Grand Final Day Roundup: Three Divisions, Three Thrillers, Three Champions

The neutrals couldn’t have asked for much better on grand final day for Waratah League, with all three women’s grand finals going down to the wire. With two games still yet to be decided in the final minutes and the other going to overtime, it was a day packed with excitement at Maitland.

Youth League: Central Coast 63 lost to Penrith 69

Despite not securing their finals spot until the last possible moment, Penrith somehow conjured a finals series run of form that culminated in back-to-back titles for a Panthers side that managed to spring a grand final upset over Central Coast.

A cagey start from both teams saw the first points not scored until almost two minutes into the fixture, but when the points came, they came thick and fast for Penrith, who scored seven points in 63 seconds to lead 7-0 just over three minutes into the contest. The highly-fancied Central Coast side quickly trimmed the lead to 9-6 through Charlie Evans and Alessandra Gasparotto, but Penrith managed to maintain a slim lead throughout the first quarter. Meg Jefferson used her length advantage to great success, delivering Penrith a 13-10 lead after a quarter, which could have been larger if not for a late Rachel Williams basket for Central Coast.

Threes from Sarah Creanor and Binta Salawu pushed the Penrith lead back out to seven points early in the second quarter as the Central Coast offence was stifled slightly after the break. Fortunately, from a neutral perspective, the Crusaders were able to keep things close thereafter in what turned out to be a low-scoring start to the second quarter. Losalini Katia made the most of some chances around the basket, but Jefferson continued to be a significant influence on the game for Penrith as the first half progressed. Despite the best efforts of Evans and Shakera Reilly, Penrith continued to maintain a decent lead throughout the second quarter, and took a 32-25 lead into the halftime break.

The opening stages of the second half saw the teams trade baskets, but Dominika Offner’s three point shooting prowess came to the fore on the back of Binta Salawu’s outstanding game control at the point, pushing Penrith to a 42-33 lead midway through the third quarter. Evans took control of the scoring for Central Coast in the latter stages of the third quarter, scoring almost at will at times. Despite this, the play of Salawu ensured Penrith would maintain their lead, albeit at a reduced 47-42 margin with a quarter to play.

Needing to trim the margin quickly if they were to secure victory, Central Coast set about their task with aplomb, as Evans and Lucy Chapman helped the Crusaders tie the game at 55-55 midway through the fourth quarter, negating the influence of Natalia Beaumont’s outstanding work in and around the paint for Penrith. However, just as it looked as if Central Coast might kick on and secure win, Tatiana Beaumont was allowed clear room to knock down a three, and a basket from Jefferson soon after changed the complexion of the game, putting Penrith up 60-55 with just under 3 minutes remaining in a nail-biting grand final.

The scoring dried up in the face of timeouts from both teams, before Tatiana Beaumont knocked down another three to extend Penrith’s margin to 8 points and put the Crusaders in a difficult situation with just over a minute to play. Evans was finally afforded a couple of foul calls which had eluded her for the previous 39 minutes, but Penrith managed to return the favour with points of their own, and when Salawu connected on a pair of free throws to extend the margin to six with 14 seconds to play, the game was clearly in Penrith’s hands. Central Coast attempted to find an open three, but time wound down too quickly for their liking and the Panthers survived to secure a 69-63 win and a second consecutive championship.

Binta Salawu was awarded Grand Final MVP after tallying 20 points for Penrith, whilst Meg Jefferson added 12 for the Panthers. However, it was Charlie Evans who led all scorers with 27 points for Central Coast, whilst Losalini Katia tallied 10 for the Crusaders.

Division 1: Bathurst 69 defeated Coffs Harbour 67 (OT)

In a day of thrilling grand finals, the Division 1 Women’s grand final between Bathurst and Coffs Harbour was undoubtedly the most exciting, with the game almost heading into double overtime before the Goldminers secured victory in the extra five minutes.

A low-scoring first quarter saw neither team able to hit double figures until the final seconds as defence reigned supreme. Former Newcastle point guard Sophie Kleeman, looking for her second title in two years after 2016’s Championship title with the Hunters, led a slightly disappointing nine point quarter for Bathurst with four points, whilst it took threes from Jordon Woods and Felicity Cook alongside a basket from Hawaii Pacific University player Jessi Reeves to drag Coffs Harbour to a 12-9 lead after a quarter of play.

