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WNBL20 Season Review – Southside Flyers

IT was nothing but heartbreak for Cheryl Chambers and her Southside Flyers at the start of 2020. But after an even harder year that saw a WNBL season like no other, the Flyers can feel nothing but pure elation after they overcame the Townsville Fire to finally be crowned WNBL champions following six weeks of dominance.

Following the acquisitions of numerous elite talents, nobody was more excited to get WNBL20 underway than Southside, and unfortunately for the Bendigo Spirit, their heads were up first on the chopping block. As expected, the Flyers were to win their season-opener by an emphatic 42-point margin, setting the tone for the rest of the League evoking a sense of determination for the club.

A minor hiccup followed, however, to end Round 1 when Southside shockingly fell by 17 to the Melbourne Boomers, but one bad result would not linger in the minds of the Flyers for long, trouncing Sydney Uni Flames the next day, 99-72. A good momentum starter leading into Round 2.

Not for the first time this season, the Flyers would go undefeated for an entire week. First up for week two of the season were the Fire, who put up a valiant effort in the first of the two teams’ four encounters but fell 101-89 on this particular night. The latter of the week’s matchups were the Perth Lynx, who barely cracked 70 points against the Southside defence in what was a complete whitewash. The Flyers drubbing the West Australian side by 46 points.

Bad memories started to resurface from last year’s failures, when the Flyers once again fell to Paul Goriss and his Canberra Capitals by a whopping 23 points in Cairns, but this loss would mean a lot more to last year’s runners-ups, keen not to make the same mistakes as last season.

Kicking off what would be the longest winning streak of the season, another 40-point win over Perth reaffirmed the notion it was Southside’s season to lose. The Flyers then really started to kick up their margins of victories to end Round 3, beating Townsville by 24 (94-70) and then the Adelaide Lightning by 31 (110-79).

Two more double-digit victories in Round 4 over the Lightning for a second time and the Boomers built up even more steam within the Southside engine room with a round still to play, but coach Chambers’ main focus by this stage was to keep her side injury-free heading into the postseason.

A narrow four-point win over the Flames (81-77) secured the side their minor premiership, which preceded a much-needed revenge victory over the Capitals (101-82) to conclude their WNBL20 campaign with an impressive 11-win and two-loss record.

Setting up a semi-final with the Fire in a contest that would mean a Grand Final spot for the victor, the Flyers chose not to beat around the bush. Instead they burned it down, adding another double-digit triumph to their collection despite Townsville’s best effort, toppling the underdogs 106-93 and earning a spot in the big dance.

After four days off, Southside met with the season’s hosts in Townsville for a fourth time after the Fire knocked out the Boomers in the preliminary final thanks to their second chance opportunity.

Relying on the extraordinary effort made by WNBL veteran and WNBA superstar Leilani Mitchell paired with an efficient second half and returning captain in Jenna O’Hea, Southside reached the promised land, defeating the hometown side for a final time (99-82) and leaving the North Queensland hub as WNBL champions.

When the announcement was made that Liz Cambage was going to join the Flyers, it was not unexpected that she would be a major producer for the team. But nevertheless, she made an enormous contribution over the course of the season, leading the league in scoring with 23.5 points per game and blocks with 1.7 per contest, as well as averaging 8.7 rebounds in the process (ranked fourth league-wide), which resulted in an All-WNBL First Team selection and an MVP nomination. Next to Cambage in the All-WNBL side was Sara Blicavs, leading the team in minutes with 28.7 per game, averaging 13.5 points and 7.3 boards per game additionally.

Other Opals to make mention of included of course Bec Cole (15.5 points and 4.3 assists), Rachel Sporn medallist in Mitchell (11.2 points and 6.7 assists) and O’Hea (11 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.4 assists) amongst plenty of other contributors off the bench – rounding out one of the best starting fives and benches to ever grace a WNBL season.

It can be universally agreed that no other team deserved to emerge out of WNBL20 as champions more than the Flyers’ franchise. Looking down the track, whether all of Southside’s individuals return to defend their crowns happens or not in WNBL21, they certainly have a tough act follow from this season – that is for sure.

WNBL20 Season Review – Melbourne Boomers

FOR the third consecutive season the Melbourne Boomers have been knocked out of the finals without reaching the big dance, even though head coach Guy Molloy and his formidable side exhibited a ferocious brand of basketball all season long, proving to be one of the WNBL’s toughest opponents. Along with their preliminary final defeat to the Townsville Fire, Melbourne’s title drought extends to a twelfth season.

Commencing season play with a superior 15-point win over their Sydney counterparts, the Sydney Uni Flames, the contest everyone one was waiting eagerly for was the first Melbourne Derby of the campaign between the Boomers and Southside Flyers.

