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 9 Roundup

Hornsby won their ninth game on the trot and left Newcastle’s finals hopes in tatters in the process, whilst a vastly improved performance from Illawarra wasn’t quite enough to slow down a solid Manly side.

Hornsby 88 defeated Newcastle 78

Hornsby established an early lead and consolidated their dominance throughout the majority of the contest to remain undefeated, whilst Newcastle’s finals hope hang by a thread after dropping to 3-6 with this loss.

The Spiders started the better of the two teams and quickly jumped out to a 14-4 lead, with Rachel Maenpaa and Kristina Moore leading the way for the home side. Newcastle were able to hold the margin at 10 for much of the opening term, but never made any real inroads until Cassidy McLean’s three, which was the last score of the quarter, trimmed Hornsby’s lead to 24-17.

Hornsby started the second quarter well, but Suzy Batkovic began to make her mark on the game with six quick points as Newcastle came within five points before a pair of Alicia Poto three pointers gave Hornsby a bit more breathing room. A late run to end the quarter which saw the Spiders find scoring from a variety of players saw the Spiders put the game firmly in their control by halftime with the scoreboard reading 50-34 in the home side’s favour.

Batkovic continued to lead the scoring for Newcastle in the third quarter, but stopping Hornsby from finding the bottom of the basket proved difficult for the visitors. Darneka Rowe shone throughout the third quarter with nine points in the period for the Spiders, who continued to find points in a variety of ways. Despite losing Liv Sheehan to a knock early in the quarter, the home side pushed their lead out to 20 at one point, but a late charge from the Hunters cut the margin to 14 with a quarter to play.

Newcastle used the momentum generated from that late third quarter run to force their way back into the contest. A Sophie Parente jumper trimmed the margin to seven with just under 6 minutes to play, and the Hornsby lead hovered around that figure, with the teams still separated by seven after Batkovic converted a pair at the line with 2:35 to play.

Kristina Moore stepped up late for the home side, drawing a foul and converting both free throws before hitting a jumper on Hornsby’s next possession to score four consecutive points and put the Spiders up 84-73 with just a minute to play. Alison Ebzery and Batkovic added late points for Newcastle, but Moore and Rowe were composed at the charity stripe to ice the game for the Spiders.

Kristina Moore continued her outstanding season, leading Hornsby’s scoring with 22 points. Darneka Rowe was also excellent with 18 points, and Rachel Maenpaa added 14. Alicia Poto collected a triple-double with 17 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists, whilst Tylah Mundine secured 10 rebounds of her own. Suzy Batkovic again led Newcastle with 31 points and 14 rebounds, and was supported by backcourt pair Cassidy McLean and Cherub Lum. McLean finished with 11 points, whilst Lum added 15 on 58% shooting. Alison Ebzery was also solid in several facets, finishing with 7 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists.

Sutherland 42 lost to Bankstown 65

Sutherland had a chance to further strengthen their finals credentials, but were dealt a savage blow by Bankstown, who put themselves right in the playoff hunt with a 22 point victory.

Casey Samuels took on the world and won in the first quarter, registering 11 of the Bruins’ 17 first quarter points in a dominant performance. Conversely, Sutherland’s points came in a far more balanced fashion as the Sharks remained within a basket after the first quarter as Bankstown took a 17-15 lead into the second quarter.

The teams traded baskets early in the second quarter before scoring began to elude the home side. Threes to Madison Bennett and Kellie Parker opened up a lead for Bankstown before Ellie Gleeson and Aleesha Coulter drove a wedge between the teams as the Bruins took a 29-20 lead into the last five minutes of the half. The Bankstown defence continued to stifle Sutherland, with the Sharks able to only find one more basket in the back end of the term as an 18-7 quarter for Bankstown established a 35-22 halftime lead for the visitors.

Neither team was able to find much offence in the third quarter, but that mattered little to Bankstown as Sutherland were unable to make any indent into the Bruins’ lead. Early points to Bankstown pushed the lead to 16 before Lisa Watkins trimmed the margin back to 13 again, but that was as close as Sutherland would get in the third quarter. Whilst Bankstown were only able to tally 12 points in the quarter, the Sharks could only muster 9 and the third quarter ended with the score 47-31 in the Bruins’ favour.

