Waratah Championship Week 11 Roundup

Hornsby look to be out of reach atop the Waratah Championship table after dominating Norths for the second time this season. Elsewhere, Bankstown and Sutherland both picked up wins as their fight for fourth place continues to intrigue.

Bankstown 57 defeated Illawarra 38

A rampant Bankstown side started the game on a tear, opening up an early margin that proved to be enough to clinch the game as Illawarra stemmed the tide but were unable to chip away at the Bruins’ margin to any significant degree.

Neither team was able to find much joy on offence in the early stages of the contest, but it was the Bruins, courtesy of former WNBL player Casey Samuels, who had the early running and moved to a 7-0 lead after 4 minutes. A late run from the Bruins saw Marjy Grealish add 5 points and Rhiaan Te-Hira tally 4 as Bankstown somehow moved out to a 22-0 lead by the end of the first quarter. The Kittyhawks were not without their chances, but somehow the shots just refused to fall every time in the opening term.

Things looked unlikely to improve in the short term when Samuels opened the second quarter scoring with a three, but Paige Phillips knocked down two of her own in quick succession to get the visitors on the board over 12 minutes into the contest. Although Samuels continued her scoring charge, Illawarra found a renewed vigour following Phillips’ quick scoring barrage, and although Bankstown continued to find points, Illawarra actually won the second quarter 14-12 with Georgia Ohrdorf adding four points alongside six from Phillips. However, Bankstown remained 34-14 ahead to maintain control of the game.

Bruins player-coach Briana Maimone fired in the third quarter, registering eight points as the home side looked to ram home their advantage. However, Illawarra continued to prove that the first quarter was simply an aberration as they hung with Bankstown throughout the quarter. Captain Lauren Sparks added five quick points midway through the term, whilst Ohrdorf and Phillips continued to add to their totals. Despite this, Bankstown increased their lead to 49-26 with a quarter to play.

Offence deserted the Bruins somewhat in the final term, but it mattered little to a team that held a 23 point lead going into the fourth quarter. A low-scoring final quarter saw Lauren Sparks’ six points represent half of Illawarra’s total for the period, whilst four different players added a solitary basket apiece for the Bruins, who tallied just eight points in the final quarter to see the game finish 57-38 in the home side’s favour.

Casey Samuels led all scorers with 15 points for Bankstown, whilst Briana Maimone added 14. Marjy Grealish finished a point shy of a double-double with 9 points and 12 rebounds. Georgia Ohrdorf did the same for Illawarra, tallying 9 points and 11 rebounds, whilst Lauren Sparks finished with 11 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 steals for the Kittyhawks.

Box Score

Sutherland 72 defeated Hills 61

Hills put in one of their finest performances of the season, but it was unfortunately not enough against a Sutherland side that simply could not afford to slip up in their quest for finals basketball.

A low-scoring opening saw the scoreline read just 3-2 after four minutes of play, with neither team able to convert on a number of decent looks at the basket. Surprisingly, it would be the visiting Hornets who rectified that problem first. Madison Hare was able to find open space on a number of occasions, and with assistance from the likes of Samara Funnell and Sherrie Calleia, the Hornets opened up a 21-15 lead after a quarter.

Hare scored the first four points of the second quarter to extend Hills’ lead to 25-15, but an and-one for Rachel Herrick a minute or so later seemed to kick Sutherland into gear. Reeling of an 11-0 run, the Sharks took a short-lived lead before Andrea Roditis returned Hills to a 27-26 advantage. A Lauren McCaffrey three returned the lead to the home side, who then pushed the margin out to seven points by the end of the quarter, with McCaffrey tallying 10 points for the quarter. Hare continued to shine for the Hornets, keeping the visitors in the contest at 42-35 at halftime.

Having found their groove in the second quarter, Sutherland continued to push forward in the third quarter. Despite a valiant effort from Hills, Lisa Watkins and Jane Scrivens combined to help lead Sutherland to a double-digit lead midway through the the term. The Sharks turned this into a 9-0 run which was snapped late on by Calleia to leave the Sutherland lead sitting at 58-45 with a quarter to play.

Three minutes into the final term, Hills had cut the Sutherland lead to 9 courtesy of early scoring from Hare and Calleia, but the home side remained calm. Watkins led the Sharks on an 8-0 run, and by the time Hare scored Hills’ next points to put the Hornets back within 15, there were just 3 minutes remaining on the clock. Emma Claus added some late points for Hills, but the win was well and truly in Sutherland’s pocket by then, with the Sharks finishing 72-61 winners.

Madison Hare led all scorers with 22 points, and also collected 14 rebounds to star for Hills. Sherrie Calleia was also excellent at both ends, finishing with 14 points and a remarkable 8 steals. Hare and Calleia’s performances are made even more remarkable by the fact that they also played a Youth League game which finished just 40 minutes prior to this game. Four players finished in double figures for Sutherland. Lisa Watkins led the team with 17 points, whilst Jane Scrivens tallied a huge double-double of 14 points and 16 rebounds. Clare Thomson registered 11 points, whilst a scoring streak in the second quarter led to 10 points for Lauren McCaffrey.

Box Score

Manly 81 defeated Comets 40

Manly remain solidly entrenched in third position, moving to 8-4 with a dominant 41 point win over  a Comets side that just couldn’t find anything on offence for much of the contest.

The Sea Eagles fired from the outset, with Rebecca Duke and Jess Cullen each finding multiple scoring opportunities in the opening stages as the Sea Eagles moved out to a 15-4 lead within the first five minutes. Fortunately for Comets, they were able to slow Manly’s scoring to just four points in the second half of the opening term. Jaimee Cohen scored five of the visitors’ 8 points in the opening term, but Manly still held a double-figure lead at 19-8 after one quarter of play.

Duke continued to fire in the second quarter, with Opals stalwart Belinda Snell also firing for the home side as Manly continued to extend their lead. Things remained tough on offence for Comets, who could only muster two scoring plays in the entire quarter, adding just five points for the term. On the other hand, the Sea Eagles added 17 points in the second term to move out to a 36-13 halftime lead.

The third quarter saw the Comets offence finally hit double figures. Stephanie Perch found her range with a couple of early threes, and although the Manly side continued to keep the scoreboard ticking over, eight points late in the quarter from Maja Jurlina ensured that Comets would at least be able to see the third quarter as a positive they could take away from this game as the visitors tallied 18 points, which represented 45% of their final score. Nonetheless, Manly still extended their lead to 57-31 with a quarter to play.

Normal service resumed in the fourth term, with Manly again holding Comets to single figures for the quarter. Snell opened the quarter with four points for the Sea Eagles, before hitting a number of three pointers throughout the term to tally 15 points for the quarter in all. Those 15 points helped Manly to 24 points for the quarter to see the home side run out 81-40 victors.

Belinda Snell finished with 21 points for Manly, whilst Rebecca Duke added 13 points and Jess Cullen tallied 10 for the home side. Stephanie Perch tallied 12 points, all on three point shooting, whilst Maja Jurlina added 11 points and 8 rebounds off the bench for Comets.

Box Score

Bankstown 83 defeated Newcastle 50

After Sutherland’s win on Saturday night, Bankstown knew they needed to make this double-header count with a win over Newcastle, and promptly delivered with a comprehensive 33 point victory.

