Kunek was the only other major scorer with 14 points, five assists and three rebounds. Lauren Scherf had just eight points but helped out around the court with seven rebounds and five assists.

DC Medal: 3 – Katie-Rae Ebzery (PL), 2 – Colleen Planeta (SU), 1 – Lauren Mansfield (PL)

Adelaide Lightning (105) defeated Bendigo Spirit (77)

Adelaide ensured it had some breathing space in the top four thanks to a big win over Bendigo Spirit at home. The Lightning added 28 points to 18 in the opening term, then extended the lead to 17 by the main break. They put together a four quarter performance in front of the home crowd at Titanium Security Arena, winning the last two quarters, 23-16 and 25-21 to run away 28-point winners, 105-77. Brianna Turner was the top scorer on the court with 22 points, eight rebounds and two assists, while Stephanie Talbot had 18 points, four rebounds, eight assists and two steals in a big performance. Chelsea Brook and Lauren Nicholson were busy throughout the game with 16 points apiece with Brook also recording six rebounds. Nicole Seekamp might have had just the 10 points on the board, but came close to a double double, setting up teammates for nine assists on the night. For the losers, Carley Ernst picked up a team-high 17 points and six rebounds, while Shyla Heal tried her hardest off the bench with 16 points and three assists. Kelly Wilson was the other Spirit player to reach double figures in the points column with 15, as well as two rebounds. It was a disappointing night for Bendigo who go into the week’s break having to regroup after the big loss, while Adelaide will head in knowing it is close to the top three sides.

DC Medal: 3 – Brianna Turner (AL), 2 – Stephanie Talbot (AL), 1 – Chelsea Brook (AL)

Melbourne Boomers (76) defeated by UC Capitals (79)

In the final game of the round, UC Capitals took back second spot with a huge 79-76 victory over Melbourne Boomers, completing a season-defining weekend away in Melbourne. Having knocked off the previously undefeated Southside Flyers on Thursday night, the Capitals handed the same fate to the Boomers, starting strongly to open a 10-point lead by quarter time. Melbourne went one better in the second quarter to turn it around and lead by a point themselves courtesy of a 26-15 second term, before extending that to four by three quarter time. The reigning premiers refused to lie down however, forcing their way back into the contest to deliver a 29-22 final term to record a narrow 79-76 victory. Kia Nurse was again the top points scorer with 22, as well as three rebounds and three assists, as Kelsey Griffin did as she pleased with nine rebounds, three assists and five steals to accompany her 18 points in a best on court performance. Marianna Tolo started this week and had 18 points, five rebounds and two blocks, while Olivia Epoupa finished with a productive five rebounds, eight assists and four steals to go with five points. For the Boomers, Lindsay Allen (18 points, six assists) and Sophie Cunningham (18 points, three rebounds and two steals) tried hard throughout the contest, while Cayla George had 10 points, eight rebounds and four assists in defeat.

DC Medal: 3 – Kelsey Griffin (UC), 2 – Kia Nurse (UC), 1 – Cayla George (MB)

DC Medal Leaderboard:

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

2019/20 WNBL review/preview: Round 5 – Midway point of round

WITH the split round taking place in Round 5 of the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL), we recap the two games that took place overnight, while previewing the remaining three matches this weekend.

Sydney Uni Flames (82) defeated Townsville Fire (73)

Sydney Uni Flames have leapt past two sides on their way to sixth following an all-important home win against Townsville Fire last night. The Fire were coming off a terrific road win against Perth Lynx, but could not follow on from a strong second term to be overrun by the Flames and sent to the bottom of the table. Sydney Uni gained the advantage early, piling on 28 points to 21, before the Flames’ worst quarter of the season saw them struggle with just nine points to Townsville’s 21, heading into half-time with a five-point deficit. They picked up in the second half however, cutting the deficit to one by the final break, before a barnstorming 28-18 last quarter saw them extinguish the Fire, 82-73. Alice Kunek was the standout with 22 points, four rebounds, four assists, two blocks and one steal for the Flames, while Jessica Kuster (17 points, six rebounds) and Alex Wilson (16 points, three rebounds scored highly. Tahlia Tupaea (12 points, eight rebounds, three assists and two steals) and Colleen Planeta (11 points, six rebounds) rounded out a strong starting five effort with their work off the boards. For the Fire, Darcee Garbin was a standout with 19 points, seven rebounds and two assists, while Abby Bishop continued her good form of late with 14 points, five rebounds, seven assists and three steals. Tess Madgen (12 points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals) was impressive as well in defeat.