Bankstown continued their dominance in the fourth quarter, using a mid-quarter 9-0 run to push the lead out to 58-36 and put an end to the contest. Casey Samuels returned to her scoring form of the first quarter, and the game meandered to its predictable finish with little scoring in the final couple of minutes, with the final score reading 65-42 to the visitors.

Casey Samuels was the only player on either team to reach double figures, dominating with 24 points and 12 rebounds to be the difference-maker. Marjy Grealish also came up with 12 rebounds to go alongside 6 points for the Bruins. Jane Scrivens tallied 11 boards and Peta Kneen registered 10 rebounds for Sutherland, but Lisa Watkins’ 8 points was the best scoring performance any Sutherland player could muster on a tough day for the Sharks.

Hills 43 lost to Norths 77

Bouncing back from last week’s narrow loss to Hornsby, Norths remain in second place after a solid win away to Hills despite missing Kate Cranney and Jaimee Kennedy.

Led by some early scoring from young star Sherrie Calleia, Hills kept right in touch with Norths in the opening stages, but a late run to end the first quarter opened up a lead for the visitors. Three-pointers from Bree Delaney and Kate Seebohm helped the visitors score 10 of the last 14 points of the quarter to move to a 21-13 lead after one quarter of play.

Despite not scoring a point for the first four minutes of the second quarter, Norths were somehow able to extend their lead. Taylor Jones finally got the Bears started with a three, which was followed by two more from Seebohm as the point guard scored 10 consecutive points for Norths. Seebohm would finish with 12 of Norths’ 20 points for the quarter, which also represented five more than the young Hills side could muster throughout the quarter. Although their shooting percentage was a touch on the low side, the Bears managed to push the lead to 41-20 by halftime and set themselves up for a less stressful second half.

With all credit to Hills, the young side did not waver in their tenacity in the second half. Following a cagey start to the half from both sides, it was the home side that rattled off a 11-0 lead midway through the third quarter. Brittany Ridlen added five of those 11 points before Ali Burke snapped the run by drawing a foul and converting a pair of free throws. Hills would go on to win the third quarter 17-15 in an admirable performance.

Normal service resumed in the final term as Norths cruised to victory. Six fourth quarter points from Kallie Hovatter paced the Norths offence, whilst Burke, Seebohm, and Jones all chipped in as the Bears dominated the final term to run out 77-43 winners.

Kate Seebohm delivered an exceptional performance to lead Norths to victory. Shooting 66% from the field, Seebohm registered 23 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, and a remarkable 7 steals. Kallie Hovatter added 16 points, whilst Tristan Black and Eleni Valos were outstanding on the boards with 14 and 11 rebounds respectively. Brittany Ridlen compiled a double-double for Hills with 10 points and 11 rebounds, whilst Madison Hare tallied a respectable stat line of 6 points and 8 rebounds.

Illawarra 71 lost to Manly 88

With something resembling a nearly full squad, Illawarra produced possibly their best performance of the season, but Manly were able to pull away in the fourth quarter to move to 7-4 through 11 games.

With Olivia White back in the lineup, the Illawarra team looked on paper to be a vast improvement on the understrength squad the Kittyhawks had been forced to field in recent weeks, and it showed in the early stages. The home side hung with Manly in the early stages, and even managed to take an 11-8 lead midway through the opening term on the back of scoring from Olivia White and Georgia Ohrdorf. A lightning first quarter saw the points flow at both ends, with every Illawarra basket matched by one from the Sea Eagles. When Rachel Harris hit a jumper for the Kittyhawks with 11 seconds remaining in the opening term, the score read 28-26 in the Sea Eagles’ favour.

With that kind of scoring pace untenable for long periods, things did begin to slow slightly in the second quarter. Rebecca Duke was able to command the paint for Manly, but the home side were able to stay in touch with scoring from a number of players. With Lauren Sparks running the offence at the point and dishing out assists, Illawarra were able to hang in there despite Manly taking a 49-41 lead into the halftime break.