Leading into the derby, Southside had already made a loud announcement to the league with a 42-point drubbing of the Bendigo Spirit in their previous outing, but Melbourne would unleash their season’s biggest weapon – their defence. Holding the Flyers to 72 points, the Boomers ran out with a convincing rout of their cross-town rivals by 17 and led into Round 2 at optimal form.

Melbourne’s undefeated start continued to three games after a hard-earned 62-56 win over the Perth Lynx, but the two-time defending champion Canberra Capitals put the first blemish on the Boomers’ record, thoroughly outperforming their foes by 17 points and holding them to just 50 points. Melbourne’s second round got worse as the Townsville Fire started to pick up numerous successful outcomes, defeating the Boomers 87-75 and weakening Molloy’s record to three wins and two losses.

The Boomers re-established their form in Round 3 with a 40-point win over the Adelaide Lightning, the only game of the week for the purple and gold, as they would relish a weeklong rest before undertaking a four-game Round 4.

To begin the week, Melbourne exacted their revenge on the Capitals (73-67) and cap off the season double over the Flames (86-64). The same could be said for the Spirit, going down to the Boomers by 32 (84-52) meaning that last season’s semi-finalists were one win away from an undefeated four-game week. This time it was not the case however, with Southside redeeming themselves from their early season encounter with the Boomers, edging out their old foes 94-79.

Two expected wins against the Lightning (76-55) and the Spirit (91-70) preceded a season-concluding loss to the Fire (64-70), all but confirming a postseason position, although not in the top-two following their loss to Townsville.

Being one of three teams to finish the season with a record of nine wins and four losses, it represented just how even things were at the top of the standings. Melbourne now had to batten down the hatches and get results given they had not earned a double chance by finishing third.

First up on the finals docket for Melbourne was Canberra, a team they split their two prior meetings with during the regular season. But it was plain and simple for the Boomers – defend, defend, defend, and that is what they did against the reigning premiers. Holding the Capitals to just 68 points, the Boomers ran away 10-point victors, ending the Caps three-peat bid and putting in motion a much-anticipated preliminary final against the Fire.

In a tightly contested clash that lasted all 40 minutes of play, Townsville continued to fend off a resilient Boomers outfit and with Shyla Heal running the show based on her remarkable 28-point performance, Melbourne just could not get ahead of the host-city side, losing out in the final seconds 62-65 and ending their season one win short of their main objective in making the Grand Final.

Once again it was the expected trio of WNBA champion Ezi Magbegor (15.4 points and 8.8 rebounds), Cayla George (14.2 points, 9.5 rebounds and 3.4 assists) and Maddie Garrick (10.5 points and 2.5 assists) that ran the show for Melbourne, however the addition of returning Boomer Tess Madgen (13.6 points, 6.2 assists and 5.4 rebounds) made Molloy’s core unit that much more potent throughout the entire season. But the late-season surge of Ashleigh Karaitiana (6.9 points and 1.8 rebounds) and consistency of Stella Beck (5.3 points and 2.5 assists) added another layer of depth to the WNBL20 roster. Furthermore, New Zealand Tall Fern Kalani Purcell (4.5 points and 3.7 rebounds) was able to add another successful season under her belt.

As a franchise, the Melbourne Boomers have an abundance of motivators amongst their ranks and because of the fact they have to wait another season to have a crack at that WNBL title once again, you can be dead serious that the club’s fire to get there is only burning brighter.

WNBL20 Season Review – UC Capitals

HAVING ruled the WNBL from late-2018 to early-2020, many were disappointed not to see the third three-peat in league history fulfilled by the University of Canberra Capitals. A lot of those who actively follow the WNBL had a glimmer of hope that Paul Goriss and his side might do it again, but it just was not to be.

The Capitals’ fairy-tale ending would fall short in WNBL20 following their Elimination Final loss to the team they knocked out in 2019/20, the Melbourne Boomers. Despite bowing out of this season earlier than they were hoping for, Canberra had a season to be proud of nevertheless.

To begin their campaign, the Capitals put their wrong foot first so to speak kickstarting WNBL20 with a major upset after being defeated by the Adelaide Lightning. Such a loss paired with the fact that their two star imports from last season could not suit up (Kia Nurse and Olivia Epoupa), brought into question just how far this Capitals unit could get.

Canberra quickly re-established themselves as a postseason contender with a bounce-back win against a highly touted Townsville Fire squad, squaring their season record up after Round 1 with a win and a loss under their belt.

