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 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

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

2017 Division I College Season Wrap

The 2016/17 NCAA Division I season saw a number of players from New South Wales take the court, with a raft of state and national representatives making a name for themselves in the United States. Despite missing out on NCAA Tournament spots, a number of players had outstanding seasons. Meanwhile, others had solid freshman campaigns which will set them up for the remainder of their college careers.

Lauren Calver

Freshman | Forward | Houston Baptist | Illawarra

Despite winning just six games this season, Lauren Calver has plenty to look forward to after a solid first season in college basketball. The freshman earned 14 starts in her opening campaign, and duly delivered time and again. In just her second game, Houston Baptist came up against powerhouse Texas. Despite going down 98-46, Calver finished with 11 points, and followed this up with 13 points against Rice the very next game. Four more double figure efforts followed throughout the season, including 14 points in an upset win over McNeese State in the team’s final regular season game.

Abi Curtin

Freshman | Forward | Denver | Hornsby

It was a tough year for Denver, who finished the season with just 6 wins from 30 games, but there were positives that came out of a freshman class that saw five first year players earn multiple starts. One of these players was Hornsby’s Abi Curtin, who started 6 of her 22 games this season. Curtin’s rebounding efforts were perhaps her shining light. Despite limited minutes, her 48 rebounds came at a rate of 9.1 per 40 minutes played. In a team that will have to improve its rebounding next year – Denver ranked 284th in rebound margin this season – Curtin’s ability on the glass could be crucial to the team.

Alex Delaney

Junior | Forward | St. Francis (NY) | Comets

In a young St. Francis team that needed an extra leader this season, Alex Delaney was the player that stepped up alongside the seniors to provide the team with direction. The junior improved her scoring to break the 10 point barrier for the first time, averaging 10.4 points per game. Delaney also improved her rebounding from 3.2 to 5.2 boards per contest. The junior’s ability to step up for her team was on show regularly, but never more so than in the team’s must-win game against Mount St. Mary’s. Requiring a victory to reach the Northeast Conference tournament, Delaney shot 6-10 from the field on her way to 18 points and also dished out 7 assists in a 71-55 win after the previous match between the two teams had ended 62-44 in their opponents’ favour.

Jasmine Forcadilla

Freshman | Guard | Saint Mary’s | Central Coast

Named to the West Coast Conference All-Freshman team, conference honours were reward for a solid season that gives Forcadilla a platform to build from in her three remaining years at college. Averaging 13 minutes per game off the bench, the freshman hit double figures twice and showed quite the penchant for getting to the line. More than one third of Forcadilla’s 94 points for the season came from the charity stripe, where she shot 72% for the season. Forcadilla played more minutes this season than all bar one of Saint Mary’s returning guards, so there should be increased opportunities come Jasmine’s sophomore year.

Megan Johnson

Freshman | Forward | Texas-Rio Grande Valley | Newcastle

Texas-Rio Grande Valley, or UTRGV as they are more widely known, are out to prove they are a team on the rise and freshman Megan Johnson fit the bill perfectly for the Vaqueros this season. Of the four players to feature in every game this season, Johnson was the only freshman on the UTRGV roster, and earned nine starts in the process. Offered token minutes off the bench early, Johnson quickly proved her prowess with an 11 point, 8 rebound effort against nationally ranked Oklahoma in what was an otherwise tough evening in a 33 point loss. Johnson tacked on three more double figure scoring efforts late in the season to average 4 points and 4 assists per game in her first campaign.

Anais Kirvan

Senior | Forward | Fresno State | Comets

2015/16 may have been disappointing for Kirvan, but her senior year saw vast improvement in both playing time and production for Fresno State. One of four players to feature in 32 of the team’s 33 games this season, the senior increased her total playing time from 63 minutes to 330 minutes, and with that increase in playing time came an explosion in her other stats. Tripling her per game scoring and doubling her per game rebounding, Kirvan even earned a solitary start. Missing out on a WNIT bid, Fresno State reportedly turned down an offer to play in the third-level WBI tournament meaning that Kirvan’s college career unfortunately ended with a loss in the Mountain West championship game.

Elizajane Loader

Freshman | Guard | Portland State | Hornsby

A late addition to the Portland State side, Loader was cleared to play in mid-December and played her first game for the Vikings just after Christmas. Despite being in and out of the side throughout the year, the freshman saw playing time in 13 games and was even afforded three starts in a shortened first season in college. Coming in late is never easy for a player, and with a full preparation under her belt before next season, Loader will surely have far more opportunity to showcase her skills in 2017/18.

Danijela Milisic

Freshman | Forward | Southern California | Hills

Despite a lean year in terms of minutes for Milisic, it wasn’t all bad news for the freshman. Featuring in twenty games this year, Milisic was even afforded a couple of starts midway through the season as injuries conspired to leave a hole in the USC frontcourt. Although Milisic only averaged six minutes or so a game, those starting berths show that she has a place in the squad, and with a new coach coming in following the resignation of USC and WNBA legend Cynthia Cooper-Dyke, there may be more opportunities next season.