Despite letting the margin grow to double figures early in the third quarter, Illawarra trimmed the Manly lead back to seven on several occasions throughout the term. However, Manly hit back each time to maintain a solid enough lead to ensure that the visitors would head into the final term up 65-55 after a 15-14 third quarter that was almost the antithesis of the opening term.

Any thoughts of an upset win for Illawarra were extinguished early in the fourth quarter as Manly started the term on an 8-0 run that pushed the lead to 18 with 7 minutes to play as Candice Trevenna torched the Kittyhawks with six points to start the term. Despite the best efforts of Illawarra, that early run from the Sea Eagles ended the game as a contest as the Kittyhawks were unable to trim the margin in the latter stages of the contest. A late Olivia White jumper moved Illawarra within 17, with the game finishing 88-71 in the visitors’ favour.

Despite suffering a knock during play, Georgia Ohrdorf top scored for Illawarra with 22 points and also tallied 7 rebounds. Olivia White added 15 points and 13 rebounds for a double-double, whilst Lauren Sparks nearly completed a triple-double, finishing with 11 points, 10 assists, and 8 rebounds. Rebecca Duke was outstanding in the paint to finish with 23 points and 10 rebounds for Manly, whilst Candice Trevenna added 14 points and 18 rebounds for a double-double of her own.

Weekly Scoring Leaders

Suzy Batkovic (Newcastle) – 31 points v Hornsby
Casey Samuels (Bankstown) – 24 points v Sutherland
Rebecca Duke (Manly) – 23 points v Illawarra
Kate Seebohm (Norths) – 23 points v Hills
Kristina Moore (Hornsby) – 22 points v Newcastle
Georgia Ohrdorf (Illawarra) – 22 points v Manly

At The Turn: Illawarra Kittyhawks

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 Illawarra Kittyhawks, who are out of finals contention, but still have plenty to play for in 2017.

It’s been a difficult first half of the season for the Illawarra side. The Kittyhawks lost Renae Garlepp, Rachel Lisch, Katina Mandylaris, and Courtney Dean from last season’s team which made the grand final, leaving massive holes in the lineup. With an experienced duo of Lauren Sparks and Olivia White leading a team with a large amount of Youth League players, a slip down the table was always expected in 2017.

However, extended player absences have seen Illawarra’s performances suffer markedly. Lauren Sparks has played just three of the team’s eight games, and Olivia White has played just five. With those two players both out of the side, the Kittyhawks lost their most winnable game of the season to this point, going down 63-51 away to Hills. With a full team on the court, Illawarra did go agonisingly close to defeating Newcastle in the weeks before Suzy Batkovic arrived for the Hunters, going down 67-65.

Safe to say, it hasn’t been a good first half of the season results-wise for Illawarra. However, it would be extremely myopic to simply look at the win-loss column and toss this season away. Tiarna Porter has excelled during a tough stretch to average over 9 points per game, whilst Youth League stars Eleri Morris and Paige Phillips have stepped up for the team at times. Morris is shooting 45% from the field to lead the team in that category, and has finished three games in double figures for points. Phillips is averaging 7.3 points per game, and has also finished in double figures three times. With many Youth League players receiving extended runs in the side, this season could prove to be of massive benefit going forward in the long-term for Illawarra, especially with the potential return of Katherine and Liisa Ups from college in mid-2018.

Looking to the remainder of 2017, the outlook is far more promising for Illawarra, and it stems from the return of Georgia Ohrdorf, who is back from college in the US for the next few months. Ohrdorf dropped 28 points in the team’s 73-64 loss to Sutherland last weekend despite stepping off a plane just eight hours earlier to lead the league in scoring for the week. Sydney Uni Flames guard and spiritual leader of the team Lauren Sparks has also returned to the side to run the offence from the point guard spot. Whilst finals are out of the question this season, the Hawks could yet steal a couple of wins as the season progresses. The June 3rd fixture away to Comets and the home game against Hills on the final day of the season shape to be the team’s best chances to grab that elusive victory, with the team facing a tough road to end the season. It would certainly be fun from a neutral standpoint to see the unfancied Kittyhawks spring an upset or two and put the cat amongst the pigeons in the finals race though!

