Weekend previews: WNBL- Round 13

ROUND 13 has a whopping four blockbuster Friday night games.  The in-form Lightning plays host to the struggling Flames, the dominant Capitals take on the Spirit while Townsville and Dandenong will meet again for the first time since Round 1. Perhaps the biggest game of the night will be in Melbourne, where the Boomers will take on the Lynx in a battle of two of the best teams in the league.

Adelaide Lightning v Sydney Uni Flames
Friday, 4:30pm at Titanium Security Arena

Key match-up:  Nia Coffey v Belinda Snell

It goes without saying that Coffey is one of the most dominant players in the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) at the moment, averaging 16.59 points and 8.35 rebounds a game, and being one of the youngest players to do it. Her athleticism and control under the ring makes it hard to stop her without fouling. By the end of the game, Coffey will have racked up a good percentage of her score from the foul line and will more likely lead her team in scoring. Representing the Flames, we have Snell, and while her numbers may not be as impressive (11.62 points and 4.62 rebounds), she took a double-double in both games and was only one assist and four assists from making them both triples last round. Without her recent run in form, we would have easily given this win to Coffey, but anything could happen when a player is on top of their game.

Last time they faced: Adelaide Lightning (95) defeated Sydney Uni Flames (52)

In their last meeting, the Lightning absolutely belted the Flames with a 43-point victory. The Flames opened poorly with five points to 28, but it wasn’t from a lack of trying. Sydney put up 77 shots in total but only managed to land 19 of them. The game was easily one of their worst for the year, while Adelaide boasted terrific accuracy and good defence. The Flames will attempt to rewrite history and show Adelaide they have something to offer.

Season so far:

As every WNBL fan knows, the Sydney Uni Flames have not had the greatest start to the season. Currently, they sit on the bottom of the table with two wins and 15 losses. The next worst is the Spirit and they still have five more wins than them. The Flames have shown signs, but there’s no telling what team they will be when they step under the lights. The last couple of rounds have shown great improvements, but they are still yet to win their third game. As for the Lightning, you can always count on their efficiency. They sit in fourth place and three wins ahead of fifth (Townsville Fire) and pose themselves as real contenders come finals. They have won four of their last five games, losing to the Boomers by five points. They have a chance to move into the top three this round if they keep up their form.

The game:

If history is anything to go by, this game will go to Adelaide. The Lightning have been too in-form these last few rounds to say anything else. It’s doubtful that the margin will be anything like the last time they faced, as we suspect Sydney will be out for blood. Coffey will surely make some big numbers alongside Lauren Nicholson and Nicole Seekamp. Their team numbers should all be polished come the last whistle and continue into their next game with heads high. Sydney will have some trouble, but Snell’s recent run should boost morale a little. She’s likely to give Coffey some trouble, but she’ll be lucky if she matches her offensively. This game will be Adelaide’s unless Sydney pull out all the stops.

UC Capitals v Bendigo Spirit
Friday, 7pm at AIS Arena

Key match-up: Kia Nurse v Nadeen Payne

Nurse continues to be a force to be reckoned with each passing game. She averages 18 points a game, can play both in and out, and is an excellent two-way player. In her last game, she scored 26 points with two rebounds and five assists, leading her team to a comfortable victory. The Capitals’ Payne won’t be found on any of the stat leader boards but is an integral part of her team. She averages 13.38 points a game and, just like Nurse, likes to put up a good few from range. Her shooting percentage for her last game was quite poor, but with some free throws, Payne managed to lead her team in scoring (17). This match-up has Nurse written all over it, but Payne should never be ruled out of a contest.

Last time they faced: UC Capitals (94) defeated Bendigo Spirit (63)

Earlier last month was their most recent meeting. The Capitals took home a comfortable 31-point victory coming out of the game hot with 55 points in the first half. Bendigo failed to crack 20 points in a period and only landed 21 shots from the field, compared to the Capitals’ 36. The game was littered with fouls, with the Capitals hitting 19 of 19 and the Spirit 15 from 17. Kelsey Griffin starred with 21 points and shot 57 per cent from the field, while Marianna Tolo scored 23 points with only 21 minutes.