Things looked potentially ominous in the early stages for Bankstown, as Newcastle’s WNBL pairing of Cassidy McLean and Suzy Batkovic got the Hunters rolling early. However, Bankstown remained unfazed, and their own recent WNBL player, Casey Samuels, hit a couple of threes to tally 9 points in the opening term as the Bruins opened up a 22-14 lead after a quarter.

Neither team was quite as effective at scoring in the second quarter, which assisted Newcastle slightly as the visitors were able to trim the lead to a degree. Batkovic added four early points for the Hunters, but Samuels and Marjy Grealish continued their solid starts to the game to ensure that the home side’s advantage wouldn’t be completely erased. Emily Keith and Alison Ebzery added some late scoring for the Hunters, who cut Bankstown’s lead to 31-25 at halftime to leave the game hanging in the balance.

Evidently that didn’t sit well with Bankstown, who were lethal in the third quarter. Rhiaan Te-Hira and Aleesha Coulter unleashed a three point barrage on the Hunters, with Briana Maimone and Samuels getting in on the act as well as the Bruins racked up 30 points in the third quarter. McLean and Batkovic continued to add to the Hunters’ tally, and whilst 16 points in a quarter is generally not a terrible thing in Waratah League, it paled in comparison to the Bruins’ outstanding scoring for the term.

Bankstown hammered home their advantage in the final term, with Jasmine Barlow leading the charge in the final quarter with eight points. With the Hunters only able to muster 9 points in the final term, Bankstown extended their lead by 13 more to run out 83-50 winners and maintain their grip on fourth position.

Casey Samuels top scored for Bankstown with 19 points, and also collected 7 rebounds and dished out 6 assists. Adrianne Bywater kept the scoreboard ticking over with 11 points spread evenly throughout the contest and 10 rebounds to finish with a double-double. Rhiaan Te-Hira was electric off the bench to finish with 13 points, whilst Aleesha Coulter’s third quarter shooting helped her to 9 points. The WNBL contingent led Newcastle, with Suzy Batkovic registering 20 points and 13 rebounds, whilst Cassidy McLean tallied 10 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists.

Box Score

Hornsby 68 defeated Norths 48

Hornsby delivered the ultimate statement in a comprehensive victory over Norths to remain undefeated through 11 games, mathematically secure a finals spot, and all but seal top seeding for the playoffs.

An even start saw the teams trade baskets for the first few minutes of the contest, with neither team establishing a lead of more than two points for the first four minutes. Rachel Maenpaa and Kristina Moore each tallied four points for Hornsby, and Kate Seebohm did the same for Norths, before Bec Black’s jumper gave Hornsby a 10-6 lead for the first two-possession margin of the contest. The scoring dried up for a good two minutes or so before Hornsby’s offence clicked into gear for the final three minutes of the quarter. From a position of 6-4 down early, Hornsby scored the final 13 points of the quarter to establish a 17-6 lead by the end of the first quarter, with Moore scoring four late points to end the term with 8 points.

Hornsby extended their lead to 22-6 through Maenpaa and Alicia Poto before Kallie Hovatter led Norths on an 8-0 run of their own to cut the Spiders’ lead in half. However, Poto hit back with five consecutive points as the 2004 Olympian found her rhythm. Fortunately for Norths, Ali Burke knocked down a three late in the quarter to keep the visitors within 10 as the scoreboard read 27-17 in Hornsby’s favour at halftime despite some dismal shooting numbers from Norths.

Hornsby stormed out of the gates in the third quarter, scoring the first 10 points of the half. Poto continued to be chief destroyer for the Spiders, whilst Darneka Rowe came into her own in the third quarter to provide solid support as the Spiders set about putting the game completely out of Norths’ reach. With the backcourt pairing of Hovatter and Seebohm seemingly the only Norths players to have any kind of scoring success, Hornsby were able to extend their lead to 25 by the end of the third quarter courtesy of a 26-11 term that put the game beyond doubt.

With Hornsby’s starters taking up a well-earned position on the bench, Norths were able to trim the margin in the late stages, but Maenpaa and Poto had already completed the job in the early part of the fourth quarter as the Spiders’ experienced players came to the fore. Although Norths were able to put together a 20-15 final quarter, a second poor shooting effort in two games against Hornsby condemned the Bears to a 68-48 defeat.

Alicia Poto led all scorers with 26 points for the Spiders, with Rachel Maenpaa adding 16. Poto also tallied 9 rebounds, 5 assists, and 4 steals for an outstanding all-round performance. Kallie Hovatter top scored for Norths with 14 points, whilst Kate Seebohm chipped in with 11 points and 8 rebounds. Jaimee Kennedy and Tristan Black were outstanding on the boards for Norths with 13 and 10 rebounds respectively.

Box Score

Weekly Scoring Leaders:

Alicia Poto (Hornsby) – 26 points v Norths
Madison Hare (Hills) – 22 points v Sutherland
Belinda Snell (Manly) – 21 points v Comets
Suzy Batkovic (Newcastle) – 20 points v Bankstown
Casey Samuels (Bankstown) – 19 points v Newcastle

Youth League Week 13 Roundup

A combination of a win over Newcastle and other results launched Central Coast into an almost insurmountable lead atop Youth League, whilst Hornsby and Penrith solidified their finals claims. However, Illawarra won both legs of their double-header to creep up on the sixth-placed Spiders.

Bankstown 43 lost to Illawarra 69

Bankstown’s finals hopes hung in the balance going into this game, but Illawarra were far from sympathetic to the Bruins’ cause, establishing an early lead before hammering home their dominance for a 26 point victory in a game that saw just six Bankstown players take to the court.

Led by seven early points from Paige Phillips, Illawarra were able to jump ahead quickly. The visitors put together a 13-4 lead before Tasmyn Haynes was able to rein in the Hawks to a degree with some quick points. However, late scoring from Maddison Delaney and Eleri Morris pushed the Hawks’ lead into double figures and the first quarter ended with Illawarra looking dangerous at 20-9 in front after ten minutes.

Haynes continued to put points on the board for Bankstown in the early stages of the second quarter, but largely played a lone hand as the Bruins were forced to settle for tough looks much of the time. However, Elena Berbeniuk proved to be solid support at times as Bankstown managed to trim the lead to four with two minutes to play in the half. Unfortunately for the Bruins, they would score just two points in those last two minutes as Illawarra finished the half on a 7-2 run which was capped off by Morris’ buzzer-beating deep two which put the visitors up 34-25 at halftime.

If Bankstown had any thoughts of pulling out a third quarter as solid as the second, Claudia Flynn quickly put paid to that. Showing utter dominance on the boards, Flynn came up with no less than four offensive rebounds in the first three minutes of the third quarter. Collecting both her own and her teammates’ misses, Flynn racked up 10 points in the first four minutes of the second half as Illawarra extended their margin to 16 points. With the Bruins only able to add eight points to their tally in the third quarter, Illawarra were able to just about put the game to bed, taking a 53-33 lead into the final term.

Flynn continued her rampant second half with eight more points early in the fourth quarter. The scoring dried up slightly for Illawarra in the latter stages, but the game was over as a contest long before then. With two points to Georgia Gale the only scoring of the final two minutes, Illawarra finished 69-43 winners to all but extinguish Bankstown’s finals hopes.