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

Waratah Championship Week 3 Roundup

In a week that saw several teams assert their dominance over the competition, the defending champion Newcastle Hunters were once again found wanting, slipping to 1-2 after a loss to Sutherland.

Bankstown 71 defeated Comets 51

A dismal second quarter performance from Comets condemned the inner-city side to a loss in an otherwise solid performance against Bankstown, who cruised to victory despite the absence of Briana Maimone and Casey Samuels. Bankstown were unable to pull away from the visitors in the first quarter, with the opening term ending 12-11 in home side’s favour. However, the second quarter saw the Bruins hit the Comets with everything but the kitchen sink, holding their opponents to just six points whilst pouring in 25 of their own to effectively kill the game as a contest by halftime. Comets were able to pull back a small part of the 20 point margin in the third quarter, but Bankstown, on the back of solid scoring from a number of players, were able to cruise to a 71-51 victory. Aleesha Coulter led Bankstown with 11 points, whilst Kellie Parker and former Comet Rhiaan Te-Hira finished with 10 points apiece. Another former Comet, Ellie Gleeson, was outstanding on the boards to haul in 9 rebounds, whilst Marjy Grealish collected 10 boards to go with 8 points. Jaimee Cohen again put Comets on her back with 12 points and 11 rebounds, whilst Megan Cantellano and Serika Shillingsworth dropped in 10 points each.

Box Score

Manly 65 lost to Norths 80

Manly hung with Norths early, but were set on their heels in the second quarter as Rebecca Duke found herself in foul trouble. Norths opened up a four point quarter time lead, and managed to double that by halftime as Kallie Hovatter and Bree Delaney shone for the team in red and black. Manly didn’t have any particularly bad quarters, but Norths just edged them in each period and this proved to be enough for the Bears to take a 15 point win back down the Pacific Highway to Crows Nest. Candice Trevenna top scored for Manly with 19 points, whilst former Sydney Uni Flame Kristen Forbes dropped in 13 points. Norths were led by a pair of outstanding performances from two backcourt players. American point guard Kallie Hovatter finished with a game-high 24 points, with Bree Delaney dropping in 23 points of her own. Tristan Black was again outstanding on the boards with 10 rebounds, and Kate Seebohm played an outstanding role as facilitator, finishing with 6 assists alongside 8 rebounds and an impressive 4 steals.

Box Score

Newcastle 66 lost to Sutherland 71

The defending champion Hunters continue to be troubled by a sheer lack of personnel, with Sutherland condemning Newcastle to another loss. Despite being forced to rope in the apparently retired Jacki Nicholson and assistant coach Shelley Bates to make up for a lack of numbers, Sutherland opened up a solid nine point lead by the end of the first quarter. Newcastle recovered four points of that margin by halftime, leaving the game fairly evenly poised heading into the second half. The Hunters shaved off a single point of the deficit in the third quarter, but Sutherland were able to hold firm in the fourth quarter to deny Newcastle a comeback win. Clare Thomson was outstanding off the bench for Sutherland to finish with 15 points and 8 rebounds. Lisa Watkins added 14 points, and Peta Kneen dropped in 10 points and collected 8 rebounds in the win. Newcastle found scoring from a number of options, with Cherub Lum leading the way with 16 points and 8 assists. Alison Ebzery and Emily Keith added 14 points each, and Kelsey Moss finished with 10 points.

Box Score

Hills 51 lost to Hornsby 82

On paper, this game was over before it began, but an excellent first half performance from Hills coupled with a slow start from Hornsby left this game still in the balance at halftime. Hills kept in touch throughout the opening two quarters, and by halftime trailed by just eight, with Hornsby slowly finding rhythm. However, the third quarter brought about a 27-5 demolition by the Spiders, who only found top gear for that one quarter, but one quarter was all that was required as the visitors were able to ease their way to victory in the fourth quarter on the back of that third quarter effort. Darneka Rowe was the Spiders’ star, finishing with the outstanding stat line of 18 points on 53% shooting, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, and 5 steals. Kristina Moore also scored 18 points of her own, whilst Alicia Poto added 11 points, 9 assists, and 8 rebounds. Olivia Sheehan was again excellent, falling just shy of a double-double with 10 points and 9 rebounds. Emma Claus top scored for Hills with 16 points, whilst Sherrie Calleia and Madison Hare adding 11 points apiece. Hare also collected 9 rebounds to be arguably Hills’ best on the day.

