Tag: stephanie reid

WNBL Preliminary final: Townsville Fire v. Melbourne Boomers

IT is a do or die clash for the Melbourne Boomers and Townsville Fire as both sides aim to keep their grand final hopes alive with a win in the preliminary final. Melbourne is chasing its first premiership in over a decade while the Fire have enjoyed a rapid rise up the ladder and will be hoping not to bow out in straight sets.

The Boomers switched on the fireworks in their semi-final win against two-time premiers, UC Capitals and will be wanting to replicate those highs against a young and inexperienced Fire side. On the other hand, Townsville fell victim to a rampant Southside Flyers outfit that was eager to make amends for its shortcomings last year, succeeding with a dominant first term that set up the win.

In terms of recent results, the two sides cannot be separated with the Boomers and Fire winning three of their past five outings to highlight just how evenly poised they are. There has not been too much time between their last encounter with the second and fourth ranked sides meeting in Round 5, when Townsville Fire reigned supreme by six points. The Fire had the better of Melbourne, making them work in overdrive and shutting down a couple of their key figures, an area Melbourne will be hoping to address ahead of their preliminary final clash tonight.

Statistically speaking, the Fire have proven to be more potent in attack than their competitors; averaging 82 points across their 14 games while the Boomers have managed a lesser total of 77. If the Fire are able to find easy avenue to the basket, the Boomers could be in trouble. However, the Boomers’ strength lies in their defensive prowess with the side recognised for its ability to slow down opposition teams and be a real menace off the backboards, boasting 30 more rebounds than the Fire (565-535). Melbourne also reigns supreme in blocks (62-21) and steals (108-105) indicating its defensive minded techniques. When it comes to shooting percentage it is hard to split the two, however the Fire have the upper hand in all areas; going at 46.3 per cent from the field, 75.4 from the charity strip and 35.1 per cent from outside the arc compared to Melbourne’s 43.4, 73.2 and 33.1 respectively.

There are plenty of exciting players across the court with Lauren Nicholson and Shyla Heal likely to light it up for Townsville. Nicholson was awarded All-WNBL honours for her performances throughout the season, averaging 18.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.4 steals, 0.08 steals while shooting at a 48.1 field goal percentage. Heal has also been recognised for her breakout season, winning the Youth Player of the Year award and will be eager to keep her scintillating form going heading into the preliminary final. She has registered averages of 15.2 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.2 steals per game while another one to keep an eye out for is Zitina Aokuso, with her ability to come on and impact the play. Players such as Kate Gaze, Nadeen Payne and Stephanie Reid are also handy inclusions that are able to make a splash.

The Boomers are not without their plethora of stars, with Ezi Magbegor leading the pack. The defensive star averages some impressive numbers (14.8 points, 8.6 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 0.8 steals and 1.1 blocks) and knows what it takes to perform on the big stage, converting at a 56.2 per cent clip. Partner in crime and Boomers captain, Cayla George is another dynamite player, able to leave a lasting imprint with her hot hand and rebounding ability; averaging 14.1 points, 9.4 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.4 steals and a little over a block a game. Maddy Garrick also has an uncanny ability to sense the moment and star, amassing averages of 10.9 points a game, 2.8 rebounds and 2.7 assists. Meanwhile, Tess Madgen is a force to be reckoned with alongside the likes of Ashleigh Karaitiana and Kalani Purcell.

WNBL semi-finals preview

WNBL semi-finals action begins tonight as the Melbourne Boomers and UC Capitals kick things off at Townsville Stadium, with the victor progressing through to the preliminary final. Meanwhile, ladder leaders Southside Flyers take on Townsville Fire later tonight with the winner through to the grand final.

UC Capitals v. Melbourne Boomers

A couple of familiar faces return to the finals fold with the UC Capitals and Melbourne Boomers gearing up for another finals campaign. Both sides are formidable forces that ooze class, composure, and plenty of smarts,  able to work their way out of tricky situations and barely have a bad game. It makes for an exciting clash between the two sides.

There has not been too much time between their last outing with the Melbourne Boomers getting the last laugh and walking away with a six-point victory just over two weeks ago. However, the Capitals are no easy beats and will be hoping to reverse those efforts with the back-to-back reigning premiers a force to be reckoned with each time they step out on court. The Caps have only won two of their past five outings while the Boomers have gone one better, sitting at three wins over their past five performances. Both sides are coming into the final off a loss and will be eager to flip the script and keep their finals dreams alive.

Looking at the statistical breakdown there are plenty of similarities between the two sides, with scoring no problem for either but the difference coming from where they score from. In terms of percentage the Boomers have the upper hand at both the three-point range and in overall field goal percentage – 33.3 per cent to 29.9 per cent and 43.3 per cent to 40.9 per cent respectively. The Caps are prolific in the paint, managing 496 for the season as opposed to 484 while they also have the upper hand when it comes to fast break points (105-73). On the other hand the Boomers make the most of turnover opportunities, nailing 189 points to 183. When it comes to rebounds the Capitals are above and beyond with 514 for the season while Melbourne managed 453.

There is no shortage of excitement machines for UC but it is Maddison Rocci who has really taken the step up this season, averaging a team high 16.2 points along with 3.4 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.0 steals. She is not alone though with Marianna Tolo another commanding presence out on court, averaging 11.4 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.9 assists – highlighting her ability to have an impact in all aspects. It is hard to go past the services of Kelsey Griffin with the forward able to find the basket and score, going at 45.3 per cent from the field and averaging 12 points, 7.8 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.2 steals. There are a host of other key contributors such as Keely Froling, Jade Melbourne, and Mikaela Ruef, who has proven her star power off the boards on more than one occasion.