A rather uncomplicated and straight-forward outcome over the Bendigo Spirit begun a successful three-game week for the two-time defending champs, most notably in their second game of Round 2 with a dominant 67-50 result over the Boomers in their first matchup. A third victory after their win against the Sydney Uni Flames to wrap up the second week of contests brought Canberra’s record to four wins out of five results, but the club’s exclamation point came at the beginning of the next week.

Once the Southside Flyers started to pick up form early on in the season it seemed like last year’s runners-ups were almost unstoppable, but the Capitals single-handedly sent shockwaves throughout the League at the start of Round 3 after a four-quarter demolition job of the eventual minor premiers by 23 points. Canberra continued their form by stringing together a second-straight undefeated week of games.

The Capitals’ winning streak of seven came to an end following their second meeting with the Boomers and in their closing contest of Round 4, again they would fall, this time to the Fire (Canberra’s only losing round of the season).

After a split in the results of the last round, firstly a win against the Perth Lynx, then a second less favourable result against the Flyers to end WNBL20, Canberra would finish the season on a record of nine wins and four losses (one of three teams to hold this record) and secure third position on points percentage thus setting up a date with the Boomers in the Elimination Final.

In a clash that demanded strong defence from both sides it was Melbourne that was able to stick to their guns that they had relied on all season, limiting the Capitals to just 68 points following their contest. More importantly, the Boomers were able to put 78 points of their own on the scoreboard, knocking out the reigning premiers in one fell swoop.

Top individual performers were various and many for coach Gorris’s side, with Maddison Rocci continuing her astonishing development over the past year averaging 16 points, 3.8 assists and 3.5 rebounds whilst leading the side in minutes with 29.4 per contest. As a result, Rocci earned All-WNBL Second Team honours solidifying her as one of the competition’s elite. It would be uncharacteristic for Canberra to have a successful season without key contributions from their co-captains Kelsey Griffin and Marianna Tolo. Griffin concluded her season with averages of 12 points, 8.1 rebounds and 1.5 steals, whereas Tolo’s statistics would read 11.3 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.1 blocks.

Surprise standouts included Keely Froling who ranked fourth in the team’s scoring and rebounding departments with 9.4 points per game and 5.7 boards per outing. All of this while WNBL rookie Jade Melbourne turned many heads in her initial season averaging 8.3 points and two assists in 22.8 minutes of play each time out.

While Canberra’s dynasty may well possibly be in its twilight stage, many might wonder what form the roster will shape up to look like in the coming years. With young talent like Rocci, Melbourne, Froling and Abby Cubillo rising through the ranks, the nation’s capital can look forward to a competitive women’s basketball team for the foreseeable future.

WNBL Season Review – Sydney Uni Flames

ONE of the biggest improvers following on from last season was without a doubt the Sydney Uni Flames, despite moving up just one spot in the WNBL standings after placing fifth overall in North Queensland with five victories in their 13 contests.

Winning just one third of their outings in 2019/20 (seven wins, 14 losses), Katrina Hibbert and her side fell just a win and a half behind a .500 record after a major face-lift during the free agency period.

New additions to the Flames like Lauren Mansfield and Alison Schwagmeyer who both arrived from the Perth Lynx, and former Southside Flyer Anneli Maley, made tremendous contributions to their new team in WNBL20 in bunches, making Hibbert’s job a little easier in the process.

After a valiant effort in their season opener against the Melbourne Boomers, the Flames would begin their season on a loss going down by 15 points. But a bounce back trouncing against this season’s wooden spooners the Bendigo Spirit, quickly brought back confidence into the Sydney Uni locker room before closing the books on Round 1.

Sizing up the Flyers in their third contest of the fixture, like many, Sydney Uni found out just how good Southside’s outfit really was. Eventually going down 72-99 to this season’s championship-favourites, the Flames would have a losing record after the opening sequence of matchups with no easy matchups ahead in Round 2.

In an expectedly hard second round of games against the Townsville Fire and the Canberra Capitals where they both bested the Flames unit, Sydney Uni’s by-line fell to one win and four defeats, signalling a need for some urgent results for coach Hibbert’s side before the season started to get away from them.

Round 3 provided slightly better outcomes, with the Flames scraping away with one win out of three clashes knocking over the Perth Lynx 74-67 to obtain their second victory of the campaign. But similar to their final record from last season, Sydney Uni were on track for another season with a .333 win percentage with six losses to their name after three weeks of play.

A second win against the Spirit would trade off another loss to the Boomers in the penultimate round of the season, meaning that the Flames would fall out of finals contention. This fact was unfortunate given the final week of the season that Sydney Uni had.

With victories to end their season against the Lynx and the Adelaide Lightning in Round 5, the Flames were able to steal the fifth seed away from the latter on points percentage, providing evidence that Sydney Uni’s season held an abundance of good fortune as well as promising signs heading into 2021.

