At The Turn: Hornsby Ku-Ring-Gai Spiders

As each Waratah Championship team reaches the halfway mark of their season, Sky Blue Hoops will take a look at their campaign to this point and their chances going forward. In this piece, we focus on the Hornsby Ku-Ring-Gai Spiders, who are sitting pretty on top of the table – with a big, round zero in the loss column!

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After a generally solid 2016 season that saw the Spiders come within a last-second Jaimee Kennedy shot that bounced away of making the grand final, Hornsby suffered a bit of an exodus in both the playing and coaching ranks coming into the 2017 season. Coach Shannon Seebohm made the shift down the Pacific Highway to become the head coach at Norths, taking with him several players, including Kate Seebohm, Jaimee Kennedy, Tristan Black, Muffi Loader, and Alessandra Burke. Fortunately, the Spiders managed to recruit well under new head coach Sarah Graham, and have once again put together a side that can challenge for the team’s first title since 2014, and have started in outstanding fashion.

With former Albury-Wodonga forward Rachel Maenpaa and 2004 Olympian Alicia Poto joining the team, the roster shaped up pretty decently considering the number of player losses. Core players such as Olivia Sheehan and Darneka Rowe remain with the team, and young players such as Kristina Moore, Tylah Mundine, Rebecca Black, and Nicole Hutchins have stepped up at various moments. Whilst the path so far hasn’t been 100% smooth, the Spiders remain the sole undefeated team at this point courtesy of a 65-62 win over Norths at the weekend.

Eight wins in a row is no mean feat, and the Spiders have done it the hard way at times. Somehow they escaped Newcastle with a win after allowing the defending champions to open up an 18 point lead in a game that saw both Cassidy McLean and Suzy Batkovic on the court for the Hunters. In that game, a well-rounded team performance saw Alicia Poto, Darneka Rowe, Olivia Sheehan, and young Serena Waters all finish in double figures to counter Suzy Batkovic’s outstanding individual effort. Then there was last week’s win over Norths. Hornsby allowed the Bears 85 field goal attempts in comparison to their comparatively paltry 63 attempts, but shooting accuracy was the difference as the Spiders got away with the win. The Spiders also just snuck home against Sutherland in an 84-82 thriller that at times also looked to have got away from the Hornsby side. Whilst their five other wins have come by an average margin of 24 points, it is those three close victories that have Hornsby in prime position to not only make the finals, but finish top of the table.

This weekend, the Spiders host a Newcastle side that will be hungry for revenge after throwing away certain victory in the last meeting between the two sides. The Hunters also need to keep winning just to keep their finals hopes alive, so the Spiders will need to be at the top of their game to secure a win. Making finals seems a mere formality at this point, but the Spiders will need to play outstandingly for the remainder of the season to secure top spot, as Norths’ only loss this season came in last week’s game against the Spiders. They won’t be able to rely on 18 point comebacks and opposition teams shooting 29%, as has happened in two of their close wins.

Whilst the experienced of quartet of Maenpaa, Poto, Rowe, and Sheehan lead the team in scoring, Kristina Moore has been one of the most outstanding young players in the league. Moore averages 10.4 points per game, and has justifiably cemented a starting berth for herself in the Spiders’ lineup. With these five players all in solid form, and a young but talented bench chipping in with the occasional outstanding effort when required, things are looking pretty rosy for the Spiders as they look to make the last eight games of the regular season as successful as the first eight.

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