The underdog Coffs Harbour side managed to maintain their slender lead in the early stages of the second quarter, and with Emily Crampton knocking down shots here and there, quickly moved out to a 19-12 lead. Bathurst looked sure to be down by a significant margin by halftime, but with Kleeman directing traffic and the experienced Rachel Murray getting to the charity stripe now and again, the Goldminers kept themselves in touch for much of the second term. Disappointingly for Bathurst though, they allowed Coffs Harbour a late run to end the half on the back of some ill-advised offensive plays, and the Suns moved out to a 35-24 lead at halftime.

An early Jordon Woods basket to start the second half pushed Coffs Harbour out to a 13 point lead. However, whatever happened in the Bathurst locker room at halftime had an effect, because Haylee Lepaio and Matilda Flood went to work to trim the lead before Sophie Kleeman nailed a crucial three-pointer which moved the Goldminers within two points at 40-38 midway through the third term as the minor premiers’ class began to shine through. The unfancied Coffs Harbour side refused to lie down though, ensuring they maintained a lead throughout the majority of the third quarter, save for a brief period when the scores were tied, and ensured that they would take a 50-46 lead into what at that time looked to be the final period.

Four fouls from Coffs Harbour before a single point was scored in the fourth quarter changed the complexion of proceedings even if the scoreboard remained the same. Young Bathurst star Olivia Doble, aided by Lepaio, helped Bathurst on a scoring run which could have completely flipped the script if not for five consecutive points from Woods in reply which restored Coffs Harbour’s lead after they briefly lost it in the early stages of the final term. At 59-56 up following a basket from Reeves, the Suns held all the aces, but the Goldminers held the ball. Lepaio managed to get the ball through the hoop with 19 seconds to play, and when Woods split a pair at the line after being fouled to stop the clock, Bathurst had a chance. However, the Goldminers took the sensible option and Matilda Flood managed to put the ball through the bottom of the net to send the game to overtime at 60-60 as Bathurst took the high-percentage shot rather than pin their hopes on a low-percentage three.

Controversy ensued midway through overtime as, with the score at 64-62 in Bathurst’s lead, Murray and Felicity Cook had a bit of a coming together. A common foul was assessed on Cook, whilst Murray picked up the unsportsmanlike foul. Murray missed both free throws, whilst Cook nailed one of her pair, and Coffs Harbour retained possession with the score at 64-63 in the Goldminers’ favour. Laura Bamford-Cleland managed to find the basket to give Coffs Harbour a lead, but Lepaio tied the game at 65-65 by splitting a pair at the line. With neither team especially reliable at the charity stripe, anything could have happened, but Lepaio secured an and-one late in the piece to negate another Bamford-Cleland basket and give Bathurst a 68-67 lead. Coffs Harbour were unable to score, leading to another foul and free throws to Lepaio with 0.3 seconds remaining. Lepaio split the pair, but with no timeouts remaining, a heave from 85 feet was always unlikely to fall, and Bathurst secured the grand final win that their regular season campaign deserved.

Haylee Lepaio’s 20 points secured a Grand Final MVP award for the former Newberry College star,  with three more Goldminers finishing in double figures. Sophie Kleeman added 15 points, whilst Rachel Murray tallied 13 points and young starlet Matilda Flood registered 11 points. Jordon Woods top scored for Coffs Harbour with 19 points, whilst Emily Crampton tallied 10 for the Suns.

Championship: Manly 58 defeated Norths 56

The WNBL experience of Manly’s starting lineup came to the fore in the final stages as the Sea Eagles came from fourth place to secure victory in a thrilling Championship grand final more than worthy of being the final game of a highly competitive season.

Norths certainly got off to a quick start, with Kallie Hovatter sneaking in to pick off Rebecca Duke’s jump-ball win to tally the first points of the game just 5 seconds into the contest. The American guard needed almost two minutes to add to her tally, but nobody else scored any points in the meantime, as the score read Norths 5, Manly 0 after two minutes following a Hovatter three. It wasn’t long before Manly hit back through Belinda Snell and Kristen Forbes to take a 6-5 lead, as the teams then traded short runs to leave the scoreline reading 10-10 after six minutes of action. However, anything that looked as if it may transpire into an extended scoring run was quickly snuffed out by the opposition, and whilst Norths moved out to a 14-10 lead at one point, a late Erin Todd layup delivered Manly an 18-17 lead to end the first quarter.

