WNBL24 Round 5 Preview

November 29, 2023 | WNBL news

Written by Mark Alabakov



📆 Wednesday 29th November

⏰ 6:00pm AEST

📍 Townsville Entertainment Centre


🌎 Live & Free via unbeaten.com or FIBA YouTube


The first of two potentially season-steering games for the 5th placed Lightning, that will tell us a lot about where they sit in the Cygnett WNBL pecking order.


Adelaide sits one win out of the top 4, tied with Sydney on 2 wins, and 1 win ahead of the Spirit. They have an opportunity for a major shift in their season if they can get a positive outcome from this round.


Townsville, however, are 4-1 and playing clinical basketball on the offensive end. Their game plan is simple, without being simplistic, and allows their athletes to be routinely making good decisions, that lead to good outcomes.


They have 3 players in the top 20 in league scoring (Kunek, Whitcomb and Aokuso), 3 of the top 10 for made 3pt shots (Kunek, Whitcomb and Brown), 2 players in the top 6 for assists (Whitcomb and Reid) and the best FG and 3pt %, as a team, in the league currently.


Last weekend, these 2 teams met and the Fire weren’t troubled – flexing their muscle to hold Adelaide to 51 points and getting a big 23 point win. All with less than 10 points from any of Whitcomb, Woods, Reid and Aokuso. Alice Kunek continued to thrive, back in the WNBL, with 19 points and 4 rebounds.


They then traveled to Perth to play a dangerous Lynx team on their home floor, stemmed a first half tide to run away with the game in the 3rd quarter and showcasing the ability to respond when the chips are down.


The reigning champs will go into this confident, but not complacent, that they can replicate last week’s performance, this time on their home floor. They’ll aim to again make life hard for the Lightning with defensive disruption and finding solutions to Adelaide’s defensive playbook.


For Adelaide, it’s a chance to respond themselves. A chance to have a mental flush from last weekend’s result and start fresh against an opponent they now know the quality of. They’ll need to come with a plan A, B and C though – the Fire don’t falter easily.


To push the Fire, the Lightning need a big game from Lauren Mansfield at both ends, need to orchestrate ways to get Brianna Turner more involved in scoring looks in the offense, and need 1-2 more scoring contributors than last week.


Isabelle Bourne has been averaging close to 14 ppg and Taylor Mole and Taylah Brazel have had profitable moments for the team this season when they’ve had an aggressive mindset when an opportunity to score presents.



The battle of will and resolve. If Adelaide can get some early runs on the board and small wins in their gameplan, can they sustain it over 4 quarters with the Fire breathing down their necks? Alternately, if the Fire take control of this one early, does Adelaide have the wherewithal to impact momentum and mount a resilient comeback?





📆 Saturday 2nd December

⏰ 5:00pm AEDT

📍 State Basketball Centre

📺 9NOW

🌎 Live & Free via unbeaten.com or FIBA YouTube


The comeback queens VS … the comeback queens ? Southside snatched victory from the jaws of defeat for the second time this season, down double digits to Perth before a roll-of-the-dice zone defense for the entirety of the second half helped the Flyers stall the Lynx, allowing them to chip away at the margin to where they could steal the game in the final minute on a clutch Bec Cole 3pt shot.


The Caps were controlled comfortably by the physical and possession hungry Melbourne Boomers in regulation, but then suddenly Jade Melbourne decided ‘not today’, and in the second half single handedly dragged the Caps into a winning position, only for the game to finish a tie and then Canberra lost momentum battle to the Boomers in OT.


The last time these teams faced one another it was a blowout Flyers win, but this Caps team will take a lot away psychologically from pushing the top of the table team last weekend and carry that belief that anything is possible on any given day into this match up. They boast 3 of the league’s top 3 scorers (Melbourne, Sharp and Fowler) and have improved their 3pt shooting as a team with the inclusion of Okoye, Sharp and the improvement of Melbourne’s clip from range – the 3 of them hit 7+ 3pt shots between them each game, on average. That’s more, between just that trio, than half of the league averages as an entire team per game, and has the Caps currently the 2nd best 3pt shooting team in the WNBL.


The Flyers are top 3 for field goal, 3pt and FT percentages and have the size to create headaches for Canberra, with a clear plan to pound the ball inside to Lauren Jackson and Mercedes Russell when the game is on the line, then leverage the scores and free throws that come from it.



