At The Turn: Bankstown Bruins

As each Waratah Championship team reaches the halfway mark of their season, Sky Blue Hoops will take a look at their campaign to this point and their chances going forward. In this piece, we focus on the Bankstown Bruins, who have started reasonably well and placed themselves in the finals hunt in the process.

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

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

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

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

Waratah Championship Week 9 Roundup

Hornsby won their ninth game on the trot and left Newcastle’s finals hopes in tatters in the process, whilst a vastly improved performance from Illawarra wasn’t quite enough to slow down a solid Manly side.

Hornsby 88 defeated Newcastle 78

Hornsby established an early lead and consolidated their dominance throughout the majority of the contest to remain undefeated, whilst Newcastle’s finals hope hang by a thread after dropping to 3-6 with this loss.

The Spiders started the better of the two teams and quickly jumped out to a 14-4 lead, with Rachel Maenpaa and Kristina Moore leading the way for the home side. Newcastle were able to hold the margin at 10 for much of the opening term, but never made any real inroads until Cassidy McLean’s three, which was the last score of the quarter, trimmed Hornsby’s lead to 24-17.

Hornsby started the second quarter well, but Suzy Batkovic began to make her mark on the game with six quick points as Newcastle came within five points before a pair of Alicia Poto three pointers gave Hornsby a bit more breathing room. A late run to end the quarter which saw the Spiders find scoring from a variety of players saw the Spiders put the game firmly in their control by halftime with the scoreboard reading 50-34 in the home side’s favour.

Batkovic continued to lead the scoring for Newcastle in the third quarter, but stopping Hornsby from finding the bottom of the basket proved difficult for the visitors. Darneka Rowe shone throughout the third quarter with nine points in the period for the Spiders, who continued to find points in a variety of ways. Despite losing Liv Sheehan to a knock early in the quarter, the home side pushed their lead out to 20 at one point, but a late charge from the Hunters cut the margin to 14 with a quarter to play.

Newcastle used the momentum generated from that late third quarter run to force their way back into the contest. A Sophie Parente jumper trimmed the margin to seven with just under 6 minutes to play, and the Hornsby lead hovered around that figure, with the teams still separated by seven after Batkovic converted a pair at the line with 2:35 to play.

Kristina Moore stepped up late for the home side, drawing a foul and converting both free throws before hitting a jumper on Hornsby’s next possession to score four consecutive points and put the Spiders up 84-73 with just a minute to play. Alison Ebzery and Batkovic added late points for Newcastle, but Moore and Rowe were composed at the charity stripe to ice the game for the Spiders.

Kristina Moore continued her outstanding season, leading Hornsby’s scoring with 22 points. Darneka Rowe was also excellent with 18 points, and Rachel Maenpaa added 14. Alicia Poto collected a triple-double with 17 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists, whilst Tylah Mundine secured 10 rebounds of her own. Suzy Batkovic again led Newcastle with 31 points and 14 rebounds, and was supported by backcourt pair Cassidy McLean and Cherub Lum. McLean finished with 11 points, whilst Lum added 15 on 58% shooting. Alison Ebzery was also solid in several facets, finishing with 7 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists.

Sutherland 42 lost to Bankstown 65

Sutherland had a chance to further strengthen their finals credentials, but were dealt a savage blow by Bankstown, who put themselves right in the playoff hunt with a 22 point victory.

Casey Samuels took on the world and won in the first quarter, registering 11 of the Bruins’ 17 first quarter points in a dominant performance. Conversely, Sutherland’s points came in a far more balanced fashion as the Sharks remained within a basket after the first quarter as Bankstown took a 17-15 lead into the second quarter.

The teams traded baskets early in the second quarter before scoring began to elude the home side. Threes to Madison Bennett and Kellie Parker opened up a lead for Bankstown before Ellie Gleeson and Aleesha Coulter drove a wedge between the teams as the Bruins took a 29-20 lead into the last five minutes of the half. The Bankstown defence continued to stifle Sutherland, with the Sharks able to only find one more basket in the back end of the term as an 18-7 quarter for Bankstown established a 35-22 halftime lead for the visitors.

