Waratah Championship Semi Final Roundup

A 3rd v 4th Waratah Championship grand final awaits us on Sunday afternoon as Manly upset Hornsby and Norths snuck by Bankstown in the semi-finals. Both games were absolute nail-biters, setting up a scintillating championship game.

Hornsby 78 lost to Manly 79

A thrilling encounter between the minor premiers Hornsby and fourth placed Manly ended with the Sea Eagles securing the upset win and progressing to the grand final.

Things looked ominous in the early stages as Manly scored six points in the first 45 seconds of the contest, but Hornsby soon got on the board through a pair of Darneka Rowe baskets. Manly continued to find points through Belinda Snell, but an extended scoring drought for both teams was cut by Hornsby forward Rachel Maenpaa. Snell led Manly on a late run to push the lead to 19-10, but four points from Jess Sancataldo in the dying stages of the opening term helped Hornsby trim the margin to 21-19 after Tylah Mundine’s three in the final seconds of the quarter.

Maenpaa and Sancataldo combined for the first five points of the second term to hand Hornsby their first lead of the contest, and with Rowe knocking down another three, the Spiders put together a solid start of the second quarter, culminating in a 33-27 lead midway through the term. Manly’s offence would not be denied for the entire quarter though, and soon enough the Sea Eagles had cut the margin back to 37-34 courtesy of Kristen Forbes. With the teams trading points, the margin held steady for the remainder of the second quarter, with a late lay-up from Snell keeping Manly within three at 42-39 down at halftime.

A low-scoring third quarter commenced with no scoring for nearly two minutes until Alicia Poto split a pair at the line. Manly enjoyed a far superior few minutes on offence, reestablishing an advantage at 45-43 before Poto and Rowe knocked down threes for Hornsby. The Spiders were able to push their lead out to seven, but in a back-and-forth game such as this, no lead was ever safe, and a late Sea Eagles charge delivered a 54-53 lead by the end of the quarter.

After a strange moment to start the fourth quarter in which Manly’s bench received a technical for having too many players on court, the teams traded baskets in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter, but it would be Manly who broke out of the rut and put together a run which established a 68-59 lead by midway through the final term in what looked to be a potentially match-winning lead. However, Hornsby, led by Poto, would not be denied. The 2004 Olympian led her side on a charge that dragged the Spiders back into the contest at 73-69 down with just 71 seconds to play. A pair of beautifully executed runners in the lane from Rowe tied the game at 73-73, before Belinda Snell drew the foul call on Jess Sancataldo whilst driving to the basket with 28 seconds to play, promptly knocking down both free throws. The Spiders were unable to score on the ensuing play, and forced to foul, sent Snell to the line again. The Opals stalwart was again perfect at the charity stripe to hand Manly a 77-73 lead, before Liv Sheehan hit a jumper to draw Hornsby within two in the final few seconds. Jess Kelly was the next Manly player sent to the line, but when she hit both, the margin was four points with single digits left on the clock. Poto hit a buzzer-beater from just shy of half-court, but unfortunately for the Spiders the four point line doesn’t exist quite yet, and Manly escaped with a 79-78 win.

Belinda Snell led all scorers with a scintillating 31 points and 14 rebounds to power Manly to victory, whilst Rebecca Duke also completed a double-double of 11 points and 12 rebounds. Rachel Maenpaa and Darneka Rowe each registered 18 points for Hornsby, with Maenpaa completing a double-double with 11 rebounds before fouling out midway through the fourth quarter. Alicia Poto registered 17 points and 8 assists, whilst Tylah Mundine added a double-double of 11 points and 10 rebounds for the Spiders. Jess Sancataldo also registered a solid 6 points and 9 rebounds playing in an unfamiliar frontcourt position.

Bankstown 67 lost to Norths 72

Norths made it a 3rd v 4th Grand Final with an equally nail-biting 72-67 win over Bankstown in the second semi-final.

It was the Bruins who came out firing in the opening term as their accurate shooting in the early stages allowed them to jump out to a double digit lead as the term progressed. The experienced heads of Briana Maimone and Casey Samuels did the majority of the damage in the first quarter as Bankstown conjured a 25-13 lead, with Jaimee Kennedy’s scoring proving to be priceless for a Norths side struggling to stay in touch.

