Tag: Zitina Aokuso

2021 NBL1 South preview: Round 4

IT is already up to Round 4 in the National Basketball League (NBL)1 South competition, and our matches of the round this week feature the 3-1 Bendigo Braves and Melbourne Tigers in the women’s, whilst in the men’s, the undefeated Knox Raiders (3-0) lock horns with the Ringwood Hawks (2-1).

WOMEN’S:

In our NBL1 South women’s match of the round, two sides with 3-1 records go head-to-head in Bendigo Braves and Melbourne Tigers. The Tigers also go on to play the winless Mt Gambier Pioneers on Sunday at home, but first have to make the trek up to Bendigo on Saturday. Both these teams come in with some great form, but it is hard to look past the Tigers who completely dismantled Albury-Wodonga Bandits (48 points) and Diamond Valley Eagles (45), then took care of the Hobart Chargers (22). The big question mark is the fact the Tigers have not beaten a side that has won a game yet, with all three teams having been winless to start the season.

They went and lost to Sandringham Sabres in Round 1 before the Tigers had hit their groove, with the Sabres having now lost their past two games to sit 2-2 heading into Round 4. On the other hand, the Braves have been ultra impressive, winning by 28 points against Dandenong Rangers last week, after overcoming Ballarat Rush in an overtime thriller the day before. Their only loss came in Round 2 with a spirited six-point defeat at the hands of the top of the table Frankston Blues, which was the exact margin the Braves came away with in victory against the Mr Gambier Pioneers in Round 1. On paper, the Tigers form looks better, but in theory, the Braves have played the tougher opponents which makes this set for a ripping showdown.

Looking at the Braves’ side, Tess Madgen has had a brilliant start to the season, with the WNBL star putting up 22.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and 7.3 assists, as well as averaging more than a steal per game. After threatening with triple-doubles three consecutive weeks heading into this clash, it would be quite the feat if she could achieve it, especially coming off a blistering competition season-high 43 points (and nine rebounds, nine assists) against the Rangers last week. She has had at least nine rebounds the past three weeks and at least eight assists, showing just how damaging she can be across all facets of the court.

Across the court, Abigail Wehrung is an experienced talent, averaging the 15.5 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game, while Cassidy McLean (6.5 points, 6.5 rebounds) and Piper Dunlop (7.5 points, 5.3 rebounds) are young guns on the rise in Australian basketball. The crucial cog in the team is center, Kate Oliver who has almost averaged a double-double across four games this season, putting up 16.8 points and 9.0 rebounds. In her last game she actually achieved the feat with a whopping 14 rebounds to go with 18 points.

Oliver will need to be at that level when she takes on rising WNBL star, Zitina Aokuso who has been lighting up the NBL1 with 15.3 points, 9.0 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game. The Townsville Fire talent has been managed to start the season, and since clocking up more than 30 points the past two weeks, has had a double-double (10 points, 13 rebounds) and then triple double (19 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds). She has provided a big-small threat with dual sport start Monique Conti who has been in blistering shooting form, racking up 24.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game.

After a quiet Round 1 game – indicative of the overall team performance against the Sabres, Conti has put up 28, 23 and 40 points in her past three games, as well as six, seven and seven assists, whilst also averaging a massive four steals per game, 11 coming in her past two games. Isabella Brancatisano has benefited from Aokuso and Conti being the focal points having moved up from the Supercats this season to put up 19.3 points, 6.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists, also racking up seven steals against the Bandits for an average of two per game this year. Gemma Simon (9.5 points), Geraldine McCorkell (8.5 points, 4.8 rebounds) and Charlotte Brancatisano (3.3 points, 2.8 rebounds and 3.8 assists) are among other Tigers doing well this season.

The other massive clash not to be missed will be the Launceston Tornadoes (3-1) up against the Eltham Wildcats (3-0). With the Wildcats having an earlier fixture against the winless Hobart Chargers, it is likely they will head into the clash with four straight wins and hungry to claim one on the road against the Tornadoes. The other non-Victorian side in the Mt Gambier Pioneers will travel to Dandenong Rangers and the Tigers home courts over the weekend, while Albury-Wodonga Bandits host Kilsyth Cobras (2-1) in a bid to get the Bandits’ first win of the season;.

Elsewhere, the undefeated Frankston Blues head up to Ballarat to face the 2-2 Rush, Diamond Valley Eagles will look to get on the board when they travel to the out-of-form Sandringham Sabres, and the undefeated Knox Raiders will head to meet Ringwood Hawks (1-2). Two sides with 1-2 records in Geelong Supercats and Nunawading Spectres will lock horns, with the Supercats having a second fixture – this one on the road – against Waverley Falcons on Sunday, while the Spectres also have a second fixture up against the Rangers on Sunday.

FIXTURES:

Hobart Chargers (0-4) vs. Eltham Wildcats (3-0)
Sandringham Sabres (2-2) vs. Diamond Valley Eagles (0-4)
Geelong Supercats (1-2) vs. Nunawading Spectres (1-2)
Ballarat Rush (2-2) vs. Frankston Blues (4-0)
Bendigo Braves (3-1) vs. Melbourne Tigers (3-1)
Dandenong Rangers (1-2) vs. Mt Gambier Pioneers (0-3)
Launceston Tornadoes (3-1) vs. Eltham Wildcats (3-0)
Albury-Wodonga Bandits (0-4) vs. Kilsyth Cobras (2-1)
Ringwood Hawks (1-2) vs. Knox Raiders (3-0)
Waverley Falcons (2-2) vs. Geelong Supercats (1-2)
Melbourne Tigers (3-1) vs. Mt Gambier Pioneers (0-3)
Nunawading Spectres (1-2) vs. Dandenong Rangers (1-2)

MEN’S:

In the men’s competition, the undefeated Knox Raiders travel to The Rings in order to try and extend their record to four games up against the Ringwood Hawks (2-1). In their last start, Knox Raiders destroyed Albury-Wodonga Bandits by 73 points in the largest winning margin of the season. Prior to that, the Raiders picked up wins over Kilsyth Cobras (2-1) by 12 points and Geelong Supercats (1-2) by seven points. Both opponents have shown they could win, so the tight victories were still impressive, but the wiping the floor with the Bandits will give them great confidence coming into this match.

The Hawks on the other hand started the season with a forgettable 31-point loss to Eltham Wildcats (3-0), but have since rebounded with wins over Geelong Supercats (1-2) by 29 points and Mt Gambier Pioneers (0-3) by 44 points. The last two weeks have been pretty impressive for the Hawks, and will be really tested against the in-form Raiders, who will be hoping to keep in touch with top of the table Frankston Blues.

Ringwood Hawks have some great depth across their team, starting with big man Adrien Sturt, who is averaging a double-double of 20.0 points and 12.3 rebounds. After narrowly missing out on a double-double in Round 1 (25 points, nine rebounds), Sturt has made up for it with back-to-back double-doubles in Round 2 (23 points, 12 rebounds) and Round 3 (12 points, 16 rebounds) to be a dominant player off the boards. He will team up with Matthew Fennell (14.3 points, 5.0 rebounds) in the front court, with center Trevor Latham (7.0 points, 7.3 rebounds) the other big man to pull down boards.

The back court features some talented guards and scoring machines, with CJ Asuncion-Byrd having missed the last game, but averaging 23.0 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists per match. Alongside him, Jack Barry has managed the 18.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists, to make it a five which is quite threatening to opposition lineups. The Raiders back court features Ben Ayre (15.0 points, 4.0 assists and 3.5 rebounds) and Jack Roberts (8.3 points, 5.6 rebounds) who have both made promising starts to the season.

