Tag: Steph Talbot

WNBL20 Season Review – Adelaide Lightning

SUFFICE to say, it was not the Adelaide Lightning’s season after finishing sixth at the conclusion of WNBL20, serving as the only team from earlier this year to not make the postseason this time around, finishing with a record of five wins and eight defeats.

Preceding the first contest of their fixture, the Lightning were dealt a huge blow to their core unit with the announcement that Phoenix Mercury member, Alanna Smith would be absent for the six-week season due to injury.

But that did not stop Chris Lucas’ squad from ruining the Canberra Capitals’ start to their three-peat bid, toppling the two-time defending champions 85-73 in Mackay to kick off the competition. Following their upset win against the Capitals, the Lightning kept the momentum going to begin their season with a hard-earned win against fellow mid-table inhabitants the Perth Lynx, putting together a perfect start to the season after Round One.

Just when Adelaide started to look like a serious contender for the season, fortunes became reversed when the Queensland government put in place a mandatory quarantine for recently arrived individuals from South Australia, therefore affecting the Lightning’s schedule in Round Two.

After nine days of inaction, Adelaide made its return to the court but similar results would prove a lot harder to come by. Going down to the Melbourne Boomers by 40 points, Adelaide’s success took a dramatic turn for the worse. While they attained their third and fourth wins of the season against the Bendigo Spirit and the Sydney Uni Flames, it was noticeable that the Lightning struggled against top-tier teams.

Back-to-back games against the Southside Flyers in rounds three and four really showcased the difference between Adelaide’s style of play and that of the eventual minor premiers. Going down by 31 and 39 points in each clash, it set the tone for a rather uneventful run home despite still having a realistic chance at making the postseason at that stage.

However, after a 20-point defeat to the Capitals in their second battle of the season and a minuscule defeat against the Lynx, Adelaide’s season was hanging by a thread with an unfavourable sequence of opponents waiting in the distance for Round Five.

With the only positive result in the final round being knocking over the Spirit once again, Adelaide would fall to the Boomers for a second time, the Townsville Fire, and the Flames in their closing game of the season, solidifying themselves in the middle echelon of the standings.

Adelaide captain Steph Talbot, who was consistently leading her side in numerous categories each and every night, took home the Suzy Batkovic Medal, the league’s highest individual honour. Talbot averaged a whopping 18.2 points (third highest in WNBL), nine rebounds (third highest in WNBL), three assists, 1.9 steals (third highest in the WNBL) and 30.6 minutes per game (ninth highest in the WNBL) in what would one of the most dominant seasons for an individual across all categories in recent WNBL history.

Backing up Talbot was shooting guard Ally Wilson, who ranked first or second in areas like scoring, assists and minutes; averaging 11.3 points, 4.3 assists and 31.7 minutes in said categories. While on the whole, Adelaide as a unit was a class below the WNBL’s top four, individuals like Abigail Wehrung (average 11.3 points and 2.5 assists), Chelsea Brook (9.3 points and 4.4 rebounds) and Marena Whittle (8.7 points and 5.3 rebounds) provided substantial aid to their two leaders on multiple occasions throughout the team’s regular season fixture.

While Adelaide missed out on finals this season, a few upgrades to the secondary unit would be a much-needed benefit to next year’s side and their MVP in Talbot. Should Smith make a successful return to the side, anything is possible for the Lightning in WNBL21.

2020 WNBL Awards recap

IT has been a big week of WNBL action with the finals announced and awards handed out at the conclusion of the home-and-away season. There were plenty of contenders given the number of impressive and consistent performers throughout a condensed season, however there could only be one MVP winner.

After a strong showing with Adelaide throughout their 2020 campaign, it is no wonder Steph Talbot received the Suzy Batkovic Medal for the league’s Most Valuable Player. The Lightning captain was a consistent figure, averaging 18.2 points, 9.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.9 steals, and 0.8 blocks per game while shooting at a solid 47.9 per cent from the field. The accolades did not stop there for Talbot, who walked away with the Robyn Maher Defensive Player of the Year award as well, capping off a spectacular season despite not making finals.

Talking of finals, it is only fitting that Townsville Fire coach, Shannon Seebohm was awarded the top gong  and title of Coach of the Year, with his side enjoying a rapid rise up the ladder. Seebohm has guided the Fire to nine wins and four losses this season to claim second spot on the ladder in what has been an unconventional campaign to say the least.

Keeping on the Townsville vibe, youngster Shyla Heal has more than made a name for herself this season, collecting the Betty Watson Australian Youth Player of the Year while teammate Zitina Aokuso also made a splash and was recognised for her efforts, named the Sixth Woman of the Year. Heal has been a solid contributor throughout the season, recording an average of 15.2 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and 1.2 steals while shooting at 40.6 per cent from the field. Fellow award winner, Aokuso has played a strong cameo role for the Fire, able to bound onto the court and cause a ruckus with figures such as 9.5 points a game, 5.7 rebounds, and 1.2 assists per game.

Moving away from individual awards, the All-WNBL First Team and All-WNBL Second Team were announced with a couple of familiar faces returning. The all-conquering Liz Cambage took out the center position in the Firsts with the Southside Flyers representative impressing in most facets of the game to average 23.3 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.9 blocks. Her accuracy from the field was also notable, going at 62.6 per cent. MVP winner Talbot also earned a nod along with Cayla George, Lauren Nicholson and Katie Ebzery. The Second team consisted of a couple of Melbourne Boomers in Ezi Magbegor and Tess Madgen, while UC Capitals’ Maddison Rocci also earned a spot. Heal was further rewarded for her breakout season, included in the All-WNBL Second Team while Sara Blicavs rounds out the side.

ALL-WNBL First Team

Lauren Nicholson (TF) – 18.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.4 steals, 0.08 steals, 48.1 FG%
Steph Talbot (AL) – 18.2 points, 9.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.9 steals, 0.8 blocks, 47.9 FG%
Liz Cambage (SF) – 23.3 points, 8.2 rebounds 1.0 assist, 0.5 steals, 1.9 blocks, 62.6 FG%
Cayla George (MB) – 14.7 points, 9.2 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.4 steals, 1.0 blocks, 43.2 FG%
Katie Ebzery (PL) – 18.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.8assists, 0.6 steals, 0.3 blocks, 43.1 FG%

ALL-WNBL Second Team

Maddison Rocci (UC) – 16.2 points, 3.4 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 2.0 steals, 0 blocks, 40.5 FG%
Shyla Heal (TF) – 15.2 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.2 steals, 0 blocks, 40.6 FG%
Sara Blicavs (SF) – 14.5 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.4 blocks, 52.1 FG%
Tess Madgen (MB) – 14.2 points, 5.4 rebounds, 6.2 assists, 0.4 steals, 0.2 blocks, 44.7 FG%
Ezi Magbegor (MB) – 14.8 points, 8.6 rebounds, 1..5 assists, 0.8 steals, 1.1 blocks, 56.2 FG%

Draft Central: WNBL Team of the Year

WITH the WNBL home and away season done and dusted, Draft Central has compiled its own Team of the Year taking into consideration a host of elements such as consistency, scoring ability, rebounding prowess and so on. It is no surprise that top four teams such as Melbourne Boomers and Townsville Fire have a couple of players named in the squad while ladder leaders, the Southside Flyers only have the one given their bench depth and frequent rotation.