The Boomers also have a number of livewires, none bigger than the exciting duo of Ezi Magbegor and Cayla George with the latter named in the All-WNBL First Team. Magbegor has taken another big step forward this season, averaging an impressive 14.8 points a game, 8.6 rebounds and 1.5 assists while also lending her hand on the defensive end with 1.1 blocks. Her partner in crime, George, is not far behind averaging 14.7 points, 9.2 rebounds, 3.4 assists, not to mention one block and 1.4 steals a game. Tess Madgen is another one to keep an eye out for with her explosive nature to record 14.2 points, 5.4 rebounds and 6.2 assists a game. Madeleine Garrick, Kalani Purcell and Ashleigh Karaitiana are others that are able to chime in and keep the scoreboard ticking over for the Boomers.

Southside Flyers v. Townsville Fire

Southside Flyers come into the semi-final against Townsville Fire with a real sense of vengeance having fallen short in the big dance last year and proven eager to make up for their missed opportunities. Boasting a stacked team with plenty of big names, the Flyers will be hoping to assert themselves early and pounce on the inexperienced and youthful Townsville outfit.

The last time these two sides met it was the Flyers who took home the chocolates, downing the Fire by a convincing 24 points while also winning by a similar margin the time before in Round 2. In fact, the Flyers have a pretty good record against Townsville; claiming victories in all five of their past encounters, an area the Fire will be hoping to correct in this semi-final to progress through to the next stage. In terms of current form, the Flyers are on a staggering seven-game winning streak and have no intentions of slowing down while Townsville has managed four wins in its past five appearances.

The Flyers are scoring machines, averaging a whopping 96 points per game credit to their plethora of options that can attack the rim and do so at a high accuracy. Conversely, the Fire only manage 81 points per game and will have to try and shut down Southside if they are any chance to keep up with them. Field goal percentage is another strength of the Flyers, sitting at 51.1 per cent with the Fire converting at 45.6 per cent. They also have the upper hand when it comes to three-point accuracy 43.1 to 34.6 but Townsville is pretty reliable when sent to the charity strip, managing a 74.4 per cent clip as opposed to the Flyers’ 71.7 per cent. Aside from shooting the Flyers are incredibly strong when it comes to blocks, registering 31 more than the Fire (52-21) and also reign supreme in assists (343-214) and steals (126-96). However, the Fire have the upper hand on the rebounding front (508-471) and will be hoping to make the most of their efforts off the board.

Despite missing out on the League MVP there is no denying that the acquisition of Liz Cambage has been influential on the Flyers outfit. The star center is a menace off the boards and a commanding force overall, able to hit the scoreboard with great ease in averaging 23.6 points and 8.2 rebounds each time she steps out on court. However, she is not a lone hand with the likes of Sara Blicavs just as much of a handful given her innate ability to pop up when needed and deliver at a high standard, thanks to her 14.5 points, 7.3 rebounds 2.2 assists and 1.2 steals per game averages. Rebecca Cole is another one that is able to ply her trade for the Flyers, averaging 14.5 points per game, 2.2 rebounds, 4.5 assists each time she steps out on court. Teammates Jenna O’Hea and Leilani Mitchell are also are also crucial cogs for the Flyers and will have to fire if they are to get over the top of Townsville in their semi-final clash.

Townsville will be looking to the likes of Lauren Nicholson an Shyla Heal to lead the way for them from start to finish. Nicholson has been a revelation since joining the club this season with her ability to find the rim really coming to the fore, averaging 18.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.4 assists an 1.4 steals each game. Further court time for Heal has worked wonders for her basketball ability with the youngster averaging 15.2 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.2 assists making her one to watch in this clash. Fellow youngster Zitina Aokuso is another exciting prospect that can sense the moment and knows how to deliver recording an average of 9.5 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.2 assists. Nadeen Payne is a handy option for the Fire as is Stephanie Reid and Courtney Woods highlighting the amount of depth the club has.

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.

Southside hand Townsville third loss, Fire’s Nicholson leaves with nose injury

GOOD things eventually come to an end and in this instance, it was the Townsville Fire’s three-game winning streak at the mercy of the Southside Flyers, going down to the heavy-handed championship favourites 70-94, while being substantially undermanned.

A scrappy start from both sides led to a low scoring opening few minutes, but two quick fouls for Megan McKay earned her a quick spot on the bench for the rest of the first quarter. The Flyers started to connect on some of their shots as the first quarter rolled on, while Townsville struggled to pick up steam, trailing 4-16 after six minutes of play thanks to nine quick points from Liz Cambage. Not only did Southside’s superior opening period see them gain an 11-point lead, but also a hard blow to Lauren Nicholson’s nose resulting in the Fire losing a star point-guard for the rest of the game.

An And-One from Bec Cole to commence things in the second provided more encouraging signs for Cheryl Chambers and her players, however three straight successful trips up the floor for the Fire was the response Shannon Seebohm wanted to see following quarter time.

Townsville fended off more Southside success leading into the main break trailing only by eight points and winning the quarter 25-22. Down 34-42, the Fire were feeding off of Shyla Heal’s 15 points and three rebounds at this stage, while Nadeen Payne was doing her best to back Heal up with seven points and four boards. Alternatively, Cambage had herself 17 points in 16 first-half minutes next to Cole, who sat on 10 points and five assists at the mid-way point.