Season so far:

The UC Capitals are having an outstanding season, topping the table and winning their last five. On a few occasions, they have been on the good end of big margins and look like a real chance to extend their lead with this week’s fixture. The Spirit started the season well and looked as if they had something to offer, but the last few weeks have not been kind. Of their last five, the Spirit have won one and sit second-last on the table. They score low and it continues to let them down.

The game:

This game should give the Capitals a good chance at supplying a big margin. Their last few games have brought up big numbers and Bendigo continues to underwhelm on the scoreboard. Griffin and Nurse should score big, while Wilson demonstrates her timely passing to assist her teammates. Payne could offer up some trouble alongside Abbey Wehrung and Nat Hurst, but this game will likely go the way of the Capitals.

Melbourne Boomers v Perth Lynx
Friday, 7:30pm at State Basketball Centre

Key match-up: Cayla George v Asia Taylor

Currently leading the league in points, Taylor averages 20 points a game and 8.41 assists. Her effectiveness at getting to the basket is unmatched and she is difficult to stop on the rebound. She is the most dangerous, offensive asset in the league at the moment, so George will need to do something big if she’s going to minimise her impact. The slight advantage she seems to have is in rebounds, sitting just atop Taylor in averages (8.88 to 8.41).  She will need to show why she’s deserving of that spot if she’s going to best Taylor. She has the potential to minimise, but she won’t be putting up the same numbers as Taylor if she gets going to the ring.

Last time they faced: Perth Lynx (69) defeated by Melbourne Boomers (89)

By no means did the Lynx play badly during their last meeting,they were just always out of reach. The Boomers hit 36 from 78 shots and sunk 15 from outside the arc. They dominated with 51 rebounds compared to 39 but let themselves down greatly by giving away 26 free throws. Perth drove well to the ring and continued to earn second attempts. They shot at 31 percent from the field and by all accounts should have been flogged, but they found a way and at least kept it respectable.

Season so far:

Both teams have had impressive seasons thus far, with both a chance to be successful in the finals. The Boomers sit one spot above Perth in second, are tied with first in wins and losses and have the most away wins (six) in the league. Of their last five, they’ve won four, whereas Perth has only won two. Perth’s season was looking much better a few rounds ago. The Lynx have received half of their losses in their last five games and look to be in a bit of a slump.

The game:

This will likely be the closest game of round. Melbourne and Perth are separated by a single win and both teams have been damaging all year. Melbourne is still likely to take home the win, playing at home and having a more successful run recently. The margin should not be much, but if Melbourne get rolling with Steph Talbot, Lindsay Allen and Cayla George firing on all cylinders, Perth could have some trouble.

Townsville Fire v Dandenong Rangers
Friday, 7pm at Townsville Stadium

Key match-up: Ally Mallot v Betnijah Laney

Mallot has done well to step up in Suzy Batkovic’s absence. She takes the brunt of the rebound responsibility and puts up a good amount of points. Her averages are not much to look at but there weren’t many names lifting for Townsville when Batkovic was putting up her numbers. Laney though  is a star each week. She sits fourth for assists and 10th for rebounds. She is a clever player who knows how to make plays. Mallot will have her work cut out for her if she plans on minimising her impact.

Last time they met: Townsville Fire (68) defeated by Dandenong Rangers (73)

Townsville and Dandenong have only met the one time this season and it’s difficult to say whether that’s a good enough indication for how this game will play out. Their first and only game was back in Round 1 where the Rangers won by five points. Batkovic starred with 20 points, while the rest of her team struggled to crack into double digits. Though for Dandenong, Tessa Lavey, Rachel Jarry, Rebecca Cole and Laney all cracked over 10 points.

Season so far:

Dandenong had a surprising start to the season, looking a lot better on the board than people previously expected. However, the Rangers quickly began to decline after they came across some of the giants of the league. They currently sit third from the bottom and have lost their last four games. The Fire have won two of their last five but have had a shaky season at best. It seems all hopes were pinned on Batkovic as other players are only now starting to show their talents.

The game:

Without Batkovic, Townsville will have some trouble with put-backs and working under the ring. Laney and Cole will mop up for Dandenong,while the rest of the team put up their numbers. The Fire are not without a chance but will be up for a challenge without their usual muscle and fire power. Mallot will have some work to do but she should rise to the occasion. The win will more than likely be Dandenong’s though.

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