Claudia Flynn led all scorers with 21 points, with Eleri Morris and Paige Phillips offering support with 10 points apiece. Tasmyn Haynes led Bankstown with 17 points, whilst Elena Berbeniuk added 12 for the Bruins.

Box Score

Manly 49 lost to Penrith 67

Penrith continued to showcase some improved form, tallying their third win in a row to move to 9-6 and further solidify their spot in the top 6 with a comprehensive victory over Manly.

Penrith opened the game with the first five points of the contest, but Faith Bulgin and Caitlin Keefe tallied five points apiece in the first quarter to give Manly a 10-7 lead. Despite this, eight first quarter points for Dominika Offner ensured Penrith would take a 14-12 lead into the second quarter.

Offner and Meg Jefferson opened the second quarter in style for the Panthers as the visitors went on a 10-0 run early in the term to open up a double-digit lead. Antonia Henderson added four points and Emilie Krimmer added a pair of threes, but Manly were unable to slow the Panthers’ scoring enough to completely close the gap. However, a late basket from Rachel Duncan brought the margin back to 36-28 at halftime which put Manly within striking distance.

And strike they did. Duncan, Bulgin, and Henderson all added points early as Manly opened up the second half on a 6-0 run before Meg Creanor converted a pair of free throws to keep the Panthers’ lead intact. Jefferson did the same shortly after and then came up with another two points to push Penrith up by 8 once again. Jefferson would finish the third quarter with 12 points to ensure that Penrith went into the final quarter with a solid 53-41 lead and all the momentum.

A low-scoring fourth quarter saw points hard to come by for both teams, but that suited Penrith just fine. Offner and Jefferson added some more scoring to their burgeoning tallies, and with the Manly offence only able to create eight points in the final term, a late Abbi Williams basket took her tally to double-figures and finished off a 67-49 win for the visitors.

Meg Jefferson top scored with 24 points to lead the Panthers to victory. Dominika Offner added 17 points and Abbi Williams tallied an even 10 as the trio accounted for all bar 16 of the Panthers’ points. Antonia Henderson was Manly’s only player in double figures with 10 points, although Rachel Duncan, Emilie Krimmer, and Caitlin Keefe all finished with 8 points.

Box Score

Hornsby 81 defeated Norths 71

Hornsby picked up a vital win over Norths to stay above .500 and remain in touch with the teams fighting for the second bye into the semi-finals alongside Central Coast.

Hornsby’s high-powered offence went to work in the first term to provide the team with a solid platform from which to work for the rest of the game. Maddy Della Franca scored four early points before Kristina Moore registered 10 and Jess Sancataldo added 8 in a 24 point first quarter for the Spiders. However, Norths remained in touch courtesy of six points from Milly Yates and eight from Ali Burke which saw the first term finish 24-18 in Hornsby’s favour.

Alysha Skerritt earned and converted an and-one to move Norths within three on the opening possession of the second quarter. But five consecutive points from Moore helped move Hornsby out to a 37-25 lead before Yates and Katerina Diamant moved Norths back within 8 shortly after. Serena Waters converted a pair of free throws for Hornsby late in the term, but Burke scored the last four points of the quarter to see the half end 41-35 to the home side.

Burke opened the term with another basket, and when Charlotte Gorman knocked down a three with 6:44 remaining in the third quarter, Norths were on a 13-0 run and suddenly held a 44-41 lead. Waters earned another pair of free throws and promptly knocked down both, before Sancataldo and Moore led the Spiders on a 13-1 run of their own to retake the lead and extend it to a healthy 54-45 margin. Yates, Burke, and Skerritt all added points late on for Norths, but Moore and Waters ensured the lead remained at nine as Hornsby held a 60-51 lead going into the fourth quarter.

Five points from Sarah-Jane Thomas gave Norths another unexpected scoring option, and when Yates and Diamant each tallied baskets just shy of midway through the final term, Hornsby’s lead had been trimmed to 62-60 and suddenly there was a real contest brewing yet again. However, the Spiders kicked again. Della Franca, Sancataldo, and Waters continued their excellent scoring days to move Hornsby out to a 72-62 lead, and this time they would not give up their healthy margin. Burke and Skerritt added more late scoring for Norths, but Moore and Waters tallied some late points of their own to see Hornsby emerge 81-71 winners in a game that was far tighter than the scoreline suggested.

Box Score

Newcastle 50 lost to Central Coast 77

Central Coast continued their charge towards securing the top seed for the finals with a win over Newcastle sending the Crusaders three games clear at the top of the table.

The Crusaders started on an absolute charge, with Rachel Williams and Shakera Reilly each scoring five points in the first three minutes to put the visitors up 12-0 early. Sophie Parente snapped the run with Newcastle’s first points of the game, but Central Coast were undeterred. The ladder leaders promptly broke off another 13-3 run to establish a 25-5 lead after a quarter.

Central Coast’s scoring slowed slightly in the second quarter, with Losalini Katia’s 6 points for the term the highlight of the quarter for the visitors. Newcastle were able to generate more offence than they had been able to muster in the opening term, with Parente tallying five more points as the quarter ended 14-12 in the Hunters’ favour. Despite this, the first quarter onslaught from Central Coast meant that the visitors headed to the locker room leading 37-19.

Reilly and Katia continued to rack up the points in the third quarter as the Crusaders continued to assert their dominance. Grace Kibble and Rachel James each knocked down a three for Newcastle, but Central Coast continued to extend their lead. Melling Patfield added four late points for the Hunters, but the Crusaders still held a 55-29 advantage going into the final term.

Kibble fired for Newcastle on offence in the fourth quarter, registering nine of her 15 points in the final term. Reilly continued to swell her ever-increasing points tally, but Kibble’s efforts ensured the Central Coast lead would not blow out much further than it already had. The fourth quarter finished 22-21 in the Crusaders’ favour to see the visitors emerge 77-50 victors to strengthen their grip on top spot.

Shakera Reilly led all scorers with 23 points, with Losalini Katia registering 18 and Rachel Williams adding 11. Grace Kibble led Newcastle with 15 points, whilst Sophie Parente also finished in double figures with 10 points for the Hunters.

Box Score

Sutherland 42 lost to Hills 52

A win here for Sutherland would have seen the Sharks jump right into the finals mix, but instead it was Hills strengthening their finals credentials as the Hornets moved to 8-5 with a 10 point win.

The Hornets got out of the blocks quickly, with seven points Madison Hare leading a shared scoring effort which delivered a 16-7 lead first quarter lead for the visitors. With Sutherland’s offence struggling to find open looks, the game was in danger of getting away from the home side early in the piece.

Hills opened the second quarter on a 9-2 run, with Gabby Turnbull the only Sutherland player able to add any points for the Sharks in the early stages of the term. In a low-scoring term, Turnbull scored six of Sutherland’s eight points. Fortunately for the Sharks, Hills were only able to add 11 points to their own total which at the very least meant that Sutherland weren’t entirely out of the contest at 27-15 down at halftime.

Maddy Norris stepped up for the Sharks in the third quarter, starting the term with a pair of threes from the top of the arc to draw the home side within eight at 29-21. The margin remained in single-figure territory for much of the third quarter as Sutherland did their best to make a dent in Hills’ lead. The third quarter ended with the margin at 11 though, with a late Laura Davidson basket putting the visitors up 38-27 with ten minutes remaining.

