WNBL24 Round 14 Preview

February 14, 2024 | WNBL news

Written by Mark Alabakov

 

UC CAPS VS BENDIGO

📆 Thursday 15 Feb 2024

⏰ 7:00pm AEDT

📍 Southern Cross Stadium

📺 ESPN

🌎 Live & Free via unbeaten.com or FIBA YouTube

The 3rd time in recent weeks that we’ve these teams clash, both previous times the Spirit have been the victor by around 20 points. In their final match up for season 23-24, the Caps are presented with the opportunity to try to bridge the double digit gap and change the dynamic of the game, hoping the Spirit falter when the scoreboard has the game in the balance.

If that is to occur, the Caps will need 2-3 of the following to happen :

  • Okoye has her own ‘Mehryn Kraker’ type of game. Kraker hit 8/10 3pt shots in a game last last month, and Okoye is a shooter the caliber that could feasibly do the same.
  • Fowler and Sharp outwork the Spirit in transition floor running and possession play, both of them with at least 12 points and 12 rebounds apiece
  • Nicole Munger has 1-2 ‘purple patches’ in the game where she goes up a level and scores 8-9 points in a flurry from work ethic and on-fire 3pt shooting
  • The Caps team throw some defensive spanners in the Spirit’s works and holds them to single digit points in a quarter

For the Spirit to win, they need to keep their current form rolling. 2 of their last 4 wins have been against the bottom-placed Capitals and whether it’s against them or the 2nd placed Melbourne Boomers who they beat last round, the Kelsey Griffin factor is one of few ‘incase fire, break glass’ players that exist in the competition where they sense the moment and remedy the situation when you need them to most.

Griffin is the Spirit’s saviour, at both ends of the floor, highlighting the generational player she is in the Cygnett WNBL.

So, even if the Caps played out of their skin and were playing at a 10/10 level, Griffin has the ability to find a way to stand tall and secure the points for the Spirit.

LOOK OUT FOR: A fired up first quarter from the Caps, followed by the remaining 3 clearly controlled by the Spirit, making Canberra pay on the scoreboard in transition when they take forced, rushed or pressured shots.

 

ADELAIDE VS MELBOURNE

📆 Saturday 17 Feb 2024

⏰ 7:00pm ACDT

📍 Adelaide 36ers Arena

📺 9NOW

🌎 Live & Free via unbeaten.com or FIBA YouTube

When you’re a professional sports team, there’s nothing worse than experiencing a frustrating loss, when you know you haven’t played to your potential, then having a break in the league’s scheduling to stew over it before the next opportunity for redemption.

That’s the position the Boomers are in, leading up to the clash against the Lightning.

Melbourne has all but secured a finals berth, one more win will punch their ticket – and the ticket desk attendant has their hand out and hole punch ready.

Against the Spirit, the Boomers looked hesitant, unorganised and didn’t respond to the tactical moves in the fashion we’ve seen from them this season. Coach Chris Lucas will be working overtime to ensure that the gameplay is clear, simplified and is underpinned by a ‘play to win’ mindset.

Two athletes that embodied that were Monique Conti and Tera Reed. Both have been huge factors in recent weeks, showing the depth of their game – with Conti, traditionally known for her mid range game, has caught fire from the 3 … whilst Reed, traditionally known for her 3pt shooting this season, is making great reads to drive to the basket and then finish through contact in multiple ways.

They’re both anchors that teammates can draw confidence from, because of their mentality. They don’t settle or compromise, they compete and impose themselves on the contest.

Adelaide’s season campaign is over and they’ll be playing freely and for the enjoyment of playing with beloved figure, Steph Talbot who returned from long term injury last round.

Talbot’s inclusion gave the Lightning a much needed shot in the arm of energy, effort and purpose. No one more than Brianna Turner who was able to, for the first time this season, capture the assertive and dominant statistical output that made her one of the league’s gamechangers back in her last stint in Adelaide colours all those years ago.

With the pressure off, with nothing to fear, nothing to lose and buoyed by the return of Talbot – the Lightning’s play can go up a level by way of that freedom.

LOOK OUT FOR: Sara Blicavs to seek and be given the job to curb Talbot’s influence and perform admirably. Sara is as tall, as agile, as long, physically stronger and will be prepared to sacrifice her game to blunt the game of the world class Talbot.

 

 

SYDNEY VS SOUTHSIDE

📆 Sunday 18 Feb 2024

⏰ 3:00pm AEDT

📍 Qudos Bank Arena

📺 9NOW & 9GEM

🌎 Live & Free via unbeaten.com or FIBA YouTube

Southside has featured in the top 4 all season, whilst the Sydneysiders have only just climbed up the ladder rung to poke their head in the top 4 to see what it’s like up there. And they belong.

These teams competed last round and it was an enormous morale and momentum building win for the Flames – ‘clinical’ is a word that comes to mind, where it looked like Sydney were playing and winning a game that Southside weren’t aware of till it was too late.

Lead by the masterful Guy Molloy and executed by 3 of the highest IQ athletes in the WNBL that thrive on pressure in Madgen, Nicholson and George, the Flames are the ultimate smokey come finals time … pun unintended.

