Waratah Championship Semi Final Roundup

A 3rd v 4th Waratah Championship grand final awaits us on Sunday afternoon as Manly upset Hornsby and Norths snuck by Bankstown in the semi-finals. Both games were absolute nail-biters, setting up a scintillating championship game.

Hornsby 78 lost to Manly 79

A thrilling encounter between the minor premiers Hornsby and fourth placed Manly ended with the Sea Eagles securing the upset win and progressing to the grand final.

Things looked ominous in the early stages as Manly scored six points in the first 45 seconds of the contest, but Hornsby soon got on the board through a pair of Darneka Rowe baskets. Manly continued to find points through Belinda Snell, but an extended scoring drought for both teams was cut by Hornsby forward Rachel Maenpaa. Snell led Manly on a late run to push the lead to 19-10, but four points from Jess Sancataldo in the dying stages of the opening term helped Hornsby trim the margin to 21-19 after Tylah Mundine’s three in the final seconds of the quarter.

Maenpaa and Sancataldo combined for the first five points of the second term to hand Hornsby their first lead of the contest, and with Rowe knocking down another three, the Spiders put together a solid start of the second quarter, culminating in a 33-27 lead midway through the term. Manly’s offence would not be denied for the entire quarter though, and soon enough the Sea Eagles had cut the margin back to 37-34 courtesy of Kristen Forbes. With the teams trading points, the margin held steady for the remainder of the second quarter, with a late lay-up from Snell keeping Manly within three at 42-39 down at halftime.

A low-scoring third quarter commenced with no scoring for nearly two minutes until Alicia Poto split a pair at the line. Manly enjoyed a far superior few minutes on offence, reestablishing an advantage at 45-43 before Poto and Rowe knocked down threes for Hornsby. The Spiders were able to push their lead out to seven, but in a back-and-forth game such as this, no lead was ever safe, and a late Sea Eagles charge delivered a 54-53 lead by the end of the quarter.

After a strange moment to start the fourth quarter in which Manly’s bench received a technical for having too many players on court, the teams traded baskets in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter, but it would be Manly who broke out of the rut and put together a run which established a 68-59 lead by midway through the final term in what looked to be a potentially match-winning lead. However, Hornsby, led by Poto, would not be denied. The 2004 Olympian led her side on a charge that dragged the Spiders back into the contest at 73-69 down with just 71 seconds to play. A pair of beautifully executed runners in the lane from Rowe tied the game at 73-73, before Belinda Snell drew the foul call on Jess Sancataldo whilst driving to the basket with 28 seconds to play, promptly knocking down both free throws. The Spiders were unable to score on the ensuing play, and forced to foul, sent Snell to the line again. The Opals stalwart was again perfect at the charity stripe to hand Manly a 77-73 lead, before Liv Sheehan hit a jumper to draw Hornsby within two in the final few seconds. Jess Kelly was the next Manly player sent to the line, but when she hit both, the margin was four points with single digits left on the clock. Poto hit a buzzer-beater from just shy of half-court, but unfortunately for the Spiders the four point line doesn’t exist quite yet, and Manly escaped with a 79-78 win.

Belinda Snell led all scorers with a scintillating 31 points and 14 rebounds to power Manly to victory, whilst Rebecca Duke also completed a double-double of 11 points and 12 rebounds. Rachel Maenpaa and Darneka Rowe each registered 18 points for Hornsby, with Maenpaa completing a double-double with 11 rebounds before fouling out midway through the fourth quarter. Alicia Poto registered 17 points and 8 assists, whilst Tylah Mundine added a double-double of 11 points and 10 rebounds for the Spiders. Jess Sancataldo also registered a solid 6 points and 9 rebounds playing in an unfamiliar frontcourt position.

Bankstown 67 lost to Norths 72

Norths made it a 3rd v 4th Grand Final with an equally nail-biting 72-67 win over Bankstown in the second semi-final.

It was the Bruins who came out firing in the opening term as their accurate shooting in the early stages allowed them to jump out to a double digit lead as the term progressed. The experienced heads of Briana Maimone and Casey Samuels did the majority of the damage in the first quarter as Bankstown conjured a 25-13 lead, with Jaimee Kennedy’s scoring proving to be priceless for a Norths side struggling to stay in touch.

However, as much as Bankstown dominated the first quarter, Norths did the same in the second quarter. The points came slowly for both sides as a combination of lockdown defence and some questionable decisions on offence from both teams stifled the scoring, but Norths were unquestionably the better of the two teams. With Muffi Loader hitting shots with regularity, and the dynamic backcourt duo of Kallie Hovatter and Kate Seebohm chipping in points, the Bears were able to trim the Bruins’ lead to 31-30 by the time halftime arrived courtesy of a 17-6 second quarter.