Lauren Nicholson has been a spark for Townsville Fire with the side enjoying a rise up the ladder and the guard in scintillating form. Nicholson is as consistent as they come and has been a real general since crossing to the Fire this season with her ability to regularly attack the rim, averaging an impressive 18.5 points a game. The other guard to accompany Nicholson in the starting five is the ever-reliable Steph Talbot who once again has led the charge for Adelaide. Despite missing out on finals, Talbot has been a solid contributor throughout the season plying her trade on the scoreboard and has fallen just short of a double-double with an average of nine rebounds and 18.2 points.

It is hard to go past the services of WNBA star and Opals stalwart Liz Cambage who has well and truly made a splash in her debut season with Southside Flyers this year. Cambage is crucial cog in the Flyers outfit and is a key reason for their continued success in 2020 and will be hoping to get another piece of silverware if things go to plan in the upcoming finals series.

Melbourne Boomers captain, Cayla George is another no brainer with the forward able to have an influence across the court, registering a solid 14.7 points and 9.2 rebounds each time she steps out on court. George is a menace in all areas of the court, however able to get hands to ball and regain possession for her side. New recruit Darcee Garbin did not skip a beat throughout the 2020 season with the forward finding the basket with great ease, knocking back an average of 16.5 points for Perth while also amassing 7.2 rebounds in a solid season.

Looking at the bench, UC Capitals youngster Maddison Rocci has enjoyed a strong run of form and been a key contributor for the side amassing, 16.2 points along with an average of two steals per game. Following the theme of young players making a splash is Ezi Magebegor, with the Melbourne Boomers regular plying her trade effectively at a 56.2 per cent clip and proving to be a handful out on court thanks to her 14.8 points and 8.6 rebounds. The move to Townsville has done wonders for Shyla Heal with the 19-year-old enjoying the extra court time and her numbers reflecting that with the guard averaging 15.2 points, 4.8 rebounds and a handy 1.2 steals.

Carley Ernst was a steady stream of points for Bendigo Spirit who have languished at the bottom of the ladder, collecting an average of 14.8 points per game while the other bench spot goes to Lauren Scherf. The Sydney Uni Flames center played an integral role throughout their campaign, managing 11 points, 7.2 rebounds and a couple of blocks per game.

Please take into account the statistics are a reflection of averages per game.

STARTING FIVE:

G: Lauren Nicholson (TF) – 18.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.4 steals, 0.08 steals, 48.1 FG%
G: Steph Talbot (AL) – 18.2 points, 9.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.9 steals, 0.8 blocks, 47.9 FG%
C: Liz Cambage (SF) – 23.3 points, 8.2 rebounds 1.0 assist, 0.5 steals, 1.9 blocks, 62.6 FG%
F: Cayla George (MB) – 14.7 points, 9.2 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.4 steals, 1.0 blocks, 43.2 FG%
F: Darcee Garbin (PL) – 16.5 points, 7.2 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.8 blocks, 41.2 FG%

BENCH:

G: Maddison Rocci (UC) – 16.2 points, 3.4 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 2.0 steals, 0 blocks, 40.5 FG%
G: Shyla Heal (TF) – 15.2 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.2 steals, 0 blocks, 40.6 FG%
C: Lauren Scherf (SUF) – 11 points, 7.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 0.8 steals, 1.1 blocks, 34.6 FG%
F: Carley Ernst (BS) – 14.8 points, 7.5 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.9 blocks, 34.7 FG%
F: Ezi Magbegor (MB) – 14.8 points, 8.6 rebounds, 1..5 assists, 0.8 steals, 1.1 blocks, 56.2 FG%

Fire overcome fast-starting Boomers to secure second spot

THE TOWNSVILLE Fire announced themselves as serious finals contenders, downing Melbourne Boomers by six points in an epic contest (70-64). In a fight for top four position, the two sides went head-to-head with the lead ebbing and flowing throughout the game, showcasing what was at stake and the high intensity both sides can bring to the table.

The Boomers got out to a flyer of a start, establishing a seven-point margin at the first break and keeping the Fire to single digits in the opening term. But Townsville showcased its grit and determination, finding a groove in the second term and piling on the pressure to turn the tables on the Boomers, who seemed to have things their own way in the opening period of play. The Fire made light work of Melbourne, notching up 31 points to 17. Things evened out in the second half with both teams establishing their rhythm and unable to be separated, but in the end the Fire had done enough to throw the Boomers and clinch a hard-fought victory.

Accuracy from the field was down for both sides, however the Fire managed to boast a higher percentage – sitting at 42 per cent compared to the Boomers’ 38. The Fire also starred from two point range, converting at a 50 per cent clip in nailing 21 of their 42 attempts, while the Boomers did not have the same luck sitting at 41 per cent. However, when it came to triples, that is where the Boomers impressed nailing eight of their 25 attempts at 32 per cent as opposed to the Fire’s 28 per cent. Shooting statistics aside, the Boomers seemed to have the upper hand in the majority of the other categories; recording a higher rebound count (40-39) and more assists (24-14), highlighting the different way the two clubs go about it on court. They also earned a higher steals and blocks tally (10-7) and (4-2), respectively showcasing their defensive intent but were somewhat costly on the turnover front (16-13).

Lauren Nicholson once again impressed for the Fire, with the guard dropping 23 points at 50 per cent from the field along with four assists, six rebounds and a steal, highlighting her ability to be constantly involved in the action. Teammate Shyla Heal was down on her usual output, only recording the seven points in her 33 minutes on court, however she still managed to have an impact off the boards with five rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks. Kate Gaze was another key contributor with 11 points while Zitina Aokuso starred for the Fire with her 16 points at an impressive 87 per cent from the field. Aokuso also managed seven rebounds, six of which were defensive, along with a steal to cap off an impressive performance from the youngster. Nadeen Payne also chimed in for a handy eight points and seven rebounds to help get her side over the line.

There were three main contributors for the Melbourne Boomers who were unable to generate as much impact as they would have liked off the bench, but still had key figures that were able to keep them in touching distance of the Fire. Ezi Magbegor led the charge for Melbourne, with the forward proving to be a menace and recording a team-high 20 points at an all-round 64 per cent accuracy. It did not stop there for her, amassing 10 rebounds to collect another double-double while also picking up three assists and one steal. The ever-reliable captain, Cayla George was the next best with 18 points across her 36 minutes on court, but she did the most damage off the boards with a staggering 17 rebounds which accompanied her three steals, three blocks and four assists. Tess Madgen also contributed for the Boomers knocking back 11 points while also collecting eight assists and four rebounds.

The Fire look ahead to ladder leaders Southside Flyers in the semi-final on Wednesday while Melbourne faces off against the Caps early in the day.

Flyers flex their muscles with convincing win over Caps

Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images

It was always going to be an exciting battle between back-to-back premiers UC Capitals and the star studded line-up of Southside Flyers, but in the end it was the latter that prevailed in a convincing performance to run out with a 19-point victory (82-101).  The ladder leaders are building some serious momentum heading into the finals and are clearly primed as premiership favourites, as shown by their dominant performance on Sunday.