In the front court, the Raiders have plenty of depth across the board. Dylan Hare leads the way in terms of points with 14.3 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.3 assists, with Abraham Nyok (11.0 points, 7.3 rebounds) the other key player using his time on court wisely with at least seven rebounds per match. Simon Grant has been a reliable source of support on that front, averaging more than seven points and rebounds per game, as well as three assists and steals per game, to be an all-round contributor and has helped the Raiders remain undefeated this season.

In other results, Eltham Wildcats (1-2) make the trek to Tasmania to take on the Hobart Chargers (2-2) and North West Thunder (3-1), while Mt Gambier Pioneers (2-1) face both the Dandenong Rangers (0-3) and Melbourne Tigers (1-3) on the road. The Tigers take on the impressive Bendigo Braves the day before, with the Rangers locking horns with the Nunawading Spectres on Sunday. Albury-Wodonga Bandits is the only side to have lost four games and they come up against the Kilsyth Cobras (2-1) at home this week, with the undefeated Geelong Supercats hosting Nunawading Spectres (2-1) and then travelling to Waverley Falcons (2-2).

In the other remaining matches, two teams with opposite win-loss records in Sandringham Sabres (1-3) and Diamond Valley Eagles (3-1) do battle, while two evenly balanced teams with 2-2 records in Ballarat Miners and Frankston Blues also clash.

FIXTURES:

Hobart Chargers (2-2) vs. Eltham Wildcats (1-2)
Sandringham Sabres (1-3) vs. Diamond Valley Eagles (3-1)
Geelong Supercats (3-0) vs. Nunawading Spectres (2-1)
Ballarat Miners (2-2) vs. Frankston Blues (2-2)
Bendigo Braves (3-1) vs. Melbourne Tigers (1-3)
Dandenong Rangers (0-3) vs. Mt Gambier Pioneers (1-2)
North West Thunder (3-1) vs. Eltham Wildcats (1-2)
Albury-Wodonga Bandits (0-4) vs. Kilsyth Cobras (2-1)
Ringwood Hawks (1-2) vs. Knox Raiders (2-1)
Waverley Falcons (2-2) vs. Geelong Supercats (3-0)
Nunawading Spectres (2-1) vs. Dandenong Rangers (0-3)
Melbourne Tigers (1-3) vs. Mt Gambier Pioneers (2-1)

Picture credit: Mick Connolly

2021 NBL1 South Women’s wrap: Round 3

THREE teams remain undefeated after Round 3 of the National Basketball League (NBL)1 South women’s competition, as Frankston Blues (4-0), Knox Raiders (3-0) and Eltham Wildcats (3-0) stand tall amongst the rest of the competition.

Geelong Supercats (92) def. Waverley Falcons (49)

Geelong Supercats have dominated Waverley Falcons by 43 points in a one-sided affair to open the round. The home team raced out to a 10-point lead at quarter time, and then closed down the opposition’s scoring, capped off with a 29-8 third quarter. A 20-14 final term saw the Supercats finish full of steam as well, winning 92-49. Steph Blicavs dominated with 26 points – four of five from long-range – four assists, three rebounds and two steals, while Aimie Clydesdale hit five of 10 from three-point range to finish with 21 points, as well as four rebounds and four assists, while Sarah Elsworthy (17 points, five assists and three rebounds) and Rebekah O’Donnell (11 points, seven rebounds) also stood tall. Renae Mokrzycki (13 points, three rebounds and two assists), Meg Crupi (12 points) and Nyakoang Lok (11 points, five rebounds and two steals) were the double-figure points scorers for the Falcons in the heavy loss.

Frankston Blues (90) def. Launceston Tornadoes (84)

The battle of the undefeated sides lived up to expectations with Frankston Blues triumphing over Launceston Tornadoes by just six points in a thrilling contest. It was a tale of two halves as the home team raced away to pile on 52 points to 38 in the opening half and lead by 14. Launceston hit back in the second half, but could only claw back eight of those 14 points, to go down 90-84. Despite Tessa Lavey having an uncharacteristically poor day shooting (two of 15 from the field and none of nine from long-range for seven points), the dual sport star had 10 rebounds, seven assists and two steals to still contribute to the team’s success. Darcee Garbin (23 points, 11 rebounds and three assists) and Ella Batish (20 points, five rebounds, three steals and two assists) picked up the slack, while Taylah Giliam (16 points, three rebounds) and Samara Hill (12 points, two assists) also stood tall. For the Tornadoes, it was the triple threat that did all the damage to try and keep the side in it, as Keely Froling (30 points, 10 rebounds and two assists) and Kelsey Griffin (14 points, 10 rebounds and two assists) picked up double-doubles, and Mariah Payne finished with 28 points, four assists, three rebounds and three steals.

Knox Raiders (111) def. Albury-Wodonga Bandits (38)

The bloodbath of the round well and truly went to Knox Raiders, who showed no mercy in a dominating 73-point shellacking of Albury-Wodonga Bandits. The Raiders never looked like losing with a 67-21 opening half, and then kept the Bandits to as low as seven points in the final term, running out 111-38 victors. Marianna Tolo had a night out with 25 points, 11 rebounds and three assists, while Klara Wischer also picked up a double-double of 11 points and 11 rebounds. Kara Tessari (18 points, four assists and three rebounds), Kiera Rowe (17 points, four rebounds and three assists) and Leah Santomaggio (13 points, four rebounds and three assists) were others who hit double-figure points for the Raiders. Emma Mahady knocked down 20 points, seven rebounds and two steals in a lone-hand for the Bandits, scoring more than half of the team’s points.

Ballarat Rush (67) def. by Bendigo Braves (74)

Bendigo Braves have come away with an important win on the road against Ballarat Rush, facing a 13-point half-time deficit but turning it around with a dominant second half. The Braves trailed 46-33 at the main break, but then kept the Rush to just 21 points after that, whilst they piled on 41 to secure the narrow seven-point win, 74-67. Tess Madgen led the way, picking up an almost triple-double of 18 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists, while Kate Oliver (18 points, eight rebounds, three assists and three steals), Cassidy McLean (12 points, eight rebounds, three steals and two assists) and Piper Dunlop (eight points, seven rebounds and two assists) all shone in the win. For the Rush, Alicia Froling was unstoppable off the boards with 16 rebounds – seven offensive – to go with 14 points, two assists and two blocks, while Kasey Burton (15 points, seven rebounds and two assists) and Kristy Rinaldi (15 points, five rebounds and three steals) also contributed strongly.

Diamond Valley Eagles (48) def. by Melbourne Tigers (93)

Diamond Valley Eagles’ winless start to the season continued, going down to Melbourne Tigers by 45 points, while the Tigers strung together back-to-back wins. Melbourne won every quarter, getting out to a 25-point lead at half-time to all but seal the deal, then won the second half by 20 points as well to run out 93-48 winners. Isabella Brancatisano (23 points, 12 rebounds and six assists) and Zitina Aokuso (10 points, 13 rebounds and two assists) both racked up double-doubles, as Monique Conti came close to a remarkable quadruple-double of 23 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and seven steals as a clear best on court. Gemma Simon helped out with 19 points in the Tigers’ win. For the Eagles, Sophie Burrows scored a team-high 12 points to go with six rebounds, four assists and two steals, while Olivia Bontempelli (10 points five rebounds, four steals and three assists) and Ivana Vasiljevic (10 points, three rebounds) also reached double-figure points.