However, as much as Bankstown dominated the first quarter, Norths did the same in the second quarter. The points came slowly for both sides as a combination of lockdown defence and some questionable decisions on offence from both teams stifled the scoring, but Norths were unquestionably the better of the two teams. With Muffi Loader hitting shots with regularity, and the dynamic backcourt duo of Kallie Hovatter and Kate Seebohm chipping in points, the Bears were able to trim the Bruins’ lead to 31-30 by the time halftime arrived courtesy of a 17-6 second quarter.

Seebohm and Hovatter combined to give Norths their first lead since the opening minutes of the contest, and then extend that out to 36-31. With Seebohm hitting three pointers with regularity, it looked as if Norths may get away, but Bankstown regrouped to quickly hit back as Maimone and Samuels continued to provide the bulk of the scoring. The margin hovered around the one-possession mark each way as the quarter progressed, but it would be Bankstown who finished the quarter the better of the two teams. Holding a one point lead at 48-47, the Bruins scored the last four points of the quarter through Maimone and Ellie Gleeson to establish a 52-47 lead with ten minutes remaining.

Jaydene Barnes pushed the Bankstown lead out to seven with the first basket of the final quarter, but from that point scoring became almost an impossibility for the Bruins. The triumvirate of Loader, Seebohm, and Hovatter combined for a game-changing 15-0 run, of which Hovatter tallied ten to put Norths up 62-54 with just over 3 minutes remaining. A pair of Marjy Grealish baskets in quick succession trimmed the margin to four points, and after Loader split a pair at the line, Casey Samuels hit a three and suddenly the score was 63-61 in Norths’ favour with 55 seconds to play.

Seebohm found her way to the line and knocked down a pair, and with the Bruins unable to score on their next possession, Loader was fouled to stop the clock and promptly hit both free throws. Adrianne Bywater hit a three with 17 seconds to play to trim the lead to 67-64, and from there a moment of controversy ensued. Norths called a timeout and the siren went right as the ball was inbounded straight into a Bankstown player’s hands and promptly through the basket. A quick consultation saw the officials award the timeout to Norths, negating the Bankstown basket. The Bears managed to successfully inbound the ball on the ensuing possession, after which Kennedy was fouled and also connected on a pair. Rhiaan Te-Hira’s three with eight seconds to play trimmed the lead to 69-67, forcing Norths to sweat it out a bit. Kennedy was fouled once again to stop the clock and hit the first but missed the second free throw. However, Norths managed to secure the ball, and when Hovatter converted a pair at the line, it tied a bow not only on a fantastic evening for the American, but a thrilling win that saw Norths into the grand final with a 72-67 win.

Casey Samuels led all scorers with 28 points for Bankstown, with the former Sydney Uni Flames player also collecting 8 rebounds. Briana Maimone racked up a 21 point, 11 rebound double-double and also dished out 5 assists. Marjy Grealish was solid on the boards with 9 rebounds alongside 4 points. Kallie Hovatter led Norths with 23 points, whilst Kate Seebohm added 19 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 steals. Muffi Loader added 13 points and 5 rebounds, whilst Jaimee Kennedy was solid with 9 points and 8 rebounds.

Waratah Championship Week 17 Roundup

Bankstown came up with a final day win over Manly to sneak their way into the 2nd v 3rd semi-final, where they will play Norths, who knocked off Newcastle and hit triple figures in the process.

Manly 59 lost to Bankstown 67

In a game that would ultimately decide the finals placings behind Hornsby, it was Bankstown who first created an astounding lead and then did their level best to throw it away before emerging victorious to secure a spot in the 2 v 3 semi-final v Norths, leaving Manly to face Hornsby in the 1 v 4 matchup.

With Adrianne Bywater, Casey Samuels, and Briana Maimone all proving accurate in their shooting early in the contest, Bankstown opened up a 13-0 lead before Manly finally got on the board through a Kristen Forbes three. It did little to stop Bankstown’s momentum though, as the Bruins continued to fire away through Samuels and Madison Bennett to take a 27-6 lead after the first quarter.

However, the thing about large early leads is that the opposition have plenty of time to chip away at them. That’s exactly what Manly did, as Rebecca Duke found ways to score time and again to move Manly within five points at 32-27 midway through the second quarter. Mercifully for the Bruins, they were able to go on a small run of their own as an Ellie Gleeson basket kick-started some late scoring to ensure Bankstown went to the locker rooms with a double-digit lead at 41-29.

