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 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

At The Turn: Sydney Comets

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 Sydney Comets, who started the season with an upset win, but have since struggled to make an impact.

An extended streak of missed finals looks set to go on for another year for Comets, with the inner-city team sitting at 3-5 having played each opponent once in their first eight games. Having lost Bree Delaney, Sarah Davidson, Rhiaan Te Hira, and Ellie Gleeson from last season’s team, and Jaimee Cohen spending an extended period on the sidelines through injury, circumstances have conspired against the Comets and seen their finals chances almost extinguished even at this early point.

The Comets took advantage of their chance to face Newcastle before Cassidy McLean and Suzy Batkovic joined the team, winning their first match of the season 54-48 over the defending champion Hunters. Since then, though, it has been a bit of a tough stretch. Three heavy losses to Hornsby, Bankstown, and Norths followed before sneaking home 66-65 at home to Hills. That win started a recent stretch in which the team has split their last four matches, defeating Illawarra at the Snakepit, but going down to Sutherland and Manly to arrive at their current record of 3-5.

The continued absence of Jaimee Cohen has hurt Comets in recent weeks, and their ten point loss to Sutherland and twelve point defeat to Manly surely would have been much closer affairs with Cohen available. The Comets do have the week off this week, allowing the star forward an extra week of recovery before they take on Illawarra. The Comets defeated a decimated Illawarra side 71-50 earlier in the season, and the make-up of the two lineups could very well be a game-changer in the return fixture. Following that game, things get tough with games against Manly, Hornsby, and Newcastle to come, so a win against Illawarra to build some confidence would be just what Comets need at this stage.

Whilst finals basketball looks out of reach at this point, Comets can still certainly register a few more wins in the second half of the season and finish with a respectable record that gives the team something to build on. There is certainly a solid young core to work with, with Serika Shillingsworth, Chloe Morrissey, Maja Jurlina, and Tatyanna Pogonza-Dumas all players with buckets of time on their side. However, with that said, Comets has been an organisation that has exported a number of players to colleges in the US in recent years, which could have a bearing on the team’s progression beyond 2017.

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

Waratah Championship Week 2 Roundup

A week that saw three games go right down to the wire may have left more questions than answers as Week 2 provided more than its share of excitement.

Bankstown 46 lost to Manly 50

Casey Samuels may have dropped 24 for Bankstown, it was Manly who found more scoring options and eventually came away with a nail-biting victory. Bankstown opened up a 7 point lead by the end of the first quarter, but some lockdown defence combined with less than impressive shooting from the Bruins saw the Sea Eagles tie things up at 26-26 by halftime. Whilst Bankstown’s top scorers outside Samuels tallied just 5 points, the ex-WNBL duo of Kristen Forbes and Rebecca Duke stood up for Manly. Duke finished with 19 points, whilst Forbes had 10 of her own. Sarah White also tallied 10 points as Manly used a 15-7 final term to finish over the top of the Bruins and secure a vital early win.

Box Score

Hornsby 68 defeated Comets 48

Excluding the first quarter, this was a tight game that saw the Comets take the contest to Hornsby for large parts. Unfortunately, the Spiders blew the visitors off the court in the first quarter to open up a 29-15 lead after 10 minutes. The Comets were able to limit Hornsby to just 11 points in each of the next two quarters, but with their own offence failing to fire, the game simply moved further and further out of reach. Rachel Maenpaa was once again outstanding for Hornsby, finishing with 19 points and 4 rebounds. Olivia Sheehan continued her solid start to the season with 17 points, whilst Alicia Poto tallied 10 points. Tylah Mundine and Darneka Rowe were outstanding on the glass, hauling in 11 and 13 rebounds respectively. Samantha Hewitt top scored for Comets with 14 points, whilst Jaimee Cohen was again outstanding with 13 points of her own.

Box Score

Newcastle 67 defeated Illawarra 65

Last week’s loss to Comets showed that Newcastle need to get some troops back urgently, and whilst they picked up a thrilling win over Illawarra, the match did little to discourage the idea that the Hunters need to get Suzy Batkovic in the lineup sooner rather than later. Against an Illawarra side that is by their own admission in a rebuilding phase, Newcastle were unable to shake the young Hawks. Illawarra took a 37-35 lead into halftime, but Newcastle managed to put together a 19-12 third quarter that gave the home side a slight buffer going into the fourth quarter. However, the Hawks rallied in the fourth quarter and Paige Phillips had a 3 point shot in the dying seconds to win the game, but it was off target and Newcastle survived to move to 1-1. Import Cherub Lum was Newcastle’s top scorer with 19 points as four Hunters hit double figures. Kelsey Moss and Emily Keith tallied 13 points apiece, whilst Alison Ebzery notched 10 points and 14 rebounds for a double-double. Cassie Pentney also reeled in 12 rebounds of her own. Lauren Sparks again led from the front for Illawarra with 17 points. Tiana Porter provided excellent support with 16 points, whilst Olivia White was outstanding on the boards with 15 rebounds.

Box Score

Norths 77 defeated Hills 33

A much-vaunted Norths squad featuring a World Champion coach and three players from Hornsby’s 2016 semi-final team faced the inexperienced Hills in their first game, and it was about as much of a contest as was expected. Restricting Hills to single figures in three of the four quarters, Norths opened up an early lead and never looked back. Up 32-13 at halftime, the Bears continued to fire in the second half for a more-than-comfortable 77-33 win. Eleni Valos and Jaimee Kennedy tallied 15 points apiece to lead Norths, whilst Elle Carroll finished with 11 points in just 15 minutes of action. Kate Seebohm was outstanding with 10 points, 8 rebounds, and 7 assists, whilst Tristan Black was excellent on the boards with 10 rebounds. Amelia Iskowicz was Hills’ best with 8 points and 7 rebounds.

Box Score

Sutherland 63 lost to Manly 66

A sterling comeback from Sutherland fell just short as Manly escaped the Shire with the W despite letting a 35-23 halftime lead slip. Sutherland started the game slowly and Manly steadily built up a significant margin to take a 12 point lead into halftime. However, Sutherland started hitting their shots in the third quarter and even led the game with under 4 minutes to play. However the Sea Eagles were able to recover their lead and hold off Sutherland for a nail-biting win. Ex-WNBL players Rebecca Duke and Kristen Forbes dropped in 14 points apiece for Manly. Young starlet Shyla Heal brought some much needed energy off the bench for Sutherland and finished the game as the Sharks’ top scorer with 12 points, with Peta Kneen dropping in 11 points for the home side.

Box Score

Weekly Scoring Leaders

Casey Samuels (Bankstown) – 24 points v Manly
Rebecca Duke (Manly) – 19 points v Bankstown
Cherub Lum (Newcastle) – 19 points v Illawarra
Rachel Maenpaa (Hornsby) – 19 points v Comets

Waratah Championship Week 1 Roundup

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

Hornsby 68 defeated Manly 50

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

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

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

Box Score

Illawarra 52 lost to Bankstown 83

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

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

Box Score

Hills 47 lost to Sutherland 70

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

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

Box Score

Comets 54 defeated Newcastle 48

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

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

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

Box Score

Weekly Scoring Leaders

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