Eltham Wildcats (87) def. Nunawading Spectres (74)

Eltham Wildcats remained undefeated from three games with a solid 13-point victory over Nunawading Spectres at home. The Wildcats raced out to a 14-point lead at half-time, and built it up to as much as 20 points by the final break, before the Spectres fought it out in the final term to cut the deficit back, but fell short of victory as the home team triumphed, 87-74. Lily Scanlon (24 points, six rebounds and two assists) scored the most points, but Anneli Maley‘s unbelievable season off the boards continued with 19 rebounds – 13 defensive – to go with 15 points. Tess Heal (14 points, three rebounds, two assists and two steals), Rebecca Pizzey (13 points, seven rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocks) and Shelby Britten (10 points, seven assists, two rebounds and two steals) also hit double-figure points in the win. Penina Davidson was a standout for the Spectres in defeat, picking up 20 points, eight rebounds, five steals and two assists, while Rachel Antoniadou (17 points, nine assists and two rebounds) and Rachel Brewster (16 points, five assists, three rebounds and two blocks).

Kilsyth Cobras (75) def. Hobart Chargers (73)

Hobart Chargers fell short of their first victory against Kilsyth Cobras, following a spirited four-quarter effort. The Cobras led by four points at the first break, with the teams tied by half-time. Another strong term from Kilsyth saw them extend the lead out to four again, before the Chargers hit back in the fourth, to even hit the front with 2:24 on the clock, but the Cobras managed to steady and take home the win, 75-73. Lauren Scherf (12 points, 15 rebounds and four assists) and Abigail Curtin (14 points, seven rebounds) were influential, as Briahna Whatman (nine points, 11 rebounds and six assists) came close to a double-double, and Nikita Young (13 points, two rebounds, two assists and two steals) was also handy. Madeleine Garrick was the star for the Chargers, not far off a triple-double of 26 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists and four steals, while Tayla Roberts (13 points, nine rebounds) and Kylie McCauley (13 points, nine rebounds and five assists), Sharna Roberts (11 points, five rebounds) and Ellie Collins (10 points, eight rebounds) did all the scoring in a losing team.

Mt Gambier Pioneers (45) def. by Ringwood Hawks (89)

A four-quarter performance capped off by a rampant final term put an exclamation mark on the Ringwood Hawks’ victory against Mt Gambier Pioneers. In the Pioneers first game in South Australia this year, they were up against some stiff opposition and the Hawks came to play, leading by 17 points at the final break. No one would have seen the last quarter coming, as Ringwood piled on 35 points to eight in a one-way domination to blow out the final margin to 44 points, 89-45. Funda Nakkasoglu hit a match-high 26 points, as well as five rebounds and three assists, while Marena Whittle (20 points, 12 rebounds, four assists, four steals and four blocks) and Demi Skinner (18 points, nine rebounds) were also impressive. For the Pioneers, Hannah Young was the standout thanks to 11 points and nine rebounds, while Shakera Reilly (10 points, four rebounds and two assists) and Jasmin Howe (nine points, five rebounds and two assists) were others who stood out for the losers.

Bendigo Braves (84) def. Dandenong Rangers (56)

After a win on the road against Ballarat Rush, Bendigo Braves made it back-to-back victories in Round 3 thanks to a 28-point triumph over Dandenong Rangers. The Braves won all four quarters, scoring at least 17 points in every quarter, and keeping the Rangers to 15 or less in three of the four terms to win, 84-56. Madgen feasted on the Rangers with an almost triple-double effort of 43 points – including seven of 13 from long-range – nine rebounds and eight assists, while Oliver (18 points, 14 rebounds) picked up a double-double, and Abigail Wehrung (15 points, six rebounds and five assists) was also impressive across the night. For the Rangers, Dallas Loughbridge scored 17 points, five steals and three assists, stepping up with Emilee Harmon (15 points, seven rebounds) and Tenaya Sooalo (14 points, three steals and two rebounds) also having a helping hand despite the loss.

Waverley Falcons (93) def. Albury-Wodonga Bandits (64)

Another team that made it back-to-back wins for Round 3, whilst also sentencing a league battler to yet another loss were Waverley Falcons, who took care of Albury-Wodonga Bandits by 29 points. The Falcons dominated the first half to race out to a 24-point lead at the main break, though credit to the Bandits who hit back in the third term to cut it to 15 points at the last change and give themselves a sniff. The Falcons quickly got back on top with a 24-10 final quarter and ran out 93-64 winners. Anna Bandilovska (29 points, two rebounds) was the highest points scorer, though Mokrzycki racked up 28 points, 17 rebounds and Kelly Bowen had 17 points, 11 rebounds and three assists in double-double efforts. Mahady was again the key scorer with 20 points, 11 rebounds, four steals and three assists, though she had some support in this match thanks to Charlotte Beavan‘s 16 points and three rebounds – with five of nine triples – and Brodie-Paige Theodore‘s 12 points – nine from the free-throw line – four rebounds and two assists.

Melbourne Tigers (109) def. Hobart Chargers (87)

Melbourne Tigers made it three consecutive wins, and handed Hobart Chargers an 0-4 start to the season with a 22-point victory at home. The Tigers were surprisingly sluggish to start the match and conceded 34 points in the first term to trail by 12 at quarter time, but then stepped up to completely dominate the game and score 87-53 and run out 109-87 winners. Conti had another massive performance of 40 points – eight of 12 from long-range – seven rebounds, seven assists and four steals, while Brancatisano (23 points – five of 11 from long-range – four rebounds and four assists) and Aokuso (19 points, 10 rebounds, 12 assists, three steals and two blocks in a triple-double effort) all dominated. Collins stepped up with 25 points, six rebounds and three assists in the loss, while Garrick (19 points, seven rebounds, four assists and three steals), Tayla Roberts (15 points, six rebounds) and Thompson (13 points, three rebounds) were also lively.

Sandringham Sabres (67) def. by Launceston Tornadoes (100)

Closing out the weekend was Launceston Tornadoes bouncing back from their first loss of the season against Frankston Blues, to easily win 100-67 against Sandringham Sabres. The Tornadoes won every quarter by at least eight points in a dominant effort to secure the 33-point victory. Froling had an unbelievable performance of 37 points, 13 rebounds and four steals, one of three players to reach double-doubles, as Griffin (20 points, 12 rebounds three assists and two steals) and Payne (20 points, 12 rebounds and four assists) achieved the feat, while Teyla Evans managed the 13 points and four rebounds. Playing their first game of the round, the Sabres’ Amy O’Neill finished with a team-high 20 points, as well as eight assists, five rebounds and three steals. She was complemented by Jenna O’Hea (10 points, seven rebounds, two assists and two steals) and Cassandra Hill (11 points, two rebounds and two assists) in the loss.

Picture credit: Ian Knight Photography

NBL1 South Womens: Round 2 wrap – Blues standalone with 3-0 record

FRANKSTON Blues stand alone as the only side to record three wins so far in the 2021 National Basketball League (NBL)1 South women’s competition, as the results played out over the weekend. We recap how each of the games went down and who the top performers were with some one-sided results.

Bendigo Braves (70) def. by Frankston Blues (76)

The first of two wins for the weekend for the Blues saw them claim a narrow six-point victory over Bendigo Braves in a come-from-behind triumph. The Braves raced out to a 21-9 lead at quarter time after a dominant first term, with the Blues clawing their way back to within six points at the final break, before slamming on 24-12 in the last quarter to win, 76-70. Darcee Garbin was again a prolific scorer for the Blues, adding 23 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and three blocks in a standout performance. She teamed up well with Tessa Lavey (14 points, eight rebounds, eight assists and two steals) and Taylah Gilliam (14 points, four rebounds). For the Braves, Abigail Wehrung nailed 24 points, four rebounds, three assists and two blocks, though it was Tess Madgen who came agonisingly close to a triple-double of 16 points, nine rebounds, nine assists and three steals. Piper Dunlop (11 points, six rebounds and three assists) and Kate Oliver (10 points, seven rebounds and four assists) were both impressive for the losers.

