At The Turn: Norths Bears

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 Norths Bears, who have set themselves up well for a shot at the championship with an outstanding first half of the season.

After crumbling in the back end of 2016 to miss out on what seemed like a certain finals berth, Norths certainly retooled well in their preparation for a tilt at the 2017 title. Although Norths were rocked by the loss of Kathryn Rendell to injury, the Bears managed to lure former Hornsby coach Shannon Seebohm to the Bear Cave, and the Under 17 Women’s World Championship winning coach brought a number of players with him to his new club. Tristan Black, Jaimee Kennedy, Kate Seebohm, and young star Alessandra Burke followed Seebohm to Norths, whilst Razzearne Muir joined the side after winning the 2016 title with Newcastle. Bree Delaney also made the switch from Comets as Norths were able to put together a lineup with plenty of depth.

Things have gone almost to plan to this point for Norths. Eight games in, their solitary loss was a 65-62 defeat to the still undefeated Hornsby in a nail-biter in mid-May. Outside of that loss, the Bears have compiled an impressive CV to this point. With wins over potential finals teams Manly, Bankstown, and Sutherland and a victory over Suzy Batkovic and Newcastle, Norths have shown that they will be one of the biggest obstacles to any team looking to take home the silverware this season.

However, there are still some areas in which the Bears can afford to improve. Their shooting percentage has not hit 40% in their past six games, with a number of their wins being heavily assisted by their ability to force opponents into turnovers and sheer dominance on the glass. Conversely, Hornsby have shot over 40% three times in recent weeks, and outshot Norths 39% to 29% in last month’s game between the two sides. Certainly, a hot-shooting Norths side is almost unstoppable, but first they actually need to shoot well consistently. It may become more crucial in the coming weeks too, with the unfortunate loss of forward Kate Cranney for the season through injury. Tristan Black, Jaimee Kennedy, and Razzearne Muir will still provide a solid inside presence for the Bears, but Cranney has been the team’s most accurate shooter to this point, and is also second in the league and blocks and second on the team in rebounding.

Going forward, Norths have little to worry about regarding whether or not they make finals. With four games remaining against teams that are now out of the finals race, 11 wins should be the absolute minimum that the Bears expect. They have also beaten every opponent they face from here on out with the exception of Hornsby, so they will know exactly what is required to secure the victories they need to finish in the top two and earn a preferred matchup in the semi-finals. However, the key game comes in the round following the June long weekend. The Bears travel up the Pacific Highway to face Hornsby in the return matchup. A four point win will earn Norths the season series, but a loss would put the side two games behind the Spiders and all but dash any hopes of the minor premiership.

With the Bears getting significant contributions from a number of players and outstanding depth despite recent injury troubles, things are looking very positive for the team from Crows Nest. Kallie Hovatter and Kate Seebohm are performing admirably in the backcourt, whilst Tristan Black and Jaimee Kennedy at times seem unstoppable on the glass. Meanwhile, a number of other players have stepped up when required, including Taylor Jones, Bree Delaney, Muffi Loader, Eleni Valos, and Razzearne Muir. After falling in the semi-finals in 2014 and 2015, and missing the finals in 2016, could this be the season that Norths finally break through for a title?

Waratah Championship Week 8 Roundup

Just the three games in the Waratah Championship this week, but there was plenty of action. Illawarra showed vast improvement upon the return of key pieces, and the battle of the undefeated teams between Norths and Hornsby went right down to the wire.

Illawarra 64 lost to Sutherland 73

Lauren Sparks and Rachel Harris returned to the team, and Georgia Ohrdorf came into the Hawks side on her return from college, but the continued absence of Olivia White stung Illawarra in a loss to Sutherland.

As expected, Sutherland opened up an early lead. Illawarra had kept things tight in the opening moments, but the Sharks exhibited their class in the back half of the opening quarter. A 17-4 run, led by six points from Lisa Watkins, delivered the visitors a 24-12 lead after the first period of play.

