Waratah Championship Week 15 Roundup

The top four teams are locked in after Sutherland and Newcastle’s slim chances fell by the wayside. Norths moved within one win of securing second place, whilst Manly and Bankstown are now set for a thrilling final day showdown to decide their spots on the ladder.

Bankstown 80 defeated Sutherland 71

A win for Bankstown in this game would secure their playoff spot, whilst a win for Sutherland could potentially keep their season alive. As it happened, it was the Bruins who secured victory to lock down a position in the top four.

The first quarter was a remarkably tight affair, with a number of ties and lead changes throughout the opening ten minutes. Sutherland scored the first five points of the game before Casey Samuels tied things up by scoring the Bruins’ first five points. Bankstown eventually secured a 10-7 lead, but Peta Kneen pushed Sutherland ahead 14-10 until a late rally saw Samuels tie things at 14-14. Shelley Bates hit the final basket of the quarter to give Sutherland a 16-14 lead after ten minutes of action.

Ten points for Samuels in the first five minutes of the second quarter helped Bankstown get out to a 26-20 lead before Ellie Gleeson and Marjy Grealish took control of the scoring. Kneen continued to do the bulk of the scoring for Sutherland, but Bankstown put their foot down as the quarter progressed, putting together a 23-11 second term which culminated in a 37-27 halftime lead for the home side.

Samuels continued to have a day out on offence, racking up points in astounding fashion. However, Kneen, as well as Lisa Watkins, kept Sutherland in the hunt as the second half progressed. The pair led Sutherland’s charge as the Sharks trimmed the Bankstown lead to 51-44. Briana Maimone hit back with seven points to end the quarter, but Sutherland did enough to keep the deficit within ten at 58-49 with a quarter to play.

The fourth quarter started brightly for Sutherland, with scoring from Jane Scrivens and Rachel Herrick trimming the Bankstown lead to 58-54 soon after the start of the final term. Samuels countered with a three for Bankstown, but more scoring for Sutherland meant the game was evenly poised at 63-61 with six minutes to play. Despite dragging themselves back into the contest, Sutherland were undone by a 9-0 Bankstown run late in the quarter that handed the Bruins a 75-63 lead with just over two minutes remaining. Bankstown were hardly in danger at that point, and although Sutherland scored the majority of the points in the dying stages, Bankstown secured the 80-71 win to secure a playoff berth.

Casey Samuels was utterly dominant to finish with 36 points, whilst Briana Maimone added 19 points and 9 assists for Bankstown. Peta Kneen top scored for Sutherland with 21 points, whilst Lisa Watkins added 15 points and 5 assists. Jane Scrivens came just short of completing a double-double for the Sharks, tallying 9 points and 11 rebounds.

Norths 71 defeated Comets 52

Norths also mathematically secured a playoff berth with a win over Comets, knocking Newcastle out of the finals race in the process.

Sydney Uni Sparks guard Serika Shillingsworth opened the scoring with a three, but Norths soon set about securing a lead. Tristan Black and Kallie Hovatter did much of the early scoring before a Taylor Jones three moved the Bears into a 12-7 lead. Tatyanna-Pogonza Dumas found her way to the line and converted a pair, but a late Hovatter lay-up kept the Norths lead at 5, with the scoreboard reading 14-9 in the home side’s favour after a quarter.

The teams traded baskets in the early stages of the second quarter before an 8-0 Norths run capped by four points from Ali Burke pushed the Bears into a 26-13 lead. Samantha Hewitt snapped that run with a three for Comets, but the home side’s dynamic backcourt of Hovatter and Kate Seebohm accounted for the next eight points of the game, with Seebohm picking off passes for fast break lay-ups on two consecutive plays. Rachel Higgisson put a bow on an electric 22-7 quarter with the final basket of the half to hand Norths a 36-16 lead.

Norths’ dominance continued into the second half as the lead ballooned to 40-16 before Shillingsworth knocked down another three. Tristan Black managed to find a bit of room inside to score six points for the quarter, whilst much of Comets’ scoring came from the line courtesy of Megan Cantellano and Pogonza-Dumas. Despite an improved performance from Comets, Norths retained a 51-27 lead through three quarters.

Shillingsworth hit her third three of the afternoon to open the fourth quarter, but it only served as the prelude to another 9-0 Norths run as Burke added five more points to an impressive personal tally for the young guard who was fresh off a Youth League game that finished just twenty minutes before this contest began. Comets put together a solid middle of the quarter, with Maja Jurlina especially impressive in scoring seven points in quick time. Comets won the final quarter 25-20, but the game was well and truly in Norths’ control by that stage, and the Bears ran out 71-52 victors to maintain their hold on second place.

Kallie Hovatter top scored for Norths with 16 points, with support from a number of players. Tristan Black finished with an impressive double-double of 12 points and 11 rebounds, whilst Kate Seebohm added 10 points, 8 assists and 6 steals. Eleni Valos popped up with points at regular intervals to finish with 10 points and 8 rebounds, whilst Ali Burke tallied 9 points in her second game in the space of a few hours. Serika Shillingsworth top scored for Comets with 17 points, whilst Maja Jurlina added 9 points and 8 rebounds. Lauren Breen was solid on the boards to finish with 11 rebounds alongside 7 points.

Manly 80 defeated Hills 56

Manly needed to keep winning to give themselves the best chance of finishing in a favourable finals position, and did that just that against the lowly ranked Hills side.

Rebecca Duke and Belinda Snell got Manly off to a solid start, but the underdog Hills side showed no fear in the early stages, and with Madison Hare starring, the Hornets took a 20-16 lead on the back of mid-quarter 9-0 run. But the Sea Eagles hit back to take a 24-20 lead by the end of the quarter with an 8-0 run of their own.

The generally efficient Manly offence lost its way slightly in the second quarter, and added just seven points to their total, but Hills were unable to punish the home side. Sherrie Calleia tallied four points and Emma Claus added five, but Hills were only able to tally ten points for the quarter. However, this was enough to push the Hornets within a solitary point at 31-30 down at halftime.

The halftime break clearly helped Manly regroup as they proceeded to dominate the third quarter. Kristen Forbes and Candice Trevenna helped put Hills to the sword, with Opals stalwart Belinda Snell also chipping in at times. With Hills going several minutes without scoring on multiple occasions, Manly were able to extend their lead to 51-39 with a quarter to play, putting them in the box seat going into the final term.

Hills’ offence improved in the final quarter, tallying 17 points as Hare and Calleia continued to be the Hornets’ main scoring weapons. But unfortunately for the Hornets, Manly racked up 29 points to roll to an 80-56 win as their experienced core continued to deliver throughout the game against a talented but inexperienced Hills lineup.

Candice Trevenna finished with 14 points for Manly, whilst Kristen Forbes registered a 13 point, 10 rebound double-double and Belinda Snell added 12 points and 8 rebounds. Madison Hare top scored for Hills with 21 points, whilst Sherrie Calleia added 18 points and Emma Claus tallied 11.

Hills 58 lost to Newcastle 74

Even without finals basketball to play for, Newcastle could still finish in a respectable fifth position, and this weekend’s win over Hills appears to have secured that spot, although it took until the final quarter for the Hunters to put away the young Hornets side.

Five different Hunters got their name on the scoresheet in the opening quarter, with Suzy Batkovic and Alison Ebzery leading the way with six points apiece. Kelsey Moss also had a solid start to the day, scoring four of Newcastle’s first six points. Despite some solid early scoring from Emma Claus for Hills, the Hunters jumped out to a 23-14 lead by the end of the first quarter.

Hills remained unfazed, and stuck with Newcastle throughout the second quarter to keep themselves right in the contest. Anja Kolodziej got Hills rolling, before Madison Hare notched six second quarter points for the Hornets in a solid effort from the home side. Newcastle continued to find scoring principally from Moss and Batkovic, and despite not extending their lead, were still able to maintain a nine point lead, taking a 39-30 advantage into the halftime break.

An 8-2 run provided Newcastle with an excellent start to the second half, and for a time it looked as if Hills were about to be blown away. However, the Hornets slowly chipped away at Newcastle’s lead, with Kolodziej, Claus, and Sherrie Calleia all getting amongst the points. But trailing by nine with just 90 seconds remaining in the quarter, it looked as if Hills would not make any real inroads. Enter Andrea Roditis, who scored the last five points of the quarter to put Hills within four at 53-49 down with a quarter to play.