Seebohm and Hovatter combined to give Norths their first lead since the opening minutes of the contest, and then extend that out to 36-31. With Seebohm hitting three pointers with regularity, it looked as if Norths may get away, but Bankstown regrouped to quickly hit back as Maimone and Samuels continued to provide the bulk of the scoring. The margin hovered around the one-possession mark each way as the quarter progressed, but it would be Bankstown who finished the quarter the better of the two teams. Holding a one point lead at 48-47, the Bruins scored the last four points of the quarter through Maimone and Ellie Gleeson to establish a 52-47 lead with ten minutes remaining.

Jaydene Barnes pushed the Bankstown lead out to seven with the first basket of the final quarter, but from that point scoring became almost an impossibility for the Bruins. The triumvirate of Loader, Seebohm, and Hovatter combined for a game-changing 15-0 run, of which Hovatter tallied ten to put Norths up 62-54 with just over 3 minutes remaining. A pair of Marjy Grealish baskets in quick succession trimmed the margin to four points, and after Loader split a pair at the line, Casey Samuels hit a three and suddenly the score was 63-61 in Norths’ favour with 55 seconds to play.

Seebohm found her way to the line and knocked down a pair, and with the Bruins unable to score on their next possession, Loader was fouled to stop the clock and promptly hit both free throws. Adrianne Bywater hit a three with 17 seconds to play to trim the lead to 67-64, and from there a moment of controversy ensued. Norths called a timeout and the siren went right as the ball was inbounded straight into a Bankstown player’s hands and promptly through the basket. A quick consultation saw the officials award the timeout to Norths, negating the Bankstown basket. The Bears managed to successfully inbound the ball on the ensuing possession, after which Kennedy was fouled and also connected on a pair. Rhiaan Te-Hira’s three with eight seconds to play trimmed the lead to 69-67, forcing Norths to sweat it out a bit. Kennedy was fouled once again to stop the clock and hit the first but missed the second free throw. However, Norths managed to secure the ball, and when Hovatter converted a pair at the line, it tied a bow not only on a fantastic evening for the American, but a thrilling win that saw Norths into the grand final with a 72-67 win.

Casey Samuels led all scorers with 28 points for Bankstown, with the former Sydney Uni Flames player also collecting 8 rebounds. Briana Maimone racked up a 21 point, 11 rebound double-double and also dished out 5 assists. Marjy Grealish was solid on the boards with 9 rebounds alongside 4 points. Kallie Hovatter led Norths with 23 points, whilst Kate Seebohm added 19 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 steals. Muffi Loader added 13 points and 5 rebounds, whilst Jaimee Kennedy was solid with 9 points and 8 rebounds.

Waratah Championship Week 16 Roundup

Just when the playoff picture looked set in stone, Bankstown came up with a win over Norths that shook things up going into the final week of play. Elsewhere, Hornsby rounded out their regular season schedule with a win over Illawarra and Comets secured seventh spot with a win over Hills.

Bankstown 64 defeated Norths 50

A win would have secured second spot for Norths, but instead it will all come down to the final weekend to decide the order of the teams behind Hornsby as Bankstown claimed a vital win to leave the playoff picture still looking a mess even at this late stage.

A low-scoring first quarter saw Norths finally open their account through Kallie Hovatter just over two minutes into the contest. Bankstown quickly countered through Adrianne Bywater, but points remained hard to come by and with 4 minutes remaining in the opening term Bankstown held a 10-4 lead courtesy of four quick points from Casey Samuels. Bankstown continued to grow that lead as the Norths’ offence stuttered, and a late Jaimee Kennedy basket was like gold dust to a Bears side that saw themselves down 15-6 after a quarter.

Hovatter and Kennedy helped lead Norths on a run that moved the visitors within two at 17-15 down early in the second quarter, but Bankstown put together a run of their own to extend their lead to 29-16 with two minutes remaining in the first half. Once again a late Norths basket trimmed the lead at a vital moment, with Eleni Valos’ three in the final minute reducing the Bankstown lead to 29-19 at halftime.

Samuels continued to lead the Bankstown scoring, but Norths were able to to trim the margin to seven and hold it there for a while. Unfortunately, that was as close as the Bears would come as Marjy Grealish came to the fore with 8 third quarter points for Bankstown. There would be no late flourish from Norths in the third quarter though, and with ten minutes to play Bankstown held a very handy 46-32 lead.