Sutherland extended their lead in the second quarter, but not before Illawarra had trimmed the margin to 26-23 courtesy of six consecutive points from young starlet Eleri Morris. But once again, Sutherland delivered an extended run of scoring in the second half of the quarter. Peta Kneen was chief destroyer for the Sharks as they ended the half on an 18-4 run which mirrored the first quarter. By the end of the term, the Sharks’ lead was 44-27 and the game had seemed to have gotten away from the Hawks.

Despite the margin, Georgia Ohrdorf was outstanding throughout the third quarter. Despite landing in the country mere hours earlier, Ohrdorf added 10 points in the third term to exhibit the skill set that she has developed in her years at Metro State University in Denver. Despite Ohrdorf’s heroics, Sutherland held a 59-43 lead with a quarter to play.

Ohrdorf continued to shine as the Hawks chipped into the Sharks’ lead throughout the fourth quarter. With Tiarna Porter also chipping in at times, Illawarra narrowed the margin, but not quite fast enough. Whilst the home side were able to trim the lead to 68-62, this came with just 36 seconds to play. Peta Kneen added a pair from the line to push Sutherland ahead 70-62, which iced the game for Sutherland before some late scoring at either end saw the final score read 73-64 in Sutherland’s favour.

Despite the loss and the jetlag, Georgia Ohrdorf was outstanding with a 28 point, 6 rebound effort in her return to Illawarra. Tiarna Porter was outstanding in support with 16 points and 11 rebounds to complete a double-double. Lauren Sparks also delivered 11 assists for the Hawks. Peta Kneen was again excellent for Sutherland, registering 27 points and 9 rebounds to lead her team. Lisa Watkins was outstanding in the backcourt, finishing with 19 points on 70% field goal shooting, whilst Clare Thomson almost completed a double-double with 9 points and 9 rebounds.

Box Score

Norths 62 lost to Hornsby 65

The battle of the undefeated teams may not have been overflowing with quality scoring, but it was certainly a tussle until the final buzzer as Hornsby escaped the Bear Cave with a win.

A scrappy start to the game saw neither team able to get on the board until Kate Seebohm’s three after 2:36 of play opened Norths’ account. Kristina Moore and Razzearne Muir added a basket for either side, but when Darneka Rowe converted a pair of free throws with 4:12 to play in the opening term, the score was still just 5-4 in Norths’ favour. Fortunately, the end of the quarter brought a little more scoring, with Nicole Hutchins’ basket with 35 seconds to play handing Hornsby a 12-11 lead to end the term.

Hornsby’s young stars led the scoring in the early stages of the second quarter. Four points each for Nicole Hutchins and Serena Waters, plus a basket from Kristina Moore, saw Youth League players responsible for the first 10 points of the quarter for the Spiders. On Norths’ side, it was Kate Cranney and Kate Seebohm hitting shots with aplomb. Rebecca Black finished the quarter strongly for Hornsby to allow the Spiders to maintain their lead until halftime, with the visitors holding a 30-26 advantage as the teams headed to the locker rooms.

Youth made way for experience in the third quarter for Hornsby as Rachel Maenpaa and Alicia Poto did the bulk of the scoring as the Spiders opened the half on a 14-0 run. A three point barrage from Kallie Hovatter and Bree Delaney helped trim the margin back to 49-44, but the Bears would need the shots to keep falling after a generally poor night shooting before Hovatter and Delaney got the team back on track. As it was, neither team had much luck scoring in the final couple of minutes of the quarter. Moore and Cranney added two points for each side, and the five point margin remained intact at 51-46 with ten minutes to play.

Cranney opened the final term with a pair of baskets, and when Muffi Loader found her way to the basket, Norths had not only reduced Hornsby’s lead, they had taken one of their own at 52-51 with 8:06 to play. Rachel Maenpaa quickly restored Hornsby’s advantage, before Darneka Rowe pushed the margin back out to 56-52 with a three pointer. However, as the game progressed, it became clear that neither team was going to win this by a large margin. Cranney hit a jumper and Jaimee Kennedy knocked down a pair of free throws to tie things up at 56-56, but Moore gave Hornsby a 58-56 lead with 5:26 to play. Maenpaa hit two consecutive baskets which appeared to give Hornsby a bit of breathing room at 62-56, but Hovatter hit back on Norths’ next possession to trim the margin to four with 2:48 to play.