Losing Heal for a chunk of the third due to an elbow to the chest, the Fire did a good job of weathering the Flyers’ storm. But a triple from Jenna O’Hea midway through the third quarter signified the gradual expansion of her side’s lead in the second half putting Southside up by 16 with a quarter left to play in Saturday’s opener.

A relatively uneventful final quarter ensued as Southside started to push their advantage towards the 20-point mark and Townsville struggled to cope while running on limited players. As both sides introduced their secondary units in the dying moments of the contest, Southside routinely concluded matters by running out 24-point winners and ending Townsville’s three-game winning streak.

Shooting over 50 per cent throughout all four quarters, Southside was hard to stop from knocking down their shots, particularly down low (48 points in the paint) and from the free-throw-line (14 from 17). The Flyers also held onto the ball well, only turning over the ball eight times the whole game.

Cambage maintained her reputation as a prolific post presence, contributing 26 points, nine rebounds and three assists, while going 75 per cent from the field. Meanwhile, Cole was the next best thing with her 19 points and eight assists. Leilani Mitchell was not a massive presence on the scoreboard, but she certainly facilitated the ball at a high rate finishing with nine assists under her belt.

Heal had another impressive outing racking up a team-high 17 points, four rebounds and three assists, a major talking point for Townsville’s disappointing outcome. But more impressively, were the combined efforts of two of the WNBL’s best auxiliary players. Firstly, 15 points in 26 minutes off the bench for Stephanie Reid provided merit for a top performance from the losing side, whereas Courtney Woods accumulated a modest 11 points in her efforts yesterday afternoon.

Both teams hit the hardwood again in 24 hours, as Southside looks to knock the Adelaide Lightning out of the top four with a second triumph in as many days. While, the Fire look to re-establish themselves as a favourable finals nominee against a Sydney Uni Flames unit that is hungry to climb the standings.

Lightning hit back with statement win

Pic: WNBL

IMPROVING their record to four wins and one loss, the Adelaide Lighting have reiterated the fact that they are a formidable side, after extinguishing the Sydney Uni Flames 75-53, following a one-sided second half and a 30-point masterclass from early MVP-candidate Stephanie Talbot.

Transition points and a quick start from Sydney saw them run the floor well and capitalise on fast break offence early on, but the Lightning had other ideas for how the opening term would end, following a 7-0 run four minutes in for Adelaide. Riding off on their scoring run and four lead changes in the first quarter, Adelaide held a commanding 20 to 12 lead, with Talbot a large presence early having seven points and four rebounds after 10 minutes.

After an extended quarter-time break due to technical difficulties at the Cairns Pop-Up Arena, both teams lost momentum on the scoreboard. Neither side got off a field goal for two and a half minutes, until this trend was upended following a beautiful backdoor cut from Sydney’s Lauren Mansfield.

Baskets became more frequent from both sides prior to half-time and the Flames made some significant headway in the half’s few remaining minutes after two buckets each from Funda Nakkasoglu and Nat Burton, cutting the deficit to only six points at the main break, 32-26.

It was the Talbot show in the opening 20 minutes, with the 26-year-old putting up 15 points during that time and seven rebounds to add to that. While Adelaide had few players with big scoring totals, the Flames had low scoring numbers across multiple individuals with all of their starters converting on shots. The former Opal in Burton led the way with eight points while Alison Schwagmeyer proved her mettle on the glass with seven rebounds in the initial two quarters.

A tit-for-tat beginning was the best way to describe the early moments of the second half, as both sides remained level six minutes into the third phase. However, four pivotal scores from Abigail Wehrung, Talbot who had two of those, and Marena Whittle gave the Lightning a nine-point buffer at what seemed like a turning point in a clash that had little room for errors. A beautiful drive and dish from Ally Wilson to Ella Batish and a fast-break layup by Talbot capped off a 13-0 run for Chris Lucas’ roster and put control of the game firmly in their possession before three-quarter-time, leading 53-41.

Adelaide ballooned their lead out to 25 points long into the middle stages of the final stanza scoring 17 of the first 19 points, as the Flames had no answer for their opponents late in the game. The Lightning’s bench completed the emphatic final period, culminating in a dominant 22-point blowout, reaffirming Adelaide as a serious contender among the League’s ranks.

With the Lightning holding the Flames to 27 per cent shooting efficiency they were able to provide themselves ample opportunity to pull away later in the game given that they converted their shots, which they did by shooting 42 per cent. A plus-11 in assists and a plus-12 in fast break points was a product of the way  coach Lucas’ side worked as a cohesive unit pushing the ball up the other end of the court after Sydney Uni’s missed shots.

Another standout performance from likely MVP candidate Talbot rattled another opponent’s roster, with the small forward racking up 30 points, 12 rebounds and three assists, while being fouled a game-high five times. Wehrung was the only other Lightning individual with double-digit totals, finishing with 11 points by way of three triples. Chelsea Brook contributed eight points and five rebounds, while Batish tallied seven of her own.

Scoring just 53 total game points, Adelaide’s shooting success was few and far between, with Burton being the only player to accumulate over 10 points – she finished with 14 points and a pair of rebounds. Meanwhile, Anneli Maley (seven points and eight rebounds) and Mansfield (seven points and four assists) had quiet nights respectively as neither of them were able to make a substantial imprint on the game.