It was a high scoring match from the opening minutes of the game with both sides renowned for their attacking mentality and ability to hit the scoreboard with great ease. The Flyers got out to a handy start and did not look like giving up the lead at any stage, continuously pushing to extend their margin. Despite a better quarter in the second from the Caps nailing 23 points to 20, the Flyers still had the momentum and the lead. But they dealt the most damage in the third quarter when they went on a scoring spree, nailing 32 points to 19 to all but seal the deal. The Flyers had a real sense of desperation and urgency in their gameplay and that showed throughout the game, outscoring their opponents in the final term as well.

Scoring proved to be no issue for the Flyers who managed an impressive 51 per cent from the field, nailing 40 of their 77 attempts while the Caps travelled at a 40 per cent conversion rate. Southside starred from downtown, sitting at a whopping 62 per cent in slotting 18 from their 29 attempts, while it was a different story for the Capitals who only managed a mere 26 per cent from outside the arc. When it came to rebounds UC had things all their own way, recoding 47 to 34 to showcase their strength off the boards, but the Flyers seemed to have their number in all the other aspects such as assists (29-23), steals (6-4) and blocks (5-1). The ladder leaders were also cleaner with ball in hand and treasured possession, only notching up 10 turnovers as opposed to 15 while when it came to points in the paint, the Flyers also had the upper hand recording 42 to 28.

Despite being in the losing side there was no shortage of options with the likes of Marianna Tolo leading the way for the Capitals with her 23 points, six rebounds and two assists. The scoring dropped off after her with Jade Melbourne the next closest with 12 points in a strong performance off the bench. Madison Rocci and Kelsey Griffin were both handy options for the Capitals, combining for 21 points, nine rebounds and three assists while Keely Froling also chimed in with 10 points of her own in her 25 minutes on court. Although Mikaela Ruef did not have a profound impact on the scoreboard thanks to her six points, her strength off the board was unquestionable, reeling in 12 rebounds with eight of them defensive.

Six players all managed double figures for the Flyers with Rebecca Cole headlining the side with her 23 points and eight rebounds. Cole took the game by the scruff of the neck and starred while the ever-reliable Liz Cambage continued her merry way with another dominant performance collecting 18 points at 53 per cent and 12 rebounds. Aimie Clydesdale managed to have an influence thanks to her 13 points, two rebounds and six assists as did teammate Leilani Mitchell who just fell short of a double-double with nine rebounds and 14 points. Sara Blicavs dominated off the bench in a stats stuffing performance thanks to her 16 points, six rebounds and five assists haul while Stephanie Blicavs managed 11 points of her own in the win.

Looking ahead, the Flyers prepare for Townsville Fire in the semi-final on Wednesday while the Caps gear up for Melbourne.

Flames end season on a high

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After somewhat of an up and down season for both sides it was the Sydney Uni Flames that got the last laugh, securing a 26-point victory over Adelaide Lightning (86-60). With both teams out of the running for finals it was a matter of pride and determination which the Flames oozed plenty of as they kicked it up a gear in the final term to really ram home the win.

It was an even start to the game with the Flames and Lightning settling into the action and feeling each other out before Sydney found its mojo in the second term and put on the afterburners. Sensing a blowout, Adelaide turned the tables in the third term, going toe-to-toe with the Flames and scoring 18 points apiece, but that was not enough to worry Sydney who still had a handy buffer. The final quarter of action was where things really started to unravel with the Flames attacking the rim with great ease and piling on the scoreboard pressure thanks to their 29 to 14 point term to notch up their fifth win for the season.

Field goal percentage for both sides was down with the Flames converting at 39 per cent while Adelaide managed 35 per cent. The Lightning had better luck when it came to two point range sitting at 42 per cent while Sydney only managed 37 per cent. The roles were reversed when it came to three-pointers with the victors holding the upper hand, nailing eight of their 18 attempts at 44 per cent while the Lightning only managed 24 per cent. The Flames collected more rebounds (48-41), steals (14-7) and had less turnovers (10-20) while when it came to assists Adelaide impressed with 16-12.

Lauren Mansifeld seemed to have her own ball out on court for the Flames, sinking a game-high 31 points in a dominant shooting display from the guard. She also managed four assists and an uncharacteristic three turnovers. Mansfield was well-aided by Alison Schwagmeyer who recorded 16 points but could have had more had she been more accurate from the field, sitting at 33 per cent while also amassing seven rebounds and two assists. Anneli Maley was a commanding force off the backboards, recording a whopping 15 rebounds, 12 of which were defensive while Lauren Scherf plied her trade sinking 11 points in the win.

Although it was not the way the Lightning would have liked for the game to have gone down, there were a couple of key contributors with Steph Talbot once again leading the way. Talbot had a hot hand converting 22 points at 56 per cent while also dragging down 13 rebounds to record yet another double-double. Alex Wilson was the only other player to reach double figures with her 12 points and proved to be a real playmaker with ball in hand, amassing seven assists and a steal. Abigail Wehrung had an influence on the scoreboard, albeit limited, but still managed eight points in her 32 minutes on court.

Boomers make light work of Spirit

IN an all-Victorian affair it was the Melbourne Boomers that came out on top against Bendigo spirit claiming a 21-point victory (91-70). The Boomers had control from the opening minute of the game and are building some strong form heading into the back end of the season and heading into finals. The Spirit once again had moments of magic but were unable to keep that intensity at the same level for their full four quarters as they suffered their thirteenth straight loss to round out their 2020 campaign.

A 28 to 17 opening term pretty much told the story as Melbourne seemed to have the ball on a string and Bendigo struggle to find any answers. Scoring somewhat evened up in the second term as Bendigo managed to nail 17 points to the Boomers 21 however that was still enough for Melbourne to continue to build on their already growing lead. That tail continued into the second half with Melbourne outscoring Bendigo 26 to 20 in the third term before it was level pegging’s in the last term but it was a little too late as the damage has already been done.

Shooting percentage was relatively even for both sides, however Melbourne had a higher clip sitting at 48 per cent after converting 38 of their 78 attempts. Bendigo on the other hand had less opportunities to the basket but still managed a 43 per cent conversion rate nailing 28 of their 64 attempts. Two point range seemed to be the sweet spot for the Boomers with 26 of their 46 attempts falling to sit at 56 per cent as opposed to Bendigo who only managed 47 per cent. Melbourne was slightly more accurate from downtown sitting at 37 per cent while Bendigo slotted eight of their 22 attempts at 36 per cent. Melbourne outclassed Bendigo just about on every front recording 45 rebounds to 33, 25 assists to 15, six steals to five and also registered less turnovers for the night with 10 to compared to 14. With the starting five doing majority of the work for Boomers it was the bench depth from Bendigo that seemed to have an impact nailing 36 points compared to 32 however it was still not enough to get them over the line.

