DESPITE the top four being locked in, Round 14 still looms as an important round. These teams will use this round to try and secure a home-court advantage for the finals, while the bottom four will be looking to end their seasons on a high.
Bendigo Spirit v Adelaide Lightning
Thursday 10 January, 7pm
Key match-up: Nat Hurst v Nia Coffey
The Bendigo skipper is the most influential player in her team, while Nia Coffey is certainly up there in Adelaide’s most impactful players. This is a match-up that will see two spearheads face off to see who will impact their team the most. Hurst is averaging 10.68 points per game and 3.89 rebounds per game while Coffey leads the way with 16.33 points and 8.39 rebounds per game. While Coffey’s stats stand out, she often only plays half a game while Hurst features prominently, so it will be interesting to not only see who makes the bigger impact, but also who can make it last.
Season so far: The Spirit have had a severe downfall this season, starting well but currently sitting seventh with seven wins and 12 losses. They have lost their last three games and have only won four games out of eight home games this season. The Lightning meanwhile have secured their place in the top four with a 11-7 record this season. Adelaide has won its last three games, but struggle away from home with four wins and five losses.
The game: This should be a comfortable victory for the Adelaide Lightning, who are the in-form team. Expect Nicole Seekamp to be dominant again with the assists, while Rebecca Tobin will fight hard for the Spirit. But with the announcement of coach, Simon Pritchard not being offered a contract beyond next year, Bendigo could have some extra motivation heading into this clash.
Perth Lynx v Melbourne Boomers
Thursday 10 January, 6.30pm
Bendat Basketball Centre
Key match-up: Asia Taylor v Cayla George
George and Taylor are two fierce players on the boards, which could shape the outcome of this game. Taylor is averaging 8.37 rebounds per game while George is averaging 8.83, so hardly anything separates these two this season. The difference between these two players comes on the scoreboard, as Taylor is averaging the second highest points per game this season with 19.53, while George averages 12.5. George will need to nullify Taylor’s influence on the scoreboard if she wants to win this match-up.
Season so far: The Melbourne Boomers have been one of the most consistent teams all season, currently sitting on 13 wins and five losses. They have an nearly impeccable away record, winning six games and only dropping one. The Lynx flew out of the blocks and were looking like outright championship favourites. But a couple of late losses have seen them sitting third on 12 wins and seven losses.
The game: This game is huge in the context of the finals. The Lynx have not been able to defeat the Boomers this season and this game is huge if Perth wants to secure a home-court advantage in the finals. Asia Taylor and Cayla George will be pivotal on the boards, while Lindsay Allen and Brittany McPhee will be looking to lead the way for their teams on the scoreboard. Having the home court advantage in this game will not mean much for the Lynx, as Melbourne knows how to win away from home.
Townsville Fire v UC Capitals
Friday 11 January, 7pm
Key match-up: Micaela Cocks v Kelsey Griffin
These two have been two of the most important players for their teams all season. Cocks has had to step up immensely in the absence of Suzy Batkovic and at the moment, she is averaging 9.67 points per game- the highest average in her team. Griffin’s average is double that of Cocks’, leading the way in the league with 19.78 points per game. Cocks will need to have a blinder of a game, and will need her team to hold Griffin in check in order to get the Fire over the line.
Season so far: Despite winning the championship last season, Townsville has missed the finals this year. The Fire currently sit sixth on the table with seven wins and 11 losses. They have surprisingly struggled at home, winning just three out of nine matches. On the other hand, the Capitals are absolutely flying, sitting on top of the ladder with 13 wins and five losses. At home, they have an impressive 9-1 record, but away, they sit on four wins and four losses, so securing a home-court advantage with a win at Townsville could be harder than they think.