Hills managed to hang with Newcastle in the opening stages of the last quarter, still trailing by just four with seven minutes to play. Newcastle’s class began to shine through in the latter stages though as a 13-0 run over the course of five minutes secured victory for the Hunters. Calleia added a couple of late points for the Hornets, but the 74-58 win was well and truly in Newcastle’s hands by that point.

Suzy Batkovic dominated for Newcastle yet again, finishing with 27 points and 24 rebounds. Kelsey Moss added 21 points, whilst Alison Ebzery tallied 9 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists. Emma Claus registered a double-double for Hills, tallying 16 points and 13 rebounds. Sherrie Calleia added 10 points, whilst Anja Kolodziej picked up 8 points and 7 rebounds.

Illawarra 42 lost to Norths 68

Norths locked Illawarra down, restricting the Hawks to single figures in both of the first two quarters on their way to a comprehensive 26 point victory.

Illawarra opened the scoring through Olivia White, and although Norths scored the next six points of the contest, Illawarra remained in touch in the early stages. The score read 8-7 in Norths’ favour after six minutes, but five consecutive points from Jaimee Kennedy, who had sat out Saturday’s game against Comets, delivered the Bears a 15-7 buffer by the end of the quarter.

The second quarter was remarkably low scoring. Eleni Valos tallied five points in the quarter for the Bears, and that alone was half of the team’s points for the quarter. Even more surprisingly, Valos outscored the entire Illawarra side, who registered just four points for the quarter. Despite the lack of scoring, the Bears were still able to extend their margin to 14 points, taking a 25-11 lead into halftime.

The third quarter brought far more excitement to the table as both offences managed to fire at times. White and Georgia Ohrdorf led Illawarra’s scoring in the early stages and managing to trim the Norths lead to ten points by the midpoint of the quarter. However, Norths hit back in the latter stages of the period, and with scoring coming from a number of players, including Kallie Hovatter and Kate Seebohm, the Bears maintained the 14 point lead they had built, holding a 45-31 lead going into the final quarter.

Norths opened the fourth quarter on a tear, scoring the first 16 points of the quarter to put the game beyond doubt early in the term. Seebohm and Kennedy did the bulk of the damage, with Tristan Black chipping in to help Norths get out to a 61-31 lead. Illawarra managed to trim the margin in the last few minutes of the quarter, but Norths still ran out 68-46 victors.

Jaimee Kennedy top scored for Norths with 19 points, and also added 7 rebounds. Kallie Hovatter chipped in with 13 points, whilst Kate Seebohm completed a double-double of 10 points and 10 assists, and also chipped in 6 rebounds, 5 steals, and 2 blocks to finish just shy of a 5×5 performance. Eleni Valos added 10 points and 7 rebounds, whilst Tristan Black enjoyed a day out on the boards with 12 rebounds to go with her 6 points.

Weekly Scoring Leaders:

Casey Samuels (Bankstown) – 36 points v Sutherland
Suzy Batkovic (Newcastle) – 27 points v Hills
Madison Hare (Hills) – 21 points v Manly
Peta Kneen (Sutherland) – 21 points v Bankstown
Kelsey Moss (Newcastle) – 21 points v Hills

Waratah Championship Week 14 Roundup

Hornsby lost their second game of the season on Sunday, but did enough on Saturday to mathematically secure top spot. Newcastle remain clinging to one remaining shred of hope after a win over Sutherland, and Manly secured their finals spot with a nail-biting win over Norths.

Norths 72 lost to Manly 76

Manly couldn’t quite overturn Norths’ advantage in the season series between the two teams, but their win in this game against the Bears did plenty to help the Sea Eagles in their charge to stay ahead of Bankstown and secure a spot in the 2-3 matchup in the semi-finals.

The opening stages saw Norths’ backcourt defence, led by Kallie Hovatter, disrupt the Manly offence on several occasions and soon enough the Bears had opened up a 13-5 lead to force a Sea Eagles timeout. Manly were vastly improved out of the timeout, with Candice Trevenna leading the Sea Eagles’ charge. With Norths managing just three points in the final four minutes of the quarter, Manly were able to tie the game at 16-16 after the opening term.

Opals stalwart Belinda Snell scored the first five points of the second quarter as Manly opened up a 24-16 in the early stages of the term. However, Kate Seebohm hit back with two consecutive baskets of her own to cap an 8-0 run that delivered Norths a 26-24 lead. Despite this, Trevenna and Snell continued to rack up the points and it was only some late scoring from Hovatter and Seebohm that kept Norths close, with the Bears down 35-32 at halftime.

Jaimee Kennedy and Tristan Black were Norths’ main scoring options early in the third quarter, whilst Trevenna and Snell continued to keep things rolling for Manly. With the teams trading baskets throughout the quarter, the game was destined to remain close for the entire term, and it proved as such. Neither team gained anything more than an one-possession lead for the last six minutes of the quarter, with some late three pointers from both sides leaving the game on a knife-edge at 51-50 in Manly’s favour with a quarter to play.

Norths certainly started the faster of the two teams in the final quarter, scoring the first eight points of the term to move into a 58-51 lead as Hovatter scored the first six points of the quarter. Manly called a timeout, and quickly regrouped to tie things at 60-60 with four minutes to play before a pair of free throws from Snell handed Manly the lead. Hovatter and Ali Burke pushed Norths back in front, but it was clear that Manly were far from done. Trevenna and Snell continued to be the story of the day, and it was Snell who went to the line with 21 seconds remaining to attempt to ice the game. As you would expect, the Sydney Uni Flames and Opals legend connected on both to deliver victory to Manly and cement the Sea Eagles’ finals spots.

Kallie Hovatter led all scorers with 31 points, and also finished with 7 rebounds and 4 assists. Backcourt partner Kate Seebohm was also on fire offensively, finishing with 19 points and 7 assists, as well as 8 rebounds. Tristan Black and Jaimee Kennedy came close to double-doubles. Black finished with 8 points and 10 rebounds, whilst Kennedy registered 9 points and 10 boards of her own.

Belinda Snell top scored for Manly with 24 points, and also added an impressive 14 rebounds and 6 assists. Candice Trevenna tallied 22 points, and also picked up 7 assists as the duo led Manly to victory.

Sutherland 57 lost to Newcastle 72

A Sutherland win in this game would both strengthen Sutherland’s finals chances and also extinguish what little chance Newcastle had left, but Suzy Batkovic ensured that Newcastle would live to fight another day with yet another dominant performance from the five-time WNBL MVP.

Neither team’s radar was calibrated quite properly in the opening stages, as a Batkovic free throw over two minutes into the contest proved to be the first scoring play. Both teams quickly settled in after that though, with Newcastle opening up a 9-2 lead before Sutherland stormed back through a couple of Maddy Norris threes to remain just two points behind Newcastle at 13-11 after one quarter of play.

A 10-0 run to start the quarter gave Newcastle a 12 point lead and set Sutherland back on their heels a bit as their usual rebounding and height advantage was negated slightly by the Australian basketball legend playing centre for the opposition. The Sharks were able to stem the flow slightly as the quarter progressed, but Newcastle maintained a healthy advantage as a number of players, including the recently returned Charlotte Bull, knocked down shots. A late three from Norris reduced the margin to a manageable 13 at halftime, with Newcastle leading 39-26 as the teams headed for the locker rooms.

Batkovic scored the first ten Newcastle points of the third quarter, but Sutherland hung with the Hunters in the opening stages of the second half. Unfortunately, at 13 points down, hanging with the opposition will only result in a team having plenty to do in the fourth quarter. The Newcastle lead only moved out another three points in the third quarter, but that still left Sutherland down 57-41 with a quarter to play.

Alison Ebzery opened the fourth quarter with a pair of threes to push the Newcastle lead out to 63-44, and with both teams going on a long scoring drought soon after, the margin hovered around the 20 point mark deep into the final term. Some late three pointers for Sutherland trimmed the lead back to 72-57, but Newcastle had well and truly wrapped up the win several minutes earlier with their start to the final term.

Suzy Batkovic led all scorers with 30 points, and also topped the rebound count with 15. Alison Ebzery chipped in 13 points for the Hunters, whilst Cherub Lum dished out 9 assists to go with her 7 points. Maddy Norris connected on 5 of 6 three point attempts to top score for Sutherland with 15 points. Peta Kneen and Lisa Watkins each added 11 points, whilst Jane Scrivens collected 11 rebounds alongside 8 points for the Sharks.