A low-scoring third quarter worked in Manly’s favour as Bankstown’s momentum came to a complete standstill. It took over three minutes for the Bruins to add four points to their halftime total, and with Candice Trevenna joining Duke in a scoring spree, the Sea Eagles trimmed the margin to a solitary point at 45-44 with just under three minutes to play in the third quarter. But once again Bankstown survived with their lead intact as Gleeson and Samuels added some late points to see the Bruins head into the final term up 50-44.

Manly had threatened for the entire second half and tied the game at 50-50 early in the final term. Somehow Bankstown were kicked into gear, perhaps by the apparent urgency of the situation, rattling off the next 8 points of the game to re-establish a reasonable lead with 5 minutes to play. The visitors then extended that lead to 12 with just under 3 minutes to play, and with Manly’s offence unable to fire down the stretch, Bankstown survived to escape with a 67-59 win and secure second place in the standings.

Rebecca Duke compiled an impressive 17 point, 16 rebound double-double to almost drag Manly to victory, whilst Candice Trevenna added 11 points and 7 rebounds. Casey Samuels also finished with a double-double, registering 22 points and 11 rebounds. Ellie Gleeson impressed with 14 points, whilst Briana Maimone tallied 11 points, 7 rebounds, and 8 assists to finish just shy of a triple-double.

Norths 103 defeated Newcastle 69

Norths compiled the first 100 point game of the season at the best possible time, hitting some solid offensive form right on the cusp of finals after a few poor shooting games in recent weeks.

An electric first quarter from Norths put the home side on the front foot from the outset, as the Bears hit shots with alarming regularity. Kallie Hovatter and Jaimee Kennedy led the Bears’ scoring in the early stages, and with more than able support from Kate Seebohm, the home side compiled a remarkable 30-12 lead by the end of the opening term, with Suzy Batkovic’s five first quarter points leading Newcastle.

Fortunately for the Hunters, they found a little more success on offence in the second quarter. Batkovic continued to find ways to score, whilst Sydney Uni Flames guard Cassidy McLean hit a number of three pointers to keep Newcastle’s score ticking along. Unfortunately for the visitors though, Norths continued to fly on offence. The backcourt duo of Hovatter and Seebohm continued to dominate proceedings, and with a number of frontcourt options getting the job done in the paint, a high-scoring quarter finished 27-23 in the Bears’ favour to hand the home side a 57-35 halftime lead.

The scoring rampage continued for both teams in the early stages of the second half. McLean and Batkovic continued to deliver for Newcastle, with support coming from Kelsey Moss. Hovatter continued to add to her tally, whilst Muffi Loader added some handy points off the bench for the Bears. Newcastle emerged to win the third quarter 23-21, taking a 78-58 lead into the final quarter.

Norths hammered home their advantage in the final quarter, holding Newcastle to just 11 points in the last ten minutes of the contest. Kelsey Moss was responsible for six of these, giving the Hunters some rare highlights in the final term. Loader and Eleni Valos each ticked their personal tallies into double figures in the final quarter for the Bears, with Kate Golding also afforded a rare extended stint on court to tally some late baskets as Norths emerged 103-69 victors which no doubt helped their confidence leading into finals.

Kallie Hovatter led Norths with 26 points, whilst Kate Seebohm completed a double-double with 21 points and 10 assists. Jaimee Kennedy also registered a double-double with 16 points and 17 rebounds, whilst Muffi Loader added 14 points and Eleni Valos tallied 11 for Norths. Suzy Batkovic led Newcastle with 27 points and 10 rebounds, whilst Cassidy McLean chalked up 22 points and Kelsey Moss added 12 points and 5 boards.

Comets 47 lost to Sutherland 72

With neither team able to move from their current position in the standings, pride was all that was at stake at this one, and it was Sutherland who emerged as winners in their final game of the season to finish with a respectable but ultimately fruitless 8-8 record.

A blistering start to the game set up an early advantage for the visitors. Starting the game on a 13-0 courtesy primarily of Clare Thomson and Peta Kneen, it was nearly seven minutes before Comets registered their first basket through Nadine Wannous. Fortunately, Comets did keep pace with Sutherland from that point onwards, but still trailed 21-7 after ten minutes of play as Lisa Watkins got in on the act with some late points to end the quarter.

Things went slightly better for Comets in the second quarter, but Sutherland continued to extend their lead. The home side opened the quarter well, with Jaimee Cohen in particular providing some early points. However, as Comets’ scoring tailed off in the latter stages of the quarter, Watkins and Kneen, along with Jane Scrivens, continued to extend Sutherland’s lead. With Comets unable to score for the last 3 minutes of the quarter, the Sharks’ lead grew to 39-19 by halftime.