The victors had a number of scoring options with five players hitting the double digit mark when it came to point scoring. Stella Beck led the way with 17 points, two rebounds and four assists highlighting her ability to have an impact when on court. Ezi Magbegor was the next best with the youngster impressing in her 20 minutes on court to convert 16 points at an impressive 70 per cent from the field while also amassing eight rebounds and two assists in a strong showing. In her 250th game, Maddie Garrick was also another prominent option on court knocking back 16 points eight assists and five rebounds four of which were defensive while Izzy Wright also chimed in with a handy 12 points, seven rebounds and two assists. Penina Davidson was the only other Melbourne Boomers player to register double digits recording 10 points and four rebounds for the night in an all round solid team effort.

Scoring proved to be hard to come by for Bendigo however the ever reliable Tessa Lavey was up to the challenge leading her side with 16 points and just falling short of a double-double with nine assists and eight rebounds with all of the rebounds defensive. Carley Ernst failed to make a splash while on court only managing two points in an unusual showing for her however the likes of Mary Goulding stepped up to the plate and secured 12 points and three rebounds. Amelia Todhunter was another that managed to ply her trade notching up 10 points in what was a difficult performance.

The Boomers now look to Townsville on Sunday while the Spirit bid farewell to their season.

Townsville end Lightning’s finals hopes

Shyla Heal in action for Townsville. Picture credit: Albert Perez/Getty Images

Townsville came out with a point to prove, downing Adelaide in convincing fashion by 29 points as they gear up for a finals berth. It is been an up and down season for the Lightning while Townsville have enjoyed a rapid rise up the ladder and once again showcase their ability to score and score quickly in a dominant performance. Although the chances were slim, the loss automatically seals the deal on Adelaide’s fate of playing finals with the Lightning now ruled out in Townsville securing their position in the top four.

The Fire came out with some real heat in the opening minutes of play highlighting their ability both in offence and defence to score and pile on the pressure as shown with the 28 to 11 point opening term. The second quarter was not much better for the Lightning who seemed to be caught on the backfoot only managing 11 points again as their half time total mounted to 22, while the Fire had a whopping 47 creating a handy 25 point buffer. The Lightning well and truly upped the ante in the third term going toe-to-toe with Townsville before once again falling off the boil in the final term.

Townsville oozed an element of composure and most importantly accuracy with ball in hand sitting at an impressive 57 per cent from the field, nailing 40 of their 70 attempts while Adelaide did not have the same luck averaging a mere 39 per cent from the field. The Fire also starred within the arc shooting at a 63 per cent clip while the Lightning were somewhat wayward at 47 per cent. The main difference came from around the perimeter with the victors slotting nine of their 21 attempts at 42 per cent as opposed to Adelaide who struggled to find their radar at 28 per cent. Townsville had the upper hand when it came to rebounds (37-34) and also claimed the ascendancy when it came to assists (19-13).

There were plenty of key contributors for Townsville across the night, none bigger than guard Lauren Nicholson who absolutely starred with her 21 points at 71 per cent accuracy along with her four rebounds, four assists and one block. Megan McKay also found her groove knocking back 19 points, seven rebounds and two assists in a strong showing while Stephanie Reid proved to be an impact player off the bench managing 17 points, two rebounds and three assists. Although down on her lofty standards, youngster Shyla Heal still bobbed up for her moments of magic with 10 points, seven rebounds and two assists to her name while the only player to reach double figures was Courtney Woods who slotted 12 points for the night.

Scoring was hard to come by for Adelaide, with captain Steph Talbot struggling to find her mojo and only walking away with nine points, five rebounds and an uncharacteristic four turnovers. Abigail Wehrung was the leading points scorer for the Lightning sinking 15 at 60 per cent while Marena Whittle also threw her weight around to collect 14 points and five rebounds. Despite only managing two points for the game Louella Tomlinson proved to be a handy option off the boards with five rebounds while Charlie Smith also had an impact with her five boards and four steals.

Townsville are set to lock horns with Melbourne on Sunday while Adelaide have the final game of the home and away season against Sydney Uni Flames.

Lightning strike to keep slim finals hopes alive

WITH finals just within their reach Adelaide Lightning had one job to do – win – and that is exactly what they did downing Bendigo Spirit by 10 points in an enthralling battle. Sitting two games outside of the top four and with two games still left to play Adelaide left nothing to chance to put themselves in good shape to make a potential finals tilt if things go their way.

A fast starting Bendigo side shocked the Lightning as they piled on 23 points to 12 in a dominant opening term. Despite Adelaide getting the first points on the board, the Spirit had other plans in the first few minutes of play extending out to as much as a 12 point lead at the six minute mark (14-2) thanks to their accuracy and silky movement. Staring down the barrel of an 11 point deficit the Lightning quickly picked up the pieces in the second quarter finding their rhythm to get back onto level pegging’s and even up the playing field to head into the main break down by a mere point. That hot momentum continued into the third as they doubled their opponents 13 points to knock back 26 points in the term and create a handy buffer heading into the final change of a must win game. the scoring well and truly dried up in the final quarter of action with both sides combining for 22 points and the Spirit actually outscoring the Lightning, the damage had already been done allowing the Lightning to keep their finals hopes alive if all goes to plan from here on out.

Both sides shot at a relatively low clip from the field although Adelaide had a slightly higher  accuracy sitting at 38 per cent compared to Bendigo’s 34 per cent. In terms of two point range that is where the Lightning did their most damage nailing 17 of 31 attempts at 54 per cent while the shots just were not sinking for Bendigo only managing 36 per cent. However their long range shooting was a fraction better than their opponents registering a conversion rate of 29 per cent while the victors sat at 20 per cent. Bendigo were strong on the rebounds reeling in whatever fell short to collect 11 more than Adelaide (48-37). On the assists front Adelaide led the way (17-13) while also taking the cake for steals (9-2) showcasing their defensive intent. Turnovers was another key area as the Lightning only recorded eight for the game while Bendigo had 14.

The scoring was somewhat shared between a number of players but it is no surprise that Steph Talbot led the way with a team-high 15 points at 42 per cent accuracy from the field. She also managed six rebounds, five of which were defensive along with an impressive three steals highlighting her cleanliness and defensive class. Alex Wilson was not far behind on the scoring front knocking back 14 points while three seemed to be the magic number for the guard recording three rebounds, three assists and three steals. Abigail Wehrung played a strong role in her 29 minutes on court amassing 12 points, two rebounds and three assists while Chelsea Brook could have had a bigger day out had she been more accurate converting at a lowly 28 per cent from the field but still managed 11 points along with five rebounds and two assists. Marena Whittle was the only other Lightning player to reach double figures with 10 points to her name. Whittle also reeled in five rebounds and three steals while Louella Tomlinson proved to be a handy option off the bench with her five points, four rebounds and three assists.

It was a one woman show for Bendigo with the ever-reliable Carley Ernst steering the ship from start to finish with her game-high haul of 32 points. Ernst was a menace across the court nailing four triples and boasting a 44 per cent accuracy from the field highlighting her overall dominance. Not only did she do damage on the scoreboard and keep her side in the hunt for a win but starred off the boards with a whopping 15 rebounds, 11 defensive to round out a solid performance from the forward. The next best was Tessa Lavey who played the entire game and managed to walk away with 17 points, five rebounds and six assists to her name however was costly with ball in hand racking up four turnovers. The scoring well and truly dropped off after Lavey and Ernst with Alicia Froling the closest with a mere four points which accompanied her five rebounds and three assists. Although Chevannah Paalvast did not manage to hit the scoreboard in her 30 minutes on court she proved to be handy on the rebound finishing with seven.