The fourth quarter belonged to Sherrie Calleia. The Sydney Uni Sparks guard earned and converted two pairs of free throws, before Sutherland were able to trim the margin back to 7 courtesy of baskets from Deanna Kalivitis and Hannah Clinen. Kelsey Curtin brought some swagger to the party for Hills soon after though, hitting a vital three and flicking her wrist on the follow-through as the ball swished through the bottom of the net for good measure. The shot put Hills up 10 with seven minutes to play and proved to be crucial as Hills’ offence could only manage two more points in the next six minutes. The Sharks crept within five with a minute to play, but with Hills able to get the ball to Calleia on inbounds plays and the home side forced to foul, the Hornets’ star was able to showcase her free throw ability. Calleia connected on another four shots from the charity stripe to ice the game for Hills and help deliver a 52-42 win.

Sherrie Calleia led all scorers with 14 points, ten of those coming from the free throw line. Madison Hare added 13 points, and Zoe Burke tallied 10 points in the Hornets’ win. Maddy Norris was Sutherland’s top scorer with 12 points, whilst Hannah Clinen finished with 10 for the Sharks.

Box Score

Bankstown 68 defeated Newcastle 60

After watching their own thin finals hopes fall by the wayside on Saturday, Bankstown then all but delivered the same fate to Newcastle on Sunday with an eight point victory.

Tasmyn Haynes was the star in the early stages for the Bruins, scoring eight points in the first quarter as the home side established an 18-10 lead courtesy of a 9-2 run to end the first quarter. However, the second quarter saw Newcastle score the first five points of the term to move within three points before Haynes returned with a vengeance. An 11-0 run led by 8 points from the Bruins’ star pushed the Bankstown lead out to 29-15 before Hannah Fox snapped the run before the home side could completely blow the game open. The back end of the quarter saw the teams trade baskets to keep the margin hovering around the 13 point mark, with Newcastle getting the lead down to 10 at one point for Bankstown pushed ahead once again. Five late points from Grace Kibble proved to be like gold dust for Newcastle, who managed to stay within 11 as the scoreboard read 36-25 in Bankstown’s favour at halftime.

Haynes continued her onslaught with five points to open the second half before Georgia Gale got in the action with some early scoring of her own as Bankstown quickly pushed their lead out to 47-29. Gale continued to exhibit her scoring prowess throughout the third quarter, whilst for the Hunters it was Fox and Melanie Edwards doing their best to keep their team in the game. Despite this, Bankstown took a 16 point lead into the final term to all but have the game wrapped up with 10 minutes to play.

However, Newcastle were having none of that. The visitors opened the fourth quarter with quick scoring from Laura Dick, Sophie Parente, and Grace Kibble, before a Hannah Fox basket with just under 5 minutes to play put the visitors within seven and suddenly in with a shot at a win. Sabrina Zenatti hit a three shortly after to push Bankstown out to a 64-54 lead, but the next four points belonged to the Hunters and with 1:48 to play, the score read 64-58 in Bankstown’s favour.

Haynes was next to score to extend the margin slightly, and it proved to be enough as Newcastle were only able to score one more basket in the final 90 seconds as Maddie Nowland hit a consolation basket with 5 seconds to go to see the final score read 68-60 in Bankstown’s favour.

Tasmyn Haynes was unstoppable with 29 points for Bankstown, whilst Sabrina Zenatti and Georgia Gale tallied 15 points apiece. Hannah Fox was Newcastle’s only player in double figures with 10 points, whilst Grace Kibble and Maddie Nowland registered 9 points apiece.

Box Score

Illawarra 79 defeated Liverpool-Macarthur 38

A good weekend became a great weekend as a second win of the weekend for Illawarra put the Hawks just half a game out of the finals spots after things looked less than promising before this round.

Opening the game on a 19-2 run, Illawarra found scoring from a variety of options in the early stages. Eleri Morris and Soriah Vos both found the bottom of the basket on multiple occasions in the first few minutes, whilst Maddison Delaney, Ebony Petre, Claudia Flynn, and Paige Phillips all chipped in in the early stages as Illawarra asserted their dominance from the outset. Kimberley Sepuloni stopped the rot with a basket with just over 3 minutes to play in the opening term, but five more points from Petre took her to eight for the quarter and helped push Illawarra out to a 24-6 lead after ten minutes of play.

The second quarter was quite symmetrical. Each team had a player score 7 points – Rayan Danine for Liverpool-Macarthur and Maddison Delaney for Illawarra – and each team finished with 16 points as a much-improved effort from the visitors saw the margin hold steady at 18 points through a half of basketball.

However, the third quarter saw Eleri Morris explode on offence for 8 points in 3 minutes to blow the margin out slightly. Sepuloni and Danine did their level best to stop the Illawarra run, but soon enough the margin was approaching the 30 point mark as Tyler Vukovcan added some quick points for the home side. With the score at 61-31 after three quarters, Illawarra had well and truly put the game away with 10 minutes to play.

With that said, the third quarter still had to be played. The scoring slowed, but three consecutive baskets from Paige Phillips late in the game not only shored up her own personal tally, but took Illawarra’s final winning margin past the 40 point mark. With Bianca Carusio’s basket for Liverpool-Macarthur being the only scoring of the final two minutes, the game finished 79-38 in Illawarra’s favour.

Eleri Morris top scored for Illawarra with 19 points, whilst Maddison Delaney added 10 for the home side. Ebony Petre and Tyler Vukovcan each added 9 as eight Illawarra players scored five points or more. Rayan Danine finished with 14 for Liverpool-Macarthur and Taylor Muaulu registered 8 points for the shorthanded Razorbacks, who played just six players.

Box Score

Weekly Scoring Leaders:

Tasmyn Haynes (Bankstown) – 29 points v Newcastle
Kristina Moore (Hornsby) – 27 points v Norths
Alessandra Burke (Norths) – 24 points v Hornsby
Meg Jefferson (Penrith) – 24 points v Manly
Shakera Reilly (Central Coast) – 23 points v Newcastle

Youth League Week 12 Roundup

Central Coast came up trumps in the top of the table clash to put a noticeable gap between themselves and second-placed Manly, whilst Penrith won both games in their double-header to strengthen their finals credentials.

Newcastle 61 defeated Hills 54

No play by play available for this match.  I can’t be everywhere!

Manly 42 lost to Central Coast 57

No play by play available for this match. I still can’t be everywhere!

Penrith 61 defeated Illawarra 52

A potentially season-changing weekend for Penrith started in the best way possible with a 9 point win over Illawarra in a game that saw both teams missing vital components. With Natalia Beaumont out for the Panthers due to SEABL commitments, and Paige Phillips and Eleri Morris playing in Illawarra’s Championship game at Comets, both teams had holes to fill in the starting lineup.

Despite Beaumont’s absence, Sarah Creanor ensured that the Panthers would get off to an excellent start, scoring 8 points in the first quarter. A tough quarter for the Hawks saw the Panthers take a 17-5 lead into the second quarter as Tyler Vukovcan hit Illawarra’s only shots from the field in the opening 10 minutes of play.