Neither team was able to find much offence in the third quarter, but that mattered little to Bankstown as Sutherland were unable to make any indent into the Bruins’ lead. Early points to Bankstown pushed the lead to 16 before Lisa Watkins trimmed the margin back to 13 again, but that was as close as Sutherland would get in the third quarter. Whilst Bankstown were only able to tally 12 points in the quarter, the Sharks could only muster 9 and the third quarter ended with the score 47-31 in the Bruins’ favour.

Bankstown continued their dominance in the fourth quarter, using a mid-quarter 9-0 run to push the lead out to 58-36 and put an end to the contest. Casey Samuels returned to her scoring form of the first quarter, and the game meandered to its predictable finish with little scoring in the final couple of minutes, with the final score reading 65-42 to the visitors.

Casey Samuels was the only player on either team to reach double figures, dominating with 24 points and 12 rebounds to be the difference-maker. Marjy Grealish also came up with 12 rebounds to go alongside 6 points for the Bruins. Jane Scrivens tallied 11 boards and Peta Kneen registered 10 rebounds for Sutherland, but Lisa Watkins’ 8 points was the best scoring performance any Sutherland player could muster on a tough day for the Sharks.

Hills 43 lost to Norths 77

Bouncing back from last week’s narrow loss to Hornsby, Norths remain in second place after a solid win away to Hills despite missing Kate Cranney and Jaimee Kennedy.

Led by some early scoring from young star Sherrie Calleia, Hills kept right in touch with Norths in the opening stages, but a late run to end the first quarter opened up a lead for the visitors. Three-pointers from Bree Delaney and Kate Seebohm helped the visitors score 10 of the last 14 points of the quarter to move to a 21-13 lead after one quarter of play.

Despite not scoring a point for the first four minutes of the second quarter, Norths were somehow able to extend their lead. Taylor Jones finally got the Bears started with a three, which was followed by two more from Seebohm as the point guard scored 10 consecutive points for Norths. Seebohm would finish with 12 of Norths’ 20 points for the quarter, which also represented five more than the young Hills side could muster throughout the quarter. Although their shooting percentage was a touch on the low side, the Bears managed to push the lead to 41-20 by halftime and set themselves up for a less stressful second half.

With all credit to Hills, the young side did not waver in their tenacity in the second half. Following a cagey start to the half from both sides, it was the home side that rattled off a 11-0 lead midway through the third quarter. Brittany Ridlen added five of those 11 points before Ali Burke snapped the run by drawing a foul and converting a pair of free throws. Hills would go on to win the third quarter 17-15 in an admirable performance.

Normal service resumed in the final term as Norths cruised to victory. Six fourth quarter points from Kallie Hovatter paced the Norths offence, whilst Burke, Seebohm, and Jones all chipped in as the Bears dominated the final term to run out 77-43 winners.

Kate Seebohm delivered an exceptional performance to lead Norths to victory. Shooting 66% from the field, Seebohm registered 23 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, and a remarkable 7 steals. Kallie Hovatter added 16 points, whilst Tristan Black and Eleni Valos were outstanding on the boards with 14 and 11 rebounds respectively. Brittany Ridlen compiled a double-double for Hills with 10 points and 11 rebounds, whilst Madison Hare tallied a respectable stat line of 6 points and 8 rebounds.

Illawarra 71 lost to Manly 88

With something resembling a nearly full squad, Illawarra produced possibly their best performance of the season, but Manly were able to pull away in the fourth quarter to move to 7-4 through 11 games.

With Olivia White back in the lineup, the Illawarra team looked on paper to be a vast improvement on the understrength squad the Kittyhawks had been forced to field in recent weeks, and it showed in the early stages. The home side hung with Manly in the early stages, and even managed to take an 11-8 lead midway through the opening term on the back of scoring from Olivia White and Georgia Ohrdorf. A lightning first quarter saw the points flow at both ends, with every Illawarra basket matched by one from the Sea Eagles. When Rachel Harris hit a jumper for the Kittyhawks with 11 seconds remaining in the opening term, the score read 28-26 in the Sea Eagles’ favour.