Hornsby 98 defeated Hills 61

As was the case against Bankstown the week before, Hornsby had just six players available for this game against Hills, but the result was far more pleasing for the Spiders’ faithful this time, with their team cruising to a 37 point win.

The opening stages were remarkably close as the teams traded baskets for the opening few minutes. Hills jumped out to a 10-6 lead midway through the quarter, but the scoring of Darneka Rowe and Alicia Poto moved Hornsby within striking distance before a pair of free throws from Serena Waters ensured the Spiders would hold the lead at the end of the first quarter, with the home side leading 16-14 after ten minutes of play.

The second quarter saw Hornsby begin to assert their dominance and put a bit of distance between themselves and Hills. Whilst Emma Claus regularly knocked down shots for Hills, the balanced offence of Hornsby saw Poto’s scoring supported by Tylah Mundine, Olivia Sheehan, and Tara Kilminster, whose free throws with just under three minutes to play in the half extended the Spiders’ lead to 35-24. Claus briefly trimmed that lead to eight points, but Hornsby maintained a 10 point buffer at halftime with the scoreboard reading 42-32 in the home side’s favour.

Hills came out strongly in the third quarter, and for a time looked as if they might make a real charge at Hornsby. Led by Madison Hare, the Hornets remained with in seven points at 51-44 midway through the third quarter, but ten consecutive points from Serena Waters was just the start of an 18-0 Hornsby run that was not only an exercise in dominance, but ended the game as a contest as Hornsby held a 69-44 lead by the end of the term.

Hare continued to battle for Hills and continued to keep the scoreboard ticking over for the visitors, but the scoring of Waters, Sheehan, and Mundine proved to be too much in the final term as Hornsby rolled to a 98-61 with a 29-17 final quarter. With Norths losing earlier in the day and Hornsby holding the season series over Norths, Hornsby also mathematically secured top spot for the regular season with the win.

A second half barrage of points saw Serena Waters top score for Hornsby with 26 points at a remarkable 81% clip. Alicia Poto finished with 25 points, 9 rebounds, and 7 assists to come close to a triple-double, whilst two Hornsby players completed double-doubles. Tylah Mundine finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds, whilst Olivia Sheehan registered 15 points and 11 rebounds, as well as 5 assists and 4 steals.

Madison Hare top scored for Hills with 25 points and completed a double-double with 11 rebounds. Emma Claus also finished in double figures for the Hornets, tallying 15 points as well as 9 rebounds.

Sutherland 94 defeated Hornsby 60

Hornsby again dressed just six players, but found things much tougher against a Sutherland team in desperate need of a victory to stay in the finals race after Saturday’s loss to Newcastle.

The Sharks started the game on a tear, with the experienced trio of Rachel Herrick, Peta Kneen, and Jane Scrivens lighting it up early before Maddy Norris knocked down a three to take the score to 14-2 just five minutes into the contest. Tylah Mundine and Olivia Sheehan helped to drag Hornsby back into things, with the Spiders finishing the quarter on a 13-6 run to move within five at 20-15 with one quarter in the books.

Threes from Mundine and Tara Kilminster early in the second quarter moved the Spiders within a point of the hosts, and for a few minutes the game remained remarkably close considering the Sharks’ start to the game. However, then came a 16-3 run for Sutherland. With scoring from a variety of options, the Sharks took full advantage of their chance against an understrength Spiders side to open up a 45-28 lead by halftime.

The Spiders were valiant throughout, but with all five starters having played 29 minutes or more just a day prior, it was always going to be tough as the game progressed for the ladder leaders. The Sharks, and particularly Norris and Herrick in the early stages of the third quarter, were hardly in a sympathetic mood though, and continued to pile on the points with a 28-13 term that extended their lead to 73-41 with a quarter to play.

The fourth quarter was a far closer affair, with some accurate three point shooting from young Serena Waters proving to be a positive for Hornsby in the latter stages of the contest. The final quarter ended 21-19 in Sutherland’s favour to round out a 94-60 win that may have offered little in terms of a window into the future, but kept Sutherland’s season alive going into next week’s must-win game against Bankstown.

Five Sutherland players finished in double figures, led by Peta Kneen, who tallied 18 points and 9 assists. Rachel Herrick finished with 16 points and also collected 15 rebounds to finish with a double-double. Jane Scrivens also finished with a double-double consisting of 15 points and 11 rebounds, whilst Maddy Norris finished with 11 points and Lauren McCaffrey tallied 10 points. Lisa Watkins also finished with 11 rebounds alongside 8 points and 6 assists.

Serena Waters’ fourth-quarter barrage of threes saw her top score for Hornsby for the second time in two days with 16 points. Olivia Sheehan added 14 points and also collected 10 rebounds to finish with a double-double, whilst Tylah Mundine registered 13 points for the Spiders.

Weekly Scoring Leaders:

Kallie Hovatter (Norths) – 31 points v Manly
Suzy Batkovic (Newcastle) – 30 points v Sutherland
Serena Waters (Hornsby) – 26 points v Hills
Madison Hare (Hills) – 25 points v Hornsby
Alicia Poto (Hornsby) – 25 points v Hills

Waratah Championship Week 13 Roundup

The finals spots may not be quite set yet, but there are now four teams feeling very good about their chances after Bankstown delivered a severely depleted Hornsby their first loss and Manly defeated Sutherland in a blockbuster.

Bankstown 90 defeated Hornsby 77

Bankstown took their chances against a severely depleted Hornsby side which dressed just six players and was missing four regular starters to take a massive step towards securing playoff basketball.

Despite playing shorthanded, the Spiders hung with Bankstown in the early stages. Three pointers from Alicia Poto and Serena Waters countered early points from Briana Maimone and Casey Samuels before Olivia Sheehan gave Hornsby a 10-9 lead midway through the opening term. Samuels and Madison Bennett restored a five point margin for Bankstown, but Sheehan drew a foul shooting a three in the final seconds and converted all three shots at the line to bring Hornsby within two points at 21-19 after a quarter.

Bankstown’s depth began to show in the second quarter as the home side began to dominate proceedings. Waters and Poto did the early scoring for Hornsby to keep the Spiders right in the contest up until the final three minutes of the term. But Bankstown dominated the dying stages with a 13-0 run led by Maimone and Samuels that extended a one point margin to a 14 point lead by halftime, with Bankstown leading 41-27 as the teams headed to the locker rooms.

Dominance turned to obliteration in the third quarter as Bankstown seized their chance to get an unexpected victory. Madison Bennett, Marjy Grealish, and Casey Samuels were the main destroyers as Bankstown put together a 33-17 third quarter to extend the lead to 74-44. Tara Kilminster added six points for Hornsby in the third, but it’s never easy to take on a team as strong as Bankstown with just six players.

With Bankstown giving some of their lesser used players a bit of a run in the fourth quarter, Hornsby were able to restore some semblance of closeness to the scoreboard as the Spiders put up 33 in the final term. Waters, Poto, and Sheehan were again amongst the points as the visitors reduced the margin to 90-77 by the end of the game. The result matters little to Hornsby in terms of their chances of finishing top of the table, but was vital to Bankstown in their own hunt for a playoff spot.

Casey Samuels top scored with 29 points for Bankstown, whilst Madison Bennett added 14. Marjy Grealish and Jaydene Barnes also finished in double figures, adding 12 points apiece. Alicia Poto led Hornsby with a massive double-double of 25 points and 18 rebounds, and also picked up 5 steals. Olivia Sheehan added 19 points, whilst Serena Waters tallied 17 points for the Spiders.

Manly 80 defeated Sutherland 75

Manly not only all but secured their own playoff spot, but also did plenty to condemn Sutherland to an August without basketball with a nail-biting 80-75 win.

A high-scoring first quarter saw Sutherland take an early lead as their experienced starting lineup fired early. Rachel Herrick and Jane Scrivens picked up a couple of early baskets as the visitors moved out to an early 13-6 lead. Youngster Rachel Whittet knocked down a three for the Sharks, but the Manly side, stacked with WNBL experience, clawed back to within two after a quarter as the scoreboard read 23-21 in Sutherland’s favour.

Sutherland set about restoring their lead early in the second quarter courtesy of Herrick and Peta Kneen. However, Manly hit back once again later in the term as a 34-25 Sutherland lead dwindled down to 39-37 by the time Rebecca Duke hit the final shot of the quarter. After trailing by seven with under two minutes in the quarter, Manly now had a sniff of the lead and all the momentum heading into the second half after a 16-16 quarter.