Handy doesn’t mean safe though, and with Jaimee Kennedy putting the Norths’ offence on her back, the Bears opened up the final term with 13 of the first 17 points to reduce the margin to 50-45 with still six minutes remaining. Bankstown regrouped though, with Samuels and Briana Maimone re-establishing Bankstown’s cushion to 59-46. Grealish and Maimone chipped in a few more points as time wound down, and with the Norths’ offence unable to secure another big run similar to the one earlier in the quarter, Bankstown secured a game-changing 64-50 win.

Marjy Grealish and Casey Samuels shared the top scoring honours for Bankstown, with each also picking up 13 rebounds to secure double-doubles. Briana Maimone added 13 points on some efficient 5/7 shooting from the field. Jaimee Kennedy also secured a double-double, finishing with 18 points and 12 rebounds for Norths. Kallie Hovatter also finished in double figures, tallying 11 points and 7 rebounds. However, Norths shot just 25% from the field for the contest, a stark contrast to Bankstown’s 42% mark.

Hornsby 97 defeated Illawarra 57

Hornsby wrapped up their regular season schedule with a 97-57 win over an Illawarra side that was missing spiritual leader and influential point guard Lauren Sparks.

Young stars Tylah Mundine and Serena Waters both knocked down threes in the early stages as Hornsby scored the first 8 points of the game on their way to an early 18-5 lead, with Waters alone responsible for 8 of those. Georgia Ohrdorf registered 8 first quarter points for Illawarra, but Hornsby put the understrength Hawks to the sword in the first quarter, taking a 29-15 lead into the second quarter.

The second quarter was a far tighter affair, with Ohrdorf continuing to star for Illawarra. The Metro State University star added 10 more points to see Illawarra keep pace with Hornsby throughout the term. Darneka Rowe and Olivia Sheehan slowly began to rack up their usual solid points tallies, whilst Tara Kilminster began to come into her own off the bench to help the Spiders extend their lead to 48-31 by halftime on the back of a 19-16 second quarter.

The third quarter was where Hornsby really put the game beyond doubt. Sheehan continued to add to her tally, with veterans Rachel Maenpaa and Alicia Poto also adding to the Spiders’ ever-burgeoning tally. It was a valiant effort from the understrength Illawarra side, but with Hornsby not wanting to ease up in their preparation for finals basketball, the margin grew to 70-38 by the end of the third quarter as the Spiders clicked on offence.

Olivia White provided some more positives for Illawarra in the final quarter, but the Hornsby domination continued. Kilminster and Sancataldo finished off solid games with some late scoring, but with eight Hornsby players scoring 8 points or more, the points were coming from all over. A 27-19 quarter rounded out the 97-57 victory to keep Hornsby on a high going into playoff basketball.

Georgia Ohrdorf led the way for Illawarra with an outstanding 26 point, 14 rebound effort in an overmatched team. Olivia White almost compiled a double-double, tallying 12 points and 8 rebounds. Serena Waters led five Hornsby players in double figures with 20 points on efficient 8/11 shooting, whilst Tara Kilminster was outstanding off the bench to tally 16 points. Jess Sancataldo and Olivia Sheehan also finished in double figures off the bench, with Sancataldo tallying 13 points and Sheehan chipping in 12 points and 9 rebounds. Alicia Poto racked up a 10 point, 11 rebound double-double, and also picked up 5 steals.

Hills 45 lost to Comets 52

Hills were forced to take on Comets without young star Sherrie Calleia, and Comets took advantage despite having just six players available for this game to move to four wins for the season.

A cagey first quarter saw the teams separated by very little throughout the term. Four separate players combined for Comets’ first 8 points, whilst Anja Kolodziej scored four of Hills’ first 8 to leave the teams tied with a minute to play in the opening quarter. Tatyanna Pogonza-Dumas dominated the latter stages of the quarter to take her personal tally to six within ten minutes and hand Comets a 12-8 lead to end the first period of action.

The visitors extended their lead to 17-8 early in the second quarter, but baskets from Paris Roditis and Zoe Burke trimmed the margin back to five midway through the term. Emma Claus added some late points for Hills, but a balanced scoring performance from Comets ensured the visitors would maintain the lead, and even briefly extend the margin to double figures before a last-second Andrea Roditis three for Hills saw the quarter end with Comets leading 26-19.