Penrith continued to push the lead out in the early stages of the second quarter as Creanor opened the term with a three before Chloe Bloom and Abbi Williams found their way to the free throw line and converted their opportunities. Mercifully for Illawarra, the shots began to fall later in the second term. Claudia Flynn and Ebony Petre managed to put some points on the board for the visitors and when Maddison Delaney knocked down a three in the final minute of the term, the Panthers’ margin had been trimmed to five. Creanor added two late free throws to move Penrith’s halftime lead to 31-24, but it could have been so much worse for the Hawks, who were down by 15 less than six minutes earlier.

Dominika Offner opened the third quarter with five points for Penrith, and quickly the margin was back into double figures. Flynn and Abby Cartwright managed to add some points for Illawarra, but Bloom and Perlita Fotu-Plaza helped Penrith compile their largest lead of the game at 46-30 with 90 seconds to play in the third quarter. A late basket to Petre brought that back to 46-32, but Illawarra were still in a fairly deep hole going into the final quarter.

However, the understrength Hawks rallied once again. With Penrith able to add just a solitary point to their total in the first five minutes of the fourth, Maddison Delaney’s three-point shooting combined with assistance from Flynn, Petre, and Soriah Vos saw the game poised for a thrilling finish at 47-44 in Penrith’s favour with just under five minutes to play.

With their lead in danger of evaporating completely, Penrith called a timeout which proved to be a stroke of genius. The defending champions broke off a 9-0 courtesy of scoring from Bloom, Creanor, and Williams to move 12 points clear with less than two minutes to play. A quick 5-0 run from Illawarra could have made things dicey in the final minute, but Creanor capped an impressive performance with a three to take the score to 59-49 with 45 seconds to play. Vukovcan added a couple more points for Illawarra, but it was too little, too late and Penrith emerged 61-52 victors.

Sarah Creanor led all scorers with 19 points, and was backed up superbly by Chloe Bloom, Abbi Williams, and Dominika Offner. Bloom tallied 13 points, Williams added 12, and Offner registered an even 10 in the win. Claudia Flynn was Illawarra’s best with 15 points, with Maddison Delaney’s three pointers helping her to 13 points, and Tyler Vukovcan added 10 for the Hawks.

Hornsby 106 defeated Bankstown 70

Hornsby struggled to break free of Bankstown in the early stages, but once they did, they well and truly bolted away to register a comprehensive 36 point win in which six Spiders players registered double figures.

The Bankstown “Big Three” of Georgia Gale, Sabrina Zenatti, and Tasmyn Haynes opened the game with some solid early scoring, but NSW Under 20s representative Jess Sancataldo was simply a class above in the opening stages. Sancataldo notched 11 points in the first 7 minutes of the contest as Hornsby opened up a slight lead. Despite Bankstown’s best efforts, some late scoring from Kristina Moore ensured Hornsby would take a 26-16 lead into the second quarter.

However, the Spiders were unable to really increase this lead by any kind of noticeable amount in the second term. Again, Haynes, Gale, and Zenatti were the scoring leaders for Bankstown, and between them they ensured the Spiders would not blow the Bruins out by halftime. Sarah Crisafulli opened the quarter with four points for Hornsby, and Moore again dropped in a couple of late baskets, but at halftime the margin had grown by just one point to 43-32 in the home side’s favour.

The third quarter was a different beast altogether. Moore and Crisafulli continued to rack up points, whilst Sancataldo returned to scoring form with six points late in the term. Serena Waters also added some late points to keep her own tally ticking over, and despite Zenatti adding a number of baskets for Bankstown, Hornsby’s lead exploded to 73-51 with a quarter to play.

The fourth quarter continued much in the same vein as Hornsby put their foot on Bankstown’s collective throat. Waters and Sancataldo opened up the quarter with some early points, before young Amy Laws enjoyed a remarkable 10 point fourth quarter after not scoring for the first 32 minutes of the game. Moore continued to keep her total growing, before Madeline Suprain and Piper Duck rounded out an outstanding team performance with points late in the game. In the end, it was the Spiders’ depth that proved the difference. Three players – Gale, Zenatti, and Haynes – accounted for all bar 12 of Bankstown’s points, whereas Hornsby finished with six players in double figures.

Of those six, Jess Sancataldo led the way with 25 points, whilst Kristina Moore followed up her 22 point effort in the earlier Championship game with 23 points here. Serena Waters added 13 and Piper Duck tallied 12, whilst Sarah Crisafulli and Amy Laws added 10 apiece in the rout. Georgia Gale was Bankstown’s best to tally 20 points. Tasmyn Haynes added 19 for the Bruins, whilst Sabrina Zenatti added 16 as the trio did everything they could to keep Bankstown in the hunt.

Norths 72 defeated Sutherland 45

With Manly losing earlier in the day, Norths had the opportunity to put some real pressure on the second-placed Sea Eagles with a win over Sutherland, and that is exactly what the Bears produced in a comprehensive 27 point victory.

With 11 first quarter points, Eastern Illinois commit Lana Marov was the undoubted spark plug for the Norths’ offence in the early stages. Two three pointers within 90 seconds of the opening tip put the Bears on the front foot before Ali Burke added some quick points as Norths set about asserting their dominance on their home floor. With the Sutherland offence unable to get anything of note going, Norths were able to pull away to a 20-6 lead by the end of the first quarter.

The Norths’ offence was not quite as hot in the second quarter, whilst Sutherland managed to improve their scoring after a lacklustre opening term. Maddy Norris opened her scoring midway through the term and quickly added a much-needed seven points for the Sharks as the visitors managed to keep the margin relatively steady for much of the term. Some late scoring from Geena Valos looked as if it may have pushed Norths out to an almost game-winning lead, but Norris quickly hit back to ensure Sutherland were within 14 at halftime with the scoreboard reading 32-18 in Norths’ favour.

If the halftime margin wasn’t at a game-winning level, it certainly was by the end of the third quarter. An eight point third quarter from Milly Yates led the Norths scoring, and despite the continued scoring output of Norris, Sutherland were unable to hold Norths. Marov also added five more points for the Bears as the lead swelled to 50-29 with ten minutes to play.

Norris and Hannah Clinen did what they could in the final term, but the game well and truly belonged to Norths even before the players returned to the court for the fourth quarter. Burke, Yates, and Alysha Skerritt added to the Norths lead, which swelled to 27 by the end of the game as the home side emerged 72-47 victors.

Despite being on the losing side, Maddy Norris led all scorers with 19 points for Sutherland. However, Norris was the Sharks’ only player in double figures, with Gabby Turnbull and Hannah Clinen’s 8 point returns being the team’s next best. Lana Marov’s 11 point first quarter proved to be the major component of her 16 point outing, which led all Norths scorers. Milly Yates tallied 14, whilst Ali Burke added 9 in the Bears’ victory.

Liverpool-Macarthur 44 lost to Penrith 80

Penrith turned a good weekend into a great weekend, making it two wins from two games with a 36 point rout of Liverpool-Macarthur which solidified the Panthers’ position in the finals.

Fresh off a pair of wins in Canberra with the Sydney Uni Sparks, Natalia Beaumont opened the game with Penrith’s first four points before Dominka Offner added five of her own as Penrith began to build a lead. Reprising her role from the day before, Sarah Creanor emerged as the most potent scoring threat for Penrith in the early stages, dropping 8 points in the last 90 seconds of the first quarter to establish a 20-11 lead for the Panthers after ten minutes of action.

