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

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 4 Roundup

Manly and Norths dished out a pair of blowouts on Saturday, whilst the Suzy Batkovic era started with a bang for Newcastle as the defending champions played out a pair of thrillers.

Comets 47 lost to Norths 80

A close-run opening quarter gave way to a total demolition job by Norths as the visitors came away with a comprehensive victory after some early jitters. Some poor shooting from the Bears in the opening quarter saw the visitors unable to capitalise on a few open looks, and Serika Shillingsworth made Norths pay. The young Comets star knocked down a pair of three pointers in the back end of the opening term to help Comets stay in touch and eventually tie the game late in the first quarter.

The home side continued to fire early in the second quarter, with five consecutive points giving Comets their first lead of the game. However, that was about the end of the good news for the home side as Norths started to find their rhythm. Led by 14 second quarter points from Kallie Hovatter, the Bears put together a 24-2 run that comprised much of the term to take a 34-17 lead into halftime. The Comets’ cause was not assisted in any way by committing an almost obscene eleven turnovers in the quarter as Norths quickly pulled away.

The third quarter was perhaps more of a contest, but the Bears continued to increase the margin. Kate Cranney and Jaimee Seebohm led the way as Norths put together a 28 point term, with scoring support from a variety of options. Comets were able to score 16 in the quarter, but turnovers continued to plague the home side, who finished the game having given the ball away 33 times.

With the game over as a contest early, Norths coach Shannon Seebohm gave his younger players an extended run in the fourth quarter. Elle Carroll in particular took advantage, scoring all five of her points for the game in the final term as the Bears ran out 80-47 winners.

Kallie Hovatter led all scorers with 16 points, all of which came in the first half. The American also collected 7 rebounds and 5 steals, whilst also dishing out 4 assists. Jaimee Seebohm was outstanding on both ends, finishing with 14 points, 14 rebounds, 4 assists, and 4 steals in a comprehensive performance. Kate Cranney dropped in 15 points, and was also outstanding on defence with 8 rebounds and 7 steals. Muffi Loader excelled in her first game back in Australia after a season in college, finishing with 13 points. Serika Shillingsworth led Comets with 9 points, whilst Samantha Hewitt finished with 8 points and 7 rebounds.

Box Score

Newcastle 83 defeated Bankstown 75

With the return of Cassidy McLean from injury and the addition of five time WNBL MVP Suzy Batkovic, one could have been forgiven for thinking that this game would be a procession for Newcastle. However, Bankstown had other ideas. The experienced Bruins came out firing and opened up a 25-19 lead after the first quarter, with former Sydney Uni Flames player Casey Samuels firing for the visitors. Batkovic slowly found her rhythm in her first game for the Hunters, but the Bruins continued to extend their lead to open up a 49-34 margin by halftime.

Whilst Batkovic wasn’t scoring heavily in the early stages, the Townsville Fire stalwart drew foul after foul to see the Bruins deep in foul trouble for the majority of the second half. This allowed Batkovic and McLean to dominate in the final quarter. McLean scored 13 of her 17 points in the final term, whilst Batkovic dominated the Bruins in the paint to finish with a brilliant 32 points and 16 rebounds in her first outing for her hometown team. Together, the Hunters’ WNBL pairing led the team home with a mind-boggling 35-12 final quarter to snatch an 83-75 win.

Batkovic led all scorers with an outstanding 32 points and 16 rebounds. Cassidy McLean fired in the second half to finish with 17 points, 6 assists, and 5 rebounds, whilst Cassie Pentney also reached double figures with 12 points. Casey Samuels was exemplary for Bankstown with 31 points, 5 assists, and 5 rebounds. Madison Bennett finished with 11 points and 7 rebounds, but there was little other support from the Bruins as Newcastle came from the clouds to complete a remarkable comeback.

Box Score

Hills 43 lost to Manly 85

As if an ex-WNBL core wasn’t enough for Manly, this game saw Belinda Snell hit the court for the Sea Eagles for the first time. The game progressed as would be expected as Manly put together a 20-11 lead after the first quarter on the back of early scoring from Rebecca Duke. Little changed in the second quarter as Manly more than doubled their lead, with the WNBL cavalry doing the bulk of the scoring for the Sea Eagles and holding Hills to 11 points in each of the first two quarters.

Holding a 41-22 lead at halftime, the visitors clamped down on defence in the third quarter, holding Hills to just five points for the period. The Sea Eagles continued to share the scoring amongst their more experienced players, but Candice Trevenna was the undoubted leader of the team on this day. A 24-16 final term only served to rub salt into the wound as the young Hills side were unable to match it with a Manly side teeming with elite level experience.

Candice Trevenna racked up 20 points for Manly and also collected 8 rebounds, whilst Rebecca Duke, Kristen Forbes, and Belinda Snell also hit double figures. Emma Claus was Hills’ top scorer, finishing with 13 points and 7 rebounds in a valiant effort in an overmatched side.

