Waratah Championship Week 13 Roundup

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

Bankstown 90 defeated Hornsby 77

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

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

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

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

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

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

Manly 80 defeated Sutherland 75

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

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

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

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

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

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

Norths 63 defeated Illawarra 40

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

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

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

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

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

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

Newcastle 48 defeated Comets 35

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

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

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

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

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

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

Comets 47 lost to Bankstown 63

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

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

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

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

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

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

Weekly Scoring Leaders:

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

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.