DC Medal: 3 – Alice Kunek (SU), 2 – Tahlia Tupaea (SU), 1 – Abby Bishop (TF)

Southside Flyers (72) defeated UC Capitals (91)

The UC Capitals emerged from their Round 3 slumber to make it two massive wins in a row, knocking off the previously undefeated Southside Flyers on the road. In the first of two games in Victoria, the reigning premiers put the challenge to the ladder leaders with a dominant first half, posting 27-19 in the opening term, then 29-14 in the second quarter to lead by 22 points heading into the main break. It was hard to fathom for the home crowd who were left a little stunned at Dandenong Stadium, as Southside managed to chew back three points in the third term, but could not make any inroads by the final buzzer to go down by 19 points, 72-91. The Capitals’ big guns were all firing once again as Kelsey Griffin lead the way with 14 points, 13 rebounds, three assists, three steals and one block, while Keely Froling‘s work off the bench was superb, notching up a double-double as well, posting 20 points, 10 rebounds, two assists and one block. Kia Nurse lead the scoring with 21 points, four rebounds and three assists, while Marianna Tolo (16 points, seven rebounds) and Olivia Epoupa (15 points, four rebounds, seven assists and three steals) were also prominent. For the Flyers, Leilani Mitchell stood up against her former side, sinking 23 points and collecting five rebounds, three assists, one steal and one block for the losers. Mercedes Russell had the 15 points and five rebounds but was quiet by her standards, while Sara Blicavs (11 points, six rebounds) was busy off the boards but had seven turnovers on the night. It was an evening to forget for the Flyers who will be keen to put that one behind them as they have a 16-day break until their November 23 clash with cellar dwellers, Townsville.

DC Medal: 3 – Kelsey Griffin (UC), 2 – Keely Froling (UC), 1 – Olivia Epoupa (UC)

Looking ahead to the rest of the round, three games take place tomorrow night across three different states, with Thursday night’s winners hoping to make it a double-win weekend in Round 5.

PERTH LYNX vs. SYDNEY UNI FLAMES
Saturday, November 9, 7.00pm
Bendat Basketball Centre

Fresh off a victory over fellow bottom three side Townsville, Sydney Uni could really make inroads this weekend if they can topple the out-of-sorts Perth Lynx. While the Lynx have the home court advantage, they have dropped their past four games, two of which were at home with the most disappointing to the previously winless Townsville in Round 4. The last time these two sides met was in Round 1, with Perth claiming what would become its only victory of the season thus far, defeating Sydney Uni, 79-62. Last season the Lynx won all three clashes, including a massive 46-point belting in November. It will be the third straight time these sides have met at Bendat Basketball Centre, and Perth is desperate for a win to get back on track. Alison Schwagmeyer has been a shining light this season, posting up 19.4 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game, while Katie-Rae Ebzery (13.6 points, 4.2 rebounds) and Nadeen Payne (13.4 points, 4.4 rebounds) has been the other consistent player off the boards. Imani McGee-Stafford has used her 201cm frame to have an impact in three games having had to recover from an ankle injury. She has averaged 14.7 points, 8.7 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 2.3 blocks thus far this season, and if back out on court could make it a trio of Americans, with Schwagmeyer and last week’s debutant, Ariel Atkins (19 points, seven rebounds and four assists). Meanwhile the Flames have had an up-and-down start to the season, but their American imports have also impressed, with Planeta (13.5 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.3 blocks) and Kuster (11.2 points, 6.2 rebounds) solid, while Australian Kunek has been Sydney Uni’s best with 18.5 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists across all six starts. The Flames are too far behind on points difference to overtake Adelaide, but should the Flames win and Bendigo Spirit lose, they would move to fifth on the table.