The rise and rise, or the comedown of the Caps. Gallant in defeat last weekend, will the Caps put gas in the tank, refocus and go again at being in a winning position against a top 4 team? Or did last week’s pedal-to-the-floor effort empty the physical and emotional tank, and a big test like Southside in Melbourne has come at a bad time for them?




📆 Saturday 2nd December

⏰ 7:00pm ACDT

📍 Adelaide 36ers Arena

📺 9NOW

🌎 Live & Free via unbeaten.com or FIBA YouTube


After a breakthrough first win for Bendigo last weekend, this game comes at a good time for them – as Adelaide is a team they match up well against and create problems for, albeit on paper, testing the depth and creativity of their roster to try to find answers to everything the Spirit throws their way.


With or without Kelsey Griffin, the Spirit have the mix of explosiveness and 3pt shooting by Ally Wilson and Abbey Wehrung and the possession play and physicality of Davis and Froling.


The 4 of them combined for 54 points against the Flames on the weekend, scoring more than the entire Adelaide team did in their game against the Fire.


Not to mention the Spirit were boosted by a hot shooting night for Casey Samuels, who contributed 17 on the night at a 60% clip.

Adelaide has a task ahead of them to find Turner, Borlase and Mansfield a steady diet of clean looks, knowing that they’ll likely see match ups like Wilson, Wehrung and a 6’6 Ruth Davis who will sag off and blow up all their driving lanes to the basket.


The size and possession play on the offensive glass of the Spirit means Adelaide won’t have it easy in getting the ball out of defense and into the fast break scenarios that troubled the Flyers a week ago.


The Lightning have to find ways to ‘steal’ some easy baskets and keep the scoreboard ticking over as they currently average 69 ppg, the lowest in the league and are in last place for field goal and 3pt shooting percentages currently. But it doesn’t have to stay that way. Turner and Borlase can have match winning performances and if they get some more contributors on the board as a priority, from their game against the Fire earlier in the round, they will be better positioned to trouble the Spirit. If not, they’ll need to execute their 5-Out offense with razor sharp precision and efficiency to put a winnable score on the scoreboard in this one.



Bendigo to be too big and too physical for Adelaide to stop, or to generate enough easy scores against.




📆 Sunday 3rd December

⏰ 3:00pm AEDT

📍 Melbourne Sports Centres – Parkville

📺 9NOW

🌎 Live & Free via unbeaten.com or FIBA YouTube


With more and more games and wins under their belt, Melbourne has shown that anyone can be a match winner for them. It’s been Jordin Canada, it’s been the Blicavs/Froling duo, it’s been an uber-efficient Tera Reed, and now we can add the deserving Player of the Round, Naz Hillmon to that list. The Boomers present a challenging task – like sitting in a bath with 30 corks and trying to keep them all under water at the same time. The moment you think you have it covered, one of them bobs back up.


They average the largest rebound margin over opponents, averaging almost 6 more possessions per game … which doesn’t sound like much, but you win at the pointy end of the WNBL season, against quality opponents, by the ‘edges’ and marginal gains you can manufacture. And they are doing that already, far from a finished product.


Most pleasing is that they play to the strengths of the group. Post play isn’t dead just because non-believers decided it was. The high-to-low, post to post action is a staple for this Boomers team to catch the ball at the rim in positions to score and be fouled.  When it’s ‘winning time’, Coach Lucas will visibly be asking his team to spread out and give Canada the ball, and ample space, to create havoc for the defense. It’s why they’re undefeated and tough to stop.


After a hot start, Perth had a heartbreaking loss to Southside, losing rhythm but still nearly hanging on. Their response in the first half against the Fire was resilient and one of belief in their identity – lead by the stellar Amy Atwell who put the Lynx on her back as they had the Fire rattled. They’ll be bitterly ruing their 2nd out of sync 3rd quarter in a row. Their ability to sustain pace, decision making and shift from strategic moves to counter moves when needed and under fatigue will be critical as the season wears on and I’m sure is something Coach Petrik will have addressed during the week.


The game is the ultimate test and presents a chance to show tangible growth. Keep an eye on how the Lynx respond after half time in this one, whether up or down on the scoreboard.



Early season league MVPs, 1 VS 1A. Nobody has set the league on fire much like Jordin Canada and Aari McDonald. Their electric pace, acrobatic finishes at the basket, assists beautifully served on a platter to their teammates – they have been outstanding in every way and have lead their teams to be in the league’s top tier in the season’s opening month. Now we get to see them face off for the first of three matches between them this regular season. Who gets first blood and presents their MVP case a nudge ahead of the other?





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