The score remained close as the second quarter progressed through its opening stages, with a Muffi Loader three proving crucial to Norths in the early minutes. However, Belinda Snell found her groove to find her way to the basket for a lay-up before drawing a foul from Kate Seebohm on a three point shot. The Opals legend hit two of the three free throws to move Manly into a 24-21 lead, and when Rebecca Duke was fouled by Hovatter around the basket, the Sea Eagles lead was out to five. The margin drifted between three and six points for much of the remaining time of the second quarter, with the shooting of Eleni Valos providing an unexpected bounty for Norths. In the end, the lead would remain with the Sea Eagles at 34-30 as the teams headed to the locker room.

A 6-0 run for the Bears to open the third quarter moved the lead into their hands, but once again Manly hit back to tie things up through an Erin Todd drive and lay-up. Todd and Seebohm traded baskets before Valos and Hovatter popped up with baskets to move Norths back into a 44-40 lead. In the lowest scoring quarter of the match, four points would mean plenty, and that is exactly what Manly finished the quarter with as Duke and Sarah White each registered late lay-ups to tie the game at 44-44 with just the fourth quarter remaining.

Razz Muir split a pair at the line to open the final term, before Seebohm hit a three and Muir split another pair of free throws to move Norths into a 49-44 lead. Snell hit back with a lay-up soon after, but a Hovatter drive to the basket saw Norths lead 51-46 with just over six minutes remaining. The American drew a shooting foul on Snell shortly after, and suddenly the Bears were looking good value for their 53-46 lead. However, an extended scoring drought and a Sarah White three were enough to trim the lead back to a manageable 55-52 with 2:31 to play following yet another Snell lay-up for Manly.

With neither team especially clinical from the charity stripe, both teams left points at the line which meant that Snell’s jumper in the final minute moved the scoreline to 56-55 in Norths’ favour. Jaimee Kennedy collected her own rebound on the next Norths’ possession but was forced into a desperation pass which landed in Kristen Forbes’ hands. Manly engineered a possession which, combined with a Norths’ defensive breakdown in the paint, allowed Rebecca Duke a wide open lay-up to hand Manly a 57-56 lead. A Norths timeout followed, and on the ensuing play, Kallie Hovatter came off a screen brilliantly to get to the basket, but Duke came up big for the eighth time in the contest to block the shot. Norths inbounded the ball, but Snell came up with the steal and was fouled in the dying seconds. The Sydney Uni Flames star split the pair, but Norths were left with an unlikely heave as the seconds ticked down. With the Bears unable to get a shot off, Manly were left jubilant, celebrating their first women’s championship in club history with a 58-56 victory.

Belinda Snell picked up the Grand Final MVP award with 18 points, 10 rebounds, and 6 assists, but Rebecca Duke’s 12 points, 15 rebounds, and massive 8 blocks were arguably just as important. Erin Todd rounded out the double-figure scorers with 10 points for the Sea Eagles. Kallie Hovatter top scored with 15 points for Norths, and also picked up 9 rebounds and an impressive six steals. Kate Seebohm tallied 15 points whilst shooting 60% from three point range, and also added 6 assists. Eleni Valos tallied 10 points and 6 rebounds, whilst Jaimee Kennedy and Tristan Black added 9 and 10 rebounds respectively.

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 17 Roundup

Bankstown came up with a final day win over Manly to sneak their way into the 2nd v 3rd semi-final, where they will play Norths, who knocked off Newcastle and hit triple figures in the process.

Manly 59 lost to Bankstown 67

In a game that would ultimately decide the finals placings behind Hornsby, it was Bankstown who first created an astounding lead and then did their level best to throw it away before emerging victorious to secure a spot in the 2 v 3 semi-final v Norths, leaving Manly to face Hornsby in the 1 v 4 matchup.

With Adrianne Bywater, Casey Samuels, and Briana Maimone all proving accurate in their shooting early in the contest, Bankstown opened up a 13-0 lead before Manly finally got on the board through a Kristen Forbes three. It did little to stop Bankstown’s momentum though, as the Bruins continued to fire away through Samuels and Madison Bennett to take a 27-6 lead after the first quarter.

However, the thing about large early leads is that the opposition have plenty of time to chip away at them. That’s exactly what Manly did, as Rebecca Duke found ways to score time and again to move Manly within five points at 32-27 midway through the second quarter. Mercifully for the Bruins, they were able to go on a small run of their own as an Ellie Gleeson basket kick-started some late scoring to ensure Bankstown went to the locker rooms with a double-digit lead at 41-29.