It was a seesawing affair but once the Lightning had control they did not let go but will want to have a fast start in their next clash on Saturday against Townsville who currently hold fourth spot if they are to both topple them and keep their finals hopes alive. For Bendigo they now prepare for the Boomers on Saturday.

2020 WNBL Round 5 preview: Last chance for teams to make mark

ROUND 5 of the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) is finally here. The last round of the season, and five teams are fighting for four spots, with the top two unable to be moved, and the next two almost there, whilst the fifth placed side has a huge week to try and grab a late spot in the post-season series.

Adelaide Lightning

Position: 5th
Wins: 4
Losses: 5

To make finals?

The Lightning need to win all four games and hope either the Fire or Boomers lose all of their games. Could finish as low as seventh if Perth and Sydney Uni win games in the final round.

Round 5 fixtures:

Tue, Dec 8 @ Cairns vs. Melbourne Boomers
Wed, Dec 9 @ Cairns vs. Bendigo Spirit
Fri, Dec 11 @ Cairns vs. Townsville Fire
Sun, Dec 13 @ Townsville vs. Sydney Uni Flames

After starting off strongly with a 4-1 start, the Lightning have slumped to a four-game losing streak to now be perilously close to missing out on finals. They need a lot to go right in the run home, though one benefit is playing both the Boomers and Fire who hold onto the spots they needs. If they can win those, they should go 4-0, but even then need at least one of those sides to have a shock loss.

Steph Talbot has been the standout this season, averaging 20.0 points, 9.6 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.0 block per game, providing some continuity to the side along with Chelsea Brook (10.4 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists). Abigail Wehrung (11.8 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.5 assists) and Alex Wilson (11.3 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists) have certainly shone but they need to have a big finish in the final round.

 

Bendigo Spirit

Position: 8th
Wins: 0
Losses: 11th

To make finals?

They can’t. In fact they cannot even get off the bottom. Just pride on the line for Bendigo in the Spirit’s final two matches.

Round 5 fixtures:

Wed, Dec 9 @ Cairns vs. Adelaide Lightning
Fri, Dec 11 @ Cairns vs. Melbourne Boomers

It has been a disappointing season for the Spirit, but not completely unexpected given the youth they have been pushing through the program. Having lost the likes of Shyla Heal and Abigail Wehrung over the off-season, the Spirit were quite inexperienced, and while they have been overawed, have had some promising moments for the future.

Tessa Lavey (16.0 points, 4.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 1.1 steals) and Carley Ernst (15.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.0 block) have ben the standout players all season, and have just been searching for more consistent support across the side. Demi Skinner (6.9 points, 2.4 rebounds) and Mary Goulding (5.9 points, 4.0 rebounds) have provided some special moments, while Piper Dunlop (2.7 points, 1.8 rebounds) is one for the future.

 

Melbourne Boomers

Position: 3rd
Wins: 7
Losses: 3

To make finals?

Not lose every game and allow the Lightning to win every game. It is a certainty barring a massive disaster. In fact, even defeating Adelaide tonight guarantees them a spot.

Round 5 fixtures:

Tue, Dec 8 @ Cairns vs. Adelaide Lightning
Fri, Dec 11 @ Cairns vs. Bendigo Spirit
Sun, Dec 13 @ Townsville vs. Townsville Fire

The Boomers can lock up a finals spot with a win tonight over Adelaide, but realistically they should have no issues casting aside Bendigo on Friday. A grudge match against Townsville looms as a massive final day encounter, with the winner potentially taking third spot, and the loser left for fourth.

Ezi Magbegor and Cayla George combine to be two of the best bigs in the league with the way they have really begun dominating each game of late, not that it should come as any surprise. The two Opals are experts at their craft, and George is averaging 14.3 points, 8.5 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.3 steals, while Magbegor has put up 14.2 points, 8.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.0 block. Tess Madgen (14.6 points, 5.6 rebounds and 6.3 assists) has provided all-round support for the Boomers, while Maddie Garrick (10.6 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.8 assists) is the other top scorer on the side.

 

Perth Lynx

Position: 6th
Wins: 4
Losses: 7

To make finals?

They cannot. Unfortunately the Lynx left their run a little too late, and even two wins in the final round sees them fall short.

Round 5 fixtures:

Tue, Dec 8 @ Townsville vs. Sydney Uni
Thu, Dec 10 @ Townsville vs. UC Capitals

After a poor 1-7 start and only a victory against the winless Bendigo, the Lynx have found their feet in the past week, winning three straight games, and boosting themselves to a 4-7 record which saw them leapfrog Sydney Uni Flames. A win over the Flames tonight guarantees them a top six spot, while they could derail the Capitals plans with a victory on Thursday. Perth will be the first team to finish the WNBL season after Thursday.

Darcee Garbin has had a remarkable season and just keeps getting better, with the ex-Fire talent now up to 17.3 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.0 steals per game, sharing the load perfectly with Katie-Rae Ebzery (17.0 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.3 assists). Alex Ciabattoni has been a welcome addition to the squad as a two-way player with 10.6 points, 3.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.0 steal per game, while the rebounding duo of Alex Sharp (8.7 points, 7.8 rebounds) and Kayla Steindl (6.3 points, 7.9 rebounds) has ensured the Lynx remain competitive.

 

Southside Flyers

Position: 1st
Wins: 9
Losses: 2

To make finals?

Never looked like not making it, with top spot to likely be decided in the final round clash against the Capitals.

Round 5 fixtures:

Thu, Dec 10 @ Townsville vs. Sydney Uni
Sun, Dec 13 @ Townsville vs. UC Capitals

Now on a five-game winning streak and having taken care of the Boomers after an earlier loss, the Flyers face their other nemesis in UC Capitals in the final round. Southside has plenty of talent with the Capitals and Boomers arguably the only two teams able to have their measure, and as such should have no problems against the Flames on Thursday, then decide top spot with the Capitals on Sunday.

Liz Cambage has been unstoppable at the level since coming back from the WNBA, racking up 24.1 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game. Sara Blicavs (14.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.4 steals) has relished the focus going off her this season, while Rebecca Cole (13.7 points, 4.2 assists and 2.4 rebounds) and Jenna O’Hea (11.5 points, 3.9 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.7 steals) have also provided all-round support. It is hard to forget Leilani Mitchell who has been an assist-machine, picking up 6.5 dimes per game to go with her 8.1 points.

 

Sydney Uni Flames

Position: 7th
Wins: 3
Losses: 7

To make finals?

They cannot, but they could leap as high as fifth if they can win their last three games and results go their way in other matches.

Round 5 fixtures:

Tue, Dec 8 @ Townsville vs. Perth Lynx
Thu, Dec 10 @ Townsville vs. Southside Flyers
Sun, Dec 13 @ Townsville vs. Adelaide Lightning

The Flames cannot make finals, but have the potential to pick up a couple more wins in the run home and rise as high as fifth on the table. While the top of the table Southside Flyers will be tough to knock off, the Lynx and Lightning either side of that game, tonight and Sunday are winnable matches for Sydney Uni.