The home side scored the first five points of the third quarter, but Sutherland were quickly back in the swing of things to maintain their 20 point cushion. Although Serika Shillingsworth went on a tear in the latter stages of the quarter with seven quick points to reduce the margin to something respectable, Sutherland were still holders of a 55-33 lead with one quarter to play.

Maja Jurlina tacked on some late points for Comets, but with the game meandering to its already obvious conclusion, neither team was able to swing the margin too far in their favour, with a mid-quarter flourish from Sutherland seeing the visitors take home a 72-47 victory.

Peta Kneen led all scorers with 23 points for Sutherland, whilst Clare Thomson came close to a double-double with 15 points and 9 rebounds. Lisa Watkins added 16 points, whilst Jane Scrivens collected 16 rebounds and Rachel Herrick chalked up 10 boards. Serika Shillingsworth top scored for Comets with 13 points, with Jaimee Cohen tallying 9 points. Lauren Breen was Comets’ best on the boards with 11 rebounds.

Illawarra 67 defeated Hills 53

Illawarra condemned Hills to the wooden spoon on the very last day of the season courtesy of yet another dominant performance from Georgia Ohrdorf, who accounted for just shy of half of the Kittyhawks’ total.

A depleted Kittyhawks side that dressed only a starting five for the game would have to come out strong, and they did just that. The Kittyhawks, led by some early points from Bronte Covington and Lauren Sparks, hung with Hills in the opening stages before taking an 11-9 lead just shy of four minutes into the contest. Turnovers reigned supreme in the middle portion of the term, but Ohrdorf scored 10 of Illawarra’s final 11 points of the term to establish a 22-17 lead despite the best efforts of Madison Hare and Anja Kolodziej for Hills.

Ohrdorf continued to dominate in the early stages of the second quarter, and with scoring assistance from Eleri Morris, the Kittyhawks continued to extend their margin. An 18-4 run to open the quarter from Illawarra pushed the home side out to a 40-21 lead before some late baskets from Emma Claus helped settle things for a Hills side that struggled to find any scoring for much of the term. Paige Blanton added a couple of late free throws for the Kittyhawks to see their lead extended to 46-27 at halftime.

Hills fared slightly better in the third quarter, scoring the first six points of the second half to give themselves a sniff of a comeback, but Illawarra hit back with an 8-0 run of their own to take the lead past 20 points with five minutes remaining in the term. Andrea Roditis added a couple of quick baskets for Hills, but their scoring charge was definitely felt more in the opening stages of the term. Hills did win the third quarter, but only by a 12-11 margin, leaving Illawarra comfortably ahead at 57-39 with ten minutes remaining.

Illawarra must no doubt have been tiring by this stage, but the Kittyhawks held firm in the final quarter. Whilst their scoring was down, they allowed Hills just two baskets in the first five minutes of the final term to have the game wrapped up well before the final buzzer. A late 10-0 run for Hills added some respectability to the scoreline, but it would be the Kittyhawks who secured their second win of the season to leapfrog Hills in the final standings and hand the Hornets the wooden spoon.

Georgia Ohrdorf led all scorers with a simply masterful 32 points and 16 rebounds in her final game before heading back to Metro State University for her senior year. Lauren Sparks also finished in double figures with 12 points, and also picked up 6 assists and 5 steals. Eleri Morris, Paige Blanton, and Bronte Covington were also solid. Morris finished with 8 points and 9 rebounds, Covington tallied 8 points and 8 rebounds, and Blanton registered 7 points and 9 rebounds. Emma Claus top scored for Hills and also picked up 7 rebounds, whilst Anja Kolodziej picked up 12 points and 5 rebounds. Madison Hare was solid as always, finishing with 11 points and 6 rebounds.

Weekly Scoring Leaders:

Georgia Ohrdorf (Illawarra) – 32 points v Hills
Suzy Batkovic (Newcastle) – 27 points v Norths
Kallie Hovatter (Norths) – 26 points v Newcastle
Peta Kneen (Sutherland) – 23 points v Comets
Cassidy McLean (Newcastle) – 22 points v Norths
Casey Samuels (Bankstown) – 22 points v Manly

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

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.