Despite some solid outside shooting from Taylor Muaulu, the Panthers continued to build their advantage in the second quarter. Creanor continued to build her personal tally, and received scoring help from just about every Penrith player that touched the ball in the second quarter as the lead continued to snowball. By the time the halftime buzzer had sounded, Penrith’s lead had more than doubled to 39-20, with the visitors showing no signs of slowing down.

Rayan Danine added some early third quarter points for Liverpool-Macarthur, but Penrith were unfazed. Kay Phillips and Abbi Williams added another dimension to the Panthers’ offence by showcasing their offensive prowess in the third term, whilst Creanor continued to enjoy another day out as her scoring continued. A late Muaulu three trimmed the Penrith lead, but the disparity remained between the two teams at 57-34 with a quarter to play.

Offner opened up the final term with a three before Creanor and Beaumont added some late scoring to ensure a dominant Penrith victory. Meg Creanor also tallied a couple of late baskets to finish a solid performance as the Panthers ran out 80-44 victors in a dominant performance.

Sarah Creanor’s 22 points led Penrith for a second time this weekend, with Dominika Offner adding 14. Natalia Beaumont tallied 12 for the Panthers, whilst Kay Phillips added 9. Taylor Muaulu was Liverpool-Macarthur’s only player in double figures with 15, whilst Rayan Danine added 9.

Weekly Scoring Leaders

Cassidy McLean (Newcastle) – 29 points v Hills
Sherrie Calleia (Hills) – 26 points v Newcastle
Jess Sancataldo (Hornsby) – 25 points v Bankstown
Kristina Moore (Hornsby) – 23 points v Bankstown
Sarah Creanor (Penrith) – 22 points v Liverpool-Macarthur

At The Turn: Bankstown Bruins

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 Bankstown Bruins, who have started reasonably well and placed themselves in the finals hunt in the process.

It has been a case of ‘back to the future’ for Bankstown as much of 2015’s championship winning lineup returned to the club after taking the year off in 2016. Briana Maimone, Jaydene Barnes, Adrianne Bywater, and Casey Samuels all made their way back to the Bruins as the club looked to atone for last year’s disappointing season. Comets duo Ellie Gleeson and Rhiaan Te-Hira made a perhaps surprising cross-town switch, whilst Marjy Grealish joined from Tamworth. Kelly Wells’ move to Perth was the team’s only significant player loss from 2016, whilst Maimone took on a player-coach role, replacing Jenny Lonergan as coach.

It has been a steady first half of the season for the Bruins, but it could have been so much better at this point. Whilst a 4-4 record to this point does provide a reasonable starting point, the Bruins should have had one more win and perhaps could have had two others. Having established a 15 point lead, Bankstown gave up a 35-12 fourth quarter to Newcastle in Suzy Batkovic’s first game to fall to an 83-75 loss in a game they really should have won. The Bruins have also fallen in tight contests to Norths and Manly, but can take heart from the fact that they have defeated Sutherland by 20 so far. That result is of note due to the fact that the second meeting between these two teams may be the deciding factor in the race for the fourth finals spot.

Bankstown’s draw so far has seen them play all eight opponents in their first eight games; a rarity in the league this year. From there, it may be easy to look at their remaining schedule and predict that they will finish 4-4, just the way they started. However, Newcastle are now without Suzy Batkovic, who played her last game on June 3, which alone makes Bankstown heavy favourites in that game. Regardless of how comfortably they should win certain games, it is imperative that Bankstown pick up wins in the games against teams that won’t be among the finals hunt, of which they have four. When the Bruins’ schedule is compared with Sutherland’s, it appears that the teams will be within a win of each other when they play on July 15. Having won the first meeting between the two teams, a win in this game is almost worth two wins as the Bruins would secure the season series. Sutherland would need to win by 23 points to take the season series, but the margin won’t matter if the result pushes the Sharks a win ahead of Bankstown.

The performance of Casey Samuels will no doubt be vital to Bankstown’s chances, with the former Sydney Uni Flames player averaging well in excess of 20 points per game to this point. Samuels will need support though, and whilst it won’t require five players to reach double figures every game, it will require two or three others to step up each game, regardless of who it is. Experience is on the Bruins’ side, and the team has reasonable depth to go alongside that experience. Whilst they may be just behind Sutherland due to the unbalanced nature of the schedule to this point, with  a number of games in which they will be heavy favourites coming up, the Bruins may just have the edge by the time July 15 rolls around in what could be a pivotal matchup.

At The Turn: Norths Bears

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 Norths Bears, who have set themselves up well for a shot at the championship with an outstanding first half of the season.

After crumbling in the back end of 2016 to miss out on what seemed like a certain finals berth, Norths certainly retooled well in their preparation for a tilt at the 2017 title. Although Norths were rocked by the loss of Kathryn Rendell to injury, the Bears managed to lure former Hornsby coach Shannon Seebohm to the Bear Cave, and the Under 17 Women’s World Championship winning coach brought a number of players with him to his new club. Tristan Black, Jaimee Kennedy, Kate Seebohm, and young star Alessandra Burke followed Seebohm to Norths, whilst Razzearne Muir joined the side after winning the 2016 title with Newcastle. Bree Delaney also made the switch from Comets as Norths were able to put together a lineup with plenty of depth.

Things have gone almost to plan to this point for Norths. Eight games in, their solitary loss was a 65-62 defeat to the still undefeated Hornsby in a nail-biter in mid-May. Outside of that loss, the Bears have compiled an impressive CV to this point. With wins over potential finals teams Manly, Bankstown, and Sutherland and a victory over Suzy Batkovic and Newcastle, Norths have shown that they will be one of the biggest obstacles to any team looking to take home the silverware this season.

However, there are still some areas in which the Bears can afford to improve. Their shooting percentage has not hit 40% in their past six games, with a number of their wins being heavily assisted by their ability to force opponents into turnovers and sheer dominance on the glass. Conversely, Hornsby have shot over 40% three times in recent weeks, and outshot Norths 39% to 29% in last month’s game between the two sides. Certainly, a hot-shooting Norths side is almost unstoppable, but first they actually need to shoot well consistently. It may become more crucial in the coming weeks too, with the unfortunate loss of forward Kate Cranney for the season through injury. Tristan Black, Jaimee Kennedy, and Razzearne Muir will still provide a solid inside presence for the Bears, but Cranney has been the team’s most accurate shooter to this point, and is also second in the league and blocks and second on the team in rebounding.

Going forward, Norths have little to worry about regarding whether or not they make finals. With four games remaining against teams that are now out of the finals race, 11 wins should be the absolute minimum that the Bears expect. They have also beaten every opponent they face from here on out with the exception of Hornsby, so they will know exactly what is required to secure the victories they need to finish in the top two and earn a preferred matchup in the semi-finals. However, the key game comes in the round following the June long weekend. The Bears travel up the Pacific Highway to face Hornsby in the return matchup. A four point win will earn Norths the season series, but a loss would put the side two games behind the Spiders and all but dash any hopes of the minor premiership.