Sydney Uni and Adelaide return later today to face another two teams who are completing back-to-back fixtures. The Lightning have their work cut out for them if they are to try and slow down the Southside Flyers, who just recently beat the Townsville Fire in convincing style. This brings us to the Flames’ opponents later today, looking to regain lost ground in the standings against the Fire in Round Three’s final game.

Caps keep the good times rolling, extend winning streak to seven

Pic: WNBL

THE longest winning streak of WNBL20 this season continues for the University of Canberra Capitals, as the two-time defending champions extended their litany of victories to seven straight, flattening the Bendigo Spirit in last night’s closer 51-87, rounding off the third of three one-sided contests over the first half of the weekend.

A close contest for the majority of the first period, it seemed as though both sides would be within a possession of each other at the first intermission. However, seven-straight points in the last 60 seconds of the term for the Capitals saw the reigning champions lead 20-12 after 10 minutes, highlighted by a buzzer beating corner three from Brittany Smart.

It seemed early on that the only visible scorer on Tracy York’s side was Tessa Lavey early in the second, who had eight points midway through the period. But numerous participants for the Capitals were finding looks of their own. Starting the second quarter on a 12-4 run, Canberra’s starting five and the extra boost given by former Sydney Uni Flame Tahlia Tupaea, quickly lathered on the points against the Spirit prior to half-time.

Outscoring Bendigo 22-9 in the second period, the Capitals were able to produce two-times the amount of points as their opponents in the first half, leading 42-21 at the midway point. However, given their history against lower-ranked sides Paul Goriss reiterated the notion of playing hard for all four quarters to his side at the main break.

With all five of Canberra starters manufacturing valuable contributions in the first half, it was evident that the Capitals were seeking a team-based win, which was pointed out by their eight assists through two quarters.

Canberra’s lone problem was clearly slowing down Australian Opal in Lavey, who had 13 points in all 20 minutes of the opening half, the only multiple field goal scorer for the Spirit prior to the third quarter, as the side failed to efficiently convert on their scoring attempts only shooting 17 per cent.

The Spirit kicked off the second half with a fast-paced brand of basketball, scoring three of the first four buckets for both teams, but that would be the extent of the good news following this. After making an adjustment on the defensive end, the Capitals turned the momentum in their favour once again and this time for good.

Earning themselves a 33-point buffer at the end of the third term, 37-70, the third game of yesterday’s triple-header looked like it was going finish in familiar fashion to the previous two meetings – a blowout.

This fate for the two sides came to fruition as Canberra completed the four-quarter sweep in Townsville and ultimately the 37-point landslide victory, earning their seventh straight win in the process and putting themselves a game ahead of the Southside Flyers on the WNBL ladder.

Shots just did not fall for the Spirit, who now fall to a winless record of zero wins and eight losses at the middle point of the season. Making 17 shots from 63 attempts (26 per cent) and giving up 36 points in the paint, Bendigo really disadvantaged themselves when it came to Canberra’s depth and team chemistry. Whereas the Capitals made a sizeable 44 per cent rate of their shots along with 22 assists in what was a complete team-effort.

Not a single Capitals player scored more than 15 points, highlighting just how distributed the scoring load was for UC. Leading the side, however, was Marianna Tolo with her 14 points and six rebounds, while Maddison Rocci backed up her captain with 12 points and three assists. Keely Froling and Tupaea each finished their nights with 10 points. For the Spirit, only Lavey was able to crack a double-digit scoring total, but severely slowed her level of production in the second half where she accounted for only four of her 17 points.

The Caps line up again on Tuesday against the Melbourne Boomers in a much-anticipated top-four matchup that will see a semi-final rematch of last season. On the other hand, Bendigo will face off with fellow bottom of the ladder side the Perth Lynx, perhaps the Spirit’s most likely chance at gaining their first win of the season.

Fire and Flames bring the heat, Townsville staves off late Sydney charge

AFTER a regrettable loss to the UC Capitals two days ago, the Townsville Fire have repositioned themselves in the winner’s column again, after a scrappy 81-78 win in their home opener last night against the Sydney Uni Flames.

Despite a late charge from the Flames, “The Battle of the Inferno” was at a high temperature in all four quarters, but it was a younger and quicker Fire outfit that came out triumphant.

The Fire were without their anchor in Zitina Aokuso to start their game as Megan McKay filled the role alongside Mia Murray, Nadeen Payne, Shyla Heal and Lauren Nicholson. Meanwhile, the Flames had their usual five on the floor for tip-off in Lauren Mansfield, Alison Schwagmeyer, Anneli Maley, Nat Burton and Lauren Scherf.

It was Heal that got Townsville off the ground with five of the Fire’s first 10 points, whereas Sydney Uni’s spread of scoring options took over their offensive production for the majority of the first quarter with multiple names getting on the scoresheet early on.

But the Fire’s core unit with the help of Stephanie Reid and Courtney Woods would take control of the contest in the later stages of the first term, getting their lead out to double-digits seven minutes in thanks primarily to Payne’s potency from deep.

Capitalising on all five of their first-quarter free-throws and 12 points in the paint compared to the Flames’ eight, the Fire etched a 26-19 lead at the first intermission, 11 of those coming by way of Payne in a quarter where she would not see the bench.