The game: The Capitals will be hungry to shore up a home-court advantage against Townsville, as they will not have to worry for the next two games after that. This should be an easy task, as the Fire have been struggling all season at home. It’s hard to look past the dominance of players like Kelsey Griffin, Lauren Scherf and Marianna Tolo on the boards, but expect Townsville contingent, Darcee Garbin and Zitina Aokuso to compete hard at the rim to curb their influence. The Capitals’ scoring power will most likely be too much for the Fire to handle, but if they can hold their defence together, they could be in with a shot.
Adelaide Lightning v Melbourne Boomers
Saturday 12 January, 5.30pm
Titanium Security Arena
Key match-up: Nicole Seekamp v Lindsay Allen
Seekamp and Allen are two players who have been racking up the assists all season long. Seekamp is just ahead on 5.72 per game while Allen is averaging 5.17. While Allen is leading the way in average points per game (18.22), Seekamp’s three-point percentage stands out on 44 per cent, so Allen will have to watch her at the line.
Season so far: The Lightning come into this round, winning four out of their last five games. At home, they boast 1 7-2 record. The Boomers have also won four out of their last five games, with all four wins coming consecutively. Melbourne has only lost one away game after 13 rounds of basketball.
The game: The Lightning have been known to challenge the Boomers, and at home they could be a real threat to Melbourne’s title chances. Both sides will be desperate for a win to earn a home-court advantage in the finals, so expect this to be a high-scoring battle. Cayla George going head-to-head against Nia Coffey under the ring will certainly be entertaining, while Allen and Seekamp will be key figures in getting their bigs points in the paint. This one should be a close encounter.
Sydney Uni Flames v UC Capitals
Sunday 13 January, 12pm
Qudos Bank Arena
Key match-up: Tahlia Tupaea v Kia Nurse
Tupaea and Nurse have been shining lights in their team all season. Tupaea has missed games but has been dominating as of late for the Flames. From 14 games this season, she has averaged 13.14 points per game as well as four rebounds. Last round, she played a whole game, showing how much the team relies on her, especially since Brittany Smart is out injured. Nurse does not often need to be relied on for the Capitals with many big-name players stepping up to make their team a successful one this season. Nevertheless, Nurse is boasting some great averages, with 18.33 points per game and five rebounds per game. Both players are endurance beasts, as both average more than 30 minutes of game time this season.
Season so far: The Sydney Uni Flames have been hit hard with injuries, and with a young line-up at the helm, they have only managed two wins for the season. They have only won one game at home and have dropped the other nine, sitting last on the table. The Capitals are right up the other end of the table, sitting at first on the ladder. They have a 4-4 record away from home.
The game: It is a first versus last clash, so the margin here could get ugly. It will be a hard task for the Flames, as the Capitals have so many players that can hit the scoreboard hard. Their main target to stop should be Kelsey Griffin, who has taken her game to a new level for the Capitals. The Capitals also have the taller line-up, meaning the Flames will certainly have their work cut out for them.
Dandenong Rangers v Townsville Fire
Sunday 13 January, 3pm
Key match-up: Kayla Pedersen v Zitina Aokuso
Two guns on the boards will go head-to-head in this game. Pedersen is averaging 6.81 rebounds per game, while Aokuso averages 5.33 rebounds per game. Both often play limited minutes, but always manage to have big impacts. Aokuso has the ability to score quickly, highlighted by her 9.06 average points per game. Pedersen will need to ensure that she protects the rim to stop Aokuso from scoring immediately.
Season so far: The Dandenong Rangers made a late surge towards the top four, but just feel short with some losses against top-four opponents. They sit fifth on the table with nine wins and 10 losses, winning two out of their last five games. The Fire sit just one spot below Dandenong on seven wins and 11 losses.
The game: Expect this match to be a close one as both teams fight to end their seasons on a high. Rebecca Cole could once again play a starring role if Townsville doesn’t hold her in check, while Carley Mijovic could dominate on the boards if Darcee Garbin does not beat her to it. Tight match-ups will have to be applied in this match to prevent either team to get the upper hand.