Hobart Chargers (61) def. by Ballarat Rush (62)

A two-pointer from Ballarat Rush’s Kasey Burton in the final 30 seconds – and a missed three-point attempt from Hobart Chargers’ Madeleine Garrick helped the Rush grab a one-point thrilling victory at Kingborough Sports Centre. The visitors trailed by five at quarter time, led by one and then four at the next two breaks, then were caught by the Chargers, only to win at the death. Burton had an equal team-high 13 points, as well as six rebounds, but it was the amazing effort of Alicia Froling (10 points, 20 rebounds and five assists) that stood out, while Kristy Rinaldi (seven points, 13 rebounds) also dominated off the boards. Annie Collins had the 13 points and two rebounds to equal Burton on the scoring front. For the Chargers, Garrick finished with a double-double of 19 points – including five of 11 from long-range – and 10 rebounds, while Ellie Collins had 16 points and 15 rebounds in an equally amazing effort. Tayla Roberts came close to a double-double herself picking up 16 points and nine rebounds.

Frankston Blues (78) def. Dandenong Rangers (75)

It was billed as the match of the round, and it certainly lived up to expectations with Frankston Blues moving to 3-0 for the NBL1 South season, defeating Dandenong Rangers by three points. The teams traded blows throughout the match, though the Blues led by 11 points at the final break, before Dandenong hit back with a 23-15 final quarter to get within three points, but fall short, 78-75. Garbin had another outstanding game with 30 points – four of 10 from long-range – and eight assists, while Lavey picked up 18 points, eight rebounds and eight assists in the win. Gililam (13 points, three rebounds and four assists) and Saraid Taylor (seven points, 10 rebounds and three assists) were others who stood out. For the Ranges, Gemma Potter was on fire with six triples leading to her 28 points, as well as five rebounds and two assists. Emilee Harmon (23 points, 11 rebounds, two assists and two steals) and Tenaya Sooalo (16 points, three rebounds, three assists and two blocks) were also busy.

Knox Raiders (82) def. Kilsyth Cobras (70)

Knox Raiders proved too strong for Kilsyth Cobras in their clash at the State Basketball Centre, winning three of the four quarters to post a 12-point win at home. The teams were fairly even at half-time after counter-contrasting first and second terms, with Kilsyth leading by one point. Knox piled on 24-14 after half-time to set up the win, then held on in the final term for the 82-70 victory. Klara Wischer was the star for the Raiders, picking up a double-double of 18 points and 12 rebounds, as well as three steals and two assists. Marianna Tolo (14 points, seven rebounds) and Kiera Rowe (12 points, five rebounds and four assists) were also busy in the match among a host of other contributors. Lauren Scherf stood tall for the Cobras with 20 points, 10 rebounds and five assists, notching up a double-double while Briahna Whatman (145 points, five assists and three rebounds) and Carly Turner (five points, 10 rebounds and three assists) were also productive.

Sandringham Sabres (72) def. Mt Gambier Pioneers (70)

Sandringham Sabres survived a thriller with a two-point win over the cross-border Mt Gambier Pioneers on Saturday evening. The Sabres held a narrow lead early, and extended it out to as much as 13 points by the final break, before the Pioneers hit back with a massive fourth quarter. The 29-18 term in favour of the visitors would not be enough however, as the Sabres triumphed 72-70. Jenna O’Hea had 27 points, six rebounds and five assists in the win for the Sabres, leading the way from Rachel Jarry (14 points, six rebounds and two steals), Cassandra Hill (10 points, four rebounds, two assists and two steals) and Amy O’Neill (eight points, six rebounds and two assists). For the Pioneers, Hannah Young racked up an important double-double of 17 points, 10 rebounds and two steals, while Jasmine Howe (15 points, six rebounds) and Shakera Reilly (11 points, eight rebounds) also stood up on both the scoring and rebounding fronts.

Eltham Wildcats (84) def. Diamond Valley Eagles (52)

Eltham Wildcats made it two from two this season in the NBL1 South competition, dominating the Diamond Valley Eagles to win by 32 points. The Wildcats won by nine, seven, nine and seven points in each of the respective four quarters during the 84-52 victory. Anneli Maley had a ridiculous 29 rebounds – 20 defensive – to be unbeatable off the boards, as well as pick up 21 points, two assists two steals. Rebecca Pizzey (11 points, seven rebounds and three blocks), Shelby Britten (16 points, four assists, three rebounds and three steals) were also impressive as Chloe Hilderbrand (10 points, five rebounds and four assists) and Tess Heal (10 points, six rebounds, two assists and two steals) also hit double-figure points. In a disappointing loss for the Eagles, Teah Reichert picked up a double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds, while Imogen Rock (12 points, five steals) and Sophie Burrows (seven points, six rebounds) tried hard.

Albury-Wodonga Bandits (68) def. by Melbourne Tigers (116)

Melbourne Tigers were on from the first tip-off as they completely dismantled Albury-Wodonga Bandits in a dominant 48-point win. Storming to a 31-13 lead at quarter time, the Tigers lost the second term by three, but then piled on the points in the second half with 62 points to 29 to run out 116-68 victors. Monique Conti impressed with 28 points, six assists and three steals, teaming up brilliantly with fellow WNBL talent Zitina Aokuso (18 points, eight rebounds, four assists, three steals and two blocks) doing it all. Isabella Brancatisano (25 points, six rebounds, eight assists and seven steals) was arguably the best on the court, while Melissa Prior (17 points, six rebounds) was also outstanding in the win. The Bandits were led by Emma Mahady (24 points, five rebounds), while Jade McCowan (15 points, three rebounds) and Brodie-Paige Theodore (12 points) reached double-figure points in the loss.

Melbourne Tigers’ Monique Conti puts up a shot. Picture credit: NBL1

Ringwood Hawks (84) def. Geelong Supercats (55)

Bouncing back from a Round 1 loss, Ringwood Hawks proved too much for Geelong Supercats, running out 29-point victors at The Rings on Saturday evening. The Hawks won the first two quarters to stamp their authority on the match and lead by 20 points at the half, before Geelong edged back one point, only for Ringwood to go again and score 22-12 in the final term a for a 84-55 victory. Marena Whittle had a night out with 20 points and 13 rebounds, as well as six assists and two blocks. Funda Nakkasoglu (16 points, four rebounds, three assists and three steals), Hope Terdich (13 points, six rebounds) and Demi Skinner (12 points, four rebounds) also stepped up in the win. For the Supercats, Stephanie Blicavs knocked down 17 points, along with three rebounds and two assists, while Aimee Clydesdale was the other prominent scorer with 11 points and five rebounds in the loss.

Launceston Tornadoes (92) def. Ballarat Rush (61)

Launceston Tornadoes have stormed to a dominant 31-point win over Ballarat Rush to go 2-0 this season, with Keely Froling picking up another huge double-double against her sister. The Tornadoes never looked like losing, winning the first half by 23 points, then the second half by another eight to secure the 92-61 victory. Froling finished with 28 points, 19 rebounds – 17 defensive – five assists and four steals, while Mariah Payne (22 points, five rebounds and six assists) and Teyla Evans (15 points, six rebounds and five assists) were other double-digit scorers. For the Rush, Alicia Froling hit up 27 points, seven rebounds and four blocks to be the best of the losers, while Kasey Burton (13 points, seven rebounds and three assists) and Kristy Rinaldi (10 points, four rebounds and three assists) were both strong.