Somehow, Sutherland again pushed their lead out to seven points early in the third quarter as a Maddy Norris three capped a solid start to the half for the visitors. But Manly fired back once again, with Kristen Forbes taking charge at times to drag the Sea Eagles back within striking distance. Despite the best late efforts of Clare Thomson for the Sharks, Manly remained within two points at 61-59 with a quarter to play.

Rebecca Duke tied things up with the first scoring play of the final quarter, but Sutherland refused to give up their lead. The Sharks re-established and maintained a slender margin, but could only hold on for so long, and with two minutes to play the score read 73-73 as Manly charged home. Jess Kelly knocked down a jumper with 30 seconds to play, and then split a pair at the line to put Manly up 78-75 with 15 seconds to play. A turnover on their final offensive play condemned Sutherland to the loss as Manly finished with a thrilling 80-75 victory.

Rebecca Duke finished with 17 points for Manly, whilst Kristen Forbes added 10. Candice Trevenna was dominant on the boards with 11 rebounds to go with her 8 points as the experienced Manly side managed to come back from deficits repeatedly. Clare Thomson top scored for Sutherland with 17 points off the bench, whilst Rachel Herrick completed a double-double of 16 points and 12 rebounds. Peta Kneen added 10 points and 8 rebounds, whilst the early three point shooting of Rachel Whittet earned the young starlet 6 points in the opening half.

Norths 63 defeated Illawarra 40

A poor shooting afternoon from Norths was masked by their dominance in the rebound and turnover counts as the Bears accounted for Illawarra with an excellent defensive performance.

A low-scoring first quarter saw neither team get on the scoreboard for the first two minutes, and even then it was only a pair of Jaimee Kennedy free throws that saw Norths take the first lead of the game. Long scoring droughts were the story of the term, as a burst of scoring midway through the term saw Norths take a 9-7 lead on the back of some early Razz Muir baskets. But from there, the Bears added just 4 more points in the final four minutes of the term, whilst Illawarra were unable to add to their tally as Norths took a 13-7 lead into the second quarter.

Olivia White found some success in the paint for Illawarra in the second quarter, whilst Norths took the three-point route to points. Eleni Valos, Alessandra Burke, and Taylor Jones each hit from beyond the arc as those three shots comprised all but four of the Bears’ points in the second term. The quarter ended with the same scoreline as the first – 13-7 – to deliver Norths a 26-14 lead at halftime.

White continued to be Illawarra’s main scoring threat in the opening stages of the second half, whilst for Norths it was Kallie Hovatter who began to fire. The American guard added 12 points in the third quarter to account for more than 50% of the Bears’ points for the term. Jaimee Kennedy tacked on five for the Bears to keep her own personal tally ticking over and the Bears’ lead growing, with a a 22-12 quarter putting Norths 22 points up with a quarter to play and effectively ending the game as a contest.

The Bears’ scoring slowed in the fourth quarter, but White continued to produce for Illawarra. Another six points in the final term for the Kittyhawks’ forward capped an outstanding game, but with little scoring support it was always going to be tough for the visitors to spring an upset. The margin hovered around the 20 point mark for the remainder of the game, with a late Taylor Jones lay-up putting the icing on a 63-40 win for the Bears.

Olivia White led all scorers with 22 points for Illawarra and completed a huge double-double with 18 rebounds, with Lauren Sparks adding 10 points and 6 assists for the Kittyhawks. Kallie Hovatter top scored for Norths with 16 points, whilst Jaimee Kennedy added 12 points and also picked up a double-double with 16 rebounds. Razz Muir was also outstanding on the boards with 10 rebounds to go with her 6 points.

Newcastle 48 defeated Comets 35

It may be a bit late for Newcastle to put together a run to the playoffs at this stage, but the Hunters secured victory over Comets in their annual Charity Night game despite Suzy Batkovic’s absence.

The win was built in the first quarter as Newcastle jumped out to an early lead on the back of an outstanding first quarter from Cassidy McLean. The Sydney Uni Flames guard outscored the opposition with 9 points in the opening term as Newcastle jumped out to a 20-8 lead after a quarter.

Scoring was far tougher to come by in the second quarter as neither team was able to reach double figures for the term. Annie Turner added four points in quick succession for Comets early in the term, but that proved to account for more than half of the visitors’ 7 points for the term. Newcastle had it even tougher, tallying just six points in the quarter, but their first quarter effort meant that they still held a 26-15 lead at halftime.

The third quarter was marginally better but still low-scoring at both ends. Maja Jurlina and Megan Cantellano each added multiple baskets for Comets, whilst for Newcastle some late scoring from Emily Keith ensured that any ideas of a comeback from the visitors were quickly erased as Newcastle maintained an 11 point lead with a quarter to play as the score read 37-26.

McLean reprised her scoring production of the first quarter to a degree in the final term, adding seven more points for Newcastle in another low-scoring period for both teams. Kelsey Moss added the other four points for the home side in an 11 point term, whilst Tanner and Cantellano each added to their personal tallies as the game meandered to its conclusion. Newcastle eventually finished 48-35 winners, with the low shooting percentages of both teams meaning that the Hunters’ hot start was ultimately the difference in this contest.

Cassidy McLean was the only player on either team to reach double figures, finishing with 20 points. Alison Ebzery was outstanding on the glass for Newcastle with 13 rebounds, whilst Charlotte Bull added 7 boards in her first game back for the Hunters. No Comets players were able to reach double figures, with Megan Cantellano and Annie Turner sharing scoring honours with 7 points apiece. Samantha Hewitt was solid on the boards with 10 rebounds to go with her five points.

Comets 47 lost to Bankstown 63

Bankstown extended Comets’ misery whilst making it a perfect weekend for themselves with a 16 point victory in Sunday’s only game to join Manly at 9-4 and put a sizeable gap between themselves and Sutherland in the finals race.

Comets opened the scoring through Serika Shillingsworth in the first 20 seconds of the contest, but the opening stages were cagey and low-scoring, with Bankstown holding a 4-2 lead after 4 minutes of play. Casey Samuels and Jasmine Barlow were accurate early for the visitors, whilst Shillingsworth tallied five points in the opening term as Comets held a slender 13-12 lead after the first quarter.

Briana Maimone and Jaydene Barnes opened the second quarter well for Bankstown as the Bruins set about creating and then extending a lead. Samuels continued to do scoreboard damage for the Bruins, whilst Aleesha Coulter came up with a couple of three pointers as Bankstown extended the margin beyond one possession. On the other side, a large chunk of Comets’ scoring came from the charity stripe, with five of their 11 points coming via free throws, but Bankstown’s 18 points for the quarter saw them take a 30-24 lead into halftime.

Samuels continued her impressive outing into the third quarter, scoring all bar four of Bankstown’s 16 points for the term. Comets continued to hang tough, but merely sticking with Bankstown at nine points down would place the home side in a precarious position going into the final term. Whilst Shillingsworth was able to trim the margin to 41-37 with a three, Bankstown then scored the last five points of the quarter to restore a nine point lead at 46-37 with ten minutes to play.

A low-scoring opening to the final term saw Comets reduce Bankstown’s lead, but only slightly before Samuels restored the nine point buffer with a three pointer six minutes from time. Six quick points from Barnes and a basket from Coulter pushed the margin to 59-44 with 3 minutes remaining, and at that point the game was as good as over. With the teams only able to combine for seven points in the final three minutes, it was Bankstown who finished 63-47 winners.

Casey Samuels made the scoring leaders list for the second time in a weekend with 24 points, as well as 8 rebounds. Briana Maimone finished with 13 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists and 7 steals in an exemplary all-round performance, whilst Aleesha Coulter chipped in 10 points in the Bruins’ victory. Serika Shillingsworth top scored for Comets with 16 points, whilst Annie Turner added 10 for the home side. Tatyanna Pogonza-Dumas was outstanding on the boards, finishing with 11 rebounds to go with her 6 points.

Weekly Scoring Leaders:

Casey Samuels (Bankstown) – 29 points v Hornsby
Alicia Poto (Hornsby) – 25 points v Bankstown
Casey Samuels (Bankstown) – 24 points v Comets
Olivia White (Illawarra) – 22 points v Norths
Cassidy McLean (Newcastle) – 20 points v Comets

Youth League Week 15 Roundup

A couple of upsets shook things up slightly as the run to the playoffs gets to a very interesting point. There was no such drama for Central Coast though, who remain three games clear atop the Youth League standings.