With the Bears getting significant contributions from a number of players and outstanding depth despite recent injury troubles, things are looking very positive for the team from Crows Nest. Kallie Hovatter and Kate Seebohm are performing admirably in the backcourt, whilst Tristan Black and Jaimee Kennedy at times seem unstoppable on the glass. Meanwhile, a number of other players have stepped up when required, including Taylor Jones, Bree Delaney, Muffi Loader, Eleni Valos, and Razzearne Muir. After falling in the semi-finals in 2014 and 2015, and missing the finals in 2016, could this be the season that Norths finally break through for a title?

Waratah Championship Week 10 Roundup

Three blowouts and a thriller would be the best way to describe this week’s action. However, that thriller saw Illawarra pick up their first win of the season, and the blowouts only served to make the race for the finals more interesting.

Hornsby 77 defeated Bankstown 57

Kristina Moore was a class above for Hornsby as the young starlet led the Spiders to a comprehensive 20 point win over Bankstown.

Moore and Darneka Rowe led the offensive assault from the home side in the early stages, but Bankstown came to the Brickpit more than ready to put up a fight. The Bruins took a 4 point lead midway through the opening term courtesy of a pair of threes from former WNBL player Casey Samuels, but Serena Waters finished the quarter with four points in four seconds to put Hornsby up 17-14 after the opening term despite some early foul trouble for star forward Rachel Maenpaa.

Moore scored the first five points for Hornsby in the second quarter as a trend began to emerge. The Spiders moved five points clear at 24-19 before Waters drew a foul on Samuels. The foul was Samuels’ third, and with the Bruins’ star off the court, the game swung even further in Hornsby’s favour. The same Hornsby trio that led the scoring in the opening term continued the assault throughout the second quarter and delivered a double-figure lead for the home side by halftime. A 19-10 quarter in Hornsby’s favour saw the Spiders take a 36-25 lead into the locker room, with the home side in position to really break the game wide open in the second half.

As it happens, that is exactly what occurred in the third quarter. Moore and Rowe continued their outstanding days on the offensive end, and with the Hornsby defence stifling a Bankstown side already hindered by foul trouble, the Spiders continued their march to a 10th straight win. Extending their lead to 18 points by the midway point of the quarter, Hornsby were able to hammer nail after nail into the Bruins’ coffin as the margin blew out to 61-39 with a quarter to play.

As the Spiders gave some of their lesser used players a run in the fourth quarter, the game maintained some sense of equilibrium as the margin hovered around the 20 point mark for the final ten minutes. Samuels was able to add some late points to her tally before committing her fifth and final foul late in the contest, but that had little impact on the contest as Hornsby completed a 77-57 victory to move within one win of mathematically securing a finals berth.

Kristina Moore finished an outstanding game with 24 points and 8 rebounds. Darneka Rowe was also excellent to tally 19 points and 8 rebounds. Serena Waters added 10 points, whilst Alicia Poto came close to yet another double-double, finishing with 11 rebounds and 9 assists to go alongside 6 points. Casey Samuels was Bankstown’s only player to finish in double figures, with 22 points, whilst Marjy Grealish was outstanding on the boards to finish with a game-high 12 rebounds.

Box Score

Newcastle 80 defeated Hills 51

Suzy Batkovic ended her stint at her hometown club with a barnstorming performance as Newcastle ran out comprehensive victors over a valiant Hills side.

The Hunters opened the game on a 13-2 run and never really looked back from there. All five of the home team’s starters tallied points in the first five minutes of the contest as Newcastle set about asserting their dominance in the early stages. Madison Hare was solid for Hills in the early stages, tallying five early points whilst Emma Claus added four as the first quarter ended 22-11 in Newcastle’s favour.

Newcastle stars Batkovic and Cassidy McLean kept things ticking over nicely for Newcastle as the home side continued to extend their margin. Claus, Hare, and Sherrie Calleia helped Hills add 17 points in the second quarter, which in a lot of Waratah League games is a fairly healthy number. However, Newcastle piled on 29 for the term as a number of players provided scoring help to see the Hunters lead 51-28 at halftime.

Things slowed down markedly on the offensive end after halftime, particularly for the home side, although Batkovic continued to dominate in the paint for the Hunters. The five-time WNBL MVP added six of Newcastle’s 19 points for the quarter, with McLean, Cherub Lum, and Kelsey Moss chipping in to extend Newcastle’s margin. Hills were able to hang with the Hunters for the majority of the term, tallying 15 points for the term. However, the Hunters’ margin swelled to 70-43 with a quarter to play.

As the rain lashed down outside, play continued into the fourth quarter. Hare and Calleia each knocked down an early three for Hills, whilst four players combined for ten early points for Newcastle. With five minutes to go, there was a slight delay in proceedings and although the game was able to proceed again shortly after, with the score at 80-51, it was decided by both teams to call the game at this point with the result clearly already decided.

Batkovic led all scorers with 30 points, and also collected 13 rebounds to finish with yet another double-double. Cassidy McLean finished with 16 points, 5 assists, and an incredible 7 steals in an exemplary performance at point guard. Alison Ebzery almost notched a double-double, finishing with 8 points and 9 assists. Madison Hare top scored for Hills with 19 points, with Sherrie Calleia tallying 13 points as the pair finished as Hills’ only double-figure scorers. Emma Claus had an excellent night on the boards to finish with 11 rebounds for the Hornets.

Box Score

Note (5/6/17): It was originally stated in this piece, after talking to players, that this game ended early due to a roof leak. Newcastle Basketball have since released an official statement that this was not the case. Sincere apologies for casting aspersions on the watertightness of Broadmeadow Basketball Stadium’s roof.

Norths 76 defeated Sutherland 52

A tight first quarter gave way to a sterling defensive effort from Norths in the second quarter as the Bears rolled to a 24 point victory which keeps them right on Hornsby’s tail in the chase for top spot.

A slow start for both sides saw the scoreline read 2-2 after three minutes, and a low-scoring game appeared to be on the cards. Mercifully, the scoring improved throughout the rest of the quarter. Bree Delaney’s trio of three-pointers was the highlight for Norths and accounted for almost half of the team’s 19 first quarter points. Sutherland found their points from a number of options, but trailed 19-15 after ten minutes of play.

The Sharks could have used that some offensive output in the second quarter, but instead the visitors were stifled at every turn for most of the second quarter. Things were looking good for Sutherland when they scored the first seven points of the term, but from there, Norths owned the play. Jaimee Kennedy returned with a vengeance after missing last week’s game against Hills, before the backcourt pairing of Kallie Hovatter and Kate Seebohm finished off a comprehensive 14-0 run to end the quarter which put Norths up 33-22 at halftime.

Hovatter extended that run to 16-0 with the opening basket of the third quarter, but things became quite more even in the minutes that followed. Razzearne Muir scored the next six points from Norths to counter Sutherland’s frontcourt scoring from Peta Kneen, Jane Scrivens, and Rachel Herrick, before Eleni Valos knocked down a three for the Bears to push the margin out to 44-31. Young gun Maddy Norris did her best to trim the lead with five quick points, but Hovatter and Muir ensured that Norths would hold on to a significant 54-38 lead going into the final term.