Vanessa Panousis

Senior | Guard | Virginia Tech | Comets

Despite not reaching the lofty heights achieved in her first two seasons at Virginia Tech, Panousis rebounded slightly from a relatively lean 2015/16 to improve her scoring numbers from 8.6 to 9.1 points per game. This was despite the senior playing her few minutes per contest of any of her four college seasons. Panousis’ top performance this year possibly came at Auburn, where a 20 point effort helped Virginia Tech keep an unbeaten start to the season alive in a 92-87 overtime win. That winning streak would extend to 16 games before the conference season well and truly stopped the Hokies in their tracks. Panousis went 9 games without scoring in double figures in this time before rebounding late in the season as Virginia Tech earned a WNIT bid. Although the Hokies bowed out at the quarter final stage, Panousis produced a vintage performance in her final game. Finishing with 17 points, Panousis shot 5-9 from the field to further extend her school record for three pointers. The Comets product finished her Virginia Tech with 269 three point field goals, and also holds the record for games started, career free throw percentage and three point attempts.

Dru Toleafoa

Sophomore | Guard | Santa Clara | Bankstown

Toleafoa featured regularly enough for Santa Clara this season, playing in 22 of the Broncos’ games. However, the sophomore’s playing time was on the thin side, averaging just 7 minutes of playing time per contest. Toleafoa’s opportunities have been limited so far and this may continue next season as both members of the Broncos’ backcourt will return for 2017/18. A strong offseason could certainly see the Bankstown product increase her minutes off the bench, though.

Katherine Ups

Junior | Guard | Buffalo | Illawarra

Emerging as a starter for Buffalo in her junior season, Katherine Ups started the season with a 16 point performance against Massachusetts that was good enough to set a new career high for the junior. Whilst her minutes dipped through the middle of the season, Ups’ playing time saw a resurgence towards the pointy end of the season to play a vital role for Buffalo. The reduction in minutes saw the Illawarra product’s per game numbers drop slightly, but when given the opportunity, Ups was still a solid contributor for Buffalo.

Liisa Ups

Junior | Guard | Buffalo | Illawarra

Coming off the bench in 20 games this season, Liisa Ups may not have been as visible on court as her sister, but still maintained a presence for Buffalo throughout the campaign. Averaging seven minutes of playing time per game, Ups played more than 10 minutes on seven occasions, including 20 minutes of action against Kent State. However, at other times her impact was limited to garbage time minutes, somewhat curbing the junior’s ability to make her mark. With Buffalo’s star guard Joanna Smith graduating after this season, there will no doubt be minutes opening up and Liisa will certainly want to make some of that redistributed playing time her own in her senior season.

Courtney West

Sophomore | Forward | Portland State | Sutherland

A block party in downtown Portland sounds like a lot of fun, but if you’re an opposition team and Courtney West is hosting, it may be best to turn down the invitation. The sophomore swatted away 94 shots this season, which was good enough for top 10 in the nation, but that was hardly her only contribution to a Portland State side that reached the conference tournament semi-finals. Averaging 10.4 points and 7.4 rebounds per game, West also picked up six double-doubles to quite literally lead the team from the front throughout the season. One of only two Portland State players to start all 32 games this year, West’s crowning achievement came in the first round of the conference tournament. Shooting an efficient 6-8 from the field, the Sutherland product dropped in 14 points and also finished with 10 rebounds, 6 assists, and 3 blocks as the #7 seeded Vikings knocked off Northern Arizona 88-76 for the second time in two weeks to set themselves up for a run to the semi-finals.

NSW Player Of The Year: Courtney West (Portland State)

Whilst Alex Delaney also had an outstanding season, it is difficult to go past a player who had the kind of dominant season that Courtney West put together in 2016/17. In a conference not stacked with tall players, having a shot-blocker like West can be a real point of difference, and it showed. Whilst Portland State finished with the #7 seed after a solid but unspectacular regular season, West proved to be a tough matchup for some of the top sides in the conference and at times unstoppable against the lower teams in the Big Sky. The Sutherland product led the conference blocks list by over 40, and also produced at the offensive end to average double figures in points.

Player Team Games PPG RPG APG
Calver, Lauren Houston Baptist 26 4.81 2.31 0.46
Delaney, Alex St. Francis (NY) 30 10.40 5.27 3.17
Curtin, Abi Denver 22 2.05 2.18 0.27
Forcadilla, Jasmine St. Mary’s 31 3.03 0.97 1.68
Johnson, Megan UTRGV 33 4.12 4.06 0.49
Kirvan, Anais Fresno State 33 2.76 2.00 0.21
Loader, Elizajane Portland State 13 1.08 0.77 0.85
Milisic, Danijela USC 20 1.50 0.35 0.00
Panousis, Vanessa Virginia Tech 33 9.00 3.00 4.00
Toleafoa, Dru Santa Clara 22 0.36 1.09 0.18
Ups, Katherine Buffalo 32 3.38 3.22 1.72
Ups, Liisa Buffalo 20 0.90 1.25 1.15
West, Courtney Portland State 33 10.49 7.46 2.09