Box Score

Manly 69 defeated Illawarra 40

Despite being without point guard and spiritual leader Lauren Sparks, an unfancied Illawarra side opened up a surprising 17-7 lead by the end of the first quarter courtesy of a scoring blitz led by Eleri Morris. Unfortunately for the Hawks, the more experienced Manly-Warringah side set about righting the ship and dominated the second quarter 24-8 to take a six point lead into halftime. With scoring options all over the court and the Sea Eagles dominating on the glass, the game became almost a procession in the second half as Manly cruised to a 29 point victory. Rebecca Duke put in the most rounded performance of all. The former WNBL player notched an impressive 5×5 game, finishing with 15 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 5 blocks, and 5 steals to register a rare achievement. Kristen Forbes finished with a double-double comprised of 11 points and 12 rebounds, whilst Fiona Sparks tallied 10 points. Youngsters Eleri Morris and Paige Phillips led the scoring for Illawarra with 16 and 12 points apiece, whilst Olivia White was outstanding on the boards with 13 rebounds.

Box Score

Weekly Top Scorers:

Kallie Hovatter (Norths) – 24 points v Manly
Bree Delaney (Norths) – 23 points v Manly
Candice Trevenna (Manly) – 19 points v Norths

Waratah Championship Week 2 Roundup

A week that saw three games go right down to the wire may have left more questions than answers as Week 2 provided more than its share of excitement.

Bankstown 46 lost to Manly 50

Casey Samuels may have dropped 24 for Bankstown, it was Manly who found more scoring options and eventually came away with a nail-biting victory. Bankstown opened up a 7 point lead by the end of the first quarter, but some lockdown defence combined with less than impressive shooting from the Bruins saw the Sea Eagles tie things up at 26-26 by halftime. Whilst Bankstown’s top scorers outside Samuels tallied just 5 points, the ex-WNBL duo of Kristen Forbes and Rebecca Duke stood up for Manly. Duke finished with 19 points, whilst Forbes had 10 of her own. Sarah White also tallied 10 points as Manly used a 15-7 final term to finish over the top of the Bruins and secure a vital early win.

Box Score

Hornsby 68 defeated Comets 48

Excluding the first quarter, this was a tight game that saw the Comets take the contest to Hornsby for large parts. Unfortunately, the Spiders blew the visitors off the court in the first quarter to open up a 29-15 lead after 10 minutes. The Comets were able to limit Hornsby to just 11 points in each of the next two quarters, but with their own offence failing to fire, the game simply moved further and further out of reach. Rachel Maenpaa was once again outstanding for Hornsby, finishing with 19 points and 4 rebounds. Olivia Sheehan continued her solid start to the season with 17 points, whilst Alicia Poto tallied 10 points. Tylah Mundine and Darneka Rowe were outstanding on the glass, hauling in 11 and 13 rebounds respectively. Samantha Hewitt top scored for Comets with 14 points, whilst Jaimee Cohen was again outstanding with 13 points of her own.