With depth in spades, Norths’ progress to victory could not be slowed in the final quarter. Muffi Loader scored a remarkable 12 points in the final term to all but cover Sutherland’s 14 points for the term, with the former Portland State guard showcasing an exemplary performance in the final period. Despite the best efforts of Rachel Herrick, the Bears were too much for the Sharks on the night, and the home side finished 76-52 victors to move to 7-1.

Loader’s outstanding last quarter effort saw her end the game as equal top-scorer for Norths with Razzearne Muir, with both players finishing with 12 points. Muir also collected 6 rebounds in a solid two-way effort. Kallie Hovatter, Bree Delaney, and Jaimee Kennedy all scored 11 points, with Hovatter’s five steals for the game also a highlight. Tristan Black was a menace on the glass as per usual, collecting an impressive 13 rebounds, whilst Kate Seebohm was solid in all facets to finish with 8 points, 8 assists, and 6 rebounds.

Rachel Herrick led all scorers with 15 points for Sutherland, and finished with 6 rebounds. Peta Kneen added 11 points, whilst Jane Scrivens was excellent at both ends to finish with 10 points and 13 rebounds.

Box Score

Illawarra 61 defeated Comets 59

In what has been a trying season, Illawarra once again faced adversity with the newly arrived Georgia Ohrdorf out for Saturday’s game against Comets. However, the Kittyhawks rallied around each other and secured a thrilling win in a game that wasn’t decided until the final seconds.

Playing with a short bench, the visitors needed to open the game well to stand a chance of victory, and did exactly that. Despite conceding the first four points of the game, Illawarra quickly established a lead of their own through Paige Phillips and Eleri Morris before Olivia White put the home side to the sword in the back end of the opening term. The Kittyhawks forward scored 7 points in the quarter as Illawarra opened up a 24-15 lead which would have been even larger if not for the play of young Comets star Serika Shillingsworth.

Comets were able to flip the script in the second quarter. The home side trimmed the margin to six on the back of scoring from Samantha Hewitt, Jaimee Cohen, and Stephanie Perch. White quickly hit back with four quick points to move Illawarra out to a ten point lead, but a late run fuelled by a number of trips to the free throw line brought Comets right back into the contest. Shillingsworth found her way to the basket late in the quarter, and the half ended with the game on a knife-edge at 35-33 in Illawarra’s favour.

Having dressed just seven players for the game, it would have been understandable if Illawarra faded in the second half. However, coach John Hargreaves rotated his players intelligently and ensured that the minutes were spread across the team with little impact on the team’s performance. With that said, early in the quarter it looked as if Comets may generate some momentum as three pointers to Perch and Hewitt handed the home side a 39-35 lead after three minutes of play in a low-scoring start to the quarter. Illawarra clawed back their lead with a pair of free throws to White followed by a Sparks three, but Shillingsworth returned fire with a three of her own as the teams traded the lead. Morris and Shillingsworth traded baskets before a late Paige Blanton basket gave Illawarra a crucial 50-47 lead with a quarter of basketball to play.

A low-scoring start to the final quarter saw Eleri Morris hit the first basket of the term nearly three minutes in. It would be another two minutes before Lauren Sparks hit a jumper to put Illawarra up 54-47 and within touching distance of their first win of the season. However, it was never going to be that easy. Tatyanna Pogonza-Dumas hit a couple of baskets and with 2 minutes to go the scoreboard read 56-53 in the visitors’ favour.

Sparks and Shillingsworth hit threes within the space of 13 seconds as the final minute commenced. Sparks had another three point opportunity, but missed and Comets grabbed the rebound and called a timeout. Out of the timeout, Shillingsworth drove to the basket to put the home side within a point at 59-58 with 11 seconds remaining. Illawarra took a timeout and Lauren Sparks was immediately fouled on the inbounds pass following the timeout. The Sydney Uni Flames guard was clutch at the line to move Illawarra ahead 61-58.

Shillingsworth attempted a three in the dying seconds, but Tiarna Porter caught just enough of the ball to prevent the shot having any chance of being successful. Rachel Harris committed a foul in the rebounding contest, sending Hewitt to the line. Hewitt hit the first before intentionally missing the second, but a Comets player committed a lane violation attempting to grab the rebound. But with just 0.2 seconds on the clock, it made little difference as Illawarra survived to grab their first win of the season, 61-59.

Two Illawarra players finished with double-doubles in the win. Olivia White top scored with 20 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, whilst Eleri Morris registered 11 points and 12 boards in an outstanding performance. Lauren Sparks played a solid captain’s knock with 15 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists. Serika Shillingsworth led Comets with 20 points and 5 rebounds, whilst Samantha Hewitt added 14 points and 9 rebounds.

Box Score

Weekly Scoring Leaders

Suzy Batkovic (Newcastle) – 30 points v Hills
Kristina Moore (Hornsby) – 24 points v Bankstown
Casey Samuels (Bankstown) – 22 points v Hornsby
Serika Shillingsworth (Comets) – 20 points v Illawarra
Olivia White (Illawarra) – 20 points v Comets

At The Turn: Hills Hornets

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 Hills Hornets, who have struggled to this point, but may have a brighter long-term future than is visible on the surface.

It would be difficult to find someone who would disagree that a tough season was always on the cards for Hills in 2017. With a host of Youth League players suiting up for Championship games, the sheer step up in physicality and the experience of the opposition means that even the most skilful young players can find it tough. The loss of the experienced Laura Anderson to injury has also dealt the young Hornets side a blow in the early stages of the campaign as the young side looks to find its feet at this level.

As such, the Hornets have found themselves near the foot of the table yet again, as has been the case since the 2014 grand final team which featured Jamie-Lee Samuels, Casey Samuels, and Kate Oliver went their separate ways after that season. This season has see the Hornets conjure just the one win in their eight games to this point, defeating an understrength Illawarra side 63-51. They also came within a solitary point of knocking off Comets, losing 66-65 in a thriller. However, many of their defeats have been on the heavy side, including a 44 point loss to Norths and a 42 point defeat to Manly.

Despite a 1-7 record to this point that leaves the Hornets sitting in eighth position in the nine team competition, there are certainly positives to draw from the season so far. Madison Hare has shown herself to be a force on the glass, with a 19 point, 15 rebound effort against Bankstown the highlight of her season to this point. Sydney Uni Sparks player Sherrie Calleia has also stepped up to be the team’s second-leading scorer despite also playing SEABL and Youth League as well as fulfilling her Championship commitments.

Going forward, it shapes to be just as tough in the second half of the season as it has been in the first for Hills. Their next six games feature a pair of contests against Newcastle, and they also face Bankstown, Manly, and Sutherland. However, their final two games may provide a positive ending to the season. The Hornets face Illawarra and Comets, the two teams against which they have played their best games, in the final two games of the regular season. Whilst those games will no doubt be close contests, they are the best chance Hills have of securing a second and possibly third win of the season.

With such a young side, it would be remiss not to mention that the Hills Youth League side currently sits in third place at 7-4 after 11 of their 20 games. This is despite many of the team’s top players also playing Championship games, sometimes immediately preceding the Youth League games. The team has also been without Amelia Iskowicz, a player who would have also provided significant impact at Championship level, since early April. With the Hornets’ future Championship sides no doubt being comprised of many of these Youth League players, perhaps the future is brighter than it seems for the team from north-west Sydney.