Point guard and one of two Lynx players to be traded to the NSW-based team, Mansfield adjusted to her new team almost seamlessly based on the 2020 season she had. Averaging 14 points per game and 4.5 assists in 31.9 minutes each game, Mansfield led the side in all three of these categories, putting her in good stead for a contract extension for WNBL21. The second of the two Perth signatures acquired in the offseason, Schwagmeyer was a pivotal part of the Flames rotation with 13.3 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.9 assists being her averages during the five weeks of the regular season. Nevertheless, easily the most visible improvement was the dominance on the glass by 22-year-old Maley. Leading the WNBL in rebounding, Maley averaged a whopping 12.1 boards per game, almost three more per game than the next highest rebounder (Cayla George – 9.4), while also averaging 7.9 points as well.

Falling one spot out of the postseason this time around, it is obvious what the club’s ultimate objective will be for next season. Bearing this in mind as well as the fact that the franchise has not made the finals since the 2017/18 campaign, Sydney Uni would consider anything less than a top-four finish next season a failure in their eyes.

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.

WNBL20 Season Review – Perth Lynx

THE WNBL for the second straight season has found itself with a clear top four and clear last four in the standings and for the second straight season, Perth Lynx has found themselves in a low-lying position on the WNBL ladder, finishing seventh. Lynx struggled to get going throughout the season with an unappealing record of four wins and nine losses.

While the last-minute season cancellations of Sami Whitcomb and Maddie Allen caused a seismic shift amongst Ryan Petrik’s roster, a number of individuals needed to step up this season and while the results were less favourable than most, plenty of Perth’s players emerged out of WNBL20 better for it.

Thanks to a glacial start to the season in their opening game, going down to Townsville Fire 48-73, and just missing out by five points to the Adelaide Lightning to end the opening round, Perth had already found themselves on the back-foot to begin the season.

Perth’s start to the season became inherently worse, when they encountered a third consecutive loss this time at the hands of the Melbourne Boomers. Following some drastic moves, finally, the Lynx were able to get their name into the winner’s column during their second game of Round 2. While the meaning of the win was expected and rather minimal, it was a win nevertheless against the Bendigo Spirit and the Western Australian side now had something to work with heading in to the second half of the season.

Eight games into WNBL20, Perth found themselves in a rather unremarkable position with a record of one win and seven losses, practically conceding a bottom-four position by this stage. But the Lynx had other ideas entirely for Round 4 raising significant questions on whether they are perhaps better than their final ladder position would suggest.

Despite having just, a slightly better record than Bendigo, Perth convincingly worked over the Spirit for a second time and removed all doubt that they were at a similar level in terms of talent. However, it was their next two contests that the Lynx started to turn some heads.

Backed up by Katie Ebzery and Darcee Garbin’s impressive double-doubles on the night, Perth knocked off a red-hot Townsville Fire by nine points. Following this, the in-form squad managed to fend off the Adelaide Lightning by just a single basket, capping off back-to-back-to-back victories in their first winning streak of the season, re-establishing some honour in the club and their win-loss record.

The Lynx’s brief run of victories would end at three, following a narrow loss to the Sydney Uni Flames, which preceded a season-concluding loss in their final clash of the season against a dominant Boomers outfit.

While finishing seventh at the end of the season with a record of four wins from 13 outings seems quite disappointing, many will be left to ponder “what if?”, regarding the absences of Whitcomb and Allen.

Nevertheless, it was not all doom and gloom after the side’s final game, as Ebzery earned herself a coveted position in the ALL-WNBL First Team for a second season in a row (third of her career). Ebzery completed her stellar season with flying colours averaging 18 points, four rebounds and 3.8 assists, shooting a ridiculous 43.1 per cent from the field – a shoe-in for the Opals squad next year.

Another Opal to be reckoned with was Garbin, who led the team in minutes per game with 33.4. Adding to this, Garbin ranked second in points (16.5), total rebounds (94), blocks per game (0.9) and steals (1.2) throughout her side’s roster. Next to her in the frontcourt was a surprise standout in Alex Sharp, who led the side in rebounds with 7.9 boards per game and ranked fourth in scoring, averaging 8.9 points.

Coach Petrik might not look too fondly on the fact that he finished seventh in his first season as head coach, but the fact that the difference between seventh and fifth was only a single win, means the Lynx might not have too much improving to do. With a full roster next season and the right combination of rotations, we can look forward to Perth providing some quality outings in 2021.

WNBL20 Season Review – Bendigo Spirit

LOOKING back to the beginning of the WNBL 2020 season, it was widely touted that this year’s Bendigo Spirit would finish close to the bottom of the table at the conclusion of the campaign.