Box Score

Newcastle 67 defeated Illawarra 65

Last week’s loss to Comets showed that Newcastle need to get some troops back urgently, and whilst they picked up a thrilling win over Illawarra, the match did little to discourage the idea that the Hunters need to get Suzy Batkovic in the lineup sooner rather than later. Against an Illawarra side that is by their own admission in a rebuilding phase, Newcastle were unable to shake the young Hawks. Illawarra took a 37-35 lead into halftime, but Newcastle managed to put together a 19-12 third quarter that gave the home side a slight buffer going into the fourth quarter. However, the Hawks rallied in the fourth quarter and Paige Phillips had a 3 point shot in the dying seconds to win the game, but it was off target and Newcastle survived to move to 1-1. Import Cherub Lum was Newcastle’s top scorer with 19 points as four Hunters hit double figures. Kelsey Moss and Emily Keith tallied 13 points apiece, whilst Alison Ebzery notched 10 points and 14 rebounds for a double-double. Cassie Pentney also reeled in 12 rebounds of her own. Lauren Sparks again led from the front for Illawarra with 17 points. Tiana Porter provided excellent support with 16 points, whilst Olivia White was outstanding on the boards with 15 rebounds.

Box Score

Norths 77 defeated Hills 33

A much-vaunted Norths squad featuring a World Champion coach and three players from Hornsby’s 2016 semi-final team faced the inexperienced Hills in their first game, and it was about as much of a contest as was expected. Restricting Hills to single figures in three of the four quarters, Norths opened up an early lead and never looked back. Up 32-13 at halftime, the Bears continued to fire in the second half for a more-than-comfortable 77-33 win. Eleni Valos and Jaimee Kennedy tallied 15 points apiece to lead Norths, whilst Elle Carroll finished with 11 points in just 15 minutes of action. Kate Seebohm was outstanding with 10 points, 8 rebounds, and 7 assists, whilst Tristan Black was excellent on the boards with 10 rebounds. Amelia Iskowicz was Hills’ best with 8 points and 7 rebounds.

Box Score

Sutherland 63 lost to Manly 66

A sterling comeback from Sutherland fell just short as Manly escaped the Shire with the W despite letting a 35-23 halftime lead slip. Sutherland started the game slowly and Manly steadily built up a significant margin to take a 12 point lead into halftime. However, Sutherland started hitting their shots in the third quarter and even led the game with under 4 minutes to play. However the Sea Eagles were able to recover their lead and hold off Sutherland for a nail-biting win. Ex-WNBL players Rebecca Duke and Kristen Forbes dropped in 14 points apiece for Manly. Young starlet Shyla Heal brought some much needed energy off the bench for Sutherland and finished the game as the Sharks’ top scorer with 12 points, with Peta Kneen dropping in 11 points for the home side.

Box Score

Weekly Scoring Leaders

Casey Samuels (Bankstown) – 24 points v Manly
Rebecca Duke (Manly) – 19 points v Bankstown
Cherub Lum (Newcastle) – 19 points v Illawarra
Rachel Maenpaa (Hornsby) – 19 points v Comets

Waratah Championship Week 1 Roundup

It was a day of blowouts in the opening round of the Waratah Championship, but Comets and Newcastle came to the rescue with a thriller in the nightcap.

Hornsby 68 defeated Manly 50

In a game that was effectively over as a contest by halftime, Hornsby took the first win of the Championship season on the back of outstanding veteran performances and dominance on the glass led by youngster Nicole Hutchins. The Spiders opened up an early 14-2 lead on the back of some excellent outside shooting from Rachel Maenpaa and Darneka Rowe, but Manly were able to peg back the home side late in the opening term to leave the game poised at 16-11 after a quarter.  Hornsby simply exploded on offence in the second quarter, outscoring the Sea Eagles 24-7 to take a 40-18 lead into halftime.

It wasn’t long before new Spiders coach Sarah Graham, fresh off a WNBL championship as a player less than 24 hours earlier, was able to switch up the rotations and give some younger players invaluable experience. Youth League trio Tylah Mundine, Kristina Moore, and Maddy Della Franca spent significant time playing together in the fourth quarter as Hornsby were able to hold Manly at bay in a largely scrappy second half to run out 68-50 winners. Manly’s cause was not helped by shooting a dismal 21% from the field for the contest, with only their 15 of 22 free throws making the scoreline look more respectable than it perhaps should have been.

Rachel Maenpaa and Alicia Poto both finished with double-doubles. Maenpaa dropped in 17 points on her Waratah League debut and also collected 11 rebounds, whilst Poto finished with 11 assists and 12 rebounds alongside 6 points. Rebecca Duke finished in double figures for Manly with 15 points.