With that kind of scoring pace untenable for long periods, things did begin to slow slightly in the second quarter. Rebecca Duke was able to command the paint for Manly, but the home side were able to stay in touch with scoring from a number of players. With Lauren Sparks running the offence at the point and dishing out assists, Illawarra were able to hang in there despite Manly taking a 49-41 lead into the halftime break.

Despite letting the margin grow to double figures early in the third quarter, Illawarra trimmed the Manly lead back to seven on several occasions throughout the term. However, Manly hit back each time to maintain a solid enough lead to ensure that the visitors would head into the final term up 65-55 after a 15-14 third quarter that was almost the antithesis of the opening term.

Any thoughts of an upset win for Illawarra were extinguished early in the fourth quarter as Manly started the term on an 8-0 run that pushed the lead to 18 with 7 minutes to play as Candice Trevenna torched the Kittyhawks with six points to start the term. Despite the best efforts of Illawarra, that early run from the Sea Eagles ended the game as a contest as the Kittyhawks were unable to trim the margin in the latter stages of the contest. A late Olivia White jumper moved Illawarra within 17, with the game finishing 88-71 in the visitors’ favour.

Despite suffering a knock during play, Georgia Ohrdorf top scored for Illawarra with 22 points and also tallied 7 rebounds. Olivia White added 15 points and 13 rebounds for a double-double, whilst Lauren Sparks nearly completed a triple-double, finishing with 11 points, 10 assists, and 8 rebounds. Rebecca Duke was outstanding in the paint to finish with 23 points and 10 rebounds for Manly, whilst Candice Trevenna added 14 points and 18 rebounds for a double-double of her own.

Weekly Scoring Leaders

Suzy Batkovic (Newcastle) – 31 points v Hornsby
Casey Samuels (Bankstown) – 24 points v Sutherland
Rebecca Duke (Manly) – 23 points v Illawarra
Kate Seebohm (Norths) – 23 points v Hills
Kristina Moore (Hornsby) – 22 points v Newcastle
Georgia Ohrdorf (Illawarra) – 22 points v Manly

Waratah Championship Week 3 Roundup

In a week that saw several teams assert their dominance over the competition, the defending champion Newcastle Hunters were once again found wanting, slipping to 1-2 after a loss to Sutherland.

Bankstown 71 defeated Comets 51

A dismal second quarter performance from Comets condemned the inner-city side to a loss in an otherwise solid performance against Bankstown, who cruised to victory despite the absence of Briana Maimone and Casey Samuels. Bankstown were unable to pull away from the visitors in the first quarter, with the opening term ending 12-11 in home side’s favour. However, the second quarter saw the Bruins hit the Comets with everything but the kitchen sink, holding their opponents to just six points whilst pouring in 25 of their own to effectively kill the game as a contest by halftime. Comets were able to pull back a small part of the 20 point margin in the third quarter, but Bankstown, on the back of solid scoring from a number of players, were able to cruise to a 71-51 victory. Aleesha Coulter led Bankstown with 11 points, whilst Kellie Parker and former Comet Rhiaan Te-Hira finished with 10 points apiece. Another former Comet, Ellie Gleeson, was outstanding on the boards to haul in 9 rebounds, whilst Marjy Grealish collected 10 boards to go with 8 points. Jaimee Cohen again put Comets on her back with 12 points and 11 rebounds, whilst Megan Cantellano and Serika Shillingsworth dropped in 10 points each.