Signs of a comeback from Hills began to emerge in the third quarter, with Madison Hare leading her team with five early points to nudge Hills within a basket at 30-28 down midway through the quarter. Comets edged ahead yet again courtesy of a pair of Lauren Breen buckets, but in a low-scoring quarter, there was little opportunity for either team to create a swing in momentum, leaving the game tantalisingly poised at 36-32 in Comets’ favour with a quarter to play.

The teams traded threes in the early stages before Annie Turner chipped in four consecutive points and Maja Jurlina continued her solid offensive night to push Comets ahead 45-38 with just over five minutes remaining. Hare remained strong for the home side, but Jurlina helped push Comets out to a 50-41 lead with under three minutes to play. Hare and Andrea Roditis dragged Hills back into the contest at 50-45 with 90 seconds to play, but a couple of missed opportunities for the Hornets allowed Pogonza-Dumas to ice the game at the line, which she promptly did to secure Comets’ fourth victory of the season with a 52-45 win.

Maja Jurlina led all scorers with 15 points, but it was on the boards that a number of Comets players excelled. Annie Turner picked up an insane 17 boards to go with 8 points, whilst Tatyanna Pogonza-Dumas tallied 8 points and 14 rebounds. Lauren Breen registered 7 points and 9 rebounds. Madison Hare tallied 10 points to lead Hills and also secured 7 rebounds. Emma Claus was also solid on the boards to finish with 9 points and 11 rebounds.

Weekly Scoring Leaders:

Georgia Ohrdorf (Illawarra) – 26 points v Hornsby
Serena Waters (Hornsby) – 20 points v Illawarra
Marjy Grealish (Bankstown) – 18 points v Norths
Jaimee Kennedy (Norths) – 18 points v Bankstown
Casey Samuels (Bankstown) – 18 points v Norths

Waratah Championship Week 15 Roundup

The top four teams are locked in after Sutherland and Newcastle’s slim chances fell by the wayside. Norths moved within one win of securing second place, whilst Manly and Bankstown are now set for a thrilling final day showdown to decide their spots on the ladder.

Bankstown 80 defeated Sutherland 71

A win for Bankstown in this game would secure their playoff spot, whilst a win for Sutherland could potentially keep their season alive. As it happened, it was the Bruins who secured victory to lock down a position in the top four.

The first quarter was a remarkably tight affair, with a number of ties and lead changes throughout the opening ten minutes. Sutherland scored the first five points of the game before Casey Samuels tied things up by scoring the Bruins’ first five points. Bankstown eventually secured a 10-7 lead, but Peta Kneen pushed Sutherland ahead 14-10 until a late rally saw Samuels tie things at 14-14. Shelley Bates hit the final basket of the quarter to give Sutherland a 16-14 lead after ten minutes of action.

Ten points for Samuels in the first five minutes of the second quarter helped Bankstown get out to a 26-20 lead before Ellie Gleeson and Marjy Grealish took control of the scoring. Kneen continued to do the bulk of the scoring for Sutherland, but Bankstown put their foot down as the quarter progressed, putting together a 23-11 second term which culminated in a 37-27 halftime lead for the home side.

Samuels continued to have a day out on offence, racking up points in astounding fashion. However, Kneen, as well as Lisa Watkins, kept Sutherland in the hunt as the second half progressed. The pair led Sutherland’s charge as the Sharks trimmed the Bankstown lead to 51-44. Briana Maimone hit back with seven points to end the quarter, but Sutherland did enough to keep the deficit within ten at 58-49 with a quarter to play.

The fourth quarter started brightly for Sutherland, with scoring from Jane Scrivens and Rachel Herrick trimming the Bankstown lead to 58-54 soon after the start of the final term. Samuels countered with a three for Bankstown, but more scoring for Sutherland meant the game was evenly poised at 63-61 with six minutes to play. Despite dragging themselves back into the contest, Sutherland were undone by a 9-0 Bankstown run late in the quarter that handed the Bruins a 75-63 lead with just over two minutes remaining. Bankstown were hardly in danger at that point, and although Sutherland scored the majority of the points in the dying stages, Bankstown secured the 80-71 win to secure a playoff berth.

Casey Samuels was utterly dominant to finish with 36 points, whilst Briana Maimone added 19 points and 9 assists for Bankstown. Peta Kneen top scored for Sutherland with 21 points, whilst Lisa Watkins added 15 points and 5 assists. Jane Scrivens came just short of completing a double-double for the Sharks, tallying 9 points and 11 rebounds.

Norths 71 defeated Comets 52

Norths also mathematically secured a playoff berth with a win over Comets, knocking Newcastle out of the finals race in the process.