Carly Boag made the first move of the second with a pull-up three to quickly cut the deficit to four, as Coach Katrina Hibbert looked to hit Townsville where it hurt from behind the arc. Halfway through, the Flames drew level at 32 points apiece, but Woods and Reid played pivotal roles in the first half knocking down much needed triples to maintain the side’s lead, while Scherf continued to dominate down low with 13 points through the first 20 minutes of play.

Heal continued to lead the way for Shannon Seebohm’s squad with 13 points of her own in the first half with Payne backing her up with 11 points, putting Townsville up 47-43 at the main break, as the squad shot an incredible 56 per cent conversion rate with bench players accounting for 15 points in this time.

Starting off the second half, both sides would get some shots off successfully in a very even third quarter. However, Sydney Uni slowly worked their way in the contest again after a momentary lapse to conclude the first half. A few buckets by Scherf tied up the contest five minutes into the third phase and a single free-throw from Maley gave the Flames their first lead of the night since the opening period, which would only last until the next possession.

Nevertheless, the see-sawing affair continued in the penultimate quarter, concluding with the score 63-59 in what was preparing for a hotly contested final 10 minutes between two talented sides.

Seven-straight points by way of the two surprises of the night in Woods and Reid, put Townsville ahead by 11 in an instant, thus putting the Fire in the driver’s seat in front of a raucous home fan base with six minutes remaining.

A three from Scherf halfway through the fourth put a glimmer of hope in Sydney Uni’s eyes and a late barrage from the Flames would soon follow, getting to within one point in the dying seconds. But Heal’s two made free throws with a few seconds remaining would ice the game and cement Townsville’s victory last night, 81-78.

Statistical leaders for the victors included Nicholson, who off the back of a strong second half completed her game with 17 points and three rebounds, while her backcourt companion Heal would accumulate 15 points and six assists. Payne (14), Reid (11) and Woods (10) each contributed double digit totals to the Fire’s scoring.

On the flip side, Scherf’s season-high 25-point, nine-rebound performance coupled with Schwagmeyer’s 23-point effort allowed the Flames to stay in the contest, while Maley’s 10 points and 14 rebounds continued her individual season as one of the WNBL’s most prolific board getters.

The Fire bounced back from their close loss to the Canberra Capitals in their last outing, but now have a mammoth challenge awaiting them in two days, the Southside Flyers. The Flames, who were originally set to face the Adelaide Lightning that same night, now get an extended four-day rest before lining up against the Caps on Saturday night.

WNBL20 Team Preview – Townsville Fire

TO begin Draft Central’s team previews before the 2020 season kicks off next Wednesday, we look at a Townsville Fire squad raring to explode out of the gates following a less than impressive campaign the previous season. Fire head coach, Shannon Seebohm has made several key changes to his line-up in preparation for the upcoming condensed season, as Townsville looks to make a postseason push in what will be a hotly contested competition.

A number of familiar faces make long-awaited returns to the side, with one of those being 194cm-tall center Zitina Aokuso, who makes her comeback to the Fire after missing out on last season due to an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury. Aokuso’s size, dominance down low in the post and ability to shoot the rock makes her one of the country’s most exciting frontcourt prospects across all eight teams this season. Her most recent performances back in the 2019 NBL1 South season with the Geelong Supercats saw Aokuso account for 15.9 points, 8.6 rebounds, 2.4 assists and a block per game.

Not only will Aokuso have the responsibility of guarding the paint, but she will also be aided by Townsville local Nadeen Payne at the power forward position and 21-year-old Lara McSpadden off the bench who made the move from the Sydney Uni Flames during the offseason. Rounding out the frontcourt is 23-year-old Megan McKay, who returns from a season overseas in Germany averaging 16 points and eight rebounds.

Perhaps one of the biggest signings of the Free Agency period regarding developing young players came out of the Bendigo Spirit, with Shyla Heal making the move up north for a more consistent starting role, which Seebohm was willing to provide the 19-year-old. With Heal set to headline the backcourt next to former Adelaide Lightning star Lauren Nicholson, who was also acquired by the Fire during Free Agency, Townsville exhibits a strong core unit full of exciting individuals. Adding to this, the experience of two-time WNBL champion and 2015 Rachel Sporn Medallist in Mia Murray will look to act as the glue in making this team function efficiently during what will be a hectic season. Meanwhile, Kate Gaze enters her fourth season with the Fire, as the fellow two-time WNBL champion looks to engage with a more prominent role in Seebohm’s rotation this campaign, after what was a relatively quiet year for the 30-year-old.

The Fire’s bench consists of some potent shooters throughout their secondary unit, as three-point accuracy will prove to be a valuable asset to the side over the next six weeks. Courtney Woods, who was signed to a two-year-deal at the club, became the all-time program record holder for career three-pointers made at Northern Illinois University with 323 made triples. Stephanie Reid, who played for the Frankston Blues in the 2019 NBL1 South competition, averaged 21.6 points and 6.3 assists while shooting 41 per cent from beyond the arc.

Coach Seebohm is happy to have a clean slate once again following last season’s five-win and 16-loss record, and he is proud of the efforts that he and his staff have made during the extended offseason to put themselves in the best position to start the season.

“Last season we had a lot of games that I feel we probably could have won,” Seebohm told Draft Central. “It was obviously a tough year, but I think going into this season and having versatile players who can do a little bit of everything and play multiple positions, we want to get up and down the floor a bit more and hopefully get a few more stops to help run off of our defence, but I’m really excited about the group that we have put together.”