A low-scoring third quarter worked in Manly’s favour as Bankstown’s momentum came to a complete standstill. It took over three minutes for the Bruins to add four points to their halftime total, and with Candice Trevenna joining Duke in a scoring spree, the Sea Eagles trimmed the margin to a solitary point at 45-44 with just under three minutes to play in the third quarter. But once again Bankstown survived with their lead intact as Gleeson and Samuels added some late points to see the Bruins head into the final term up 50-44.

Manly had threatened for the entire second half and tied the game at 50-50 early in the final term. Somehow Bankstown were kicked into gear, perhaps by the apparent urgency of the situation, rattling off the next 8 points of the game to re-establish a reasonable lead with 5 minutes to play. The visitors then extended that lead to 12 with just under 3 minutes to play, and with Manly’s offence unable to fire down the stretch, Bankstown survived to escape with a 67-59 win and secure second place in the standings.

Rebecca Duke compiled an impressive 17 point, 16 rebound double-double to almost drag Manly to victory, whilst Candice Trevenna added 11 points and 7 rebounds. Casey Samuels also finished with a double-double, registering 22 points and 11 rebounds. Ellie Gleeson impressed with 14 points, whilst Briana Maimone tallied 11 points, 7 rebounds, and 8 assists to finish just shy of a triple-double.

Norths 103 defeated Newcastle 69

Norths compiled the first 100 point game of the season at the best possible time, hitting some solid offensive form right on the cusp of finals after a few poor shooting games in recent weeks.

An electric first quarter from Norths put the home side on the front foot from the outset, as the Bears hit shots with alarming regularity. Kallie Hovatter and Jaimee Kennedy led the Bears’ scoring in the early stages, and with more than able support from Kate Seebohm, the home side compiled a remarkable 30-12 lead by the end of the opening term, with Suzy Batkovic’s five first quarter points leading Newcastle.

Fortunately for the Hunters, they found a little more success on offence in the second quarter. Batkovic continued to find ways to score, whilst Sydney Uni Flames guard Cassidy McLean hit a number of three pointers to keep Newcastle’s score ticking along. Unfortunately for the visitors though, Norths continued to fly on offence. The backcourt duo of Hovatter and Seebohm continued to dominate proceedings, and with a number of frontcourt options getting the job done in the paint, a high-scoring quarter finished 27-23 in the Bears’ favour to hand the home side a 57-35 halftime lead.

The scoring rampage continued for both teams in the early stages of the second half. McLean and Batkovic continued to deliver for Newcastle, with support coming from Kelsey Moss. Hovatter continued to add to her tally, whilst Muffi Loader added some handy points off the bench for the Bears. Newcastle emerged to win the third quarter 23-21, taking a 78-58 lead into the final quarter.

Norths hammered home their advantage in the final quarter, holding Newcastle to just 11 points in the last ten minutes of the contest. Kelsey Moss was responsible for six of these, giving the Hunters some rare highlights in the final term. Loader and Eleni Valos each ticked their personal tallies into double figures in the final quarter for the Bears, with Kate Golding also afforded a rare extended stint on court to tally some late baskets as Norths emerged 103-69 victors which no doubt helped their confidence leading into finals.

Kallie Hovatter led Norths with 26 points, whilst Kate Seebohm completed a double-double with 21 points and 10 assists. Jaimee Kennedy also registered a double-double with 16 points and 17 rebounds, whilst Muffi Loader added 14 points and Eleni Valos tallied 11 for Norths. Suzy Batkovic led Newcastle with 27 points and 10 rebounds, whilst Cassidy McLean chalked up 22 points and Kelsey Moss added 12 points and 5 boards.

Comets 47 lost to Sutherland 72

With neither team able to move from their current position in the standings, pride was all that was at stake at this one, and it was Sutherland who emerged as winners in their final game of the season to finish with a respectable but ultimately fruitless 8-8 record.

A blistering start to the game set up an early advantage for the visitors. Starting the game on a 13-0 courtesy primarily of Clare Thomson and Peta Kneen, it was nearly seven minutes before Comets registered their first basket through Nadine Wannous. Fortunately, Comets did keep pace with Sutherland from that point onwards, but still trailed 21-7 after ten minutes of play as Lisa Watkins got in on the act with some late points to end the quarter.

