Weekend previews: WNBL – Round 3

ROUND 3 in the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) sees Canberra and Bendigo as the teams to beat, with both teams remaining undefeated so far. It also gives an opportunity for the Sydney Uni Flames to snag their first win, after going 0-3 in their first three games. Expect plenty of individual highlights from the likes of Suzy Batkovic, Brittany McPhee and Alex Bunton in what will be a compelling round of WNBL.


UC Capitals v Melbourne Boomers
Friday, 7pm at AIS Arena

The key match-up:
Kelsey Griffin v Ezi Magbegor

Going hard in both games, Griffin led her team to back-to-back wins with relentless form. In the first match, she dropped 23-points at 44 per cent and boasted the most attempts at the ring (18). In the second, she scored 21 points at 50 per cent. On the rebound, she proved hard to beat, taking 14 and eight rebounds respectively. In offence, her cleanliness damaged defenders, drawing the easy foul and dropping nine points from the line for both games. Similarly, Magbegor showed some athleticism on the inside, scoring all 19 points in close for her first game. She maintained that for her 10 points against the Flames. She is decent off the rebound but is unlikely to beat Griffin’s read. Magbegor’s numbers also may not recognise her contribution as she played under 21 minutes in her first game and just over 17 for her second. With some more game time, she could easily top the board and shake things up for Griffin.

The season so far:

With zero losses to their name, the Capitals sit comfortably high on the table with three wins. While they had a significant dip in their shooting efficiency last week, dropping from 57 per cent to 37 per cent for both games, they still took home the wins. They continue to be a cut above on the rebound and boast low foul numbers. The latter was the biggest contributor to their victory against the Boomers, earning 22 (17 scored) free throws compared to nine (six scored). They continue to remain clean in defence while the Boomers show a lack of polish. Similar numbers were shown in the Boomers’ game against the Flames, giving away 21 (12 scored) free throws, but fortunately, Sydney’s own lack of polish and injury woes helped Melbourne secure its first win for the season. The Boomers currently sit second last but are not devoid of potential by any means.

The match:

With how the season is progressing, it would be unwise to tip against the Capitals in continuing their clean run. In saying that, if the Boomers have taken the time to correct their cleanliness issues, they could cause a real upset. Griffin should continue to top numbers and will likely have another 20-point plus game. She will likely record the most rebounds with clean assists from Kelly Wilson, who herself will likely play a long game. Lauren Scherf should also knock a few down with Kia Nurse firing off at range. The Boomers will look to Magbegor to score and rebound with Cayla George. These two will need to be stronger in these roles to minimise the Capitals’ control. Lindsay Allen should jack up a few alongside Jenna O’Hea, who is likely to continue to her shot efficiency and lead from the front.


Perth Lynx v Bendigo Spirit
Friday, 6:30pm at Bendat Basketball Centre

The key match-up:

Brittany McPhee v Marena Whittle

McPhee continues to prove herself to be a dangerous asset for Perth, topping the league’s board for highest average points (21.5). Starting her season off with a modest 11 points, McPhee lifted her stocks with a strong 32-point performance, dominating both in and out of the arc and holding up well for the rebound. Opposingly, Whittle’s game failed to reach her Round 1 hype. She shot well from the arc but underwhelmed on the inside. Her first game told a different tale however, knocking down 21 points and being much more relentless with her shooting. If Whittle can find her groove again, this pair could go shot for shot and really put on a show for spectators.

The season so far:

Both teams sit on two games apiece, with the Spirit undefeated and the Lynx split even. Perth has a chance to redefine its season with a win over top spot, while Bendigo can sustain a perfect run into its next match. For their first two games, the Lynx have been relentless on the offensive, putting up 73 shots in both games. They sat on a 35 per cent shooting efficiency for their first game, gave away 22 free throws to 11 and fell short on rebound numbers, 35 to 53. In their second game, they lifted to a 46 per cent shooting efficiency, earned more free throws (22) and won on the rebound (40). The Spirit boasted 42 and 52 per cent shooting efficiently respectively but were beat both times for rebounds. So far, they have been known to put a bit from range but know how to work the inside too. They took out previously undefeated Dandenong in the second game and sit as one of two teams yet to face a loss.

The match:

Bendigo will be wise to mark McPhee early. Her intensity on both ends of the court could damage the Spirit, and her ability to shoot from anywhere will keep a few defenders on their toes. Asia Taylor and Kayla Steindl will be others to watch. They are both bound to put up some good numbers under the ring and rack up defensive rebounds. For the Spirit, Whittle is set to inflict some damage with Natalie Hurst throwing up some quick jumpers. Rebecca Tobin should continue her good form from last week. Both teams have very different styles, so this one will be one to watch for sure.