Sydney Uni Sparks guard Serika Shillingsworth opened the scoring with a three, but Norths soon set about securing a lead. Tristan Black and Kallie Hovatter did much of the early scoring before a Taylor Jones three moved the Bears into a 12-7 lead. Tatyanna-Pogonza Dumas found her way to the line and converted a pair, but a late Hovatter lay-up kept the Norths lead at 5, with the scoreboard reading 14-9 in the home side’s favour after a quarter.

The teams traded baskets in the early stages of the second quarter before an 8-0 Norths run capped by four points from Ali Burke pushed the Bears into a 26-13 lead. Samantha Hewitt snapped that run with a three for Comets, but the home side’s dynamic backcourt of Hovatter and Kate Seebohm accounted for the next eight points of the game, with Seebohm picking off passes for fast break lay-ups on two consecutive plays. Rachel Higgisson put a bow on an electric 22-7 quarter with the final basket of the half to hand Norths a 36-16 lead.

Norths’ dominance continued into the second half as the lead ballooned to 40-16 before Shillingsworth knocked down another three. Tristan Black managed to find a bit of room inside to score six points for the quarter, whilst much of Comets’ scoring came from the line courtesy of Megan Cantellano and Pogonza-Dumas. Despite an improved performance from Comets, Norths retained a 51-27 lead through three quarters.

Shillingsworth hit her third three of the afternoon to open the fourth quarter, but it only served as the prelude to another 9-0 Norths run as Burke added five more points to an impressive personal tally for the young guard who was fresh off a Youth League game that finished just twenty minutes before this contest began. Comets put together a solid middle of the quarter, with Maja Jurlina especially impressive in scoring seven points in quick time. Comets won the final quarter 25-20, but the game was well and truly in Norths’ control by that stage, and the Bears ran out 71-52 victors to maintain their hold on second place.

Kallie Hovatter top scored for Norths with 16 points, with support from a number of players. Tristan Black finished with an impressive double-double of 12 points and 11 rebounds, whilst Kate Seebohm added 10 points, 8 assists and 6 steals. Eleni Valos popped up with points at regular intervals to finish with 10 points and 8 rebounds, whilst Ali Burke tallied 9 points in her second game in the space of a few hours. Serika Shillingsworth top scored for Comets with 17 points, whilst Maja Jurlina added 9 points and 8 rebounds. Lauren Breen was solid on the boards to finish with 11 rebounds alongside 7 points.

Manly 80 defeated Hills 56

Manly needed to keep winning to give themselves the best chance of finishing in a favourable finals position, and did that just that against the lowly ranked Hills side.

Rebecca Duke and Belinda Snell got Manly off to a solid start, but the underdog Hills side showed no fear in the early stages, and with Madison Hare starring, the Hornets took a 20-16 lead on the back of mid-quarter 9-0 run. But the Sea Eagles hit back to take a 24-20 lead by the end of the quarter with an 8-0 run of their own.

The generally efficient Manly offence lost its way slightly in the second quarter, and added just seven points to their total, but Hills were unable to punish the home side. Sherrie Calleia tallied four points and Emma Claus added five, but Hills were only able to tally ten points for the quarter. However, this was enough to push the Hornets within a solitary point at 31-30 down at halftime.

The halftime break clearly helped Manly regroup as they proceeded to dominate the third quarter. Kristen Forbes and Candice Trevenna helped put Hills to the sword, with Opals stalwart Belinda Snell also chipping in at times. With Hills going several minutes without scoring on multiple occasions, Manly were able to extend their lead to 51-39 with a quarter to play, putting them in the box seat going into the final term.

Hills’ offence improved in the final quarter, tallying 17 points as Hare and Calleia continued to be the Hornets’ main scoring weapons. But unfortunately for the Hornets, Manly racked up 29 points to roll to an 80-56 win as their experienced core continued to deliver throughout the game against a talented but inexperienced Hills lineup.

Candice Trevenna finished with 14 points for Manly, whilst Kristen Forbes registered a 13 point, 10 rebound double-double and Belinda Snell added 12 points and 8 rebounds. Madison Hare top scored for Hills with 21 points, whilst Sherrie Calleia added 18 points and Emma Claus tallied 11.

Hills 58 lost to Newcastle 74

Even without finals basketball to play for, Newcastle could still finish in a respectable fifth position, and this weekend’s win over Hills appears to have secured that spot, although it took until the final quarter for the Hunters to put away the young Hornets side.

