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

At The Turn: Sydney Comets

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 Sydney Comets, who started the season with an upset win, but have since struggled to make an impact.

An extended streak of missed finals looks set to go on for another year for Comets, with the inner-city team sitting at 3-5 having played each opponent once in their first eight games. Having lost Bree Delaney, Sarah Davidson, Rhiaan Te Hira, and Ellie Gleeson from last season’s team, and Jaimee Cohen spending an extended period on the sidelines through injury, circumstances have conspired against the Comets and seen their finals chances almost extinguished even at this early point.

The Comets took advantage of their chance to face Newcastle before Cassidy McLean and Suzy Batkovic joined the team, winning their first match of the season 54-48 over the defending champion Hunters. Since then, though, it has been a bit of a tough stretch. Three heavy losses to Hornsby, Bankstown, and Norths followed before sneaking home 66-65 at home to Hills. That win started a recent stretch in which the team has split their last four matches, defeating Illawarra at the Snakepit, but going down to Sutherland and Manly to arrive at their current record of 3-5.

The continued absence of Jaimee Cohen has hurt Comets in recent weeks, and their ten point loss to Sutherland and twelve point defeat to Manly surely would have been much closer affairs with Cohen available. The Comets do have the week off this week, allowing the star forward an extra week of recovery before they take on Illawarra. The Comets defeated a decimated Illawarra side 71-50 earlier in the season, and the make-up of the two lineups could very well be a game-changer in the return fixture. Following that game, things get tough with games against Manly, Hornsby, and Newcastle to come, so a win against Illawarra to build some confidence would be just what Comets need at this stage.

Whilst finals basketball looks out of reach at this point, Comets can still certainly register a few more wins in the second half of the season and finish with a respectable record that gives the team something to build on. There is certainly a solid young core to work with, with Serika Shillingsworth, Chloe Morrissey, Maja Jurlina, and Tatyanna Pogonza-Dumas all players with buckets of time on their side. However, with that said, Comets has been an organisation that has exported a number of players to colleges in the US in recent years, which could have a bearing on the team’s progression beyond 2017.

Waratah Championship Week 8 Roundup

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

Illawarra 64 lost to Sutherland 73

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

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

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

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

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

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

Box Score

Norths 62 lost to Hornsby 65

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Box Score

Comets 50 lost to Manly 62

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

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

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

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

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

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

Box Score

Weekly Scoring Leaders

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

Waratah Championship Week 6 Roundup

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

Manly 62 lost to Hornsby 81

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sutherland 65 defeated Comets 55

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

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

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

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

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

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

Newcastle 60 lost to Norths 69

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hills 63 defeated Illawarra 51

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

Weekly Scoring Leaders:

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

Waratah Championship Week 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

SEABL Season Preview

The New South Wales presence in SEABL has doubled this season, with the Albury-Wodonga Lady Bandits joined by the Sydney Uni Sparks, a development program forming a pathway to the current WNBL champion Sydney Uni Flames. The Sparks feature four members of the Flames 2016/17 squad, with Shanae Greaves, Lara McSpadden, Tahlia Tupaea, and Susannah Walmsley providing some added experience to an otherwise young squad. The remainder of the Sparks roster is comprised of players out of the Flames academy program, with all players still in their teenage years and a couple still in high school.

Shanae Greaves is the only player with significant SEABL experience in the squad, with over 150 games in Australia’s premier winter league to her name. However, with Karen Dalton coaching the side and veterans Belinda Snell and Hayley Moffatt acting as assistant coaches, there is plenty of guidance for a young Sparks side being thrown in the deep end. The majority of the Sparks squad has never even played a Waratah Championship game, with Youth League the highest club level many of them have achieved. However, the majority of the squad have featured at a national championships in the last couple of years, with many outstanding performers.

Sydney Uni Sparks Junior National Championship Stats

Player Championship Team PPG RPG APG
Beaumont, Natalia 2016 U18 NSW Metro 11.00 7.57 1.29
Calleia, Sherrie 2016 U18 NSW Metro 2.71 1.86 1.14
Carroll, Elle 2016 U18 NSW Metro 6.14 2.86 2.00
Castle, Katie 2016 U18 NSW Metro 4.14 3.43 2.71
Evans, Charlie 2015 U18 NSW Country 9.88 1.75 1.88
Matthews, Emily 2017 U20 NSW 7.00 1.60 1.20
McSpadden, Lara 2016 U18 NSW Country 12.62 6.62 1.50
Mocatta, Teaan 2016 U18 NSW Metro 6.14 5.14 0.86
Morrissey, Chloe 2015 U18 NSW Metro 5.33 3.11 1.00
Mundine, Tylah 2016 U18 NSW Metro 5.43 7.71 1.57
O’Hehir, Maddie 2016 U20 NSW 16.83 3.50 2.00

Alongside the young starlets will be four members of the Sydney Uni Flames WNBL side, although Lara McSpadden and Tahlia Tupaea could be considered young starlets themselves. All four players featured for the Flames this season, with Tupaea and Shanae Greaves providing the most impact off the bench of the group.

Sydney Uni Sparks 2016/17 WNBL Stats

Player PPG RPG APG
Greaves, Shanae 2.04 1.89 0.68
McSpadden, Lara 1.20 0.20 0.00
Tupaea, Tahila 8.27 3.80 1.47
Walmsley, Susannah 0.33 0.33 0.50

There is certainly plenty of talent in the Sparks’ squad, but once the season begins, it becomes a question of how well the young players can handle the jump to the second-highest level of basketball in Australia. However, at the end of the day, this program’s success will be measured more in the progression of players than the number in the wins column.

Meanwhile, down in Albury, there has been mass upheaval with several changes to the Lady Bandits squad. The side has lost 11 players, including Alex Ciabattoni, Ellie Junod and Haylee Lepaio from the ranks of local players, whilst it is also all change in terms of the team’s import players with Toccara Ross and Adijat Adams joining the Albury-Wodonga side.

Ross played college basketball at Iowa State, where the forward averaged 10.7 points and 7.3 rebounds in her junior season before injuries stifled her production for the remainder of her college career, which ended in 2009. Since that time, the American has played in Europe and South America as well as one previous SEABL season for the Hobart Chargers in 2011. Adams is slightly younger, having graduated from Biola University in 2014, where the 6’2” centre averaged over 16 points in each of her final two college seasons. Adams spent last season playing in Western Australia for Mandurah, where she starred for the Magic.

Five players do return, including the team’s spiritual leader Molly Rice, who was the team’s second-highest average scorer with 15.2 points per game. Rice and Stephanie Gorman, who averaged 9.7 points per game last season, will shoulder the majority of the scoring load alongside imports Adams and Ross.

The teams start their season playing each other in Albury on Saturday night, with early NSW bragging rights on the line. Albury-Wodonga will be eager to improve on 2016’s last place finish in the South conference, whilst the Sparks will be hoping to get their first win on the board as soon as possible to ease the pressure early on.