Nunawading Spectres (83) defeated Sandringham Sabres (70)

Nunawading Spectres bounced back from a Round 1 loss to hand the Sandringham Sabres their first loss in three games. The Sabres took control to lead by six points at half-time, but having already played a game this round, the Sabres tired in the second half as the Spectres ran over the top of them, courtesy of a dominant 44-25 half to win, 83-70. Izzy Wright (21 points, nine rebounds) and Louise Brown (20 points, five rebounds and four assists) did the damage on the scoreboard, with Rachel Antoniadou (18 points, four rebounds and five assists) not far behind. Rachel Brewster (14 points, 12 rebounds) and Penina Davidson (10 points, 10 rebounds) also picked up double-doubles to share the load across the court. O’Hea was again the standout for the Sabres, picking up 27 points and eight rebounds not leaving the court for a second, while Jarry (16 points, 12 rebounds and two assists) and Amy O’Neill (six points, 11 rebounds) were prominent off the boards.

Waverley Falcons (74) defeated Diamond Valley Eagles (66)

After their heartbreaking one-point loss last week the Waverley Falcons bounced back to win by eight points against Diamond Valley Eagles, handing their opponents a third consecutive loss in the process. The Falcons were led by Aneta Bandilovska (20 points, two rebounds and two assists) on the scoring front, with Renae Mokrzycki (11 points, 11 rebounds, three assists and four steals) recording a double-double. Nyakoang Lok (15 points, three rebounds, three steals and two assists) and Kelly Bowen (13 points, five rebounds) were the other double-digit scorers. For the Eagles, Burrows scored a double-double of 14 points, 10 rebounds and four steals, while Jade Dunne (17 points, four assists, four steals and two rebounds) and Olivia Bontempelli (12 points, five rebounds and two locks) were also steadfast in the loss.

Picture credit: Ian Knight Photography

2021 NBL1 South Womens: Round 1 wrap – Cobras produce venomous late blow

THERE were a few tight contests amongst a number of one-sided wins as the National Basketball League (NBL)1 South tipped off over the weekend and we run through the women’s division and how the teams fared.

Melbourne Tigers (62) def. by Sandringham Sabres (87)

A second quarter domination from the Sabres was the key to victory against Melbourne Tigers, winning the term by 19 points (25-6), following on from the dominant 25-15 opening term to open up a 50-21 half-time lead. Whilst the Tigers made good inroads in the second half to break even and reduce the deficit by four points, the damage was done during the 87-62 loss. Jenna O’Hea (27 points, 10 rebounds) and Rachel Jarry (22 points, five rebounds and two assists) were sensational for the winners, whilst Amy O’Neill was also handy with seven points and eight rebounds. For the Tigers, Geraldine McCorkell (15 points, four rebounds) and Zitina Aokuso (14 points, five rebounds) stood out, with the latter teaming up well with fellow WNBL talent, and AFLW star Monique Conti (seven points, six rebounds and two steals).

Hobart Chargers (61) def. by Launceston Tornadoes (91)

In the all-Tasmanian battle, Launceston Tornadoes proved far too good for Hobart Chargers despite a dismal third term. The Tornadoes raced out to a 54-26 half-time lead in a one-sided contest, before the Chargers hit back with a 24-9 third quarter, That gave them a sniff at the final break to get to within 13 points of the Tornadoes, but it would be Launceston that would finish the stronger of the sides, powering away with a 28-11 final term and securing a massive 30-point win. Keely Froling was absolutely unstoppable for the Tornadoes, knocking down 42 points at 59.3 per cent from the field, and notching up 22 rebounds – 15 defensive – five assists, three steals and a block in a huge effort. Mariah Payne (16 points, 11 rebounds, three assists and three steals) also picked up a double-double, while Teyla Evans (11 points and three rebounds) and D’Asia Chambers (seven points, four rebounds and five assists) were handy. Madeleine Garrick (26 points, nine rebounds, two assists and two blocks) and Tayla Roberts (18 points, four rebounds) were the two best for the Chargers.

Frankston Blues (90) def. Nunawading Spectres (78)

A strong second term was the difference for Frankston Blues in posting an impressive 12-point win over Nunawading Spectres. The Blues won the second quarter 24-15, gaining the nine-point separation they needed to go on with it, and secure the 90-78 victory. It was a tight game all match, but Darcee Garbin was the key, knocking down 30 points – at 68.6 per cent, as well as six of eight from long-range, and picking up six rebounds and three assists in the process. She teamed up well with fellow WNBL talent Tessa Lavey who returned from the AFLW to pick up 23 points, seven rebounds and nine assists having barely missed a beat. Taylah Gillam (11 points, three assists and two rebounds) and Ella Batish (eight points, six rebounds) were the other two to stand out for the home side. Four players hit double-figure points for Nunawading, with Izzy Wright (23 points, four rebounds) the main destroyer, while Penina Davidson (15 points, seven rebounds), Louise Brown (11 points, seven rebounds), Rachel Brewster (13 points, six rebounds) and Rachel Antoniadou (12 points, five rebounds and six assists) all shared it around to no avail.

Knox Raiders (79) def. Geelong Supercats (72)

Knox Raiders have held strong in the second half to bounce back from a second term that swung in the Geelong Supercats favour, to record a narrow seven-point win. The Raiders raced out of the blocks to lead by nine points at the first break, only for the Supercats to cut the deficit to four by half-time. To the Raiders’ credit they stood up in the second half to hold off the visitors and record a 79-72 victory. Leah Santomaggio (22 points, four rebounds and four assists) and Marianna Tolo (20 points, five rebounds and two assists) both had their say on the contest, as Klara Wischer (10 points, 11 rebounds) picked up a double-double and Eliza West (14 points, five rebounds and three assists) was also busy. Sarah Elsworthy topped the Supercats’ scoring charts with 16, as well as picking up eight rebounds, three assists and two steals. Stephanie Blicavs (14 points, nine rebounds) and Aimee Clydesdale (15 points, six rebounds and two assists) both stood up in the game, but while the Supercats were strong off the boards (48-40), they struggled in transition (assists 22-13 in Knox’s favour).

Diamond Valley Eagles (65) def. by Dandenong Ranges (79)

Dandenong Ranges have secured an on-the-road win after a momentum-swinging contest against Diamond Valley Eagles. The Rangers took a strong half-time lead of 12 points, but the Eagles would not lie down easily, taking control in the third to cut the deficit to seven by the final break. Sensing the momentum changing, the Rangers got it back on their terms to win the quarter 23-16 and secure the victory, 79-65. Emilee Harmon (26 points, 10 rebounds) and Gemma Potter (14 points, 13 rebounds, five assists, three steals and two blocks) were sensational for the winners, as Tenaya Sooalo (18 points, four rebounds and three assists) also had a day out. Olivia Bontempelli (17 points, six rebounds and three assists) and Ivana Vasiljevic (11 points, seven rebounds and four assists) were the two players to hit double-figure points for the Eagles in the loss.