Box Score

Manly 65 lost to Norths 80

Manly hung with Norths early, but were set on their heels in the second quarter as Rebecca Duke found herself in foul trouble. Norths opened up a four point quarter time lead, and managed to double that by halftime as Kallie Hovatter and Bree Delaney shone for the team in red and black. Manly didn’t have any particularly bad quarters, but Norths just edged them in each period and this proved to be enough for the Bears to take a 15 point win back down the Pacific Highway to Crows Nest. Candice Trevenna top scored for Manly with 19 points, whilst former Sydney Uni Flame Kristen Forbes dropped in 13 points. Norths were led by a pair of outstanding performances from two backcourt players. American point guard Kallie Hovatter finished with a game-high 24 points, with Bree Delaney dropping in 23 points of her own. Tristan Black was again outstanding on the boards with 10 rebounds, and Kate Seebohm played an outstanding role as facilitator, finishing with 6 assists alongside 8 rebounds and an impressive 4 steals.

Box Score

Newcastle 66 lost to Sutherland 71

The defending champion Hunters continue to be troubled by a sheer lack of personnel, with Sutherland condemning Newcastle to another loss. Despite being forced to rope in the apparently retired Jacki Nicholson and assistant coach Shelley Bates to make up for a lack of numbers, Sutherland opened up a solid nine point lead by the end of the first quarter. Newcastle recovered four points of that margin by halftime, leaving the game fairly evenly poised heading into the second half. The Hunters shaved off a single point of the deficit in the third quarter, but Sutherland were able to hold firm in the fourth quarter to deny Newcastle a comeback win. Clare Thomson was outstanding off the bench for Sutherland to finish with 15 points and 8 rebounds. Lisa Watkins added 14 points, and Peta Kneen dropped in 10 points and collected 8 rebounds in the win. Newcastle found scoring from a number of options, with Cherub Lum leading the way with 16 points and 8 assists. Alison Ebzery and Emily Keith added 14 points each, and Kelsey Moss finished with 10 points.

Box Score

Hills 51 lost to Hornsby 82

On paper, this game was over before it began, but an excellent first half performance from Hills coupled with a slow start from Hornsby left this game still in the balance at halftime. Hills kept in touch throughout the opening two quarters, and by halftime trailed by just eight, with Hornsby slowly finding rhythm. However, the third quarter brought about a 27-5 demolition by the Spiders, who only found top gear for that one quarter, but one quarter was all that was required as the visitors were able to ease their way to victory in the fourth quarter on the back of that third quarter effort. Darneka Rowe was the Spiders’ star, finishing with the outstanding stat line of 18 points on 53% shooting, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, and 5 steals. Kristina Moore also scored 18 points of her own, whilst Alicia Poto added 11 points, 9 assists, and 8 rebounds. Olivia Sheehan was again excellent, falling just shy of a double-double with 10 points and 9 rebounds. Emma Claus top scored for Hills with 16 points, whilst Sherrie Calleia and Madison Hare adding 11 points apiece. Hare also collected 9 rebounds to be arguably Hills’ best on the day.

Box Score

Manly 69 defeated Illawarra 40

Despite being without point guard and spiritual leader Lauren Sparks, an unfancied Illawarra side opened up a surprising 17-7 lead by the end of the first quarter courtesy of a scoring blitz led by Eleri Morris. Unfortunately for the Hawks, the more experienced Manly-Warringah side set about righting the ship and dominated the second quarter 24-8 to take a six point lead into halftime. With scoring options all over the court and the Sea Eagles dominating on the glass, the game became almost a procession in the second half as Manly cruised to a 29 point victory. Rebecca Duke put in the most rounded performance of all. The former WNBL player notched an impressive 5×5 game, finishing with 15 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 5 blocks, and 5 steals to register a rare achievement. Kristen Forbes finished with a double-double comprised of 11 points and 12 rebounds, whilst Fiona Sparks tallied 10 points. Youngsters Eleri Morris and Paige Phillips led the scoring for Illawarra with 16 and 12 points apiece, whilst Olivia White was outstanding on the boards with 13 rebounds.

Box Score

Weekly Top Scorers:

Kallie Hovatter (Norths) – 24 points v Manly
Bree Delaney (Norths) – 23 points v Manly
Candice Trevenna (Manly) – 19 points v Norths