Waratah Championship Week 5 Roundup

Norths and Hornsby continued their undefeated starts to the season, whilst Manly took advantage of Suzy Batkovic’s absence to register a comprehensive victory over Newcastle.

Norths 70 defeated Bankstown 65

Norths ran out five point winners over Bankstown, but should never really have let the game become as close as it was. The Bears never trailed, and led by as much as 13 at one point, but some lackadaisical defence at various points allowed Bankstown to force their way back into the contest.

The home side jumped out to an early lead, with seven players scoring in the first quarter as the Bears established a 19-12 advantage after 10 minutes. With the officials reluctant to let much go, it soon became difficult for either team to gain momentum as the flow of the game was regularly interrupted by fouls. The second quarter featured 14 free throw attempts, and with neither team able to get on much of a run, the second quarter was a remarkably even contest given the events of the first term. Norths went into halftime up 35-27, but Bankstown remained within touching distance early in the 3rd quarter. A Casey Samuels three opened up proceedings to cut the Norths lead to five, but Jaimee Kennedy and Kallie Hovatter quickly pushed the home side’s advantage out to double digits. Bankstown would occasionally trim the lead slightly, but Norths had a response every time as Taylor Jones stepped up for 5 quick points off the bench at a time when Bankstown were looking dangerous.

The Bruins came out firing in the fourth quarter, capitalising on some wasteful possessions by the home side to put themselves within three midway through the final quarter as Jasmine Barlow and Madison Bennett knocked down a couple of vital shots. Bree Delaney quickly righted things for Norths with two threes bookending a pair of free throws from Jasmine Barlow to push the margin back out to eight. However, Bankstown would not be denied their chance at a sterling comeback, with the experience of Briana Maimone, Adrianne Bywater, and Casey Samuels coming to the fore. However, Samuels fouled out on a technical foul with two minutes to play which put Bankstown in a spot of trouble. Maimone split a pair at the line to bring Bankstown within three points, but young Ali Burke stepped up from the corner and knocked down a three pointer with 16 seconds to play to push the margin to six.

Madison Bennett responded with a three of her own just six seconds later to move the score to 68-65 in Norths’ favour, but an egregious error from Briana Maimone allowed Norths the chance to wrap up proceedings. Attempting to foul Kallie Hovatter to stop the clock, the Bankstown player-coached grabbed the American a fraction of a second before she received the inbounds pass, gifting Norths two free throws and possession. Hovatter made both, and whilst Norths’ inbounds pass was knocked out of bounds at the first attempt, the second attempt found a player in red and black and Jaimee Kennedy was able to maintain possession to run out the clock for an unnecessarily tight win for the Bears.

Kallie Hovatter and Bree Delaney each had 15 points to lead Norths. Hovatter also tallied 4 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 steals, whilst Delaney hauled in 8 rebounds. However, the undoubted star was Jaimee Kennedy with 12 points, 13 rebounds, 9 assists, and 4 steals. Kate Cranney also finished in double figures with 10 points, and also collected 7 rebounds.

Casey Samuels and Adrianne Bywater both tallied 12 points to lead Bankstown. Briana Maimone rounded out a solid all-round performance with 9 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists, whilst Madison Bennett tallied 9 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists.

Box Score

Newcastle 52 lost to Manly 90

Newcastle were without Suzy Batkovic, and it showed as Manly rolled to a 38 point victory. A low scoring first quarter went the Sea Eagles’ way, with the visitors opening up a 17-6 lead. Manly continued to apply the pressure in the second quarter, with Belinda Snell leading the way. The Sydney Uni Flames stalwart hit four three-pointers on her way to 14 second quarter points, helping the visitors establish a 42-19 halftime lead and putting the game beyond doubt before the teams even made their way to the locker rooms.

Newcastle exhibited a better performance in the second half, but were unable to slow Manly’s scoring. Candice Trevenna and Kristen Forbes ensured there would be no let-up from the Sea Eagles, who tallied another 24 points in the third quarter. The rout was completed with another 24 points in the final term, with the young Hunters unable to match it with the more experienced Sea Eagles team carrying three former WNBL players and one current Sydney Uni Flames player on their roster.

Belinda Snell both dropped 24 points to top score. Snell also contributed in other ways, with 7 assists and 7 rebounds to her name. Kristen Forbes added 18, whilst Candice Trevenna registered 10 points of her own as Manly found scoring from a number of options throughout the contest. Cherub Lum led Newcastle with 15 points, whilst Alison Ebzery registered 10 points and 10 rebounds for a valiant double-double.