Bankstown 72 defeated Hornsby 65

Tasmyn Haynes was a one-player wrecking ball against a depleted Hornsby side, scoring over half of Bankstown’s points in a result that, whilst not reviving the Bruins’ season, certainly shook up the playoff race.

Piper Duck helped Hornsby to a quick start, scoring five of the Spiders’ first eight points within two minutes of the opening tip. Early threes from Georgia Gale and Sabrina Zenatti kept Bankstown in touch in the opening minutes before Haynes collected 9 points in the remainder of the opening term. Haynes’ efforts helped Bankstown to a 20-14 lead, which could have been more if not for a couple of late Hornsby baskets from Erica Pitman.

Brittany Pulling started the second quarter with four points for Bankstown, but the three point shooting of Maddie Suprain combined with more points from Pitman saw Hornsby able to tie the game at 28-28 in a low-scoring second quarter. A pair of free throws from Maliame Mafile’O, her only points of the contest, restored Bankstown’s lead to 30-28 in the dying seconds of the half, but the second term certainly belonged to the understrength Spiders side.

Haynes helped Bankstown extend their lead in the opening minutes of the third quarter, but Hornsby’s shooting from beyond the arc continued to serve them well. Suprain, Pitman, and Serena Waters all knocked down threes, and with three minutes to play in the third term, Hornsby had taken a 40-39 lead. But an astounding 13 points from Haynes in the final 3 minutes of the term restored an 8 point Bankstown advantage with a quarter to play.

Accuracy at the line in the opening stages of the fourth quarter from Pitman and Waters moved Hornsby back within four points at 54-50 with just under 7 minutes to play, before Gale and Haynes kicked Bankstown back into gear. Five points from Haynes and four free throws from Gale pushed Bankstown out to a 63-52 lead with just over five minutes to play, before a pair of Zenatti free throws tacked another two points onto the lead. Hornsby rallied through Pitman and Waters, and when Duck’s basket fell, the score was suddenly 69-65 with 58 seconds to play. However, Hornsby’s best efforts to close the margin completely were unsuccessful, and Zenatti’s three in the final ten seconds secured a 72-65 win for the Bruins.

Tasmyn Haynes dominated proceedings with 41 points for Bankstown, with Sabrina Zenatti adding 13 for the victorious Bruins. In a side missing a number of players, Erica Pitman led Hornsby with 22 points. Serena Waters added 14, whilst Maddie Suprain tallied 12 for the depleted Spiders.

Newcastle 52 lost to Penrith 58

A fast-starting Penrith side barely managed to survive a Newcastle side that dominated the middle of the contest to move to ten wins and move tantalisingly close to securing playoff basketball.

A pair of Meg Creanor threes within a minute of the game’s commencement pushed Penrith to an 8-0 lead in the early stages. Hannah Fox quickly stepped in and ensured that the Panthers wouldn’t extend that lead any further with two quick baskets for Newcastle as the Hunters reduced the lead to 10-8 midway through the term. Penrith were able to put together a run in the final minutes of the quarter to re-establish a solid buffer though, moving out to a ten point lead before Fox’s late basket trimmed the Penrith lead to 23-15 after one quarter.

Dominika Offner knocked down a three to push Penrith out to a 13 point lead early in the second term, but the remainder of the quarter belonged the home team. Eliza Ormsby tallied six points to lead the Hunters on a late charge which kept the game interesting after it seemed as if Penrith were set to run away with things. By halftime, Penrith’s lead was just 5 at 34-29 and the game was back on a knife-edge.

Newcastle continued their charge in the third quarter as Penrith’s scoring simply dried up. Eleven third quarter points from Rachel James were more than the entire Penrith side managed in the term, and with support from a number of players, Newcastle were able to take a 49-44 lead into the final term.

However, it was then the Hunters’ turn to struggle on offence. A Melanie Edwards free throw was their only scoring play of the first seven minutes of the final term, and whilst Penrith weren’t exactly setting the world alight, they did enough to tie things up at 52-52 on Teiarna Offner’s free throws with 2 minutes to play. Natalia Beaumont, who had scored points at regular intervals all afternoon, stepped up with a basket and a late free throw as Penrith moved out to a 56-52 lead in the final minute. Dominika Offner was sent to the line in the final seconds as Newcastle fouled to stop the clock, and nailed both to deliver a vital 58-52 win to the Panthers.

Rachel James was Newcastle’s only player in double figures, scoring all 11 of her points in the third quarter. Four other Newcastle players scored seven or more points, but it wasn’t quite enough as the offence couldn’t produce in the fourth quarter. Natalia Beaumont top scored for Penrith with 15 points, with Dominika Offner adding 14 for the Panthers in a crucial victory.

Norths 70 lost to Illawarra 82

Illawarra secured a vital upset win which, when combined with Hornsby’s loss to Bankstown, saw the Hawks jump the Spiders into a playoff spot and Norths fall a game behind Hills in the chase for second spot.

A close-run opening few minutes saw Eleri Morris light it up for Illawarra with six points in the first six minutes of the contest. Carla Liebenberg had six of her own for Norths, but it was four late points from Alessandra Burke that pushed Norths out to a 19-14 lead after a quarter.

Illawarra showed enough in the opening quarter to suggest that they had something in them to hang with Norths throughout the game, and seven Paige Phillips points early in the term saw the Hawks’ point guard lead her side on a run that tied the game at 26-26. Liebenberg hit back for Norths, but seven consecutive points for Claudia Flynn delivered a 33-32 for Illawarra with just under 4 minutes remaining in the second quarter. The home side were able to rebound in the final minutes after seeming slightly flat at times in the second quarter, eventually rescuing their lead and holding on for a 36-35 advantage at halftime.

The halftime break may have been the worst thing for a Norths side that didn’t need its momentum broken. Morris and Phillips delivered a veritable blitzkrieg in the opening stages of the second half and suddenly Illawarra were up 53-40 after five minutes and looking to put the game to bed sooner rather than later. The Bears were able to find points here and there in the back end of the quarter, but were rarely able to make anything resembling a dent in the Hawks’ lead, and with Phillips and Flynn firing in the late stages of the term, the lead ballooned to 65-49 with ten minutes to play.

A Maddison Delaney three with seven minutes to play extended Illawarra’s lead to 20, and despite the final quarter efforts of Sarah-Jane Thomas and Alysha Skerritt, the visitors had wrapped this game up early in the fourth quarter. A late run from Norths reduced the margin to 82-70, but the Hawks were never in danger in the fourth quarter.

Paige Phillips led all scorers with 21 points in an exemplary performance for Illawarra. The Hawks’ point guard was supported excellently by Claudia Flynn and Eleri Morris, who each had 19 points as the visitors showcased their offence in a number of ways throughout the contest. Sarah-Jane Thomas top scored for Norths with 13 points, whilst Carla Liebenberg added 11 for the home side.

Liverpool-Macarthur 39 lost to Hills 47

Liverpool-Macarthur gave themselves a puncher’s chance against a Hills side missing Sherrie Calleia, but in the end the Hornets prevailed for an 8 point victory to keep themselves in the box seat for a bye through to the finals weekend.

Renee Muaulu led the home side in the first quarter with six early points as the Razorbacks took an early lead which they managed to hold deep into the opening term. However, Hills scored the last five points of the quarter courtesy of Zoe Burke and Laura Davidson to hold an 11-9 advantage after ten minutes of play.

Liverpool-Macarthur continued to hang tough in the second term as defence reigned supreme leading into halftime. The teams combined for just 11 points in the term, four of which went to the home side as Hills’ attempts to extend their margin were only mildly successful, with the scoreline reading 18-13 at halftime.

Fortunately for the spectators, the third quarter was slightly more eventful. Madison Hare fired in the early stages for Hills as the visitors pushed their lead out to 26-17 before Bianca Carusio scored five points in a row for Liverpool-Macarthur to trim the lead to just four points. Whilst Hills were able to push out the lead once again, a late Rayan Danine three ensured the Razorbacks remained in close contention at 32-27 with a quarter to play.

Hills were able to push their margin back out to eight points early in the final quarter, but Danine and Taylor Muaulu dragged the Razorbacks within two at 35-33 with just under 7 minutes to play. Unfortunately though, that would be as close as the home side would come to their second victory of the season as Hare continued her outstanding day, single-handedly going on a 6-1 run before Rachael Mules knocked down a three to move Hills to a 44-36 lead. That proved to be enough for Hills to secure victory as the teams combined for just six points in the final four minutes or so as Hills ran out 47-39 winners.