Aliza Fabbro and Sharna Thompson take the team’s roster number to 12, with the duo acting as the side’s development players for the upcoming fixture.

Season Opener for the Townsville Fire – Wednesday November 11th – 8:00pm (AEDT) vs Perth Lynx @ McDonald’s Mackay Multi-Sports Stadium, Mackay 

QSL Women’s statistics: Who are the sharp shooters?

THIS week’s Queensland State League (QSL) Women’s stat piece hones in on the sharp shooters across the league, taking into account their accuracy whether it be from two-point range or from deep. It is no surprise that Maddison Rocci leads all comers when it comes to field goals with 95 made for the season and three-pointers given her explosiveness for Rip City while Ashleigh Karaitiana is another big name making waves with her hot hand as she proves to be a handful for opposition teams. Accuracy does not seem to be an issue for Caitlin Clancy featuring in the top five for conversions off three-pointers and free-throws showcasing her impressive rhythm. Northside Wizards have a couple of stars with Stephanie Reid the main one impressing when it comes to scoreboard pressure downing 55 field goals for the season and sinking 42 free-throws while Courtney Woods is another handy option.

Field goals made:

1 Maddison Rocci (USC Rip City) 95
2 Ashleigh Karaitiana (RedCity Roar) 63
3 Madelyn Willey (Southern Districts Spartans) 62
4 Courtney Woods (Northside Wizards) 61
5 Stephanie Reid (Northside Wizards) 55

Field goal percentage: More than 30

1 Rebecca Haynes (Southern Districts Spartans) 55.1% [43]
2 Mikaela Ruef (Logan Thunder) 54.2% [51]
3 Meg Essex (Brisbane Capitals) 52.5% [42]
4 Kalani Purcell (Southern Districts Spartans) 49.4% [38]
5 Lauren Mansfield (RedCity Roar) 49% [48]

Three-pointers made:

1 Maddison Rocci (USC Rip City) 33
2 Natalie Taylor (Southern Districts Spartans) 31
3 Courtney Woods (Northside Wizards) 28
4 Ashleigh Karaitiana (RedCity Roar) 25
5 Madelyn Willey  (Southern Districts Spartans) 24

Three-point percentage: 10 or more triples

1 Caitlin Clancy (Sunshine Coast Phoenix Teal) 50% [10]
2 Lauren Mansfield (RedCity Roar) 50% [21]
3 Amy Lewis (Ipswich Force) 45.5% [15]
4 Natalie Taylor (Southern Districts Spartans) 43.7% [31]
5 Ashleigh Karaitiana (RedCity Roar) 43.1% [25]

Free-throws made:

1 Maddison Rocci (USC Rip City) 53
2 Stephanie Reid (Northside Wizards) 41
3 Georgia Woolley (Brisbane Capitals) 24
4 Aimee Durbidge (North Gold Coast Seahawks) 22
5 Madison Woodford (Brisbane Capitals) 22

Free-throw percentage: 15 or more free-throws

1 Stephanie Reid (Northside Wizards) 89.1% [41]
2 Georgia Ralph (Ipswich Force) 88.9% [16]
3 Amy Lewis (Ipswich Force) 84.2% [16]
4 Caitlin Clancy (Sunshine Coast Phoenix Teal) 83.3% [15]
5 Lilly Rotunno (Gold Coast Rollers) 80% [20]

Picture: Brad Anderson

QSL stats update: Round 5

AFTER five rounds of the Queensland State League (QSL) there are a couple of new faces that join the ranks in terms to top performers as Draft Central casts an eye over the standouts in each major area for both the Men’s and Women’s leagues.

USC Rip City representative Maddison Rocci has been in scintillating form dominating the points tally with a competition high average of 34.83 while also imposing herself on the rebounding front with 11.33. Ashleigh Karaitiana is another one having an impressive season, sitting second for rebounds with 13.2 while Mikaela Ruef is dominating for Logan Thunder taking out top spot for rebounds with an average of 14.6 to her name and racking up the blocks with 1.2. Stephanie Reid has been a solid contributor featuring highly in the points (27.0) and assists columns thanks to her read of the play and attacking nature while the efforts of Madelyn Willey have not gone unnoticed in the five rounds so far imposing herself in all facets of the game amassing an average of 23.17 points, 5.17 assists and leading the way when it comes to blocks with an average of four.

Points:

# 1 Maddison Rocci (USC Rip City) 34.83
# 2 Stephanie Reid (Northside Wizards) 27.0
# 3 Amy Lewis (Ipswich Force) 24.0
# 4 Courtney Woods (Northside Wizards) 23.6
# 5 Madelyn Willey (Southern Districts Spartans) 23.17

Rebounds:

# 1 Mikaela Ruef (Logan Thunder) 14.6
# 2 Ashleigh Karaitiana (RedCity Roar) 13.2
# 3 Maddison Rocci (USC Rip City) 11.33
# 4 Tyla Stolberg (Townsville Mountaineers) 11
# 5 Georgia Woolley (Brisbane Capitals) 9.67

Assists:

# 1 Kalani Purcell (Southern Districts Spartans) 6.75
# 2 Stephanie Reid (Northside Wizards) 5.8
# 3 Natalie Saunders (SC Phoenix Teal) 5.25
# 4 Mikhaela Cann (Logan Thunder) 5.2
# 5 Madelyn Willey (Southern Districts Spartans) 5.17

Blocks:

# 1 Meg Essex (Brisbane Capitals) 2.4
# 2 Grace George (Brisbane Capitals) 1.2
# 3 Iris Cubit (Ipswich Force) 1.2
# 4 Mikaela Ruef (Logan Thunder) 1.2
# 5 Rebecca Haynes (Southern Districts Spartans) 1.2

Steals:

# 1 Madelyn Willey (Southern Districts Spartans) 4.0
# 2  Madison Woodford (Brisbane Capitals) 4.0
# 3 Georgia Woolley (Brisbane Capitals) 3.8
# 4 Kaila Gabriel (Townsville Mountaineers) 3.2
# 5 Amy Lewis (Ipswich Force) 3.0

 

MENS

Harry Froling continued his dominant start to the season claiming top spot for average points with (32.2) and rebounds (18.4) while also featuring in the top five for assists with 5.8 highlighting just how well rounded he is across the court. RedCity Roar teammate, William McDowell-White kept up the good work sitting on an average of 25.2 points, 11.2 rebounds and 6.4 assists while also claiming top for steals 4.4. Jarred Bairstow made his way into the top five for points with an average of 23.83 while also featuring highly in the rebounds column. The ever reliable Jason Cadee also plied his trade when it came to steals and assists for Brisbane as Christopher Cedar moved from third in the competition for average assists to number one with 6.5

Points:

# 1 Harry Froling (RedCity Roar) 32.2
# 2 Nathan Sobey (Ipswich Force) 30.4
# 3 Jamaal Robateau (SC Phoenix Teal) 25.4
# 4 William McDowell-White (RedCity Roar) 25.2
# 5 Jarred Bairstow (Brisbane Capitals) 23.8

Rebounds:

# 1 Harry Froling (RedCity Roar) 18.4
# 2 Nelson Kahler (SC Phoenix Teal) 12.6
# 3 Jarred Bairstow (Brisbane Capitals) 12
# 4 William McDowell-White (RedCity Roar) 11.2
# 5 Tanner Krebs (South West Metro Pirates) 10.43

Assists:

# 1 Christopher Cedar (Logan Thunder) 6.5
# 2 Jason Cadee (Brisbane Capitals) 6.5
# 3 William McDowell-White (RedCity Roar) 6.4
# 4 Harry Froling (RedCity Roar) 5.8
# 5 Jason Ralph (Ipswich Force) 5.5

Blocks:

# 1 Tyrell Harrison (Southern Districts Spartans) 2.4
# 2 Nelson Kahler (SC Phoenix Teal) 1.6
# 3 Jakobe Hunter (Townsville Mountaineers) 1.2
# 4 Oscar Cluff (SC Phoenix Teal) 1.2
# 5 Harry Froling (RedCity Roar) 1

Steals:

# 1 William McDowell-White (RedCity Roar) 4.4
# 2 Jason Cadee (Brisbane Capitals) 3.0
# 3 Luke Stewart (Northside Wizards) 3.0
# 4 Louis Ilton (USC Rip City) 2.2
# 5 Heath Gameren (RedCity Roar) 2.0

 

Picture: Brad Anderson

WNBL Free Agency Update: Fire and Flames

CONTINUING with Draft Central’s updates on the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL)’s Free Agency movements, we now look to two sides that will be looking to heat up and have bounce back seasons in 2021. First up is a Townsville Fire franchise that has had possibly the busiest offseason throughout the eight teams of the competition, as Head Coach Shannon Seebohm and his staff have strung together a championship-calibre team for the campaign to come. Following Townsville is the Sydney Uni Flames, a team who too have made some key signings during this year’s signing period, as well as an injection of youth. The Flames hope they can earn themselves a postseason appearance for the first time in three seasons.

TOWNSVILLE FIRE

In terms of redemption, the Fire perhaps have the biggest case to make in terms of attaining it. Finishing at the bottom of last season’s standings next to the Bendigo Spirit (both teams with a record of five wins and 16 losses), Townsville have their eyes set on regaining their championship form, similar to recent years. In their first step to doing this, the club re-signed one of its former champions.

Back in early June, the re-acquisition of Mia Murray, who was a part of the Fire’s three most recent titles, sees her return after two seasons away from the game due to raising her son. Murray, a local favourite in the North-Queensland community, enters into her eighth season hoping to help guide the influx of new and young players to enter the league, while former captain Micaela Cocks leaves the team to focus on the birth of her new child.

A number of young stars to join the team include former member of the Spirit in Shyla Heal, who made the move up north to attain a more consistent role at the starting point guard position. The one-two combination between Heal and the fully recovered Zitina Aokuso could very well become one of the most potent frontcourt/backcourt duos in years to come. Other signings include Lauren Nicholson from the Adelaide Lightning and Nadeen Payne of the Perth Lynx, with the latter returning her home state after the Fire traded for her in an exchange with Darcee Garbin, a resident of Perth.

The final signing for the team needed some extra frontcourt presence to further assist rim protection for Aokuso, seeing 193cm-tall centre Lara McSpadden join the fray, coming over from Sydney Uni Flames. Having already played under Seebohm in the junior national circuit, the two will need little time to re-establish familiarity with their playing and coaching styles, which could be beneficial to the squad.

Rounding out the roster are returning overseas prospects Megan McKay (St Mary’s College and Wasserburg), Courtney Woods (Northern Illinois University) and Stephanie Reid (University of Buffalo), while other contracted players include Kate Gaze and Development Player Aliza Fabbro.