Last round, the Flames got the Flyers moving and rotating and did an outstanding job of willing the ball into dangerous positions where contact could occur and they got to the FT line 20 times, whilst solving the issues that gave the Flyers an inordinate FT differential against them in their previous encounter, and this time only sent Southside to the line 12 times for the game.

Not only that, but their execution offensively as a team lead to 29 assists, with 8 individuals logging in that category.

But the Flyers are a team built for ‘championship or bust’ territory. This is an experienced team full of offensive weapons. They are by no means an easy beat.

There’s always a threat of Jackson getting to the FT line for double digit attempts, a threat of Cole’s relentless and superhuman repeat effort work rate leading to one of those games where she has 18 points in the first half alone, or the threat of Mitchell or Ernst having a game where they hit 4x 3pt shots each, whilst the defens dials in their focus on other players.

Southside aren’t a team you can beat the exact same way twice. They’ll be driven to make amends for the loss last round and to flex their muscle. The Flames will be thoroughly prepared with a plan and knowledge of where the Flyers’ points of weakness are and how they can be exploited, they’ve demonstrated this already.

LOOK OUT FOR : International-level defense from George, Madgen and Nicholson on the Flyers’ stars in Russell, Cole and Jackson to keep them contained. Can the Flyers supporting cast get involved, or do they get the opportunity to, to get a W back for Southside ?

 

TOWNSVILLE VS BENDIGO

📆 Sunday 18 Feb 2024

⏰ 3:00pm AEST

📍 Townsville Entertainment Centre

📺 9NOW

🌎 Live & Free via unbeaten.com or FIBA YouTube

Both of these teams need this result. It’s a statement win for one of the teams, whilst the other figuratively licks its wounds.

If the Spirit want to make finals, they can’t lose. There’s no room for error. This is a heavy cross to bear, but if there’s ever a team capable – it’s a team with Griffin and K.Wilson on it and the collection of veterans that make this team deep and built for finals basketball.

A win over the ladder leaders would be a major scalp and one that forces the league to stand up and take notice.

For the Fire there are 2 things at play. They are a couple of losses away from falling out of first place for the first time in months. But more importantly, they desperately need to restore their aura.

Last season Townsville was an ominous, nightmare fixture for teams, home or away.

With roster changes, that fear teams had of playing the Fire diminished and subsequently with their injury troubles and vulnerable big losses in games this season, it is disarmed completely. That’s not to say Townsville isn’t exceptional – they are, and the road to a championship goes through there. But the aura and intimidation is gone at the present and any team in the league lines up against Townsville with a real belief that they can beat them … which hasn’t been the case for a long time.

The Fire have high talent, high IQ players like Whitcomb, Reid and Woods – each of which is a handful to deal with for opponents, but the Spirit have the physicality and never-back-down mentality of Froling, Kraker and Samuels to compliment their star players, impacting the game by imposing themselves on the contest.

The Spirit will be coming to win the game and the battle of wills. Townsville will be coming to win the game … but do they have the toughness to overcome the Spirit when it’s time to get into a physical battle with an opponent who won’t back down, in order to get a result ?

LOOK OUT FOR : The Ally and Abbey Connection. 2 versatile guards for the Spirit who, despite how well rounded their games are, still fly under the radar of opponents and have had match winning inputs throughout their careers. Look for them both to have a focused and diligent defensive job on Whitcomb and Reid and then make it rain from downtown at the other end.

 

 

PERTH VS UC CAPS

📆 Sunday 18 Feb 2024

⏰ 4:00pm AWST

📍 Bendat Basketball Centre

📺 9NOW

🌎 Live & Free via unbeaten.com or FIBA YouTube

Aari McDonald’s likely return to the Lynx lineup is the game changer they need and in lore is likely to be the ultimate ‘what if’ of the 23-24 WNBL season.

With their weapons like Atwell, Goodchild, Maley and Potter, and their diligent role players like Clinch-Hoycard, Gorman and the versatile Cibbatoni all doing it tough in recent weeks, pushing to contribute more, the Lynx found themselves victim to defeats and honorable losses … both of which Coach Ryan Petrik has been stoic in his assessment of, stating his team is here to find a way to win and that sympathy for ‘near misses’ doesn’t help a team climb the ladder.

I compare the Lynx to a race car – you could have the best wheels, grippy tyres, a strong frame, sharp brakes, a great driver holding the steering wheel … but if the engine isn’t in the car, the car doesn’t go.

Now the engine is back.

Watch the car, and the Perth Lynx, go!

A win against this inspired version of the Lynx would be a feather in the cap of Canberra if they can get it done. To achieve it, they’ll select aggressive and disruptive tactics from their defensive playbook and aim to create turnovers, rushed shots and not allow the ball to stick in McDonald’s hands as a decision maker – then gang rebound and play with pace back the other way.

Perth’s best basketball has been when they are high octane – but it can be hard to defend a team that wants to immediately fast break back the other way. With the top speed that Jade Melbourne can reach and the elite floor running of Fowler, Canberra can create themselves an opportunity to play a style of game that suits them and wrestle control into their favour.

LOOK OUT FOR : The difference Aari McDonald’s presence has for the Lynx in shared confidence, poise under pressure and in being the conduit between the head coach and the on-court team to ensure instructions are fulfilled and executed well.

 

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