SEABL Week 4 Friday Roundup

Both NSW teams gave excellent accounts of themselves, but unfortunately neither could finish the job on a night where both will have won plenty of admirers, despite not winning their games.

A valiant effort from the Sydney Uni Sparks saw the home side give themselves every chance to spring the upset, but the Dandenong Rangers used a second half run to take an 81-71 win at Brydens Stadium on Friday night. Recent WNBA draftee Tahlia Tupaea was outstanding for the Sparks, leading all scorers with 28 points, whilst also tallying 9 rebounds and 5 assists. Sarah Graham and Shanae Greaves also reached double figures with 14 apiece, whilst Kimberley Hodge was best amongst the younger players with 8 points and 6 rebounds.

The Sparks came out firing and hung with Dandenong through much of the first quarter, with Tupaea sparking the home side’s offence early in the piece to score 10 of the home side’s first 13 points. With the teams tied at 13-13 with 4 minutes to play in the opening term, the visitors went on a 9-1 run to end the quarter, with a pair of three pointers from Aimie Clydesdale and a surprising trey from Lauren Scherf pushing the Rangers to a 22-14 lead after 10 minutes of play.

The second quarter, however, belonged to the Sparks. Sarah Graham splashed in four baskets from beyond the arc to rack up points at lightning pace. On the back of Graham’s excellent second quarter effort, the Sparks quickly cut into the Rangers’ lead and were able to take a 41-40 halftime lead as the team’s WNBL players accounted for all 27 of the team’s points in the quarter.

Unfortunately, the Rangers hit back with a dominant quarter of their own in the third. The Sparks committed four turnovers to zero in the quarter, stymieing the team’s ability to score points and giving the visitors plenty of chances to first take and then extend the lead. With the Rangers’ own WNBL players firing on all cylinders, the margin extended to 63-53 with one quarter to play on the back of a 23-12 third quarter for the visitors.

A Kimberley Hodge and-one was a glowing start to the quarter for the Sparks, but a seven point deficit would be the closest that the home side would come to victory. Tahlia Tupaea continued to play an outstanding knock, scoring almost at will at times. However, the Rangers’ ball movement was exemplary at times, and they even got away with a bizarre basket when Lauren Scherf got a fingertip to an overcooked pass, which somehow found its way to the bottom of the basket.

The Rangers kept the Sparks at arms’ length, and whilst a buzzer-beating three pointer from Tahlia Tupaea saw the final score read 81-71, the game was perhaps finished as a true contest at 77-66 with two minutes to play.

Box Score

Valiant yet fruitless efforts appeared to be the theme of the night as the Albury-Wodonga Lady Bandits took a lead into halftime against the Geelong Supercats, but were unable to hold on as excessive turnovers hindered the home side’s chances in a 71-59 loss. Three players finished in double figures for the Bandits. Import Toccara Ross top scored with 16 points and also pulled down 8 rebounds, whilst Adijat Adams and Under 18 nationals gold medallist Steph Gorman finished with 13 points and 8 rebounds apiece. Melanie Kirby also hauled in 10 boards to go with her 4 points.

The home side allowed Geelong to get out to an early lead, and with Sara Blicavs and Chantel Horvat firing, the visitors quickly established a 21-11 margin. Fortunately, an 8-4 end to the first quarter kept Albury-Wodonga in touch at 25-19. That momentum carried over into the second quarter as another late run to end the half culminated in a Steph Gorman three-pointer with 10 seconds to play in the term that saw Albury-Wodonga take an unexpected 38-36 lead into the second half.

The third quarter saw the sides in a back-and-forth tussle. Horvat and Blicavs continued to lead for Geelong, but the Bandits were able to find points from a variety of sources. Geelong were able to extinguish Albury-Wodonga’s lead, but the teams went into the final quarter tied at 49-49. The final quarter saw an player from Albury take over, but unfortunately for the Bandits, that player was Geelong’s Alex Duck. Returning to haunt her hometown team, Duck scored 8 points in the final term as Geelong ran away with the game in the final term. A 12-2 run secured the win for the visitors as 35 excellent minutes for Albury-Wodonga unfortunately could not extend into 40 minutes.

Box Score

Next week sees Albury-Wodonga host Hobart at the Lauren Jackson Sports Centre on Saturday night at 6:00pm, whilst the Sparks will enjoy a bit of a reunion as Launceston come to town on Friday night at 7:00pm. Sydney Uni Flames guard Lauren Nicholson is spending the SEABL season with the Tornadoes and will be looking to create a storm on her usual home court.

SEABL Week 2 Roundup

After taking each other on last week, the Sydney Uni Sparks and Albury-Wodonga Lady Bandits delivered a thriller and a blowout in their games this weekend. Unfortunately, only one of those ended in a win for the NSW team involved.

The Sydney Uni Sparks came out firing but were rounded up by the Nunawading Spectres in an 76-72 loss in an overtime thriller at Brydens Stadium. In the first home game in the club’s history, Maddie O’Hehir’s shooting was near enough to automatic in the early stages and helped keep the Sparks ahead in the first quarter. The Sparks held a narrow three point lead at halftime, but with a perplexing 30 turnovers for the game, the young Sydney Uni side simply allowed Nunawading too many chances. Eventually the Spectres were able to overhaul the Sparks in overtime, winning the extra period 11-7 after the teams finished regulation tied at 65-65. Susannah Walmsley was outstanding as a makeshift point guard, shooting 60% from the field on her way to 16 points, 7 assists, and 7 rebounds. O’Hehir finished with 13 points, as did captain Shanae Greaves, whilst Kimberley Hodge tallied 12 points. Marena Whittle did the damage for Nunawading with 27 points and 11 rebounds leading four double-figure scorers. Jacqueline Trotto also finished with a double-double for the visitors, notching 14 points and 11 rebounds.