Cranney hit a jumper with 1:53 to play, but Maenpaa found her way to the free throw line and converted a pair from the stripe. Norths had their chances to narrow the margin late on. Cranney twice split a pair at the line, but those two free throws were enough to have Norths within a basket with 30 seconds to play. Despite this, the Bears had to foul to stop the clock. Alicia Poto went to the line and split a pair of her own free throws to give Hornsby a 65-62 lead with 10 seconds to play.

Bree Delaney missed a three with six seconds to play, but Kennedy snared the offensive rebound and was fouled. Kennedy missed the first, but had to intentionally miss the second regardless to give Norths a chance at winning. She did so, and Norths grabbed the rebound, but Delaney’s final second three pointer was off target and Hornsby held on for the win.

A rounded scoring performance saw four Hornsby players finish in double figures. Kristina Moore and Rachel Maenpaa each tallied 14 points for the Spiders. Alicia Poto tallied an 11 point, 13 rebound double-double and also registered 7 assists, whilst Nicole Hutchins added 11 points of her own.

Kate Cranney was Norths’ top scorer with 18 points, and also picked up 8 rebounds. Kallie Hovatter added 13 points, whilst Kate Seebohm registered 11 points. However, despite managing 85 field goal attempts to Hornsby’s 63, Norths’ 29% shooting clip did their chances no favours.

Box Score

Comets 50 lost to Manly 62

Comets gave a solid account of themselves throughout the middle portion of the game, but a first quarter blitzkrieg from Manly set the Sea Eagles up for victory to further solidify their position in the top four.

Led by Rebecca Duke and Candice Trevenna, Manly scored the first 11 points of the game in just 129 seconds of game time to set themselves up for success from the outset. Maja Jurlina broke Manly’s run with a three, and although Comets were able to trim the margin to six through Serika Shillingsworth, late baskets to Jess Cullen and Fiona Sparks pushed Manly back out to a 22-11 lead after ten minutes of play.

Duke, Trevenna, and Kristen Forbes kept Manly’s score ticking over, but Tatyanna Pogonza-Dumas provided a real spark off the bench for Comets. Some quick points from the young star helped trim the margin to 32-28 but Kristen Forbes countered with two baskets of her own to push Manly back out to a 36-28 lead at halftime. However, Comets had trimmed the lead by three and the game was still in the balance after the first half.

The home side continued to show their fight in the third quarter, but unfortunately it only shone through after Duke had helped Manly establish a 16 point lead midway through the term. Somehow, at 49-33 down, something switched on in the Comets’ brains and the home side rattled off the last 10 points of the third quarter. A pair of baskets to Georgia Flanigan bookended the run and a game that had looked over just minutes earlier was now back in the balance.

However, Comets started the fourth quarter slowly and there are only so many times a team can charge back. Manly moved 13 points ahead early in the final term and an extended period of no scoring from either team worked in the Sea Eagles’ favour. Manly pushed ahead 62-49, and with a solitary Samantha Hewitt free throw the only point of the final two minutes, the visitors secured a 62-50 win.

Serika Shillingsworth led Comets with 13 points. Samantha Hewitt fell just shy of a double-double with 9 points and 10 rebounds, whilst Tatyanna Pogonza-Dumas collected 9 boards of her own. Kristen Forbes was outstanding for Manly with 22 points and 15 rebounds. Rebecca Duke added 16 points and 9 rebounds of her own, whilst Candice Trevenna added 11 points.

Box Score

Weekly Scoring Leaders

Georgia Ohrdorf (Illawarra) – 28 points v Sutherland
Peta Kneen (Sutherland) – 27 points v Illawarra
Kristen Forbes (Manly) – 22 points v Comets
Lisa Watkins (Sutherland) – 19 points v Illawarra
Kate Cranney (Norths) – 18 points v Hornsby

Waratah Championship Week 6 Roundup

Suzy Batkovic’s return brought about an improved performance for Newcastle, but Norths were too good in Broadmeadow, whilst Hills picked up their first win of the season against Illawarra.