Five different Hunters got their name on the scoresheet in the opening quarter, with Suzy Batkovic and Alison Ebzery leading the way with six points apiece. Kelsey Moss also had a solid start to the day, scoring four of Newcastle’s first six points. Despite some solid early scoring from Emma Claus for Hills, the Hunters jumped out to a 23-14 lead by the end of the first quarter.

Hills remained unfazed, and stuck with Newcastle throughout the second quarter to keep themselves right in the contest. Anja Kolodziej got Hills rolling, before Madison Hare notched six second quarter points for the Hornets in a solid effort from the home side. Newcastle continued to find scoring principally from Moss and Batkovic, and despite not extending their lead, were still able to maintain a nine point lead, taking a 39-30 advantage into the halftime break.

An 8-2 run provided Newcastle with an excellent start to the second half, and for a time it looked as if Hills were about to be blown away. However, the Hornets slowly chipped away at Newcastle’s lead, with Kolodziej, Claus, and Sherrie Calleia all getting amongst the points. But trailing by nine with just 90 seconds remaining in the quarter, it looked as if Hills would not make any real inroads. Enter Andrea Roditis, who scored the last five points of the quarter to put Hills within four at 53-49 down with a quarter to play.

Hills managed to hang with Newcastle in the opening stages of the last quarter, still trailing by just four with seven minutes to play. Newcastle’s class began to shine through in the latter stages though as a 13-0 run over the course of five minutes secured victory for the Hunters. Calleia added a couple of late points for the Hornets, but the 74-58 win was well and truly in Newcastle’s hands by that point.

Suzy Batkovic dominated for Newcastle yet again, finishing with 27 points and 24 rebounds. Kelsey Moss added 21 points, whilst Alison Ebzery tallied 9 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists. Emma Claus registered a double-double for Hills, tallying 16 points and 13 rebounds. Sherrie Calleia added 10 points, whilst Anja Kolodziej picked up 8 points and 7 rebounds.

Illawarra 42 lost to Norths 68

Norths locked Illawarra down, restricting the Hawks to single figures in both of the first two quarters on their way to a comprehensive 26 point victory.

Illawarra opened the scoring through Olivia White, and although Norths scored the next six points of the contest, Illawarra remained in touch in the early stages. The score read 8-7 in Norths’ favour after six minutes, but five consecutive points from Jaimee Kennedy, who had sat out Saturday’s game against Comets, delivered the Bears a 15-7 buffer by the end of the quarter.

The second quarter was remarkably low scoring. Eleni Valos tallied five points in the quarter for the Bears, and that alone was half of the team’s points for the quarter. Even more surprisingly, Valos outscored the entire Illawarra side, who registered just four points for the quarter. Despite the lack of scoring, the Bears were still able to extend their margin to 14 points, taking a 25-11 lead into halftime.

The third quarter brought far more excitement to the table as both offences managed to fire at times. White and Georgia Ohrdorf led Illawarra’s scoring in the early stages and managing to trim the Norths lead to ten points by the midpoint of the quarter. However, Norths hit back in the latter stages of the period, and with scoring coming from a number of players, including Kallie Hovatter and Kate Seebohm, the Bears maintained the 14 point lead they had built, holding a 45-31 lead going into the final quarter.

Norths opened the fourth quarter on a tear, scoring the first 16 points of the quarter to put the game beyond doubt early in the term. Seebohm and Kennedy did the bulk of the damage, with Tristan Black chipping in to help Norths get out to a 61-31 lead. Illawarra managed to trim the margin in the last few minutes of the quarter, but Norths still ran out 68-46 victors.

Jaimee Kennedy top scored for Norths with 19 points, and also added 7 rebounds. Kallie Hovatter chipped in with 13 points, whilst Kate Seebohm completed a double-double of 10 points and 10 assists, and also chipped in 6 rebounds, 5 steals, and 2 blocks to finish just shy of a 5×5 performance. Eleni Valos added 10 points and 7 rebounds, whilst Tristan Black enjoyed a day out on the boards with 12 rebounds to go with her 6 points.

Weekly Scoring Leaders:

Casey Samuels (Bankstown) – 36 points v Sutherland
Suzy Batkovic (Newcastle) – 27 points v Hills
Madison Hare (Hills) – 21 points v Manly
Peta Kneen (Sutherland) – 21 points v Bankstown
Kelsey Moss (Newcastle) – 21 points v Hills

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

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

At The Turn: Bankstown Bruins

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

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

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

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

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

Waratah Championship Week 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