Box Score

Illawarra 58 lost to Hornsby 92

Illawarra were always destined to find it tough against an in-form Hornsby, and without Lauren Sparks things became even tougher for a Hawks team forced to run with just seven players. The Spiders showed no mercy in the first quarter though, with seven players contributing to the visitors’ 25 points in the opening term. Things changed little in the second quarter as the Spiders continued their march. Despite not receiving much scoring from the likes of Alicia Poto and Darneka Rowe, Hornsby still manufactured a 46-23 lead against a valiant but overmatched Illawarra side, many of whom already had the day’s earlier Youth League game in their legs.

Serena Waters put together a solid performance in that Youth League game for Hornsby, but eclipsed her earlier performance with a stunning effort off the bench. The young starlet top scored for Hornsby, tallying 8 of her 19 points in the third quarter as Hornsby continued to pull away. Illawarra were able to win the final quarter 22-18, but this game belonged to Hornsby, who ran out 90-52 winners on the back of some sterling efforts from their young charges. Paige Phillips and Eleri Morris were outstanding for the Hawks despite playing the majority of the Youth League game as well.

Serena Waters led all scorers with 19 points, and also dished out 4 assists in an electric performance. Kristina Moore added 16 of her own as well as 6 rebounds. Rachel Maenpaa added 15 points and 6 rebounds in her return from a short layoff, whilst Olivia Sheehan was again solid to tally 14 points on 54% shooting.

Four of Illawarra’s starters tallied double figures, with Olivia White leading the team with 15 points and 10 rebounds to complete a double-double. Paige Phillips and Eleri Morris added 14 apiece, and Tiana Porter registered 13 points in a valiant effort by the shorthanded home side.

Box Score

Comets 73 defeated Hills 67

Comets ensured the logjam around the middle of the standings grew with a hard-fought win over Hills. Hills led 15-12 after the first quarter, but the home side rallied to put together a 25-12 second quarter which broke the game wide open by halftime. However, Hills hit back in the third quarter, repeatedly reeling Comets in after the home side opened up significant leads. The home side led by 17 at one point in the third quarter, but Hills gave themselves a fighting chance by cutting the margin to 11 by the conclusion of the term. The visitors won the final quarter by five, but the final basket came with just ten seconds to play when the game was truly done and dusted.

With spiritual leader Jaimee Cohen out injured, Tatyanna Pogonza-Dumas stepped up for Comets. Coming off the bench, Pogonza-Dumas top scored with 13 points and also tallied 7 rebounds and 5 assists to provide a real spark for the home side. Madison Hare also came off the bench to top score for Hills with 16 points. Three more Hills players finished in double figures, with Sherrie Calleia, Emma Claus, and Brooke Roditis all tallying 10 points. Calleia also dished out 7 assists and collected 9 rebounds to finish within touching distance of a triple-double.

Box Score

Weekly Scoring Leaders

Belinda Snell (Manly) – 24 points v Newcastle
Serena Waters (Hornsby) – 19 points v Illawarra
Kristen Forbes (Manly) – 18 points v Newcastle
Madison Hare (Hills) – 16 points v Comets

Waratah Championship Week 1 Roundup

It was a day of blowouts in the opening round of the Waratah Championship, but Comets and Newcastle came to the rescue with a thriller in the nightcap.

Hornsby 68 defeated Manly 50

In a game that was effectively over as a contest by halftime, Hornsby took the first win of the Championship season on the back of outstanding veteran performances and dominance on the glass led by youngster Nicole Hutchins. The Spiders opened up an early 14-2 lead on the back of some excellent outside shooting from Rachel Maenpaa and Darneka Rowe, but Manly were able to peg back the home side late in the opening term to leave the game poised at 16-11 after a quarter.  Hornsby simply exploded on offence in the second quarter, outscoring the Sea Eagles 24-7 to take a 40-18 lead into halftime.

It wasn’t long before new Spiders coach Sarah Graham, fresh off a WNBL championship as a player less than 24 hours earlier, was able to switch up the rotations and give some younger players invaluable experience. Youth League trio Tylah Mundine, Kristina Moore, and Maddy Della Franca spent significant time playing together in the fourth quarter as Hornsby were able to hold Manly at bay in a largely scrappy second half to run out 68-50 winners. Manly’s cause was not helped by shooting a dismal 21% from the field for the contest, with only their 15 of 22 free throws making the scoreline look more respectable than it perhaps should have been.