Ex-Perth stars Lauren Mansfield (12.6 points, 2.2 rebounds and 4.8 assists) and Alison Schwagmeyer (12.4 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 2.3 steals) have combined brilliantly in the back court this season since crossing the country. Lauren Scherf has remained steady in the five spot with 10.9 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.3 blocks, whilst Anneli Maley has been a revelation thanks to 11.4 rebounds to go with her 6.8 points.

 

Townsville Fire

Position: 4th
Wins: 7
Losses: 4

To make finals?

Similar position to Melbourne, needing one win to secure a Top 4 spot, and can only drop out if they lose them all and the Lightning win them all. Will know if they have to play for a finals spot by the time their first game rolls around.

Round 5 fixtures:

Fri, Dec 11 @ Cairns vs. Adelaide Lightning
Sun, Dec 13 @ Townsville vs. Melbourne Boomers

The Fire are on the verge of bouncing back from last year’s wooden spoon to playing finals this year, but must knock off Adelaide Lightning on Friday. They do that and it will be all secure, before a huge playoff for third takes place against Melbourne Boomers on Sunday. Until Friday, the Fire have the longest rest leading up to the final round.

The back court duo of Lauren Nicholson and Shyla Heal is the best in the competition with the pair providing the majority of the team’s points throughout the 2020 season. Nicholson has put up 18.4 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.4 steals, while Heal has managed 17.1 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.2 steals in their 10 games this season. Zitina Aokuso just keeps getting better and got the start last match, and is almost up to 10 points per game (9.7) coming off the bench, to go with 5.9 rebounds per match. Nadeen Payne (8.4 points, 6.7 rebounds) has provided great support in that area.

 

UC Capitals

Position: 2nd
Wins: 8
Losses: 3

To make finals?

They are in, and like the Flyers, have looked in since bouncing back from a surprise opening night loss. Top spot will be up for grabs in the last match against the Flyers if the Capitals win their first match.

Round 5 fixtures:

Thu, Dec 10 @ Townsville vs. Perth Lynx
Sun, Dec 13 @ Townsville vs. Southside Flyers

The reigning back-to-back premiers had a disappointing loss to Townsville Fire which saw them slip to second on the table, and now they have to bounce back with wins against Perth Lynx, and finish off against title favourites, Southside Flyers. The Capitals beat them last time they faced off and will be hoping to do so again, with their defensive mindset key to containing the Flyers’ bigs.

Kelsey Griffin has just been building all season for this pointy end, now averaging 11.8 points. 7.7 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game, teaming up well with co-captain Marianna Tolo (10.3 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.1 blocks). The youth coming through the guard spots in Maddison Rocci (15.7 points, 3.1 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 2.3 steals) and Jade Melbourne (8.0 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.0 assists) has been a delight for the future, while Keely Froling (9.7 points, 6.0 rebounds) has pieced together a really strong season.

Picture: Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images

Fire take down Caps in a stunning performance

TOWNSVILLE Fire caused a major upset in the WNBL, claiming a 13-point win over UC Capitals in a seesawing affair (84-71). The win marks the Fire’s seventh of the season and keeps them in touch with the top four while it is the second loss in as many days for the Capitals. It has not altered their ladder position too much though, thanks to their strong hold on second place.

Fire skipped out to a strong start and really put the foot down in the second term with a dominant showing thanks to their 24 points to 11. They managed to shut down the typically all-powerful Capitals side before things started to even up in the second half. Managing 19 points apiece in the third quarter, the Capitals came out with a real fire in the belly in the last quarter mounting somewhat of a comeback to outscore Townsville and spark plenty of concern through the Fire camp, but it was not enough to overrun the home side which had created a decent lead and were not ready to give up the “W”.

It was a hard day at the office for the Caps with the Canberra-based side unable to find the basket, sitting at a mere 28 per cent from the field only converting 22 of their 76 chances. On the flip-side, Townsville had a much better day sitting at 48 per cent and impressed from inside the arc nailing 21 of their 37 attempts at 56 per cent compared to 31 per cent. Free throw percentage was another point of difference with the Fire capitalising on their chances at the charity stripe with 75 per cent to 70 per cent. Despite struggling on the scoreboard, the Caps starred off the backboard amassing 49 compared to 35 while they also notched up 15 assists to nine. When it came to turnovers the Fire were much cleaner with ball in hand registering 12 while they also flexed their muscles when it came to points inside the paint with 30-24.

Youngster Shyla Heal seemed to have the ball on a string unable to do no wrong, racking up a game-high 27 points shooting at 58 per cent along with eight rebounds and three assists. Lauren Nicholson was the next best with the guard inflicting plenty of pain on the scoreboard with 25 points to her name and five rebounds, four of which were defensive. Nadeen Payne was the only other player to register double digits for points with 11 while also amassing eight rebounds in her 28 minutes on court. Youngster Zitina Aokuso was down on her usual performance but still managed to record seven points, three rebounds and one assist.

Although the big stars did not step up to the plate it was Maddison Rocci that led the way for the Caps recording 19 points at 43 per cent. Rocci slotted five triples in her outing while also amassing three rebounds, one assist and two steals. Kelsey Griffin had an influence with her 10 points and seven rebounds in 20 minutes on court as Mikaela Ruef chimed in with nine points and an impressive 12 rebounds. Keely Froling also hit the scoreboard albeit not in a big way, with her eight points and seven rebounds – six of which were offensive.

The Capitals next look to Perth in hope to secure their ninth win while Townsville next face Adelaide Lightning.

Perth secure nail-biter

WNBL

PERTH Lynx clinched a two-point victory over Adelaide Lightning in a tight contest on Sunday night with the two sides going toe-to-toe for majority of the game (78-80). The victory marked the third straight win for the Lynx who have found some solid form in the back half of the season while Adelaide have faltered in the past couple of outings, with four straight losses.

Adelaide burst out of the blocks with a scintillating start to the game showcasing their dominance and scoring prowess early piling on 28 points to 19. The tables turned in the second quarter with Perth firing back to go on a 26 point to 13 spree and somewhat level the playing field. It was tit for tat for most of the game as the two sides traded blows, with the Lightning rediscovering their form in the third to reclaim the ascendancy and grab a hold of the game. But when it came down to the final quarter Lynx left no stone unturned firing on all cylinders and outscoring the Lightning in the final term to secure an almighty win.

Despite having a lower shooting percentage from the field 33 to 40 it did not stop Perth from stealing the win. Adelaide impressed from two-point range sitting at 41 per cent sinking 16 of their 39 attempts while Perth struggled to find the basket sitting at a mere 28 per cent with 17 from 60. Lynx had the upper hand from range sitting at 46 per cent while Adelaide managed 40 per cent. Rebounding was another strength of Perth (58-44) while when it came to assists the Lightning notched up 23 to 20 and also came out on top in blocks (4-2) and steals (5-4).