Things went slightly better for Comets in the second quarter, but Sutherland continued to extend their lead. The home side opened the quarter well, with Jaimee Cohen in particular providing some early points. However, as Comets’ scoring tailed off in the latter stages of the quarter, Watkins and Kneen, along with Jane Scrivens, continued to extend Sutherland’s lead. With Comets unable to score for the last 3 minutes of the quarter, the Sharks’ lead grew to 39-19 by halftime.

The home side scored the first five points of the third quarter, but Sutherland were quickly back in the swing of things to maintain their 20 point cushion. Although Serika Shillingsworth went on a tear in the latter stages of the quarter with seven quick points to reduce the margin to something respectable, Sutherland were still holders of a 55-33 lead with one quarter to play.

Maja Jurlina tacked on some late points for Comets, but with the game meandering to its already obvious conclusion, neither team was able to swing the margin too far in their favour, with a mid-quarter flourish from Sutherland seeing the visitors take home a 72-47 victory.

Peta Kneen led all scorers with 23 points for Sutherland, whilst Clare Thomson came close to a double-double with 15 points and 9 rebounds. Lisa Watkins added 16 points, whilst Jane Scrivens collected 16 rebounds and Rachel Herrick chalked up 10 boards. Serika Shillingsworth top scored for Comets with 13 points, with Jaimee Cohen tallying 9 points. Lauren Breen was Comets’ best on the boards with 11 rebounds.

Illawarra 67 defeated Hills 53

Illawarra condemned Hills to the wooden spoon on the very last day of the season courtesy of yet another dominant performance from Georgia Ohrdorf, who accounted for just shy of half of the Kittyhawks’ total.

A depleted Kittyhawks side that dressed only a starting five for the game would have to come out strong, and they did just that. The Kittyhawks, led by some early points from Bronte Covington and Lauren Sparks, hung with Hills in the opening stages before taking an 11-9 lead just shy of four minutes into the contest. Turnovers reigned supreme in the middle portion of the term, but Ohrdorf scored 10 of Illawarra’s final 11 points of the term to establish a 22-17 lead despite the best efforts of Madison Hare and Anja Kolodziej for Hills.

Ohrdorf continued to dominate in the early stages of the second quarter, and with scoring assistance from Eleri Morris, the Kittyhawks continued to extend their margin. An 18-4 run to open the quarter from Illawarra pushed the home side out to a 40-21 lead before some late baskets from Emma Claus helped settle things for a Hills side that struggled to find any scoring for much of the term. Paige Blanton added a couple of late free throws for the Kittyhawks to see their lead extended to 46-27 at halftime.

Hills fared slightly better in the third quarter, scoring the first six points of the second half to give themselves a sniff of a comeback, but Illawarra hit back with an 8-0 run of their own to take the lead past 20 points with five minutes remaining in the term. Andrea Roditis added a couple of quick baskets for Hills, but their scoring charge was definitely felt more in the opening stages of the term. Hills did win the third quarter, but only by a 12-11 margin, leaving Illawarra comfortably ahead at 57-39 with ten minutes remaining.

Illawarra must no doubt have been tiring by this stage, but the Kittyhawks held firm in the final quarter. Whilst their scoring was down, they allowed Hills just two baskets in the first five minutes of the final term to have the game wrapped up well before the final buzzer. A late 10-0 run for Hills added some respectability to the scoreline, but it would be the Kittyhawks who secured their second win of the season to leapfrog Hills in the final standings and hand the Hornets the wooden spoon.

Georgia Ohrdorf led all scorers with a simply masterful 32 points and 16 rebounds in her final game before heading back to Metro State University for her senior year. Lauren Sparks also finished in double figures with 12 points, and also picked up 6 assists and 5 steals. Eleri Morris, Paige Blanton, and Bronte Covington were also solid. Morris finished with 8 points and 9 rebounds, Covington tallied 8 points and 8 rebounds, and Blanton registered 7 points and 9 rebounds. Emma Claus top scored for Hills and also picked up 7 rebounds, whilst Anja Kolodziej picked up 12 points and 5 rebounds. Madison Hare was solid as always, finishing with 11 points and 6 rebounds.

Weekly Scoring Leaders:

Georgia Ohrdorf (Illawarra) – 32 points v Hills
Suzy Batkovic (Newcastle) – 27 points v Norths
Kallie Hovatter (Norths) – 26 points v Newcastle
Peta Kneen (Sutherland) – 23 points v Comets
Cassidy McLean (Newcastle) – 22 points v Norths
Casey Samuels (Bankstown) – 22 points v Manly

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