Box Score

Illawarra 52 lost to Bankstown 83

An Illawarra side stripped of most of its best players from 2016 came up against a Bankstown side returning most of its 2015 title-winning side. As expected, Bankstown romped to an easy victory, but it was mainly due to a second half where Illawarra just ran out of legs. The Hawks certainly hung with Bankstown for the majority of the first half, trailing 22-16 after one quarter and 37-30 after an encouraging second quarter. However, with Bankstown’s roster featuring 12 players worthy of playing time in the Waratah League, the Hawks’ nine-player rotation with a heavy Youth League flavour to it was always destined to struggle in the back half of the game. It showed as Bankstown won each of the last two quarters 23-11 to cruise to an 83-52 win.

Former Sydney Uni Flames player Casey Samuels did the major damage for Bankstown, shooting 50% from the field on her way to 18 points and also picking up 10 rebounds for a first-game double-double. Briana Maimone, Kellie Parker, and Adrianne Bywater all finished in double figures as the veterans went to work for the Bruins. For the Hawks, it was also the veterans leading the way. Sydney Uni Flames player Lauren Sparks finished with 17 points and 5 assists, whilst Olivia White was a menace on the glass. The forward pulled down 15 rebounds and also dropped in 13 points.

Box Score

Hills 47 lost to Sutherland 70

Hills struggled in 2016 and things don’t look set to change too much this year after a 23 point loss to a Sutherland side reeling from the departures of Taylor Mathers and Lauren Nicholson. Whilst the Sharks have added Rachel Lisch, the squad does look a bit thinner than last season. It mattered little as the visitors attacked from the outset to open up an early 15-6 lead. Sutherland extended their lead at every break, just edging their way ahead as the game progressed to complete an emphatic 23 point win.

Rachel Lisch top scored for the Sharks with 14 points, whilst Peta Kneen and Jane Scrivens also hit double figures. Kneen finished with 12 points, whilst Scrivens dropped in 11 alongside 8 rebounds. Madison Hare, Andrea Roditis, and Nicole Massih all finished with 8 points for Hills as the scoring was shared across the team.

Box Score

Comets 54 defeated Newcastle 48

Coming up against an understrength Newcastle side, Comets had to know that this would be their best chance of stealing a victory against a top team this season. The hosts came out strongly, but Newcastle quickly hit back as import Cherub Lum made her mark on the game early. A supremely quick first step and ability to get to the basket was on show from the Canadian as the defending champions established an 18-11 lead by the end of the first quarter. However, the Comets came back into the game strongly in the second quarter. An outstanding defensive effort coupled with some unnecessary turnovers from the Hunters limited the visitors to just six points in the second quarter and allowed Comets to take a 28-24 lead into halftime. Neither team was able to do much on offence in the third quarter, with just 19 points being scored as the game grew increasingly scrappy

Fortunately, the level improved in the fourth quarter. A three pointer from Megan Cantellano – her first points of the game – put Comets up by 10 with just under 8 minutes to play, but Newcastle were far from done. The visitors went on a run of their own to trim the margin back to 45-42, and got back within two points with three minutes to play. Unfortunately for the visitors, that would be their last scoring play of the game. Whilst the Comets fared little better at the offensive end late on, they were able to hit enough shots to seal the game and take a crucial early win.

Jaimee Cohen led all scorers with 18 points, whilst Maja Jurlina and Samantha Hewitt finished with 10 points apiece. Cherub Lum was Newcastle’s top scorer with 17 points, whilst Alison Ebzery and Emily Keith secured double-doubles. Ebzery finished with 16 points and 14 rebounds, whilst Keith had 10 rebounds of her own to go with 12 points.

Box Score

Weekly Scoring Leaders

Jaimee Cohen (Comets) – 18 points v Newcastle
Casey Samuels (Bankstown) – 18 points v Illawarra
Cherub Lum (Newcastle) – 17 points v Comets
Rachel Maenpaa (Hornsby) – 17 points v Manly
Lauren Sparks (Illawarra) – 17 points v Bankstown