Image via Michelle Couling Photography.
The Adelaide Lightning have dealt with a brutal stretch in superb fashion, sweeping their way into the top four with two more wins in Round 9 while the Flames and Rangers battled for upset-of-the-round honours with two confidence-boosting performances over the weekend.
Brydens Sydney Uni Flames 72 def. by Adelaide Lightning 82
After recording a maiden victory on the season last weekend, the Flames were unable to string together a winning streak despite pushing Adelaide all the way. A 23-15 opening term ultimately proved enough for the Lightning and they looked to be home late in the third quarter with a 20-point edge but Sydney Uni continued to keep them on their toes before falling by ten. Lauren Nicholson was unstoppable with 26 points and Nicole Seekamp recorded 14 points, eight rebounds and ten assists while Kayla Alexander is developing into a double-double machine with another 11 points and ten boards. Sydney Uni had four players reach double-figures, paced by 14 points from Brittany Smart but they shot just 26% from inside the arc.
Cheryl Chambers, Flames head coach: “We played under staffed and they went down fighting which is all I can ask.”
JCU Townsville Fire 70 def. by Adelaide Lightning 85
An incredible effort from Adelaide saw them sweep their eight-day schedule with four straight wins, three of which came on the road as they culminated the trip with a big win in Townsville. Lauren Nicholson scored 23 points, Nicole Seekamp added 17 and Penina Davidson had 14 off the bench as they answered every run that the Fire threw at them following a 24-16 opening term. Micaela Cocks paced the home side with 17 points while Darcee Garbin and Ally Malott combined for 26 points in the absence of Suzy Batkovic who missed her first game for Townsville in 142 outings with neck pain.
Perth Lynx 86 def. Bendigo Bank Spirit 68
After a slow start that saw them shoot just 22% in the first quarter, Perth came alive thanks to a 19-point second term from Asia Taylor who finished with 33 points, nine rebounds and five steals. The Spirit came back at them late in the third via 27 points from Nadeen Payne but the visitors could not carry that momentum down the stretch with Brittany McPhee (20 points, ten rebounds, five assists) finishing the contest off in style.
Andy Stewart, Lynx head coach: “I love the tempo, I love the style, we’re just getting off to bad starts. We’ve got to really sit down and look at it, because eventually the stress will get to us.”
Deakin Melbourne Boomers 62 def. by Brydens Sydney Uni Flames 65
Pulling off the upset of the season, Sydney Uni claimed their second win of 2018/19 and their first on the road against the Boomers. Shanae Greaves started the contest with the first six points and that helped the Flames own a lead for a majority of the first three quarters. Melbourne began to reel them in though, courtesy of Ezi Magbegor (11 points, nine rebounds off the bench) and Cayla George (12 points, 13 boards) before back-to-back three’s from Maddie Garrick (14 points) and Jenna O’Hea (11 points, six assists) gave them a four-point lead with three minutes remaining. However, the home side would not score again as the Flames answered with a three from Brittany Smart (12 points, ten rebounds) before Tahlia Tupaea celebrated her 100th game in style. She scored the last four points of the game including to go-ahead basket, finishing with 21 points and four steals to clinch the victory for Sydney Uni. In her final game in Melbourne, Belinda Snell wound back the clock with 14 points and seven assists.
Jenna O’Hea, Boomers: ‘We didn’t stick to game plans and we didn’t play well enough – that’s just not good enough on home court.”
Cheryl Chambers, Flames head coach: “We just stayed level headed and kept playing and playing. They really deserved to win this one.’’
University of Canberra Capitals 94 def. Bendigo Bank Spirit 63
Bendigo suffered another big loss on Sunday, this time at the hands of the Caps. On a five-game losing streak, the Spirit have also dropped their past four by an average margin of 28.5 points and now find themselves sitting sixth on the ladder. On the other hand, the Caps welcomed back Marianna Tolo to the floor after a two-year absence with knee injuries and it was a successful comeback as she recorded 23 points. Firmly entrenched in the top-four and potentially still to get Kristy Wallace back in the next few weeks, the Caps are looking to mount a serious challenge in the second half of the season.
Paul Goriss, Caps head coach: “I’ve known [Tolo] for a long time, but it was just… inspirational. We go back a long way from when she was 12. She’s a unique person, and I’m just happy for her.”
Jayco Rangers 96 def. Perth Lynx 76
Dandenong pushed Sydney Uni for upset of the round honours as they shocked Perth with a clinical performance, scoring their highest tally of the season and restricting the Lynx to seven points below their average. The Rangers flew out of the blocks with a 33-24 opening term but then secured the victory with a 29-8 third quarter as they held Perth to 4-17 shooting. Kayla Pedersen dominated inside for 21 points and 11 rebounds, Bec Cole recorded 21 points and six assists, Betnijah Laney and Carley Mijovic combined for 33 points and Rachel Jarry came off the bench for 13 points in 18 minutes. At the other end of the floor, Kayla Steindl paced the visitors with 18 points.
Larissa Anderson, Rangers head coach: “In the second half, the girls really dug in defensively and they did an amazing job. I’m not interested in exchanging baskets and I think we’ve turned a corner offensively but when we click like that defensively they are great to watch.”
Asia Taylor, Lynx: “It was just one of those weird games. They hit a lot of shots and got their confidence going, it was just one of those games where they got hot and stayed hot – that happens every now and then.”
Amanda Lulham of the Daily Telegraph was there on Wednesday night as Sydney Uni fell to Adelaide: https://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/sport/swoop/wnbl-adelaide-lightning-beat-sydney-uni-flames-8272/news-story/42396011018fbc2a65fbd9c5be311a4e
Lulham backed up on Saturday though as the Flames quickly returned to the winners column: https://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/sport/swoop/sydney-uni-flames-burn-bright-against-wnbl-title-contenders-melbourne-boomers/news-story/b3b657235bb61cd3f6a2bd2ded126933
Trent Slatter of the Townsville Bulletin reported on the Fire’s failure to move into the top four on Friday night: https://www.townsvillebulletin.com.au/sport/townsville-fire-fall-to-adelaide-as-suzy-batkovic-sidelined-with-injury/news-story/2d0efa141b0f98177a832a8cd4247d2e
Reece Homfray covered that game from the other side for the Adelaide Advertiser: https://www.adelaidenow.com.au/sport/basketball/adelaide-lightning-wins-fourth-straight-game-after-downing-townsville/news-story/5ffa510e9a015ceeece2416d35d20e20
The Bendigo Advertiser recapped the Spirit’s fourth straight loss on Friday night: https://www.bendigoadvertiser.com.au/story/5800528/fourth-loss-in-a-row-for-bendigo-spirit-in-wnbl/?cs=81
Roy Ward of The Age analysed Tahlia Tupaea’s heroics from Sydney Uni’s win over Melbourne: https://www.theage.com.au/sport/basketball/tupaea-fires-up-as-flames-upset-hapless-boomers-20181208-p50l2u.html
Ward then headed to Dandenong on Sunday and reported on another upset win as the Rangers stunned Perth: https://www.theage.com.au/sport/basketball/rangers-catch-fire-to-stun-league-leaders-lynx-20181209-p50l6m.html
Caden Helmers covered Paul Goriss’ emotion following Marianna Tolo’s return to the court for the Canberra Times: https://www.canberratimes.com.au/sport/basketball/paul-goriss-cries-tears-of-joy-in-marianna-tolo-s-wnbl-return-20181209-p50l4x.html