Rachel Maenpaa and Alicia Poto both finished with double-doubles. Maenpaa dropped in 17 points on her Waratah League debut and also collected 11 rebounds, whilst Poto finished with 11 assists and 12 rebounds alongside 6 points. Rebecca Duke finished in double figures for Manly with 15 points.

Box Score

Illawarra 52 lost to Bankstown 83

An Illawarra side stripped of most of its best players from 2016 came up against a Bankstown side returning most of its 2015 title-winning side. As expected, Bankstown romped to an easy victory, but it was mainly due to a second half where Illawarra just ran out of legs. The Hawks certainly hung with Bankstown for the majority of the first half, trailing 22-16 after one quarter and 37-30 after an encouraging second quarter. However, with Bankstown’s roster featuring 12 players worthy of playing time in the Waratah League, the Hawks’ nine-player rotation with a heavy Youth League flavour to it was always destined to struggle in the back half of the game. It showed as Bankstown won each of the last two quarters 23-11 to cruise to an 83-52 win.

Former Sydney Uni Flames player Casey Samuels did the major damage for Bankstown, shooting 50% from the field on her way to 18 points and also picking up 10 rebounds for a first-game double-double. Briana Maimone, Kellie Parker, and Adrianne Bywater all finished in double figures as the veterans went to work for the Bruins. For the Hawks, it was also the veterans leading the way. Sydney Uni Flames player Lauren Sparks finished with 17 points and 5 assists, whilst Olivia White was a menace on the glass. The forward pulled down 15 rebounds and also dropped in 13 points.

Box Score

Hills 47 lost to Sutherland 70

Hills struggled in 2016 and things don’t look set to change too much this year after a 23 point loss to a Sutherland side reeling from the departures of Taylor Mathers and Lauren Nicholson. Whilst the Sharks have added Rachel Lisch, the squad does look a bit thinner than last season. It mattered little as the visitors attacked from the outset to open up an early 15-6 lead. Sutherland extended their lead at every break, just edging their way ahead as the game progressed to complete an emphatic 23 point win.

Rachel Lisch top scored for the Sharks with 14 points, whilst Peta Kneen and Jane Scrivens also hit double figures. Kneen finished with 12 points, whilst Scrivens dropped in 11 alongside 8 rebounds. Madison Hare, Andrea Roditis, and Nicole Massih all finished with 8 points for Hills as the scoring was shared across the team.

Box Score

Comets 54 defeated Newcastle 48

Coming up against an understrength Newcastle side, Comets had to know that this would be their best chance of stealing a victory against a top team this season. The hosts came out strongly, but Newcastle quickly hit back as import Cherub Lum made her mark on the game early. A supremely quick first step and ability to get to the basket was on show from the Canadian as the defending champions established an 18-11 lead by the end of the first quarter. However, the Comets came back into the game strongly in the second quarter. An outstanding defensive effort coupled with some unnecessary turnovers from the Hunters limited the visitors to just six points in the second quarter and allowed Comets to take a 28-24 lead into halftime. Neither team was able to do much on offence in the third quarter, with just 19 points being scored as the game grew increasingly scrappy

Fortunately, the level improved in the fourth quarter. A three pointer from Megan Cantellano – her first points of the game – put Comets up by 10 with just under 8 minutes to play, but Newcastle were far from done. The visitors went on a run of their own to trim the margin back to 45-42, and got back within two points with three minutes to play. Unfortunately for the visitors, that would be their last scoring play of the game. Whilst the Comets fared little better at the offensive end late on, they were able to hit enough shots to seal the game and take a crucial early win.

Jaimee Cohen led all scorers with 18 points, whilst Maja Jurlina and Samantha Hewitt finished with 10 points apiece. Cherub Lum was Newcastle’s top scorer with 17 points, whilst Alison Ebzery and Emily Keith secured double-doubles. Ebzery finished with 16 points and 14 rebounds, whilst Keith had 10 rebounds of her own to go with 12 points.

Box Score

Weekly Scoring Leaders

Jaimee Cohen (Comets) – 18 points v Newcastle
Casey Samuels (Bankstown) – 18 points v Illawarra
Cherub Lum (Newcastle) – 17 points v Comets
Rachel Maenpaa (Hornsby) – 17 points v Manly
Lauren Sparks (Illawarra) – 17 points v Bankstown