The scoring was shared between a number of key players for the Lynx but it was young gun Darcee Garbin that led the pack with her impressive 31 points and 11 rebounds in a double-double performance. Garbin was involved in just about everything and was well aided by teammate Alex Ciabattoni who slotted 15 points in her 30 minutes on court while also registering seven rebounds and three assists. The ever reliable Katie Ebzery stepped up to the plate with her 12 points and 10 assists in another strong showing while Kayla Steidl also managed to find the scoreboard with relative ease picking up 11 points and 11 rebounds to help her side get over the line.

There were only two main scoring options for the Lightning with star Steph Talbot dominating once again. Talbot managed a game-high 23 points to accompany her 13 rebounds and seven assists although it was not enough to get her side over the line. Chelsea Brook plied her trade with 16 points, five rebounds and three assists in her 37 minutes on court despite her shooting percentage being a mere 50 per cent. Abigail Wehrung chimed in with a handy eight points, seven assists and two rebounds while Alex Wilson also managed to hit the scoreboard with her eight points.

It is a short turnaround between games for Adelaide with the side facing off with the third placed Melbourne Boomers while Perth also play on Tuesday against the lowly placed Sydney Uni Flames.

Flyers produce another dominant win to take care of Lightning

THERE has been no shortage of dominant Southside Flyers wins this season, but the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) heavyweights completely dismantled Adelaide Lightning in a dominant 111-72 victory last night. The Flyers were just unbelievably good hitting more than half of their field goals, including 57 per cent from two-point range and 38 per cent from long-range, and never looked like losing, winning every quarter by at least seven points.

From the first tip-off Southside got off to a flyer piling on 29 points to 22 in a high-scoring opening term, then blew away the Lightning with a massive 31-17 second quarter. Up by 21 already at the half, the Flyers did not take the foot off the pedal, pouring on another 30 points to 20, and the game was done and dusted as the Flyers were out to a 31-point advantage. Needing to stem the bleeding in the final quarter, the Lightning managed to make it closer, but they still lost the term by eight, going down in a one-sided contest with the Flyers flexing their muscles on their way to a whopping 39-point win.

The Flyers won all the key statistics, with their accuracy being a huge feature of the game, particularly worrying the defence when getting to the basket, nailing 19 of 23 for an 82 per cent clip, whilst the Lightning only had four free throws for the entire game. The rebounds were fairly even with 42-39 in favour of the winners, but they were clearly the better team in assists (31-17) and steals (15-4), and crucified the Lightning on their turnovers.

Adelaide had 25 turnovers to 10, with the Flyers taking full advantage, scoring 33 points to five off the turnover, as well as 20 fast break points to 11. They still had plenty of contribution off their bench thanks to 31 points compared to 22, and also only produced 10 personal fouls to 18. It was as dominant performance as there had been all season.

Liz Cambage just dominated again and was a class above, hitting 12 of her 16 field goals, getting to the line more often than the entire opposition side, and finishing with 29 points and six rebounds. She was far from alone though, as Jenna O’Hea hit 18 points, four rebounds, six assists and four steals, and Rebecca Cole had 16 points, two rebounds, two assists and two steals. Impressively, neither had a turnover on the night, nor did playmaker Leilani Mitchell who racked up eight points and seven assists.

Every player on the Flyers’ side scored, as Monique Conti made the most of more court time in the match, putting up 10 points, five rebounds, three assists and one steal in 13 minutes, while the Blicavs – Sara and Steph – combined for 16 points, 14 rebounds, five assists, two steals and two blocks.

For the Lightning, Alex Wilson hit a team-high 13 points, nine rebounds, four assists and one block, as one of five players who reached double-figure points. The Lightning shared the points around, as Chelsea Brook came off the bench for 12 points, seven rebounds and two assists. Steph Talbot (11 points, six rebounds and two assists), Abigail Wehrung (11 points, two rebounds and two assists) and Marena Whittle (10 points, three rebounds) all had an impact.

The Flyers moved to the top of the table with the victory and now can rest up before facing a Melbourne Boomers lineup that will be up for its fourth game this week, while the Lightning will need to shake off the loss for a huge clash against back-to-back premiers University of Canberra Capitals on Friday night.

Picture: Albert Perez/Getty Images

2020 WNBL Round 4 preview: Competition for finals spots heats up

MELBOURNE Boomers will have the toughest Round 4 schedule of any side after a more relaxed Round 3 in the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL), having to play four games in six days, including two matches against last year’s grand finalists. Adelaide Lightning, Bendigo Spirit, Perth Lynx and University of Canberra (UC) Capitals will play three games apiece, while Southside Flyers, Sydney Uni Flames and Townsville Fire have the two games this week.

ADELAIDE LIGHTNING

vs. Southside Flyers @ Cairns on Wed, Dec 2
vs. UC Capitals @ Townsville on Fri, Dec 4
vs. Perth Lynx @ Townsville on Sun, Dec 6

It is a make or break round coming up for the Lightning, following two losses in Round 3, that were also accompanied by two big wins. They lost by 40 and 31 points to Melbourne Boomers and Southside Flyers respectively, but accounted for Bendigo Spirit and Sydney Uni Flames by 40 and 22. They now have to back up to try and turn the tables on the Flyers, before two sets of 48-hour breaks to take on reigning premiers, UC Capitals and then the struggling Perth Lynx. If the Lightning can come away with two wins, they will be in a good position to play finals, but even 1-2 could leave them in the lurch if results do not go their way.

Steph Talbot has been the star this season, putting up 20.8 points 9.8 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.0 blocks per game, joined by the likes of Abigail Wehrung (13.6 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.0 assists) and Alex Wilson (13.2 points, 6.0 rebounds, 5.6 assists and 1.2 steals) in the top points scorers. Marena Whittle has also been crucial off the boards with seven rebounds to go with eight points per game.

BENDIGO SPIRIT

vs. Perth Lynx @ Townsville on Tue, Dec 1
vs. Melbourne Boomers @ Cairns on Sat, Dec 5
vs. Sydney Uni Flames @ Cairns on Sun, Dec 6

The Spirit are out of contention for the finals race, but could try and finish on a high, playing the other two bottom three sides in the next week. Yet to win a game, a win over the Lynx would be a confidence-boosting effort, whilst the Flames on Sunday is a possible chance as well with their opponents’ best impressive, but their worst pretty bad. The Boomers in between will be a tough ask, but even the likely finals-bound side has shown to have chinks in the armour. With only two games left after this round, the Spirit need to break their winless drought here.

In season 2020, much of the work has been left up to the experience of Carley Ernst and Tessa Lavey. Ernst has been enormous off the boards with 7.3 rebounds to go with 16.7 points and a block per game, while Lavey has put up 16.3 points, 6.6 assists, 3.9 rebounds and a steal per game. Both have been crucial in transitioning from offence to defence, but have made up the bulk of their team’s scoring with Mary Goulding (6.6 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 1.1 assists) the next best, and Lavey has recorded about half of the team’s assists, an area the Spirit have struggled in.