This was well and truly the case for head coach Tracy York’s roster following their 13-game trail, as not only would Victoria’s country side cement themselves at the bottom of the ladder, but for the first time since the 2005/06 season, a team would go winless for the whole season (AIS, 0-21).

From day-one of their 2020 fixture, the Spirit would get no reprieve, opening up their new fixture against one of the most talented WNBL sides in the league’s history, Southside Flyers. After Bendigo was handed a 42-point defeat, the Spirit immediately received a taste of what the season would have in store for them.

Two days later, more bad luck followed the Spirit, losing by only five points less than their season-opener to the Flyers. The initial round very early on, indicated what kind of competition Bendigo would be facing over the next four weeks. But that did not stop the wily country side from being determined each time they stepped out on to the floor.

Suffering double-digit losses to the Canberra Capitals, Perth Lynx and the Townsville Fire twice in Round 2 and the start of Round 3, it was not until Bendigo’s seventh game of the season in late November that the Spirit would fall by less than 10 points (83-89) against an Adelaide Lightning side that was returning from a COVID-induced quarantine enforced by the Queensland Government.

Bendigo produced just one more defeat with a deficit of less than 10 points in Round 5 against the Sydney Uni Flames, but the remainder of their contests told a similar story. Their lack of depth and experience was a constant factor for the young side all season, and when the roster full of exciting prospects performed well, it seemed mental lapses in small portions of the games were enough to be their downfall.

A 21-point loss to their state rivals the Melbourne Boomers concluded a rather forgettable season on the court for the Spirit, as they committed their thirteenth defeat in thirteen meetings despite their best efforts.

Reflecting back to the individual performances, it was essentially the duo of team-captain Tessa Lavey and talented center Carley Ernst that carried the majority of the workload leading a side with six rookies and seven players under the age of 23.

Lavey, who is set to earn another position amongst Sandy Brondello’s Australian Opals squad in the near future, showed once again why she is one of the most revered point guards in the WNBL.

Starting all 13 games, Lavey accumulated 15.2 points per game, as well as averaging 5.9 assists and 4.8 rebounds in a well-rounded season, while shooting a respectable 35.3 per cent from the field and playing 35 minutes a game. As for Ernst, she held similar numbers accounting for averages of 14.8 points, 7.5 rebounds and a block per game in her average 30 minutes of court time.

A surprising improvement for Bendigo, New Zealand Tall-Fern Mary Goulding, also made a positive impact in her debut WNBL season, stringing together 6.8 points per contest (third highest amongst team) and 4.1 rebounds (third highest amongst team). Goulding also led the side in steals, while being the third highest ranked in average minutes (21.3) and ranked fourth in assists (1.3).

Coach York will head back to the drawing board with assistant coach Mark Alabakov after a well-earned rest, knowing full-well that the only direction is up for her team.

Melbourne weathers the Lightning, 21-point victory over Adelaide

AFTER their 76-55 win over the Adelaide Lightning, an impressive Melbourne Boomers roster has regained the third seed in the WNBL standings to kick off the fifth and final round of the season. The win also sets the tone for the rest of their final week with two more games still yet to be decided for one of the competition’s favourites.

Melbourne looked to do damage early, following a triple from Ashleigh Karaitiana on the opening play. However, Ally Wilson answered back with a mid-range jumper of her own to commence proceedings in Cairns.

Trading buckets early, both sides put up consistent numbers for the majority of the first quarter and remained within earshot of one another in that time. But a 10-0 run from the Boomers, allowed the purple and gold to take a superior stance with a double-digit advantage early in the game.

A three-pointer off the inbound pass to Cayla George would drop, as the opening quarter buzzer went off, giving Melbourne a huge 17-point lead at the first break. Now being down 14-31, Adelaide head coach Chris Lucas pleaded with his side to make some changes and talk to one another for the remainder of the contest, a focus point that would do little good.

Despite holding a 20-point buffer approaching the second intermission, the Lightning were able to construct a 7-0 scoring run of their own to ultimately win the second term exclusively, narrowly cutting the deficit to 13 at halftime.

The Lightning’s main issue to address at half-time was George’s accuracy, as she converted 66 per cent of her shots (compared to her team’s 48 per cent) which translated to 14 points, seven rebounds and a couple of assists up to the halftime stoppage. Meanwhile, Stephanie Talbot was accumulating statistics as per usual, with 10 points and four rebounds for her side after 20 minutes.

The efforts in the third quarter from the likes of Ezi Magbegor, Maddie Garrick and Kalani Purcell was enough to maintain a lead over 10 points at the conclusion of the period, but Adelaide’s efforts in the middle quarters was enough to keep the Boomers within striking range with just 10 minutes left to play, especially with sharpshooters Abbey Wehrung and Taylor Ortlepp starting to find their range.