Madison Hare was undoubtedly Hills’ star with her 21 points representing nearly half of her team’s total. Rayan Danine and Taylor Muaulu each finished on 12 points for Liverpool-Macarthur in a valiant effort.

Manly 50 lost to Sutherland 71

Sutherland’s season remains on life support but there is still a faint pulse after a 71-50 victory over high-flying Manly. The win took Sutherland to 7-9, and whilst the Sharks will probably have to win out from here to make the playoffs, they at least still stand a chance after the win.

Unfortunately, with no details available for this game, there will be no report. Apparently Maddy Norris hit a bunch of shots in the fourth quarter though, which sounds pretty accurate.

Central Coast 68 defeated Newcastle 55

The basketball edition of the F3 Derby ended with Central Coast ensuring their visitors from the north would not be taking a W home with them with a dominant victory over the 10th placed Hunters. The win leaves Central Coast three wins clear of Hills and Manly with five games to play.

The majority of the first quarter was a close-run affair, and with 90 seconds left the score was still 6-6. However, a late flurry of points from Central Coast, kickstarted by a Lucy Chapman three, saw the home side take a 13-6 lead into the first break.

Newcastle swung things back in their favour slightly, opening the second quarter with the first four points and preventing Central Coast from adding to their tally for the first 2 minutes of the term. But when the Crusaders did finally get the scoreboard ticking over again, they were devastating. Threes from Chapman, Shakera Reilly, and Losalini Katia in the space of a minute or so pushed the Crusaders out to a 22-10 lead and suddenly it was all looking a bit shaky for Newcastle. Hannah Fox led a late charge for the Hunters, but Alessandra Gasparotto countered with some late scoring of her to deliver a 35-20 lead for the Crusaders at halftime.

Reilly put the hammer down in the third quarter, scoring nine points in all as the Crusaders kept their foot on the Hunters’ throat. Despite a number of Newcastle players finding the basket in the third term, the home side’s scoring consistency ensured the lead continued to grow and by the time the term had finished, the lead had ballooned to 52-32 with a quarter to play.

The Hunters put on a far better showing in the final quarter, with Fox, Alison Ebzery, and Rachel James getting amongst the points. However, the Crusaders had little problem putting the game away, finishing with a 68-55 victory to continue their march towards top seeding in the playoffs.

Alessandra Gasparotto led all scorers with 16 points for Central Coast, with Shakera Reilly tallying 14. Lucy Chapman added 12, whilst Losalini Katia and Charlie Evans added 9 apiece. Hannah Fox top scored for Newcastle with 14 points, with Rachel James adding 11 and Alison Ebzery registering 8 points for the Hunters.

Weekly Scoring Leaders:

Tasmyn Haynes (Bankstown) – 41 points v Hornsby
Erica Pitman (Hornsby) – 22 points v Bankstown
Madison Hare (Hills) – 21 points v Liverpool-Macarthur
Paige Phillips (Illawarra) – 21 points v Norths
Claudia Flynn (Illawarra) – 19 points v Norths
Eleri Morris (Illawarra) – 19 points v Norths

Youth League Week 14 Roundup

Hills and Illawarra secured vital victories but they had to work for them, whilst an understrength Hornsby fired on offence for a famous victory over Penrith. Meanwhile, Norths and Manly both won as they continue their battle for second place.

Bankstown 60 lost to Hills 65

Both teams found scoring from a variety of sources as no less than seven players reached double figures, but it was Hills who finished the stronger to secure a vital five point victory to remain in a tie for third place with Norths.

The visitors got away to a flying start, opening up a 10-2 lead within 3 minutes of the game’s commencement courtesy of some early baskets from Madison Hare and Anja Kolodziej. The margin held steady through much of the first quarter as Sabrina Zenatti both added early points for Bankstown to counter the three point shooting of Sherrie Calleia and Zoe Burke. The Bruins managed to trim the margin to five, but Hare and Kelsey Curtin pushed Hills’ lead back out to 25-16 by the end of the opening term.

Bankstown hit back in the second quarter as Tasmyn Haynes led the Bruins on a charge which would see the home side outscore Hills 13-4 to open the second quarter. But a well-placed timeout from Hills allowed the visitors to regroup and bounce back in the latter stages of the quarter. Rachael Mules added five points and Kolodziej continued her solid start to the game to keep Hills ahead, but Zenatti converted a pair of free throws in the dying seconds of the half to leave the game on a knife-edge at 38-36.

Hills pushed back out to a six point lead in the early stages of the third term, but Bankstown refused to let the visitors get away as a low scoring quarter dominated by defence ensured that the Bruins would not be able to extend the margin. The margin hovered around the five point mark throughout the third quarter before a late basket from Burke pushed Hills to a 50-44 lead with one quarter to play.

Brittany Pulling brought out her best Isaiah Thomas impression with some outstanding fourth quarter play. Her consistent scoring, backed up by Haynes, not only cut into Hills’ lead but also delivered Bankstown a 58-56 lead before a Hills timeout just after the midway point of the final term. Calleia and Mules both hit shots to restore Hills’ advantage before Burke made it a five point game at 63-58 with 2:17 to play.

Haynes closed the margin to 63-60 with just over 90 seconds to play, but unfortunately for Bankstown that would be their final score of the game. However, with the game teetering on the precipice at 63-60, it would still take a Zoe Burke basket in the dying seconds to seal a vital 65-60 victory for Hills.

Tasmyn Haynes led all scorers with 18 points for Bankstown, and was backed up ably by 15 points from Sabrina Zenatti and 13 points from Brittany Pulling. Madison Hare led Hills with 14 points, whilst Zoe Burke added 13. Anja Kolodziej chipped in 12, whilst Rachael Mules tallied 10 as four players reached double figures for the visitors.

Illawarra 48 defeated Newcastle 45

The battle of the regional cities was a topsy-turvy battle that went right down to the wire at the Snakepit as Illawarra escaped with a win to remain right on the cusp of the playoff spots.

The teams kept pace with each other in the early stages of the first quarter as Illawarra jumped out to a five point lead before Newcastle reeled in the home side in to keep within two with three minutes remaining in the opening term. However, Illawarra were then able to break off a scoring run that gave the Hawks a solid lead after the first quarter. Maddison Delaney and Ebony Petre both hit shots, and Bronte Covington found the basket with a delicious move and kiss off the glass to help the Hawks to a 19-9 lead after one quarter.

Paige Phillips opened the second quarter with her only three of the game to put the Hawks up by 13, but as Illawarra’s offence slowed, Newcastle were able to chip away at the margin. Hannah Fox and Eliza Ormsby helped move the Hunters within 8, countering Illawarra’s Eleri Morris, who added four points for the home side. Despite the Hunters’ efforts, a late basket from Petre ensured the Hawks remained ahead by double-figures with the score reading 30-20 at halftime.

Although Newcastle had chipped away slightly in the second quarter, the third is where the comeback really began. Three free throws were the only scoring Illawarra could muster in the first five minutes of the period as Fox and Alison Ebzery helped push Newcastle within four before Illawarra called a timeout midway through the term. It mattered little as Ebzery continued to punish the Hawks after the stoppage, and when Laura Dick nailed a three in the final minute of the quarter, the Hunters had taken a 37-34 lead which they would hold going into the final quarter.

Newcastle managed to do just enough early in the fourth quarter to maintain a lead, but when Morris knocked down Illawarra’s second three of the game, there was a sense that the momentum was swinging the Hawks’ way and Newcastle called a timeout. Morris was the first to score out of the timeout to tie things up, but Ormsby countered with a basket of her own to restore the Hunters’ lead. Morris and Ebzery traded baskets, and when the Hawks’ Maddison Delaney split a pair at the line, the game was tied at 45-45 with 1:51 to play.

Neither team was able to find their way to points for over a minute before Newcastle took a timeout to set up their offence for what could possibly have been the winning basket. But a steal in the backcourt led to a Maddison Delaney basket to put Illawarra up 47-45. Newcastle managed to get the ball inside on their next possession, but the shot was off-target and Claudia Flynn picked up a trademark tough rebound and was promptly fouled by Ebzery to stop the clock. Flynn split a pair at the line, leaving Newcastle with just over 5 seconds to potentially tie the game with a 3. The Hunters managed to get reasonably close to the three point line, but still required a Hail Mary shot, which fell just short to see Illawarra grab a vital win.