Eltham Wildcats (82) def. Ringwood Hawks (51)

Eltham Wildcats put Ringwood Hawks to the sword after quarter time to run away with an easy 31-point win. The Wildcats burst out of the blocks in the second quarter after the sides were level at the first break, to win the term 23-8. They then went on with it in the next two quarters, winning them 18-11 and 22-13 respectively to secure the 82-51 victory. Anneli Maley brought her own backboard with her, picking up an unheard of 26 points and 26 rebounds – 18 defensive – on her way to best on court honours. Erin Riley (22 points, two rebounds, two assists and three steals) and Lily Scanlon (17 points, six rebounds and two assists) were also sensational on the scoring front, whilst Rebecca Pizzey helped out with eight points, seven rebounds and three assists. Funda Nakkasoglu topscored for the Hawks with 13 points and five rebounds, while Hope Terdich (10 points, four rebounds) and Demi Skinner (10 points) both notched up double-figure points.

Kilsyth Cobras (84) def. Waverley Falcons (74)

Kilsyth Cobras have fired late to win in a stunning overtime game against Waverley Falcons. The Cobras trailed by eight points at quarter time, put together a mammoth second term of 29-12 to hit the front by nine, only to see that lead evaporated due to the Falcons’ 23-7 third term. Trailing by seven points at the final break, the Cobras levelled the scores with a 20-13 final term, forcing overtime which they got up in, 16-6 for an overall 84-74 victory. Carly Turner knocked down 20 points, 12 rebounds, six assists, three steals and two blocks in a complete game for the Cobras, teaming up well with Lauren Scherf (14 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks). Tia Hay (17 points, four steals) and Briahna Whatman (13 points, six assists) was also impressive in the victory. For the falcons, Aneta Bandilovska top-scored with 21 points, as well as three rebounds, two assists and two steals. Renae Mokrzycki picked up a double-double of 19 points and 12 rebounds, while Nyakoang Lok (13 points, four rebounds) and Jackie Vanderzaag (nine points, seven rebounds and five assists) were also busy.

Albury Wodonga Bandits (61) def. by Ballarat Rush (93)

In arguably the performance of the weekend Ballarat Rush won all four quarters convincingly to defeat Albury Wodonga Bandits by 32 points. The Rush won the quarters by seven, six, 11 and eight points in a comprehensive four-quarter effort to take care of the Bandits on the road, 93-61. Kasey Burton topscored for the Rush with 21 points, six rebounds and three assists, while Claire Constable (18 points including four of nine from long-range, two assists) and Kristy Rinaldi (13 points, two rebounds) were also consistent. Millie Cracknell (10 points) also reached double-figure points, while Alicia Froling was busy across the court with nine points, six rebounds and three assists. For the Bandits, they only had two assists for the entire game – both off the hand of Casey Ardern (two points, two rebounds and one steal), with Emma Mahady a lone hand on the scoring front with 26 points, three rebounds and a steal. The next highest scorer was Brodie-Paige Theodore with nine points and four rebounds in less than 17 minutes.

Mt Gambier Pioneers (54) def. by Bendigo Braves (60)

A strong first half has helped set up a win for Bendigo Braves in a low-scoring contest against Mt Gambier Pioneers. After the NBL1 South competition did not go ahead last season, the Pioneers had to wait an extra year for their debut in the league, and they took it right up to the Braves. The visitors got away to a good start with a three-point lead at quarter time and eight by the main break. The Pioneers fought back to cut the deficit to four at the final change, but the Braves steadied to solidify the win, 60-54. Kate Oliver (17 points, seven rebounds) and Tess Madgen (17 points, six rebounds and three assists) both did the bulk of the damage for the winners, whilst Cassidy McLean (seven points, five rebounds and two steals), Piper Dunlop (seven points, four rebounds) and Abigail Wehrung (six points, three rebounds, two steals and two blocks) were all impressive. Shakera Reilly managed the 16 pints and two rebounds in defeat, while Jasmin Howe also notched up double-figure points with 14 herself. Hannah Young (nine points, eight rebounds and three assists) and Sherrie Calleia (four points, six rebounds, two assists and two steals) were the other Pioneers who contributed across the court.

WNBL20 Season Review – Townsville Fire

BESIDES being the most improved team in WNBL20 by a country mile, this season’s hosts, the Townsville Fire performed at an exceptional rate over the entire six weeks, culminating in two All-WNBL team selections, a Coach of the Year, a Sixth Woman and a Youth Player of the Year recipient, as well as a Grand Final opportunity. After receiving the wooden spoon at the start of this year, the Fire improved at a rapid rate and despite missing out on the final piece of silverware will take plenty of positives out of their campaign.

After a busy offseason to say the least, a new look Fire squad took the floor in Mackay during mid-November, to commence the long-awaited season with a determined mindset. This was shown against the Perth Lynx in Townsville’s season-opener as the hub hosts ran away with a 25-point triumph. But it did not take long for the Fire to realise that this season’s competitors were not to be taken lightly, losing their second contest of Round 1 to the defending champion Canberra Capitals (67-78).

Round 2 of the season fixture for the Fire proved to be a pivotal point in the campaign for head coach Shannon Seebohm and her squad, as they had to work their way through a four-game week. After a successful three-point result over the Sydney Uni Flames, Townsville got to test their mettle against the WNBL’s top-contender in the Southside Flyers, but to no avail going down to the league’s benchmark side 89-101. Fortunately for the Fire, they performed well in their remaining games that week against both the Bendigo Spirit twice and the Melbourne Boomers, placing their record at five wins and two losses entering the middle portion of the season.

Going down again to the Flyers to conclude Round 3, Southside proved to be more than a nuisance as the season continued, with Townsville unable to find the solution to slow down the Flyers’ offence. While Seebohm and his side showed lapses throughout their season, it was their ability to repeatedly bounce back from negative results that helped in the long run.

A two-game split in Round 4 against the Lynx (75-84 loss) and the Capitals (84-71 win) put the Fire well within finals eligibility with the last round still yet to be played, but with a top-two seed still hanging in the balance.

Knocking off Adelaide Lightning in convincing fashion 95-66, Townsville now had the chance to steal the second seed in WNBL standings at the end of the season. To get to that goal, the Fire just scraped away with a six-point win over the Boomers and leapfrogged the Melbourne-based side in the process, nabbing the second-seed at the last possible moment.

The Fire found themselves face-to-face with a team they had yet to defeat during the season and one of the most talented domestic line-ups in Australian basketball history, Southside. That streak of defeats to the Flyers unfortunately continued for the Sunshine-State team, going down in the second semi-final of the day 93-106, meaning next up would be a win or go home preliminary final against the Boomers once more.

In a meeting drowned in defence, neither Townsville nor Melbourne would manage to accumulate over 65 points, as shooting efficiency was few and far between. Luckily for the hosts, they kept their noses in front for the majority of the encounter withstanding onslaught after onslaught from the Boomers. Eventually conquering Melbourne 65-62 and setting up the franchise’s first grand final in little more than three seasons.

For all of Townsville’s players, it was a dream come true to compete for a WNBL title in front of their home crowd at Townsville Stadium. But their final hurdle would be the most difficult to combat and overcome, given that the Fire had not been able to beat Southside in any of their three previous meetings throughout the campaign.

Despite having four players reaching double-digit totals in what was for the most part a tightly knitted affair, the Flyers’ marquee players made their presence felt. A near-perfect second half for the Flyers, as well as a performance to remember from Leilani Mitchell would be enough to silence their opponents 99-82 at the final buzzer, ending the Fire’s prominent season and redeeming themselves after last year’s Grand Final failures – breaking the hometown fans’ hearts in the process after a gallant year.