Contracted

Aliza Fabbro
Kate Gaze
Zitina Aokuso

Re-signed

Nil

Signed

Shyla Heal
Mia Murray
Lauren Nicholson
Nadeen Payne
Megan McKay
Courtney Woods
Steph Reid
Laura McSpadden

 

SYDNEY UNI FLAMES

For a team that finished sixth out of the eight teams participating in the WNBL, the Flames were one of the biggest underachievers during the WNBL20 season, despite their .333 winning percentage. Nevertheless, the Flames have made plenty of alterations to their roster in an attempt to take a positive step in their team’s outcomes for next season.

With Lauren Scherf the lone contracted player, the initial procurements for next season came by way of other WNBL teams. Opals guard and former Lynx member Lauren Mansfield averaged 10 points and five assists per game, and also stands strong amongst some of the best defensive backcourt players throughout the league. Meanwhile, young Southside Flyer Anneli Maley adds a prominent presence around the rim after a year with last season’s runners-up. Maley also boasted ridiculous numbers in the 2019 NBL1 competition, averaging 20 points and a mammoth 15 rebounds per game, which earned her the fixture’s Youth Player of the Year award.

Subsequent moves building upon Katrina Hibbert’s team would be the gaining of Alison Schwagmeyer, last season’s Sixth Woman of the Year. Hibbert made a point of signing Schwagmeyer to add her to a new core group of players looking to make a playoff push for next season. Another addition to the group was Florida Gator and member of Galatasaray S.K., 24-year-old sharpshooter Funda Nakkasoglu. The signing of Nakkasoglu marked the beginning of a blitz of new faces.

The next of Hibbert’s signings would be the addition of Kiera Rowe on a one-year-deal and the contract extension of Shanae Greaves a week later. And after securing Opal legend Natalie Burton and former Flame Carly Boag, Coach Frog [Hibbert] had only a single piece remaining to complete her squad. The final move for Sydney’s signing period ahead of November 20 would be the re-signing of Maddie O’Hehir. Having been a Development player with the Flames since the 2017/18 season, O’Hehir will remain with the Franchise for an additional year.

Contracted

Lauren Scherf

Re-signed

Maddie O’Hehir
Shanae Greaves

Signed

Lauren Mansfield
Anneli Maley
Alison Schwagmeyer
Funda Nakkasoglu
Kiera Rowe
Natalie Burton
Carly Boag

QSL Women’s Round 4 preview: Wizards look to create some magic in the Capital

A TOP three clash between Brisbane Capitals and Northside Wizards to open the round will be the one to watch in the Queensland State League (QSL) Women’s Round 4 action. Both sides have had just the one loss this season, with Brisbane going down to USC Rip City last Friday night, while the Wizards lost to RedCity Roar by just four points back in Round 2.

It is set to be a tantalising clash given the Wizards overcame Rip City by just five points on Saturday, and all their games have been decide by five or less points. The Capitals on the other hand have had a couple of massive wins on their way to a 3-1 win-loss record, including a 65-points shellacking of Toowoomba Mountaineers following the loss to Rip City. Now they will look to use that form to topple the Wizards, though Northside would also fancy its chances.

Georgia Woolley is leading the Capitals for points with 18.75, as well as 10 rebounds and 3.25 assists. Her shooting percentage is reliable, with a 47.54 per cent accuracy from the field, including five of eight from long-range. Madison Woodford (15.75 points, 5.25 rebounds and 3.5 assists) has also been a keen scorer, though her accuracy is a little lower at 40.68 per cent. Meg Essex is the third member of the damaging trio, averaging an almost identical 15.5 points, as well as 8.5 rebounds. The high numbers might drop a little after that, but still have even contributions across the board.

The key to stopping the Wizards has to be in nullifying scoring machine, Stephanie Reid. She leads the league in points per game, almost 32. She also has a handy 5.33 assists and 3.67 rebounds, shooting at 46.15 per cent from the field, and already having dropped 11 of 29 from long-range. She will team up well with Courtney Woods, who has added 29 points, seven rebounds and four assists per game to her team’s cause, while Regan Turnour-McCarty is averaging the 15 points, 11 rebounds and three assist this season. Georgia McCarron‘s work off the boards (nine rebounds per game) should not be understated either.

It is a difficult match to tip, but any side with Reid is one that is hard to contain, so expect the Wizards to be favoured in the clash. Around the courts, the North Coast Seahawks will look for a second win coming up against fifth placed Southern District Spartans and last placed Toowoomba Mountaineers. The Spartans also engage RedCity Roar in a mid-table 2-1 record. The sole undefeated team left in the competition is Logan Thunder, who take on ninth placed Ipswich Force and 11th placed South West Metro Pirates. In other games, the Pirates host USC Rip City on Saturday, whilst Gold Coast Rollers travel north to take on the Sunshine Coast Phoenix Teal.

Saturday, August 29:

Brisbane Capitals vs. Northside Wizards
Ipswich Force vs. Logan Thunder
Sunshine Coast Phoenix Teal vs. Gold Coast Rollers
North Gold Coast Seahawks vs. Southern District Spartans
South West Metro Pirates vs. USC Rip City

Sunday, August 30:

Toowoomba Mountaineers vs. North Gold Coast Seahawks
Logan Thunder vs. South West Metro Pirates
Southern Districts Spartans vs. RedCity Roar

Picture: Fan Fair