One player from each side finished in double figures, with Eleri Morris and Alison Ebzery each tallying 13 points. Maddison Delaney added 9 for the Hawks, whilst Hannah Fox and Eliza Ormsby tallied 8 apiece for Newcastle.

Liverpool-Macarthur 52 lost to Manly 70

Manly remain in second place after a solid 18 point win over Liverpool-Macarthur that kept the Sea Eagles just ahead of Hills and Norths in the race for a bye to finals weekend.

Opening the game on a 10-0 run quickly put the Sea Eagles on the front foot in the early stages. Antonia Henderson and Faith Bulgin each tallied multiple baskets to set the tone for the remainder of the game as both players starred for the visitors. Emilie Krimmer also chipped in a couple of baskets in the early running, but Eloise Faalavaau and Taylor Muaulu dragged the Razorbacks within three points at 19-16 down after the opening term.

Kimberley Sepuloni opened the second quarter scoring for Liverpool-Macarthur, but a 13-0 run for Manly, led by eight points from Bulgin, put Manly up by 14 midway through the period. Liverpool-Macarthur were able to stem the flow in the second half of the quarter, but unlike the first quarter, they were unable to eat into the margin and the second quarter ended with Manly up 39-26.

Although the Razorbacks were unable to trim the lead in the second quarter, they were able to do just that in the third. Four early points from Rayan Danine provided a solid start for the home side, but things looked less promising when Bulgin and Henderson continued their outstanding days to move Manly into a 49-36 lead after a Krimmer free throw with a minute to play in the quarter. However, the Razorbacks scored the last six points of the quarter with a flurry of points to be just seven points down at 49-42 with a quarter to play.

The fourth quarter saw things remain fairly stable as early baskets from Krimmer and Henderson were countered by points from the Razorbacks. In a low-scoring term, four points from Renee Muaulu were enough to help see the home side remain within striking distance at 57-49 down with three minutes to play. However, a late flurry from Henderson and Bulgin, with assistance from Caitlin Keefe, saw the Sea Eagles end the game on a 13-3 run which extinguished any hopes of an upset and delivered a 70-52 win for Manly.

Taylor Muaulu led the home side with 12 points, whilst Renee Muaulu and Eloise Faalavaau each chipped in 9 for the Razorbacks. Faith Bulgin led all scorers with 22 points for Manly, with support coming in the form of 17 points for Antonia Henderson and 11 points for Emilie Krimmer.

Sutherland 40 lost to Norths 70

Norths have no choice but to keep winning to hold off Hills and keep the pressure on Manly, and did exactly that with a comprehensive 30 point victory over Sutherland.

The visitors powered ahead in the opening minutes, with four points from Ali Burke helping the Bears to an early 12-4 lead as the Sharks were unable to direct the ball into the basket in the early stages. Despite this, some improved defence and late scoring from Gabby Turnbull and Maddy Norris ensured the Sharks would go into the second quarter down by just five at 14-9 after ten minutes of play.

Threes from Alice Ballhausen and Burke opened the second quarter scoring as Norths looked to re-establish their margin, but a 7-0 run courtesy of points from Brianna Morris, Parrish Leavai, and Deanna Kalivitis ensured the Sharks would not go away quite so easily. Alysha Skerritt helped Norths get out to a 8 point lead, and in a low-scoring quarter, Ballhausen’s three with just under two minutes to play proved to be the final points of the half as Norths took a 27-16 lead into halftime.

Turnbull and Norris combined to give Sutherland the first five points of the second half, but that was where the close contest ended as Norths kicked away. Geena Valos and Charlotte Gorman knocked down threes in amongst scoring from Burke and Skerritt, and whilst Sutherland were able to add points here and there, it was no match for Norths’ now-dominant scoring. An 8-0 run ended the term for the Bears and quickly the score had blown out to 47-27 with a quarter to play.

With the Bears in no mood to slow down, Sarah-Jane Thomas scored a quick six points as Sutherland were able to counter with points of their own, but unable to trim Norths’ lead. Valos and Burke continued to find points throughout the final quarter as Norths added another 10 points to the margin for a dominant 70-40 victory.

Maddy Norris was Sutherland’s only player in double figures, finishing with 11 points, whilst Gabby Turnbull added 7 for the Sharks. Ali Burke was Norths’ top scorer with 16 points, with Alysha Skerritt tallying 12 for the visitors. Geena Valos and Alice Ballhausen also reached double figures, with each adding 10 points in the win.

Penrith 66 lost to Hornsby 81

A Penrith side missing Natalia Beaumont took on a Hornsby side that dressed just six players, but it was the heavily depleted Spiders side that fired on offence for a 15 point victory to move a game ahead of the Panthers and take fifth spot on the ladder.

Penrith scored the first eight points of the game as Dominika and Teiarna Offner each hit threes in the first couple of minutes. The visitors were unfazed though, with Jess Sancataldo scoring 7 of the Spiders’ first 8 points to tie the game at 8-8. Dominika Offner re-established Penrith’s lead, but 9 points from Sancataldo and 5 from Erica Pitman saw Hornsby take a 14-9 lead, something that could have been considered slightly unexpected given the events of the first two minutes.

Sancataldo continued to add to her tally in the second quarter, whilst Maddie Suprain found her range for a couple of threes to open her account. However, a rounded scoring performance from the Panthers which saw a number of players get their names on the scoresheet ensured that the hot-shooting Spiders wouldn’t be able to get too far ahead as the second quarter ended with the Spiders leading 31-25 on the back of a last-second three for Suprain.

Suprain and Sancataldo combined for 12 points in just over 3 minutes to open the second half for the Spiders, and with the home side only able to add four points in response, Hornsby quickly opened up a 43-29 lead. Meg Creanor and Binta Salawu helped drag the Panthers back into the contest before Sarah Creanor trimmed the Spiders’ lead to 51-44 with two minutes remaining in the third quarter. Despite that, late scoring from Pitman and Sancataldo edged Hornsby’s lead out to 57-44 with a quarter to play.

Dominika Offner added some early points for the Panthers, but Erica Pitman showcased laser-guided accuracy in the final term, adding 11 points for the Spiders to put the Penrith side away. With Sancataldo and Suprain reverting to rear-gunner roles but still hitting their shots, the Spiders cruised to an 81-66 victory.

Dominika Offner led the Panthers with 14 points, whilst Meg Jefferson chipped in at regular intervals to add 11 for the home side. Meanwhile, the Spiders finished with three players contributing over 20 points. Jess Sancataldo led all scorers with 28, Maddie Suprain added 23, and Erica Pitman’s last quarter barraged took her total for the game to 21 in a surprise victory for the understrength Spiders.

Central Coast defeated Liverpool-Macarthur (game not played, awarded to Central Coast)

Weekly Scoring Leaders:

Jess Sancataldo (Hornsby) – 28 points v Penrith
Maddie Suprain (Hornsby) – 23 points v Penrith
Faith Bulgin (Manly) – 22 points v Liverpool-Macarthur
Erica Pitman (Hornsby) – 21 points v Penrith
Antonia Henderson (Manly) – 17 points v Liverpool-Macarthur

Waratah Championship Week 12 Roundup

It’s becoming more apparent that Hornsby and Norths will finish as the top two teams in the Championship after their wins this week. However, Suzy Batkovic was the undoubted star of the week with an almost unfathomable performance against Illawarra.

Bankstown 67 defeated Hills 45

Bankstown continued their push towards finals with a win over eighth placed Hills to maintain a gap between themselves and Sutherland and also keep pressure on third placed Manly.

Opening the game on a 12-0 run led by player-coach Briana Maimone, Bankstown set about asserting their dominance from the outset, and their first quarter performance certainly did that. With Hills unable to get on the scoreboard until the seventh minute of play, Bankstown looked set to jump away to a game-winning lead even at that early point. To Hills’ credit, though, they ended the opening term on a 9-3 run to ensure Bankstown would only take a six point lead into the second quarter as Brittany Ridlen added four late points for the Hornets.

Hills opened the second quarter scoring over two minutes into the term courtesy of Zoe Burke before Emma Claus hit a three to move Hills within a point of the Bruins at 15-14. However, ten points from Casey Samuels, which represented all of Bankstown’s scoring for the quarter, restored the Bruins’ buffer even as Madison Hare tallied a couple of late baskets for the Hornets. The quarter ended 10-9 in Bankstown’s favour as an outstanding effort from Hills saw them trail by just seven as the halftime score read 25-18 to the Bruins’ advantage.