To the Lightning’s credit they worked their way to just an 11-point defici early in the fourth, but Guy Molloy’s roster depth grounded down a struggling Adelaide side, piling on and continually enlarging the lead for the remainder of the meeting.

A massive credit to their work inside the paint, the Boomers totalled 42 points in the key which completely dwindled the Lightning’s 16 points in this area of the game. Such a difference in an extremely important facet of the contest ultimately led to Melbourne’s convincing 21-point win and bumped up the side to third in the WNBL standings as a result.

One of the by-products of Melbourne’s dominance inside the key was their resulting 45 per cent shooting overall, and with Adelaide barely making a quarter of their total attempts (27 per cent) the Boomers made the most of their passing, out assisting the Lightning 25 to 12.

Perfectly fitting for the veteran and future hall of famer, George’s double-double effort (22 points, 11 rebounds and four assists) led the way from start to finish for her side. While supporting frontcourt acts on the night like Magbegor (14 points and 10 rebounds) and Purcell (11 points, nine rebounds and four assists) made her job a little easier in securing the side’s eighth win of the campaign.

Unsurprisingly it was the Lightning’s main two threats that were the team’s only double-digit producers on the scoreboard, with Wilson accumulating 14 points on the night, along with three rebounds and two assists, whereas Talbot finished with 11 points and six rebounds – a more quiet outing than usual for the MVP candidate.

While Adelaide has essentially lost their ability to make a run at the postseason, they need to recover quickly if they are to bounce back tomorrow and topple the Bendigo Spirit, as more of the team’s secondary unit will have extended runs in the last round of the fixture. For the Boomers, they will look to consolidate a precarious third seed when they face off with the Spirit two days later, in what will be a favourable matchup for the title contenders.

Flames snatch victory from Lynx AND halt Perth’s winning streak 

Pic: WNBL

WITH neither the Sydney Uni Flames or the Perth Lynx eligible for the WNBL Finals, it did not stop both sides from playing with a sense of urgency and determination when they collided in the second of last night’s two games, as the former escaped with the win by a mere three points, 71-68.

In the infancy stages of Tuesday’s closer, both teams were able to display formidable tactics defensively throughout the first 10 minutes of play. Evidently this was the case purely based on the fact that both sides would only combine for 23 points, with Perth harbouring the narrow 13-10 lead heading into the first break.

The subsequent quarter to follow proved fruitless in terms of one team taking control over the game, as the Flames outscored the Lynx 20-19 in a more offence-filled second period, putting the half time deficit at just two points.

But with both teams shooting the ball at a rather poor rate, it seemed like just a matter of time before one of the two sides would start to get going. Nevertheless, Flames’ center Lauren Scherf was rejecting the status quo in those regards, compiling 12 points and five rebounds on 44 per cent shooting in her productive first half. Meanwhile, no Perth players on the other side managed to get quite as hot in the first half as Scherf, but Katie Ebzery gave it a red-hot crack with seven points of her own.

Ebzery continued her efforts on the scorecard, doubling her totals in the next 10 minutes while Sydney Uni continued to hang in there and close the distance. With rebounding superstar Anneli Maley continuing her dominance on the glass, as well as 150-gamer Nat Burton and Alison Schwagmeyer providing supplementary supports elsewhere, Katrina Hibbert’s side found themselves a single point the lesser at the final break, 45-44, and looked to get a running start at the turn of the fourth period.

This aim would be fulfilled as the Flames knocked down the opening two baskets of the final term, momentarily holding a one-point lead over the in-form Lynx. But a return three from Alex Ciabattoni 80 seconds in handed back the lead to Ryan Petrik and his side, further prolonging the Flames’ comeback efforts.

Even though Perth managed to hold onto the lead for essentially the whole last term, the Flames would just not go away, tying things up with two and a half minutes remaining and then regaining the lead a minute later off of a Schwagmeyer triple. Known for her shooting, Funda Nakkasoglu put Sydney Uni up by four with 55 seconds left, where Ebzery answered back with a three of her own with 24 seconds to play, putting Perth behind by just a point. But Scherf’s two made free throws with just 10 seconds on the clock iced the game and end the Lynx’s three-game winning streak.

Both teams shot at a surprisingly low efficiency, where Sydney Uni converted on 36 per cent, which was slightly higher than Perth’s 34 per cent. The Flames held the higher ground in a number of categories to name a few. Particularly noticeable was the side’s plus-11 in rebounding (52-41) and superiority off the bench (30-14), while also winning statistically in areas such as assists, second chance points and three-point shooting.