ADELAIDE LIGHTNING vs. BENDIGO SPIRIT
Saturday, November 9, 7.00pm
Titanium Security Arena

In a massive mid-table clash, Adelaide Lightning will be keen to steal back third spot from UC Capitals with a win. In what will be just the Lightning’s second home game – they won their other one against the Flames in Round 1 – they will be hoping to provide plenty of highlights to the crowd. Last time these sides met was last week when Bendigo upset Adelaide by 13 points. Last season, the Lightning won its clash at home and one on the road, while Bendigo won the middle game of the trio. With an identical points difference to the reigning premiers but a win behind, the Lightning must salute here to be any chance of snatching third spot, while Bendigo can grab Adelaide’s fourth spot if the Spirit get up by at least 27 points. Crystal Langhorne injured herself after a massive opening round debut for the Lightning where she put up 20 points and 13 rebounds, with fellow American import, Brianna Turner having to shoulder the load up forward with 16.4 points and 9.6 rebounds across the five games. Lauren Nicholson (17.2 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.0 assists) and Stephanie Talbot (13.6 points, 9.6 rebounds) have been big off the boards, while Nicole Seekamp (12.6 points, 8.4 assists and 3.2 rebounds) has been the playmaker. For the Spirit, Rebecca Tobin has averaged 14 points, nine rebounds and two steals from just two matches, while Marte Grays has put up 11.2 points and 5.8 rebounds thus far this season. Without a genuine standout and the points shared across the board, others who have impressed include Kelly Wilson (10.5 points, 7.3 assists and 3.3 rebounds), Tessa Lavey (10.0 points, 4.5 assists and 3.7 rebounds) and Carley Ernst (9.7 points, 8.3 rebounds) who have become integral members of the starting five.

MELBOURNE BOOMERS vs. UC CAPITALS
Saturday, November 9, 7.00pm
State Basketball Centre

The final game of the round is just as crucial as the other two, with second spot up for grabs between Melbourne Boomers and UC Capitals. The Capitals are now on a two-game winning streak after a disappointing Round 3 that included losses to the Boomers and Flames. It was the manner in which the Capitals’ lost to the Boomers that would burn deeply in the reigning premiers’ minds, losing 107-72 in Geelong. Now at the State Basketball Centre, the Capitals will be keen to have a change of fortunes, and while that result has put a wide gap between the two teams, a Capitals’ win would still see them move past the Boomers having already collected the scalp of the Flyers last night and will look to knock off both top two sides in one weekend. The Capitals’ win over the Flyers was their first on the road for the season having won every game at home, while Melbourne’s loss to Southside last round was the Boomers’ first home loss of the year. Griffin has backed up her MVP winning ways with another double-double season to-date with 16.7 points, 11.7 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.2 steals per game. She has plenty of support across the court though, with Nurse (20.0 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.5 assists) doing her thing up the scoring end, while Froling (17.8 points, 7.7 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.2 blocks) could make a case as one of the most improved this season. The inclusion of Frenchwoman, Epoupa has also been massive, averaging a balanced 9.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 6.2 assists and a remarkable 4.0 steals per game. While they have been impressive, the Boomers have also had an even contribution of stars with Cayla George leading the way thanks to a double-double effort of 17.2 points, 10.6 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.4 blocks. American duo, Lindsay Allen (18.4 points, 6.0 assists and 4.0 rebounds) and Sophie Cunningham (10.8 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.2 assists) have also contributed on the scoring front. UC’s form heading into the game is hard to ignore, but Melbourne had no trouble against the Capitals in Round 3 and could well hand out another punishment here.