Maimone and Samuels continued their solid scoring days into the third quarter as Bankstown began to establish more of a significant margin in the second half. The home side opened the quarter on a 13-5 run, with a couple of baskets from Claus the only thing preventing the Bruins from blowing the game open even further than they eventually did. A pair of Paris Roditis free throws trimmed the margin to 13 before Bankstown went on another run, extending the lead to 46-31 by the end of the term as the scoring slowed in the minutes before the last break.

Bankstown came out firing to open the fourth as well, with a 9-2 run pushing the lead past 20 points. The margin would hover around that mark for the remainder of the contest as Maimone and Madison Bennett added some more points in garbage time to see Bankstown run out 67-45 winners.

Casey Samuels led all scorers with 18 points, whilst Briana Maimone added 14 and Madison Bennett chipped in 11 for the Bruins, whilst Maimone also finished with 8 rebounds to lead all players. Paris Roditis top scored for Hills with 13 points, whilst Emma Claus finished with 12 points and 5 rebounds for the Hornets.

Box Score

Illawarra 64 lost to Newcastle 71

A valiant effort from Illawarra kept the Kittyhawks in the hunt throughout this contest, but a vintage Suzy Batkovic performance led Newcastle to a seven point victory.

The first couple of minutes were tight enough, but Newcastle soon went on a scoring run that pushed the Hunters out to a double-digit lead late in the quarter. Cassidy McLean, Suzy Batkovic, and Alison Ebzery all converted multiple scoring opportunities in the opening term as the visitors moved out to a 17-6 lead after Megan Johnson’s basket to round out a dominant back end to the opening term for Newcastle.

The Newcastle lead ballooned to 15 on the back of six points from Batkovic to start the quarter, but when the Opals legend picked up her third foul, Georgia Ohrdorf went to work for Illawarra. The Metro State University star dominated the latter stages of the first half with six points in the last three minutes as the half ended with the scoreboard reading 33-28 in Newcastle’s favour – a vast improvement on how things had been for Illawarra five minutes earlier.

Batkovic returned with a vengeance in the third quarter, opening proceedings with six more points as her tally continued to swell. Ohrdorf and Lauren Sparks continued to find points for the Kittyhawks, but Batkovic, combined with late support from Emily Keith, ensured Newcastle would take a 58-45 lead into the final term.

Illawarra refused to lie down though. The home side scored the first five points of the final term to move within 8 just a minute into the fourth quarter. Ebzery and Bianca Green pushed Newcastle back out to a 12 point lead before Sparks and Batkovic traded threes to maintain that margin. A Tiarna Porter basket with just over 2 minutes to play kept Illawarra within 8, but from that point the offence simply dried up at both ends. Batkovic scored Newcastle’s final points right on the 2 minute mark, and Illawarra’s comeback attempt was halted as Paige Phillips’ late three proved to be the only score of the final two minutes as Newcastle took home a 71-64 victory to move to 5-7.

Suzy Batkovic was simply unstoppable for the Hunters. Finishing with an astounding 39 points, 24 rebounds, and 6 blocks, the reigning WNBL MVP accounted for over half of Newcastle’s scoring. Cassidy McLean also picked up a number of rebounds, tallying 10 boards to go with 5 points. Lauren Sparks top scored for Illawarra with 20 points and also tallied 6 assists, whilst Georgia Ohrdorf added a double-double with 17 points and 13 rebounds in a sterling effort.

Box Score

Comets 57 lost to Hornsby 78

A vastly understrength Hornsby dressed just six players for this game, but still managed to get the job done. Four players reached double figures in a 21 point victory over Comets which leaves the Spiders just one win shy of mathematically securing top spot.

With just the one player on the bench, it would have been reasonable to think that the Spiders’ biggest test would come in the latter stages of the game. However, the opening moments saw Comets take a 10-9 lead midway through the first quarter on the back early scoring from Megan Cantellano and Serika Shllingsworth. Hornsby quickly got back on top though, with Serena Waters coming off the bench to score five points in 17 seconds and put the visitors up 18-14 after one quarter.

The second quarter saw Hornsby extend their lead in the early stages with back-to-back threes from Alicia Poto. Comets remained right in the contest though as Tatyanna Pogonza-Dumas edged the home side back within four. The Spiders quickly broke off a 9-0 run courtesy of Waters, Rachel Maenpaa, and Darneka Rowe, and quickly the game was spiralling out of Comets’ reach. Fortunately for the home side, Annie Turner added the last three points of the quarter to keep Comets within 11, with the halftime score reading 35-24 in Hornsby’s favour.

The third quarter was Maenpaa’s time to shine. Backed up by Waters, the former SEABL player helped the Spiders move their advantage out to 54-35 by the end of the quarter with eight third quarter points. Maja Jurlina added seven for Comets, but with little support, the Spiders’ lead was bound to increase, and a 19 point margin with a quarter to play meant the game was all but done as a contest.

The fourth quarter was a far tighter affair as the effects of playing with just one available substitute perhaps took its toll on the Spiders. Kristina Moore continued to add points from the line for Hornsby, whilst Poto kept up her shooting from beyond the arc to knock down a couple in the final term. Turner was exemplary for Comets in the final term as the home side were able to tally 22 points in the final term. However, Hornsby added 24 to run out 78-57 victors.

Rachel Maenpaa and Alicia Poto each finished with 18 points and double figures in rebounds as the two senior players collected double-doubles. Kristina Moore also finished with a double-double, tallying 14 points and 11 rebounds, whilst Serena Waters added 13 points and 7 rebounds. Annie Turner was Comets’ leader with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Maja Jurlina added 10 points, whilst Tatyanna Pogonza-Dumas was outstanding on the boards, finishing with 13 rebounds to go with 7 points.

Box Score

Sutherland 46 lost to Norths 66

Norths all but mathematically secured a finals spot with a 20 point win over Sutherland that also dropped the Sharks a game behind Bankstown in the race for fourth place.

The Bears flew out of the gates, opening the game on an 11-1 run. Points came from all over the court, with Tristan Black and Jaimee Kennedy getting things done inside before Kate Seebohm and Kallie Hovatter came to the party with baskets of their own. Jacki Nicholson knocked down a pair of threes to keep Sutherland in the hunt, but Norths rattled off another 7 points to end the quarter with a 20-9 lead that put the Sharks on the back foot early.

The second quarter was a better affair for Sutherland, cutting the margin to 8 at one point. Lisa Watkins added 7 points and Peta Kneen found her way to the line a couple of times before knocking down a three. But with Sutherland managing just one scoring play in the final four minutes, it allowed Norths the opportunity to re-establish a double-figure margin. Taylor Jones hit a couple of threes and Razz Muir added a late basket to actually see Norths extend their margin by two points to 37-24 at halftime.

Peta Kneen and Rachel Herrick combined for 10 early points for the Sharks as the third quarter began with a flurry. However, as was the case in the second quarter, the back end of the quarter belonged to Norths. The Sharks started the quarter on a 9-4 run, but by the end of the term the Bears had trimmed that to 13-12 for the quarter and in the process ensured their lead would remain almost unchanged. Seebohm continued to add points at regular intervals behind the charge from Jaimee Kennedy to ensure Norths would hold a 12 point lead going into the final quarter.

The fourth quarter brought out the best in Kallie Hovatter as the American point guard added 12 points in the final term, which outscored Sutherland’s entire production for the quarter. Youngster Hannah Clinen added four points for the Sharks, but any comeback bid was dashed as the home side could tally just nine points in the final term as Norths rolled to a 66-46 win.

Peta Kneen top scored for Sutherland with 12 points, and also collected 7 rebounds. Jane Scrivens managed just 3 points but contributed on the glass with 10 rebounds. Kallie Hovatter’s 12 final quarter points led to a total of 14 for the American, who also added 7 rebounds and 6 steals. Jaimee Kennedy completed an outstanding double-double of 12 points and 16 rebounds, whilst Kate Seebohm tallied 9 points and 4 steals.

Box Score

Weekly Scoring Leaders:

Suzy Batkovic (Newcastle) – 39 points v Illawarra
Lauren Sparks (Illawarra) – 20 points v Newcastle
Rachel Maenpaa (Hornsby) – 18 points v Comets
Alicia Poto (Hornsby) – 18 points v Comets
Casey Samuels (Bankstown) – 18 points v Hills

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