Manly 62 lost to Hornsby 81

A game that promised plenty of excitement certainly delivered, but perhaps not in the way that was expected as Hornsby were able to ease their way to a 19 point win to remain undefeated in 2017.

Manly opened up the game well, quickly establishing a 9-2 lead courtesy of Candice Trevenna and Rebecca Duke before Hornsby were forced to call an early timeout. An Olivia Sheehan basket followed by three-pointers from Darneka Rowe and Tylah Mundine quickly cut the Manly lead to 14-12. Kristina Moore was then rewarded for some outstanding play in the early running with five consecutive points to give the Spiders a 17-14 lead, which would become 20-17 by the end of the opening term.

The second quarter saw Hornsby use the momentum that they created late in the first quarter to extend their lead. An 18-11 second term saw the Spiders take a 10 point lead into halftime, with the Spiders finding their points from a number of players and in a variety of ways.

Rebecca Black and Olivia Sheehan were chief contributors for Hornsby in the opening stages of the second half, but Kristen Forbes ensured that Manly remained within striking distance as the third quarter rolled on. However, Hornsby quickly went on a 10-0 run that saw the Spiders open up a 20 point gap from which Manly would be unable to recover. 

As Hornsby gave some of their younger players an extended run on the court, Manly were able to trim the margin by four in the final quarter, but the Spiders’ youngsters gave a good account of themselves. Kristina Moore continued an excellent game, whilst Jess Sancataldo and Sarah Crisafulli found each other open for baskets in quick succession as Hornsby ran out 81-62 winners.

Darneka Rowe led four players in double figures for Hornsby with 14 points, and also dished out 7 assists and collected 8 rebounds in a solid effort. Alicia Poto was also outstanding with 13 points, 14 rebounds, 6 assists, and 6 steals as the experienced playmaker led from the front for the Spiders. Kristina Moore and Rachel Maenpaa tallied 11 points apiece, with Moore picking up eight rebounds, four of them on the offensive end. Candice Trevenna top-scored for Manly with 23 points, and also pulled down 8 rebounds. Kristen Forbes tallied 17 points and five boards, whilst Rebecca Duke registered 10 points and 8 rebounds.

Sutherland 65 defeated Comets 55

Sutherland’s efforts in the middle portion of the game led the Sharks to victory as the Comets left themselves just too much to do in the fourth quarter.

The first quarter was a tight affair, with neither team able to establish any kind of real buffer. Maddy Norris opened up the game with five points in the opening term, but with both teams finding scoring from a number of players, the first period ended with Sutherland up 13-11 and the game clearly very much in the balance.

However, the Sutherland offence found their groove in the back end of the second quarter. Scoring just five points in the first three minutes of the quarter, the Sharks ended the term with 25 points to extend their lead to 38-28 by halftime. Norris rounded out a solid first half with another five points, whilst Peta Kneen was also outstanding for the home team. Comets were also solid in the final stages of the second quarter, with Samantha Hewitt leading the scoring, but with Sutherland firing on all cylinders, a Sharks halftime lead was always likely.

For all the offensive prowess late in the second quarter, it simply dried up in the third quarter. Sutherland managed just 12 points, but with Comets only registering 9 points, the Sharks extended their lead to 13 with a quarter to play.

Comets trimmed the margin to 10 with a Serika Shillingsworth three with six minutes to play, before another pair of threes later in the quarter from Hewitt and Shillingsworth put Comets within 8 with 3 minutes to play. However, that was as close as the game would become. The experienced Sutherland side were able to do enough to keep the Comets at bay in the final stretch and run out 10 point victors.