MVP-candidate, member of the All-WNBL First Team and new signing for Townsville, Lauren Nicholson reminded everyone why she is a force to be reckoned with averaging 18.9 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.7 assists. Next to her is perhaps one of the biggest success stories this season for another new signing in Shyla Heal. Heal ended her WNBL20 with averages of 16.7 points, 4.9 rebounds and 3.4 assists and being named this season’s Australian Youth Player of the Year.

Other standouts included Sixth Woman of the Year, Zitina Aokuso (9.6 points and 5.5 rebounds), Nadeen Payne (8.5 points and 6.3 rebounds) and Megan McKay (7.3 points and 5.9 rebounds).

In a season that could have gone either way because of the major roster changes that were made before the season even began, Seebohm did an exemplary job alongside his coaching staff merging numerous personalities together to work as a collective unit. With Seebohm signing a two-year extension, the future possibilities for this Townsville side are limitless.

Southside Flyers claim premiership glory

SOUTHSIDE Flyers have notched up their inaugural premiership since being rebranded with a 17-point victory over Townsville Fire on Sunday afternoon (99-82). After taking out the minor premiership it was only fitting that the Flyers also walked away with the final piece of the puzzle – a premiership ring – after a dominant 2020 WNBL season. Despite not walking away with the chocolates, the Fire will hold their heads high, pushing the Flyers all the way and enjoying a rapid rise up the ladder throughout the condensed season.

Having met only days before it was always going to be a tough battle and the first quarter was proof of that with neither side able to be separated at the first break sitting at 22 points apiece. Play commenced with none other than Liz Cambage out of the middle however it was Townsville Fire’s Lauren Nicholson that landed the first blow nailing a layup. It was not long before Sara Blicavs made her presence felt converting at the charity strip and evening things up early in the piece.

The Fire pushed out to as much as six points ahead in the first five minutes before the Flyers found their groove and Cambage was subbed out due to foul trouble in the opening few minutes. Rebecca Cole levelled the scores with just over six minutes of play left in the term showcasing just how much of a tight game the fans were in for. This back and forth nature continued for most of the term with both sides trading blows and unable to arrest any sort of momentum given the high pressure nature the game was being played under. Nicholson was playing her part for the Fire leading the charge both off the boards and on the scoreboard while Leilani Mitchell sensed the occasion and stepped up to the plate with a couple of consecutive jump shots.

With scores tied at the first break the Flyers steadily built ahead in the second term opening up a two point lead off the back of some Mitchell magic. The Southside Flyers representative seemed to have her own ball out there, displaying her impressive range and relative accuracy. The term started with Zitina Aokuso hitting a jump shot and stealing the lead for the Fire before Mia Murray also got involved in the action to extend the lead to four points.

But that did not last long with Mitchell and Cole chiming in and playing their part for the Flyers. The lead ebbed and flowed as the Flyers created a handy four point buffer before Townsville once again fought back to reduce the deficit and steal the lead. It was a high intensity term with no player able to catch their breath with  Jenna O’Hea impressing and nailing a triple before Blicavs also added her two cents worth to the tally. Nicholson continued her dominant ways while Stephanie Reid also got busy with a jump shot to get her side back within touching distance.

Two points separated the sides at half-time but it was clear that the Flyers came to play in the third quarter really putting the foot down. Known as the premiership quarter Cambage started to inflict some serious pain with a couple of much needed baskets while Blicavs proved to be a handful. If it was not Cambage attacking the rim it was Mitchell with the two causing chaos and finding the basket with relative ease to keep the scoreboard ticking over and the Fire at bay.

Townsville went three minutes without a score such was the defensive pressure of the Flyers while they managed to slot six points of their own and extend the margin to eight points. Shyla Heal started to get involved in the action nailing a handy jump shot while Aokuso also found the basket moments later but the pattern had started to become clear with the Fire unable to keep up with the steam train that was Southside.

With the silverware in sight it was clear that the Flyers were not about to let go, coming out with a higher level of intensity and real sense of determination. The Fire threw everything they had at the Flyers with Nicholson and Heal combining to cut the margin to nine and cause a couple of scares but that was short lived as the minor premiers held their nerve. Rachel Jarry was in good form and that showed making the most of her free-throws while Mitchell continued to star. Cole had a day out in the final term of play nailing a triple and relishing the opportunity to go to the line while Townsville simply did not have enough firepower to compete.

It is no surprise Mitchell walked away with Player of the Match honours with 31 points, four rebounds and five assists in an impressive showing for the Flyers. Cole also impressed throughout the game with 22 points shooting at 70 per cent from the field while also accumulating three assists, five steals and two rebounds. Cambage was quiet but still had an impact collecting 14 points, five rebounds while Blicavs managed seven points , nine rebounds and three assists.

Nicholson was once again they go to player for the Fire walking away with 20 points, seven rebounds and four assists while Payne also had an impact with 14 points, six rebounds and two assists. Heal was down on her usual output but still managed 11 points and seven rebounds.

WNBL Grand final preview: Southside Flyers v. Townsville Fire

IT all comes down to this day with Southside Flyers and Townsville Fire set to lock horns in a do or die grand final battle. Southside will be out for vengeance after falling in last year’s WNBL grand final while Townsville Fire have proven they have nothing to lose and everything to gain after an impressive rise through the ranks this season.

The last time these two sides met was only days ago with Southside getting the last laugh in the first semi-final and claiming an important victory, fuelling them with momentum heading into this clash. Despite having a shorter turn around then their competitors, the Fire have an insatiable thirst for a win and will be keen to provide their fans with plenty of entertainment and make full use of their homecourt advantage. It has been a roller coaster season for both sides but by late this afternoon there will be a new crowned champion with either the Flyers or Fire set to walk away with some nice silverware. A victory here would see Southside claim their first premiership since being rebranded while for Townsville it will mark their fourth premiership in history.

The WNBL minor premiers have a real pep in their step having won every outing against Townsville in the past two seasons but will have their work cut out for them against the Fire who are reinvigorated and have a real sense of momentum after stringing together a couple of strong quarters. It is fair to say that belief is strong in the Townsville unit overcoming an experienced Melbourne Boomers outfit only days ago to make their way to the grand final and give themselves a chance to hold the premiership cup aloft.

Statistically speaking, the Flyers have an insane ability to hit the basket with great accuracy and penetration to constantly keep the scoreboard ticking over, meaning that the Fire will have to be on their a-game in order to limit the opportunities in which Southside have to attack the rim. The Flyers also have the upper hand when it comes to fast break points and ability to convert points from turnovers given the high calibre of players that are able to seize the moment and take charge. Defensively the Flyers also reign supreme amassing 33 more blocks than the Fire while also highlighting their cleanliness and ability to attack the ball with 140 steals compared to 109. Southside have the ability to play with a shared mentality highlighted through their higher assists count 369 to 249.  On the flip side the Fire have proven to be tried and tested performers on the rebounding front able to reel in missed shots time and time again.

When looking at top players in either squad it is hard to go past All-WNBL First team star Liz Cambage who has made a lasting impression and will be eager to once again inflict some pain both on the scoreboard and rebound front in the grand final. The center has an impressive set of averages with 24.1 points, 8.9 rebounds and 1.7 blocks a game. She is not alone though with Sara Blicavs a real livewire out on court with her 13.9 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists while Rebecca Cole has elevated her workload throughout the season to collect 15 points, 2.2 rebounds and 4.4 assists each time she steps out on court. The Flyers also have plenty of depth with Leilani Mitchell able to change the course of a game alongside Monique Conti, Aimie Clydesdale and Jenna O’Hea.