Schwagmeyer (four assists and three rebounds) and Scherf (11 rebounds and five assists) each scraped away with 19 points apiece, whereas Burton (10 points and two assists) and Maley (eight points, 14 rebounds and four assists) were also instrumental in the win.

Despite the Lynx’s best efforts last night, only two individuals managed over 10 points. Ebzery showed off her scoring abilities at the point guard position, with a game-high 24-point performance, as Alex Sharp fought for her 11-point and 12-rebound double-double last night. A major downfall for the side was Darcee Garbin’s lack of impact, as the Opal only managed nine points and seven rebounds in her 37 minutes of court time.

Perth returns to Townsville Stadium on Thursday to try and emerge victorious for the fourth time in five games against the Canberra Capitals, while the Flames will take the court directly after when they try to upstage a Southside Flyers outfit that has not been defeated since the 23rd of November.

Flames survive second term scare from Spirit

SYDNEY Uni Flames survived a forgettable second term to put away the winless Bendigo Spirit in the first of four games on a Super Sunday of Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) action. The Flames started strongly, but found themselves down at half-time against a spirited Bendigo outfit, though they steadied in the second half to run away with an eight-point win, 62-54.

The Flames lit up the court in the opening quarter, racing to a 23-14 lead at quarter time. Though they were expected to get the job done, it was an impressive start to the game, but Bendigo was not to fade away easily. The Spirit picked up in the second quarter to pile on 19 points to eight and actually take the lead by two heading into the main break. The penultimate quarter turned into a low-scoring slog with just total 18 points scored – less than Sydney Uni in the first term and Bendigo in the second – with the Flames levelling the match at 41-apiece.

The Flames bolted out of the gates early in the final term to pile on 13 points to three in the opening six-and-a-half minutes of play. They were firmly in control leading 54-44, though the damaging duo of Carley Ernst and Tessa Lavey refused to give in, cutting the deficit to two plays after back-to-back jumpers. The Flames steadied, and whilst Lavey hit another triple with 38 seconds left on the clock to cut it to six, it would not be enough as the Flames controlled the play and then a last second layup off an offensive rebound from Lauren Scherf put the icing on the cake for a 62-54 victory.

The Flames’ dominance off the boards was the crucial difference between the teams, racking up a whopping 57 rebounds to 38, which allowed them to also control second chance points, putting in 25-6 and making the most of poor accuracy. Sydney Uni will certainly want to sharpen up their shooting for the next match, only scoring at a 32 per cent clip. The Spirit were not much better at 34 per cent, but they matched it with the Flames for the most part, winning the assists for the first time (17-16), and having a couple more fast break points (8-6).

Alison Schwagmeyer was put up 15 points, nine rebounds, three assists and three steals in an impressive performance for the Flames. Christina Boag did not have the same accuracy issues that some of her teammates did, hitting 63 per cent of her field goal attempts to finish with 16 points, as well as six rebounds and two blocks. It made up for an uncharacteristically inaccurate performance from star guard Lauren Mansfield who hit just one of 14 from the field – including one of eight from long range and none of six from two-point range – but the former Lynx talent picked up seven assists, three rebounds and two steals.

Scherf (seven points, six rebounds) and Natalie Burton (six points, seven rebounds and four blocks) were strong throughout, but it was Anneli Maley who again decimated the opposition near the basket with a whopping game-high 11 rebounds to go with five points.

For the Spirit, Lavey had the 17 points, eight assists and five rebounds, while Ernst picked up 12 points, seven rebounds and two assists. Sharing the points evenly elsewhere, Mary Goulding had seven, plus four rebounds and two assists, whilst Cassidy McLean (five points, four rebounds), Demi Skinner (five points, five rebounds) and Amelia Todhunter (five points, two rebounds, two assists and three steals) all contributed in some way.

Sydney Uni now have a two-day break until facing the Perth Lynx on Tuesday, while the Spirit come up against Adelaide Lightning on Wednesday.

Picture credit: WNBL

Flyers exact revenge on Boomers

Liz Cambage had a huge day out against the Boomers. Picture credit: WNBL

SOUTHSIDE Flyers have bounced back from their loss to Melbourne Boomers earlier in the 2020 WNBL season to post a commanding 15-point win over their Victorian counterparts today. In a performance led by Liz Cambage who put up a massive 35 points to go with seven rebounds, four blocks and two steals, the Flyers were just too good after quarter time, particularly in the middle two quarters where they outscored the Boomers, 48-35.

