Photo courtesy of Akuna Photography.
Round 13 Game of the Week
Bendigo Bank Spirit v Brydens Sydney University Flames, Bendigo Stadium, Friday, 7.30pm (local time)
Bendigo will be aiming to hold their ground for this compelling clash against the Flames in Bendigo on Friday night.
Both clubs are shaping as championship contenders and both had their hopes of claiming top spot handed a boost after DandenongÕs loss to Adelaide last round.
But they will know they need to first lockdown a finals spot before looking to secure a higher position which makes this clash even more important.
The SpiritÕs cause has not been helped by the loss of point guard Kerryn Harrington to a quad injury which kept her out of last weekÕs loss to Perth and is likely to keep her out of this weekend.
Import Blake Dietrick will move into the starting role while teenage rookie Kara Tessari may also be needed to play some backup minutes after being promoted from the development squad to the main roster just after Christmas due to Jane Chalmers’ thumb injury.
Their battle against Opals star Leilani Mitchell, who leads the way for the Flames, shapes as the defining match-up for the game.
ÒBlake will go into the point guard role and Kara will have a baptism of fire against Leilani,Ó Spirit coach Simon Pritchard said.
The Flames have been most dangerous this season when using their middle ball screens which have helped free up import post players Asia Taylor and Jennifer Hamson.
ÒThe better we defend their mid-ball screens, the better we will go,Ó Pritchard said.
The Spirit have great talent in their front line in Kelsey Griffin and Gabe Richards while the battle between Taylor and Spirit import power forward Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe could be one of the highlights of the season.
ÒAsia is a difficult person to guard as she hits you hard in the low post and displaces the defenders,Ó Pritchard said.
ÒAsia and Nayo will match up and hopefully Nayo doesnÕt get into a pushing match with her, we need her to use her feet and her athleticism as opposed to making it battle of strength under the hoop.Ó
In the head-to-head battle, which could prove important as we head towards a very tight finals race, Bendigo are currently trailing 1-2 but have a positive point differential of +3 which means the winner of this game will earn the advantage should they finish on the same record.
Live Stats: http://www.fibalivestats.com/u/wnbl/311876/
MAC Adelaide Lightning v Brydens Sydney University Flames, Adelaide Arena, Thursday, 4.30pm (local time)
The Lightning are on a two-game winning streak and could still possibly have OpalsÕ veteran Laura Hodges re-join the side after a hamstring injury.
But the Flames are the one side in the WNBL in hotter form than the Lightning and Cheryl ChambersÕ team will not be in the mood to drop this game as they chase a top-two place.
Point guard Mitchell and import forward Taylor have starred recently but Hamson will have her work cut out for her as she defends the reigning Player of the Week, Tayla Roberts under the rim.
If last week’s spirited performances from the Lightning continue against the Flames, we could have another upset on our hands.
Tickets at the door.
Live stats: http://www.fibalivestats.com/u/wnbl/311875/
Jayco Dandenong Rangers v Deakin Melbourne Boomers, Dandenong Stadium, Saturday, 3.00pm (local time)
The Rangers will celebrate their 25th anniversary in the WNBL with this crucial clash against Melbourne.
With Penny Taylor court side and the many past Rangers watching on, the current side will be out to show last weekÕs shock loss to Adelaide was a once-off and their championship hopes remain as strong as they were at Christmas.
Dandenong will also wear a special anniversary singlet with the names of all former RangersÕ WNBL players on the uniform.
The Boomers have had their struggles but will look to Rebecca Cole, Maddie Garrick and Alice Kunek to knock down shots and recreate the tight battles that they have experienced already this season.
Live stats: http://www.fibalivestats.com/u/wnbl/311877/
University of Canberra Capitals v JCU Townsville Fire, Southern Cross Stadium, Saturday, 3.00pm (local time)
The Capitals and the Fire continue to fight out their crucial season series which sits at 1-1 after the Fire thumped the Caps 93-60 in Townsville last round.
There are still two games to be played in their series including SaturdayÕs game but that big point differential will most likely come into play.
Last weekend, the FireÕs offence roared as five players scored in double figures and the Caps struggled to find any serious scoring options.
Expect all of that to change now they are home but the two-time champions may have re-awoken too so look out for a close contest as a place in the finals could end up resting on this result.
Suzy Batkovic will become just the 17th player in WNBL history to reach 300 games and while Townsville will honour her properly once she is back at home next weekend, her battle with Opal Marianna Tolo will have an extra layer of interest on Saturday.
Lauren Mansfield and Kate Gaze will also be keen for redemption in their match-up with Natasha Cloud and Micaela Cocks.
Live stats: http://www.fibalivestats.com/u/wnbl/311878/