Weekend previews: WNBL – Round 11

ROUND 11 sees crosstown rivals, Melbourne Boomers and Dandenong Rangers go head-to-head for the second time this season, in what is set to be a ladder-defining clash. Before that, the Rangers must combat the Capitals at home, which is no easy task. Elsewhere, Perth will be looking to break its losing streak with a victory over cellar dwellers, Sydney Uni.

UC Capitals v Dandenong Rangers

Friday 21 December, 7pm at National Convention Centre

Key match-up: Kelsey Griffin v Carley Mijovic

Kelsey Griffin just keeps dominating for the Capitals this season, while Mijovic has proven to be a handy recruit for the Rangers. Griffin is coming off an 18-point performance where she also racked up six rebounds. Mijovic is coming off 13 points and three rebounds, but while her numbers are low, she had the highest field goal percentage out of anyone else in her team with 62 per cent against Bendigo. Griffin’s scoring power is undoubtedly a threat to the Rangers, so Mijovic may have to play one of her biggest roles of the season.

Season so far: The Capitals bounced back from a two-game losing streak with a win, followed by a loss. Their most recent win was one that defined their season, as they got over the top of the dominant Perth Lynx by a sizeable margin. The Capitals have a 6-1 win-loss record on their home court. But they come up against the in-form team of the competition in the Dandenong Rangers. The Rangers have flown up to fourth on the ladder with three straight wins, making it four wins from their last five games.

The game: The Capitals’ home game record combined with their scoring power from the likes of Griffin, Kelly Wilson and Marianna Tolo makes this a big challenge for the Rangers. But the away side will back in their winning form, and also finally have Sara Blicavs on the court, after coming back from an ACL injury. Both teams know how to put big points on the board, with Dandenong putting up 106 points against Sydney Uni and the UC Capitals putting up 92 against Perth last week, so expect this round’s clash to be a high-scoring affair.

Bendigo Spirit v Townsville Fire

Friday 21 December, 7pm at Bendigo Stadium

Key match-up: Nat Hurst v Tess Madgen

In the midst of Bendigo’s big form slump, Nat Hurst has been the big standout. She’s been the highest points scorer in the last two games, but was held in check by Perth in the game before that with just five points. That shows that Hurst can be stopped, and with the Fire having two in-form guards in Micaela Cocks and Tess Madgen, the task could be achieved in this game. Madgen is coming off a match-winning performance against the Lynx, with 20 points and seven rebounds. She will need to rebound well again in this match, as Hurst can be dominant on the boards.

Season so far: Bendigo went from what looked like a secure top-four spot to an almost sure thing finish at seventh. The Spirit have now lost their last six games, with five of those games being away from home, extending their away record to three wins and seven losses. Townsville sit consistently in the bottom half of the ladder, and is currently sixth with six wins and seven losses. The Fire have won three of their last five games and are coming off a win against Perth.

The game: Considering Bendigo’s form, Townsville go into this match as favourites. But the Spirit is finally playing at home after five straight road games, which will be a welcome change for them. They also won’t have to face Townsville star, Suzy Batkovic, who is still out injured. Both teams sit on the same amount of wins too, so this game should go down to the wire as both teams fight for their seasons.

Melbourne Boomers v Dandenong Rangers

Sunday 23 December, 3pm at State Basketball Centre

Key match-up: Lindsay Allen v Rebecca Cole

These two have been two of the most consistent players in the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL).  They’re also very close to each other in the stats section, with Allen averaging the sixth most points in the league (17.4) while Cole is averaging the third most (19.31). But Allen has the edge on Cole in average assists (5.27 to 4.08) and field goal percentage (51 to 50). It will be interesting to see how Allen approaches this game, because she can certainly match Cole on the scoreboard, but her all-round influence is what has made her so pivotal to the Boomers’ success this season.

Season so far: The Boomers have been playing solid basketball all season and have finally been rewarded for it, grabbing top spot on the ladder after Round 10. Melbourne has won three out of its last five games, and would be looking to improve its home record of five wins and four losses this weekend. The Rangers have an even away record of three wins and three losses, and would also be keen to add a victory to this tally. They sit fourth on the ladder with seven wins and six losses.

The game: Rebounds will be key in this game, as the Boomers have one of the most in-form players on their roster pulling down boards for fun. Cayla George managed a double-double last week and has been dominating the rebounds lately. No Dandenong player could manage double-figure rebounds last week against the Bendigo Spirit, so the Rangers will need to ensure they fix this part of their game up to knock the Boomers off the top of the table.

Perth Lynx v Sydney Uni Flames

Sunday 23 December, 1pm at Bendat Basketball Centre

Key match-up: Asia Taylor v Belinda Snell

With Taylor dominating in many assets of the game, Snell has a tough task to keep her quiet. The Perth forward is averaging the second most points in the competition (19.5), the eighth most rebounds (7.57) and the fourth most steals (1.79). Unfortunately for Snell, she is coming second in average turnovers per game (3.45), so she will need to ensure she doesn’t continue this habit against Taylor and the Lynx. The Sydney Uni veteran shoots 94 per cent from the free throw line, so her best chance to outdo Taylor could be drawing the foul on the drive.

Season so far: In their last six games, the Lynx have won three straight, and have followed this up with three consecutive losses. As a result, Perth has lost top spot on the ladder, thanks to losses against the Capitals, Townsville and Dandenong. After starting the season with a 10-game losing streak, the Flames have pulled back two wins in their last five games to improve their record to two wins and 12 losses. Sydney Uni still sits on the bottom of the table.

The game: When Perth and Sydney Uni met last time, the Lynx scored a massive 46-point win. With the Lynx on the rebound this time, it could spell trouble once again for the Flames. They too are coming off a loss and would also be wanting to win this one, but with a lack of firepower from the side, it puts players like Asia Taylor and Brittany McPhee in the box seat to generate big scores. Expect Brittany Smart to lead the way in points for the Flames, while Tahlia Tupaea will give the Lynx a real run for their money with her aggression on the court.

Townsville Fire v UC Capitals

Sunday 23 December, 3pm at Townsville Stadium

Key match-up: Micaela Cocks v Leilani Mitchell

Cocks is coming off a 14-point game against the Perth Lynx, but only shot 38 per cent from the field, so her influence was curbed. Meanwhile, Mitchell played one of her best games of the season against the same opponent in the Lynx, gathering 22 points, seven rebounds and five steaks. Cocks has been consistent all season for the Fire, but has really stepped up her game in the absence of Suzy Batkovic. Cocks is shooting at 45 per cent from the three-point line, so Mitchell will need to watch her on the outside. But Cocks will need to watch her when handling the ball, as Mitchell is leading the way in average steals per game with 2.18.

Season so far: The Fire bounced back from two straight losses with a win against former ladder-leaders, Perth. They have lost more games than they have won at home, but sit on three wins and three losses away. The Capitals will be wanting to improve their away record of two wins and four losses when they come up against the sixth-placed Fire. The Capitals sit third on the ladder with eight wins and five losses.

The game: If the Capitals were at home, this would almost be a certain win. But because they are away, it could swing the favouritism in Townsville’s favour. Both teams have scored big wins over the dominant Perth Lynx, so both will be going in with momentum. Expect this to be a back and forth game, with each side looking to improve on their season records.

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