The first term was even with Southside getting the edge by a point at the early break, heading in after a high-scoring quarter to lead 22-21. They continued their scoring prowess in the second term, but managed to restrict the Boomers’ impact on the scoreboard, putting up 20 points to 12 and leading by nine at half-time They continued that momentum after the break to win the third quarter solidly with 28 points to 23, before finishing off marginally ahead in the final stanza, saluting 24-23. It allowed them to post a 94-79 victory and remain equal on top with the University of Canberra (UC) Capitals.

Southside was deadly from the field, hitting 62 per cent of their shots, and despite having 10 less field goal attempts, managed to slot six more overall, including 10 of 17 from long-range in a three-point shooting bonanza. The boomers hit 44 per cent from the field, largely let down by their two-point shooting which ran at less than 50 per cent, but their three-point efforts were relatively strong with 10 from 26.

The teams were evenly poised across the stats with the Boomers picking up one extra rebound (32-31), as well as more steals (11-7), bench points (19-11) and second chance points (6-4). The Flyers were controlling the offence with 29 assists to 22, whilst also having six blocks to two and scoring four more fast break points.

Aside from Cambage who was clearly best on court in the win, the Flyers had three others who contributed double-figure points. Fellow big, Sara Blicavs hit 18 points – seven of nine from the field – along with nine rebounds and four assists, while Rebecca Cole (16 points at 87 per cent efficiency, seven assists, four rebounds and two steals) and Jenna O’Hea (11 points at 66 per cent efficiency, two rebounds) both emphasised how accurate the Flyers were.

Steph Blicavs was also effective off the bench, hitting three of her four shots to finish with six points, three rebounds and two assists. Leilani Mitchell only put up three shots for three points, but dished off dimes like there was no tomorrow with a massive 11 assists.

For the Boomers, Ezi Magbegor scored a team-high 20 points to go with five rebounds and two assists, hitting 69 per cent of her shots from the field, including nine of 11 from inside the arc. Cayla George (12 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists and three steals) could not have done much more on a losing side, while Ashleigh Karaitiana (10 points, four rebounds and three assists) and Tess Madgen (10 points, four assists and three rebounds) were also busy. Kalani Purcell (nine points, three rebounds and four steals) was the standout coming off the Boomers’ bench.

Boomers dominate first half to extinguish Flames

MELBOURNE Boomers have won their second of four matches their week, putting away the Sydney Uni Flames in a strong 86-64 victory in the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) clash last night. The win was set up by a huge first half, dominating by scoring 48 points to just 21 and effectively shutting out the Flames before they could even ignite. To Sydney Uni’s credit, the Flames did hit back in the second half to make it a contest with 43-38, but the Boomers were able to manage their stars and ensure they were well rested ahead of their third game coming up on the weekend.

The Boomers dominated the assist count with 27 to 12, able to slice through the Flames’ defence, whilst stopping their opponents in their tracks. The Flames were not helped by the fact they could not finish off ,hitting just 32 per cent of their field goal attempts, despite having 10 more chances than the Boomers who went at a much higher 53 per cent. Melbourne also led the rebounds (45-38), fast break points (12-10) and bench points (22-8), and had eight blocks to zero, constantly denying the Flames close to the rim.

The Flames would have been a lot closer had it not been for the accuracy, because defensively they held up well, earning nine steals to five and having five less turnovers (12-17). Both teams scored 16 points off turnovers, while the Flames managed to have an extra point off the second chance (16-14), and had four less personal fouls (12-16). Overall, it was more about chances, and the Boomers took them in the first half.

Ezi Magbegor led the way with a double-double of 23 points, 11 rebounds, four blocks and two assists. Most impressively, she nailed 10 of her 11 chances and did not miss any of her three free throw attempts in a stunning performance. Maddie Garrick hit the 15 points, but it was Tess Madgen‘s 13 points, nine assists and five rebounds that caught attention, slicing up the opposition defence and only having three less assists than the entire opposition team.

Cayla George almost recorded a double-double in the win with eight points and 10 rebounds, as well as four assists, while Penina Davidson came off the bench to score 10 points in nine minutes. Also gaining some extra minutes was Stella Beck who had seven points, four rebounds, three assists and one steal in the win.

For the Flames, it was the former Perth duo that were left to carry much of the load as Lauren Mansfield and Alison Schwagmeyer combined for 43 of the Flames’ 64 points. Mansfield had 22 points, two rebounds and three assists, while Schwagmeyer hit 21 points, eight rebounds and two steals in the loss. Anneli Maley was huge off the boards with 11 rebounds to go with five points – only two from 11 – while Funda Nakkasoglu had six points and two assists.

Melbourne faces a tough weekend, coming up against Bendigo Spirit on Saturday, before taking on top of the table Southside Flyers on Sunday, Meanwhile Sydney Uni will have a break until Sunday when they face the winless Bendigo Spirit.

Picture: Albert Perez/Getty Images