Down on the border, Albury-Wodonga bounced back from last week’s disappointing loss to the Sparks. The Lady Bandits put Sandringham to the sword, running out 89-59 victors on the back of a well-rounded scoring performance. Jumping out to a 22-11 lead, the home side put Sandringham to the sword in a 29-17 second quarter to own a 51-28 lead at halftime. Import Toccara Ross finishing with 18 points and 14 rebounds, whilst four other players tallied double figures as Albury-Wodonga added to their lead in the second half for a 30 point win. Montana Farrah-Seaton shot 5-9 from the field on her way to 16 points, whilst Steph Gorman dropped 15 points. Olivia Barber and Emma Mahady scored 14 points apiece, with Barber’s points coming in just 19 minutes of playing time and at an efficient 7-9 from the field.

Next week sees the Sparks play host to the local rival Canberra Capitals Academy as the Flames-Capitals rivalry extends to the SEABL level. Albury-Wodonga, on the other hand, have the luxury of putting their feet up for an extended period as they have a bye next week before the league-wide Easter break. The Lady Bandits will next take to the court on April 21, when they play host to Sara Blicavs and the Geelong Supercats.

SEABL Season Preview

The New South Wales presence in SEABL has doubled this season, with the Albury-Wodonga Lady Bandits joined by the Sydney Uni Sparks, a development program forming a pathway to the current WNBL champion Sydney Uni Flames. The Sparks feature four members of the Flames 2016/17 squad, with Shanae Greaves, Lara McSpadden, Tahlia Tupaea, and Susannah Walmsley providing some added experience to an otherwise young squad. The remainder of the Sparks roster is comprised of players out of the Flames academy program, with all players still in their teenage years and a couple still in high school.

Shanae Greaves is the only player with significant SEABL experience in the squad, with over 150 games in Australia’s premier winter league to her name. However, with Karen Dalton coaching the side and veterans Belinda Snell and Hayley Moffatt acting as assistant coaches, there is plenty of guidance for a young Sparks side being thrown in the deep end. The majority of the Sparks squad has never even played a Waratah Championship game, with Youth League the highest club level many of them have achieved. However, the majority of the squad have featured at a national championships in the last couple of years, with many outstanding performers.

Sydney Uni Sparks Junior National Championship Stats

Player Championship Team PPG RPG APG
Beaumont, Natalia 2016 U18 NSW Metro 11.00 7.57 1.29
Calleia, Sherrie 2016 U18 NSW Metro 2.71 1.86 1.14
Carroll, Elle 2016 U18 NSW Metro 6.14 2.86 2.00
Castle, Katie 2016 U18 NSW Metro 4.14 3.43 2.71
Evans, Charlie 2015 U18 NSW Country 9.88 1.75 1.88
Matthews, Emily 2017 U20 NSW 7.00 1.60 1.20
McSpadden, Lara 2016 U18 NSW Country 12.62 6.62 1.50
Mocatta, Teaan 2016 U18 NSW Metro 6.14 5.14 0.86
Morrissey, Chloe 2015 U18 NSW Metro 5.33 3.11 1.00
Mundine, Tylah 2016 U18 NSW Metro 5.43 7.71 1.57
O’Hehir, Maddie 2016 U20 NSW 16.83 3.50 2.00

Alongside the young starlets will be four members of the Sydney Uni Flames WNBL side, although Lara McSpadden and Tahlia Tupaea could be considered young starlets themselves. All four players featured for the Flames this season, with Tupaea and Shanae Greaves providing the most impact off the bench of the group.

Sydney Uni Sparks 2016/17 WNBL Stats

Greaves, Shanae 2.04 1.89 0.68
McSpadden, Lara 1.20 0.20 0.00
Tupaea, Tahila 8.27 3.80 1.47
Walmsley, Susannah 0.33 0.33 0.50

There is certainly plenty of talent in the Sparks’ squad, but once the season begins, it becomes a question of how well the young players can handle the jump to the second-highest level of basketball in Australia. However, at the end of the day, this program’s success will be measured more in the progression of players than the number in the wins column.

Meanwhile, down in Albury, there has been mass upheaval with several changes to the Lady Bandits squad. The side has lost 11 players, including Alex Ciabattoni, Ellie Junod and Haylee Lepaio from the ranks of local players, whilst it is also all change in terms of the team’s import players with Toccara Ross and Adijat Adams joining the Albury-Wodonga side.

Ross played college basketball at Iowa State, where the forward averaged 10.7 points and 7.3 rebounds in her junior season before injuries stifled her production for the remainder of her college career, which ended in 2009. Since that time, the American has played in Europe and South America as well as one previous SEABL season for the Hobart Chargers in 2011. Adams is slightly younger, having graduated from Biola University in 2014, where the 6’2” centre averaged over 16 points in each of her final two college seasons. Adams spent last season playing in Western Australia for Mandurah, where she starred for the Magic.

Five players do return, including the team’s spiritual leader Molly Rice, who was the team’s second-highest average scorer with 15.2 points per game. Rice and Stephanie Gorman, who averaged 9.7 points per game last season, will shoulder the majority of the scoring load alongside imports Adams and Ross.

The teams start their season playing each other in Albury on Saturday night, with early NSW bragging rights on the line. Albury-Wodonga will be eager to improve on 2016’s last place finish in the South conference, whilst the Sparks will be hoping to get their first win on the board as soon as possible to ease the pressure early on.