Lisa Watkins and Clare Thomson shared top-score honours for Sutherland with 11 points apiece, with Watkins also finishing with 6 rebounds and 6 assists, whilst Thomson finished with 6 rebounds of her own. Jane Scrivens completed a double-double of 10 points and 13 assists, whilst also finishing with 5 assists, whilst Maddy Norris tallied all 10 of her points in the first half to help Sutherland to a solid start to the game. Samantha Hewitt top scored for Comets with 13 points and also tallied 12 rebounds for a double-double. Megan Cantellano also reached double figures, tallying 12 points and 4 rebounds.

Newcastle 60 lost to Norths 69

If this game had been played last week, it would have been a procession for Norths. However, with Suzy Batkovic back in the lineup for the Hunters, this was now expected to be a tight tussle, and that is exactly what ensued.

Batkovic scored the Hunters’ first five points of the contest, but it would be the visiting Bears who opened up an early lead. Kate Cranney opened up the game with 10 first quarter points as Norths established a five point lead, but Newcastle were able to trim that back to 17-13 by the end of the term as Batkovic found scoring help from Cherub Lum and Alison Ebzery.

With the Hunters unable to get a lot going on offence in the second quarter, Norths were able to push the lead out to a more comfortable buffer by halftime. 7 second quarter points from Kate Seebohm in her return to the side accounted for almost half of the Bears’ 15 points, but with Newcastle only able to register 9 for the quarter as a team, Norths took a 32-23 lead into halftime.

That margin continued to hold throughout the third quarter as the teams traded blows. Newcastle momentarily trimmed the lead to eight early in the term, but Kate Cranney and Kallie Hovatter restored Norths’ margin before the Bears’ lead was extended to 13 for a short term. However, the Hunters kept coming back and some late free throws from Cassidy McLean and Emily Keith kept Newcastle within 9 as the game entered the final quarter.

The Hunters started the fourth quarter on fire, putting together a 10-1 run to start the term. Cassidy McLean was responsible for 7 of those 10 points, knocking down a three with 6:45 to play to tie the game at 46-46. Surprisingly, no timeout came from Norths, but Kate Cranney and Bree Delaney both found the bottom of the net to edge Norths five points ahead. The Bears then pushed ahead to be up 60-51 with 3:44 to play, but Newcastle were far from done. Batkovic and McLean powered the Hunters back into the contest, tying things at 60-60 with 90 seconds to play.

However, the shots then stopped falling for Newcastle, and soon the Hunters were forced to foul to stop the clock. Kate Seebohm missed both with 40 seconds to play to give Newcastle a sniff at 65-60, but McLean’s jumper was off the mark, and Bree Delaney made the Hunters pay from the free throw line. The Fresno State commit hit four of four from the line in the final minute to secure a 69-60 win for the Bears. The win keeps Norths’ undefeated streak to start the season alive, whilst the loss drops Newcastle to a precarious 2-5 mark.

Suzy Batkovic led all scorers with 23 points in her return to the team, and also collected 8 rebounds for Newcastle. Cassidy McLean registered 18 points as the pair nearly got Newcastle over the line. Alison Ebzery was a menace on the boards, collecting 10 rebounds to go with 7 points.

Kate Cranney was outstanding for Norths, leading the side with 19 points on 69% field goal shooting and also tallying 11 rebounds for a double-double. Kate Seebohm registered 15 points and 6 rebounds on her return to the side, whilst Jaimee Kennedy narrowly missed a double-double with 11 points and 9 rebounds. Bree Delaney struggled from the field but was a solid 5-6 from the line to finish with 11 points and 5 rebounds.

Hills 63 defeated Illawarra 51

Hills picked up their first win of the season, using a 14-2 first quarter to notch a 63-51 victory over an understrength Illawarra side. However, with the stats for this game not available, there is little to tell from the rest of this contest.

Weekly Scoring Leaders:

Suzy Batkovic (Newcastle) – 23 points v Norths
Candice Trevenna (Manly) – 23 points v Hornsby
Kate Cranney (Norths) – 19 points v Newcastle
Cassidy McLean (Newcastle) – 18 points v Norths
Eleri Morris (Illawarra) – 18 points v Hills

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