The Fire have two key prongs in their unit with Lauren Nicholson and Shyla Heal the go-to-girls able to light up the court and cause a wave with their impact. Nicholson is a seasoned campaigner that knows how to stand up when it counts and averages an impressive 18.8 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.4 steals a game. Partner in crime, Heal is coming off a stellar performance and will be hoping to replicate similar feats today with the youngster not afraid to take the game on credit to her averages of 17.1 points, 4.7 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.4 steals. Off the bench Townsville have some good support with Zitina Aokuso a handy inclusion with her 9.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.1 assists while Nadeen Payne also brings another element to the contest.

It will be a thrilling contest between the two sides as they battle it out for the most prestigious award and honour in the WNBL. Expect the game to go down to the wire and for each player to throw everything they have at it in order to get their side over the line.

Heal drops 28 as Fire return to Grand Final

THIS season’s WNBL Grand Final will have a home-court advantage, after Townsville Fire squeezed out a three-point victory against the Melbourne Boomers in last night’s preliminary final, 65-62. The Fire have managed a complete flip from a season ago, going from wooden spoon recipients in 2019/20 to now facing the Southside Flyers tomorrow afternoon in what will be a must-see season decider.

Neither of the two teams were able to take command of the prelim in the opening period, but good shooting and some terrific finishing allowed Townsville to hold a solid five-point advantage with Shyla Heal exhibiting some good shooting early on with seven points after one quarter.

Kalani Purcell kicked off the second with her first basket of the contest in a see-sawing affair throughout the first half. But the second term provided little scoring and inconsistent offence with both teams locking down on defence. Winning the second quarter 12-11, Melbourne trimmed the deficit to four points in time for the main break meaning that the contest still hung in the balance.

Early on in the second half, more of Melbourne’s usual producers started to make a difference such as Maddie Garrick, Cayla George and Ashleigh Karaitiana. Guy Molloy’s squad found the majority of their points in the third thanks to Tess Madgen’s ability to facilitate the ball. But the Fire returned serve with a six-point scoring run to give themselves a temporary buffer at an important stage of the game with 10 minutes to go, leading 54-47 at three-quarter time.

The Boomers had a formidable mountain to climb and Heal’s layup to get the fourth going did not help Melbourne’s cause. However, the purple and gold continued to stick around in a game as important last night’s.

Having not made a dent in the margin and actually falling behind by as much as nine points, the Boomers kicked into desperation mode with less than five minutes remaining before coach Molloy deployed his starting five back onto the court to finish the game. The same could be said for Shannon Seebohm with the only exception being Megan McKay because of foul trouble, thus allowing Zitina Aokuso the chance to help close the book.

A layup for Karaitiana, two buckets from Ezi Magbegor and a fast break layup for Garrick, sparked eight unanswered points for the Boomers in their last roll of the dice cutting Townsville’s lead down to just one point. But two made free throws with 21 seconds from none other than Heal put the Fire up by three.

Melbourne’s flurry of threes in the dying moments were not enough to save the contest, meaning Townsville would head to the grand final for the sixth time in nine years, a feeling of success that Townsville’s faithful feared they would not have for the next few years.

Adding to her collection of impressive performances in WNBL20, Heal finished her night with 28 points, five rebounds and three assists, while fellow backcourter Lauren Nicholson played a full 40-minute game compiling 12 points and eight rebounds. Adding to this was Aokuso, accumulating 10 points and five rebounds, as well as WNBL legend Mia Murray providing a much-needed presence on the glass with eight boards.

Melbourne’s frontcourt was its primary producer last night, with Magbegor (19 points and nine rebounds) and George (15 points, 10 rebounds and five assists) putting up impressive statistics. Furthermore, despite no other Boomers gaining double-digit totals Madgen was instrumental yesterday even though the side could not get it done with nine points and six assists.

It is the end of Melbourne’s remarkable road, but Townsville’s triumph provides a first versus second seed grand final and a chance for the Fire to redeem themselves at the best possible moment. Even though the Flyers have two days of extra rest going into tomorrow, you can rest assured that the Townsville fans will provide their club with a massive chunk of adrenaline in 24 hours.

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.

Southside torch Fire, advance to second straight Grand Final

IN the WNBL’s new postseason format, the Southside Flyers have earned the first spot in the Grand Final series after a well-fought win against an extraordinarily resilient Townsville Fire squad, taking the contest 106-93. As a result, the Fire compete again in a day’s time against the Melbourne Boomers who eliminated the Canberra Capitals in yesterday’s opening meeting thanks to their second chance seeding.

If you thought the Flyers were going to get off to a hot start, that would be an understatement, as Southside made their opening 10 field goal attempts in front of a raucous Townsville crowd. More surprisingly, however, was that the Fire trailed by just a couple of possessions.

But proficient scoring got better for Southside, knocking down three consecutive threes, stringing together a 14-2 run to finish the side’s 41-point opening quarter and putting themselves ahead of Townsville by 16 in what was perhaps one of the best 10-minute stretches of play in WNBL history. In addition, both Leilani Mitchell and Bec Cole accumulated 11 and 10 points respectively in that time.

Kate Gaze commenced the second quarter with a triple for the Fire, hoping to put a spark in her team’s mindset early on, but who else other than Cole to answer back with a three of her own, immediately shifting momentum back to Southside.

While Townsville did a decent job of slowing Southside’s roll, the task of reducing their deficit was proving to be an even tougher task. Funnily enough though, Townsville showed some real persistence concocting a 13-2 run in the closing stages of the first half and reducing the distance to single figures. Winning the second quarter 27 to 19, Townsville’s impressive spurt before the main break provided the home crowd with some hope at a pivotal point in the meeting.

Back to the Flyers, they had three players over 10 points with Cole and Mitchell leading in scoring with 15 points apiece, whereas Liz Cambage collected her eleventh point shortly before the midway point of the contest. Meanwhile, youngster Shyla Heal (15 points and four assists) was carrying her side’s fightback next to MVP nominee Lauren Nicholson (13 points and five assists) with Townsville holding the swing of the game at half time.

A slower brand of basketball briefly came to the fore in the third, but scoring eventually picked up in the second half. Controlling the play and tempo of the game helped Cheryl Chambers and her team put a double-digit distance between the two opponents once again. However, a Heal buzzer-beater to end the third signalled a pulse in the Fire roster, down 74-86 with a quarter to go.

Townsville showed tremendous resilience against the Flyers all the way through the fourth quarter, but Shannon Seebohm’s unit just could not climb the mountain, getting to within seven points of Southside. But the minor premiers walked away 13-point winners in the end putting up an enormous 106-point total.

Managing a 52 per cent conversion rate, it was Southside’s game to lose and it just was not the Fire’s night on the whole. While Townsville shot the ball more efficiently than their opponents, the Flyers topped the Fire in almost every other category.

Following a massive second half, Cambage ended the night as the game-high scorer with 31 points and 18 rebounds in what was a mammoth effort against the center-combo of Megan McKay and Zitina Aokuso. Additionally, Cole accumulated a massive 22 points in under 28 minutes of play, whereas Mitchell (19 points and 10 assists) and Aimie Clydesdale (12 points and six assists) each put up valuable totals.

Heal (30 points, six assists and six rebounds) and Nicholson (30 points, seven assists and four rebounds) had memorable efforts last night with each All-WNBL selectee compiling team-highs of 30 points each. Aokuso (11 points and six rebounds) was the only other Townsville player with over 10 in the game.

For the second year in the row Southside will suit up in the WNBL’s season-decider on Sunday afternoon, looking to redeem themselves after last season’s season sweep against the Capitals. They await the winner of Friday night’s preliminary final between the Fire and the Boomers with an extended period of rest to their advantage.