SEMI-FINALS GAME 1 PREVIEW
The first week of the WNBL Semi-Finals tips off on Saturday night with Game One of both best-of-three series being held.
Game Two and, if needed, Game Three will next be held next Friday and Sunday respectively.
Jayco Dandenong Rangers v Perth Lynx, Dandenong Stadium, Saturday, 6.30pm (local time)
This season: Dandenong lead the season series 3-1 over Perth.
Round 2: 94-74, Round 10: 92-71, Round 16: 77-87, Round 19: 81-59.
Likely starters (PG-C):
Rangers: Aimie Clydesdale, Steph Cumming, Amelia Todhunter, Sara Blicavs, Ally Malott.
Lynx: Tessa Lavey, Sami Whitcomb, Antonia Edmondson, Carley Mijovic, Ruth Hamblin.
The contest: The Rangers thumping win in last weekÕs final round showed the Lynx exactly what to expect in this series as the home side were exceptional at the defensive end while pushing the ball in transition to convert those opposition mistakes.
But as good as Dandenong were last round, the finals are a new ball game and the Lynx have shown in the past two seasons they have no fear about playingÊon the road or pushing the pace themselves.
Shooting percentages will be crucial for both sides while the Lynx also need to keep the Rangers off the free-throw line as they regularly earn trips to the foul line in their best wins.
Key Match-Up: Sami WhitcombÕs battle to free herself of Amelia TodhunterÕs close checking should be the key match-up after she has been hounded by the veteran RangersÕ guard in their previous meetings.
Todhunter, Natalie Novosel and Steph Cumming could all spend time on Whitcomb due to her outstanding form this season but look for Todhunter to do the lionsÕ share of the guarding so the other two can find more openings on offence as both had big scoring games last round.
Sara Blicavs and Ally MalottÕs battle with Mijovic should also be a highlight as the former RangersÕ junior has been a great foil for Whitcomb this season hitting her three-pointers and finding touches around the basket. If Mijovic and Whitcomb get free that will also draw out defenders and give Hamblin the chance to find more points.
Where it will be won: Shooting percentages will be crucial, turnovers and rebounds too but whichever side can dominate the tempo of the game will win this one.
Both clubs want to run the ball, both love to score quickly and both rely on their ability to pressure their opponent into turnovers.
The Lynx must find more attacking avenues and commit to shutting down the RangersÕ drives to the hoop otherwise Blicavs, Cumming and co. will again put up big tallies.
But if they are forced into longer defensive stands that will wear them down too.
Live stats: http://www.fibalivestats.com/u/wnbl/577305/
Live Stream: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A5fQAxDj1Ts
Brydens Sydney Uni Flames v JCU Townsville Fire, Brydens Stadium, Saturday, 7.00pm (local time)
This season: Sydney lead the season series 3-1 over Townsville.
Round 3: 69-68, Round 5: 83-85, Round 7: 78-72, Round 16: 76-75.
Likely Starters (PG-C):
Flames: Leilani Mitchell, Ally Wilson, Belinda Snell, Asia Taylor, Jennifer Hamson.
Fire: Kelly Wilson, Micaela Cocks, Mia Murray, Kayla Standish, Suzy Batkovic.
The contest: While Flames fans will like the sight of their regular season record against the Fire, all of those wins were close ones and the Fire has more recent WNBL finals experience after winning the past two championships and featuring in the last four Grand Finals.
The Flames will look to push the pace and attack off the dribble at every opportunity led by point guard Leilani MitchellÕs combination with Asia Taylor while Belinda Snell will be waiting outside for open three-point shots.
But Kelly WilsonÕs return to fitness will add a new wrinkle which the FlamesÕ have not completely experienced when playing the Fire previously and her defensive nous could slow down the FlamesÕ offensive firepower.
Key Match-Up: While the leagueÕs best centre, Suzy Batkovic, will take on the best performed power forward in FlamesÕ import Asia Taylor in the front court battle, it is unlikely we see the pair taking on each other directly and this is where their supporting bigs will be crucial.
Flames import centre Jennifer Hamson will have her hands full trying to keep BatkovicÕs touches down and her field goal percentage low while Kayla Standish and Darcee Garbin, both major contributors to the Fire, will have just as much trouble stopping Taylor from getting to the basket or making post moves around the hoop.
So while Batkovic and TaylorsÕ numbers will likely stand out, how much production comes from those other players could be what decides the series.
Overall the rebound count will also be a key performance indicator so look for both sides to send their guards to the glass as well.
Where it will be won: Executing under pressure will be crucial in this one and especially after so many close meetings this season, expect nothing less than a contest that goes down to the wire on Saturday night.
Live stats: http://www.fibalivestats.com/u/wnbl/577304/