Box Score

Newcastle 63 lost to Hornsby 67

The Suzy Batkovic era started with a bang on Saturday, and the Hunters looked primed to make it two from two against Hornsby. A well-rounded performance from the entire Newcastle team saw the home side go up by 18 late in the second quarter. Hornsby trimmed the margin to 33-21 by halftime, but the game was still firmly in Newcastle’s grasp.

However, Hornsby slowly forced their way back into the game. The Spiders found their way to the free throw line repeatedly in the third quarter and promptly capitalised on their chances, even as Batkovic was compiling a second straight impressive stat line to lead from the front for Newcastle. With Alicia Poto, Darneka Rowe, and Olivia Sheehan hitting shots with regularity, Hornsby were able to trim the margin to 48-45 with one quarter to play and the Spiders holding all the momentum.

The Hunters managed to hold onto their lead until midway through the fourth quarter despite the onslaught from Hornsby. That onslaught finally brought about a lead for the visitors when Serena Waters knocked down a three pointer with 4:20 to play and the miraculous comeback win was well and truly in play. Darneka Rowe hit a jump shot of her own, but Batkovic and Sophie Parente combined for five straight points to restore Newcastle’s advantage.

Rowe earned a pair of free throws with just over 90 seconds to play and was composed at the charity stripe to put Hornsby up 62-61, but with 30 seconds to go the score had not changed. Hornsby gained possession and called a timeout after a foul to draw up a play with 27 seconds to play. In a team featuring an Olympian in Alicia Poto and ex-WNBL player Darneka Rowe, it was instead NSW Country Under 18s representative Serena Waters who took on the responsibility of hitting the crucial shot, which she promptly did, knocking down her second three pointer of the quarter with 14 seconds to play. Emily Keith brought Newcastle within two with six seconds to play, but Hornsby managed to inbounds the ball to Alicia Poto. Poto was promptly fouled and the Opals stalwart iced the game from the line, hitting a pair of free throws to push Hornsby ahead 67-63.

Batkovic was undoubtedly the star of the game, finishing with 25 points and 15 rebounds. Alison Ebzery also managed 11 points, but the shared scoring of the Hornsby side proved to be too much in the end. Alicia Poto top-scored with 16 points, and also dished out 6 assists in the win, with her pair of three-pointers at the end of the second quarter vital in keeping Hornsby in the contest. Olivia Sheehan shot an efficient 5-9 from the field to tally 12 points and also collected six rebounds. Darneka Rowe also had six rebounds to go with 11 points of her own, whilst Serena Waters’ vital three pointers down the stretch carried her to double figures, with the youngster finishing with an even 10 points.

Box Score

Sutherland 73 defeated Illawarra 43

An understrength Illawarra team carrying just seven players on its roster made the trip up the F6 to take on a Sutherland team looking to make it two wins on the trot after defeating Newcastle in the week before Easter. Despite Sutherland missing a couple of players themselves, the game progressed as expected in the first quarter. Peta Kneen scored 8 points in the first quarter for the Sharks as the home side quickly moved out to an 18-8 lead.

The young Hawks side put up far more of a fight in the second quarter, surrendering only 16 points as the margin was extended by just five more points after a comparatively disastrous first quarter. Despite being up against it from the outset, the visitors were solid through the middle of the game. Coming out of the break, Illawarra had their best quarter of the game. With a couple of players in foul trouble and only two options on the bench, the team could have been forgiven for playing conservatively, but instead they rallied and kept the Sharks in check. Kneen continued her excellent scoring afternoon with support from Ashleigh Heal, but Illawarra managed to keep the score for the quarter to 17-16 with a valiant effort.

The fourth quarter saw Sutherland’s strength in depth come to the fore, with a 22-8 final period seeing the scoreboard read 73-43 in the Sharks’ favour come the final buzzer. Peta Kneen led all scorers with 24 points as well as 12 rebounds. Ashleigh Heal finished with 16 points, whilst Lisa Watkins tallied 10 of her own. Jane Scrivens was outstanding on the defensive end for the Sharks with 11 rebounds and 5 steals. Paige Phillips top scored for Illawarra with 15 points, whilst Olivia White was just shy of a double-double, finishing with 8 points and 10 rebounds, as well as four steals. However, turnovers plagued the Hawks all night, finishing with 31 for the game compared to Sutherland’s 20.

Box Score

Weekly Scoring Leaders:

Suzy Batkovic (Newcastle) – 32 points v Bankstown
Casey Samuels (Bankstown) – 31 points v Newcastle
Suzy Batkovic (Newcastle) – 25 points v Hornsby
Peta Kneen (Sutherland) – 24 points v Illawarra

SEABL Season Preview

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

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

Sydney Uni Sparks Junior National Championship Stats

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

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

Sydney Uni Sparks 2016/17 WNBL Stats

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

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

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

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

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

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