MELBOURNE BOOMERS

vs. UC Capitals @ Townsville on Tue, Dec 1
vs. Sydney Uni Flames @ Cairns on Thu, Dec 3
vs. Bendigo Spirit @Cairns on Sat, Dec 5
vs. Southside Flyers @ Cairns on Sun, Dec 6

If we are talking make or break, then the Boomers have that this round. Four games in six days starting tonight, Melbourne can launch a finals campaign by the end of the week. However, a terrible week would likely see them not only slip back into the back, but also put their finals chances right in doubt. They have a mixed bag this week with likely wins over the Flames and Spirit, but they also take on top two sides, Southside Flyers and UC Capitals. They did account for the Flyers back in Round 1 and would love nothing more than to upset their closest Victorian rival, but coming off three games in five days while the Flyers will have had a few days rest off their only other Wednesday night fixture, it will be tough. Four wins and they are genuinely in the hunt for a top two spot.

Tess Madgen was in scintillating form prior to her ankle injury but she should be back and raring to go this round, averaging 18.8 points, 5.3 rebounds and 5.8 assists in 2020 since crossing from Townsville Fire. The experienced four and five combination of Cayla George (16.3 points, 9.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.2 steals) and Ezi Magbegor (11.5 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.0 blocks) has also been a highlight of the year for the reigning semi-finalists.

PERTH LYNX

vs. Bendigo Spirit @ Townsville on Tue, Dec 1
vs. Townsville Fire @ Townsville on Fri, Dec 4
vs. Adelaide Lightning @ Townsville on Sun, Dec 6

There is no doubt that for Perth to have a shot at finals, they would need a near-impossible set of results to occur. Having played two extra games to their biggest threats in Melbourne and Adelaide, Perth would need to win its remaining five games, and hope the Boomers and Lightning lose them all – bar the one they face against each other. Despite their 1-7 start, the Lynx have been competitive for the most part despite some one-sided defeats too. They have a very winnable game first up against the only side they have beaten so far in the Spirit, before taking on finals contenders in Townsville Fire and Adelaide Lightning. Whilst it is anticipated they end the week with 1-2 added to their tally, they could catch the Lightning off guard and derail Adelaide’s finals chances.

Katie-Rae Ebzery has been the dominant player, averaging 16.6 points, 3.4 assists and 3.1 rebounds per game, whilst former Fire talent Darcee Garbin has thrived in the move out west, putting up 13.8 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.1 steals. Much like the Spirit, the points drop off though both Alex Ciabattoni (8.5 points, 2.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists) and Alex Sharp (8.3 points, 6.9 rebounds) have been prominent, as has Kayla Steindl off the boards with 7.9 rebounds.

SOUTHSIDE FLYERS

vs. Adelaide Lightning @ Cairns on Wed, Dec 2
vs. Melbourne Boomers @ Cairns on Sun, Dec 6

After a busy couple of weeks, the Flyers have a relatively smooth week with just two games in the seven days, coming up against Adelaide Lightning and Melbourne Boomers in Cairns. Tomorrow night’s clash against the Lightning will go a long way to securing a top two spot, with a victory over the Boomers just about confirming it. They have only lost the two games – to the Boomers and Capitals – and will be keen to bounce back against the Boomers in their second fixture. Either way, finals is sewn up for the Flyers who are the title favourites despite the losses.

Liz Cambage has made the mark everyone expected her to on-court with 22.3 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game thus far. She has plenty of talent around her though, with Sara Blicavs (14.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.6 steals) having a ripping season with Jenna O’Hea (10.9 points, 3.9 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.6 steals per game) in the front court. In the back court, Leilani Mitchell (8.7 points, 5.9 assists) and Rebecca Cole (13.2 points, 4.2 assists and 2.2 rebounds) have been slicing and dicing opposition defences and leading their side to some big wins.

SYDNEY UNI FLAMES

vs. Melbourne Boomers @ Carins on Thu, Dec 3
vs. Bendigo Spirit @ Cairns on Sun, Dec 6

Sydney Uni is a side whose season is on life support, though there still is a pulse there if they can capitalise this round. With only five games remaining, they will need to win at least four, but preferably all five, starting with the Boomers and Spirit this week. The Spirit is an obvious must-win on Sunday, but to knock off the Boomers on Thursday would help the Flames at least leapfrog them, and potentially sit equal fourth by the end of the round. With Perth and Adelaide amongst the opponents in the final round, their fate is still in their hands, but they cannot afford to slip-up.

Former Perth duo, Lauren Mansfield and Alison Schwagmeyer have taken to the east coast like ducks to water. Mansfield is averaging 12.6 points, 4.8 assists and 2.1 rebounds while Schwagmeyer has put up 11.0 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 2.3 steals. The impact of five, Lauren Scherf with 12.5 points, 7.9 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.6 blocks should not be underestimated, while Anneli Maley might be the most underrated player in the competition, putting up 7.3 points and 1.3 steals to go with a whopping 11.5 rebounds in her eight games since crossing from the Flyers.

TOWNSVILLE FIRE

vs. Perth Lynx @ Townsville on Fri, Dec 4
vs. UC Capitals @ Townsville on Sun, Dec 6

Much like the Flyers and Flames, the Fire complete the trio of ‘F’ sides only playing the two games this weekend. Both are at home in Townsville this week, and the Fire get to rest up until Friday, the last team to commence action in Round 4. They go head-to-head with Perth Lynx up first, and are able to put a line through the Lynx’s season. The Capitals on Sunday will be a tougher challenge, and they will need to be at their best, but the Fire have shown to be capable throughout matches they just need to do it for longer periods of time, having gone down to the Capitals back in Round 1 by 11 points.

Lauren Nicholson (16.4 points, 3.1 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.0 steals) and Shyla Heal (16.6 points, 3.9 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.0 steals) have been one of the best back court duos in the league this season. They have dominated the vast majority of Townsville’s points since crossing from Adelaide and Bendigo respectively over the offseason. Zitina Aokuso (9.9 points, 6.0 rebounds), Megan McKay (5.9 points, 6.1 rebounds) and Nadeen Payne (8.0 points, 5.7 rebounds) are the bigs who cause headaches for opposition sides off the boards.

UC CAPITALS

vs. Melbourne Boomers @ Townsville on Tue, Dec 1
vs. Adelaide Lightning @ Townsville on Fri, Dec 4
vs. Townsville Fire @Townsville on Sun, Dec 6

The UC Capitals are sitting pretty at the moment with seven wins from eight games and in prime position for top spot. With a last-day matchup against the Flyers set to potentially determine top spot, there would be one eye on the semis despite having the five games remaining. They have the three this weekend, and none are easy, taking on the likely finals-bound Boomers and Fire either side of the team that beat them in overtime back in Round 1, Adelaide Lightning. The form that a full-strength Capitals outfit has shown over the journey is better than any other side, and they will be hard to beat, but before they can focus on finals, they need to keep ticking over the wins and it starts tonight against the Boomers.

Maddison Rocci (15.6 points, 3.4 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 2.8 steals) leads all-comers in terms of points, with the co-captains Marianna Tolo (11.6 points. 5.5 rebounds, 1.1 steals and 1.1 blocks) and Kelsey Griffin (10.8 points. 7.8 rebounds and 1.5 steals) building into the season nicely. Jade Melbourne‘s season has been impressive (9.6 points, 3.0 rebounds and 2.3 assists), while Tahlia Tupaea‘s work off the bench (6.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists) should not be understated.