Townsville Fire v Sydney Uni Flames
Saturday, 2pm at Townsville Stadium

The key match-up:
Suzy Batkovic v Alex Bunton

Leading the league in rebounds, Batkovic continues her 2018/2019 season as a danger under the board. In her last three games, she scored 20, 19 and 23 respectively and dominated her opponents on the rebound. Her height and polished skills allows her to best utilise her assets against her competition. While minimised on the rebound last week against Perth, she still damaged on the scoreboard. However, this time she comes up against maybe her biggest competition thus far in Alex Bunton. Bunton (11) sits just behind Batkovic (11.33) in average rebounds per game, and boasts a similar offensive game. She opened her season with a 27-point game at 76 per cent efficiency and followed up with 16 points and then 19. Her scoring may have dropped slightly but she lifted on her rebounds – going from seven to 15 and 11. This match-up will be an arm wrestle against possibly the two best centres in the league.

The season so far:

Townsville’s season started aggressive but lacked cleanliness, with only 27 shots landing from 75 attempts. The games that proceeded involved less shots but only brought them up to 29 for both proceeding games. Most of the players will drop a couple, but the difference in shot attempts between Batkovic and the rest of her team is too great. Someone else will need to keep up with the Fire’s tall to lessen predictability and lift their team to the next level. The Flames on the other hand have settled at the bottom of the ladder, missing the opportunity to beat Melbourne. They were outdone at range and blew their opportunities at the free throw line. On paper, the team is performing, but lack the right qualities at important moments. They have been done at range, let down on free throws and been beat on the rebound. In the first game, they covered all their bases but were simply outplayed. Since then they’ve dipped and stumbled, but have a chance to change everything this weekend.

The match:

Batkovic will be the biggest issue for the Flames, but with some extra attention, she could be minimised enough to snag their first win. Under the ring, her games are usually comprehensive but against Bunton she might meet her match. We should hopefully see a lift from Casey Samuels’ shooting at range while Darcee Garbin could impress in the paint. For Sydney, Bunton should come out hard against Batkovic, while Brittany Smart should sit close behind on points. Last week’s game was speckled with injury for Sydney so many players’ fitness will come into question in the lead-up.


Dandenong Rangers v Perth Lynx
Sunday, 3pm at Dandenong Stadium

The key match-up:
Rebecca Cole v Brittany McPhee

This match-up will be one to watch. Minus her last performance, Cole has had a good start to the year. She picked up 18 points and seven rebounds in her first game, and 21 points, four rebounds and three assists in her second. She has kept steady form if we discount her last game, whereas McPhee’s game had quite a difference between them. Going from an 11-point game to a 32 points, McPhee snagged the top spot for the league scoring average. Cole might have some trouble with McPhee’s pressure, but should look to correct her mistakes from last week.

The season so far:

The Dandenong Rangers currently sit third on the ladder, winning every game but their last against Bendigo. They may have been given an easy draw to start the season, facing last and second last for their first game before being exposed by Bendigo. Their wins have been tight, and while been earned, it’s hard to remain confident given the opponents. The Lynx are looking to take third away from the Rangers with their third game and second win. It is tough to know where they sit now due to the space between their games, but hopefully this round will give a clearer indication of what we should expect.

The match:

The duel to watch will be between Cole and McPhee. After a mediocre performance last week, Cole has more incentive than ever to lift her game as she goes toe to toe with McPhee. Hopefully more of her shots land and we see a similar lift from Betnijah Laney and Tess Lavey. For Perth, McPhee should continue to lead the way. Steindl and Taylor will have to blend well under the ring and are both likely to put up a few of their own. Dandenong has had some easier opponents thus far, so this game is a chance for both teams to instil some confidence and consolidate some opinions.


Adelaide Lightning v Bendigo Spirit
Sunday, 3pm at Titanium Security Arena

The key match up:
Nia Coffey v Nadeen Payne

In all three games this season, Coffey has had considerable impact. Her first game impressed with 19 points and 15 rebounds, her second saw her points dip (nine) but her rebounds remain high (12), and in her last game she shot at 70 per cent and scored 16 points. She knows how to leave her mark and adjust accordingly. Payne scored 15 and 16 points respectively in her two games and impressed both on rebounds and assists. At range, Payne is much more practiced and has no problem showing it. Guarding her will require a bit more tracking than it would vice versa but Coffey’s versatility may also prove a bit much for Payne.

The season so far:

Adelaide is a little hard to pin down this season, lacking some consistency between games. The Lightning’s shooting attempts, rebounds and percentage vary a lot between games, as well as their attempts at range compared to inside. In their loss against the Capitals, the Lightning were let down by sloppier defence and their work under the board. Bendigo sits on top of the table leading into this round, but has only played the two games. A poor run could see the Spirit slide quite considerably, or they could follow a run of perfect form and put some room between themselves and the rest of the competition.

The match:

Adelaide has a good list of contributors in their side so impact minimisation may be a little hard for Bendigo. Coffey should win a few under the ring and earn a few free throws off her drive. Lauren Nicholson, Nicole Seekamp and Steph Blicavs will all have a decent crack at the ring, with Blicavs throwing up a good few from range. Payne will have some work to do on the ring for Bendigo, but with the assists from Tobin, she should have a much easier time. Hurst will be one to watch inside the paint, along with Whittle. The Lightning’s home crowd might be enough to pull them over the line and cause a real shuffle of the current ladder come Round 4.

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