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

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

Youth League: Central Coast 63 lost to Penrith 69

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Championship: Manly 58 defeated Norths 56

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Youth League Week 19 Roundup

Penrith scored a win over a depleted Central Coast to really shake up the final standings at the last possible moment. Manly secured the first round bye with a big win over Bankstown, making a statement in the process.

Norths 51 defeated Newcastle 34

Newcastle may have only travelled to this game with six players, but with Norths missing their only true outside threat, Ali Burke, due to injury, they would have to win this game in the paint as they looked to clinch their finals berth.

Norths got off to the best possible start, chalking up the first six points of the game as former Sydney Uni Flames forward Annobel Starr came up with two early baskets. Newcastle slowly came into the game to trim the margin, but Norths retained a 10-6 lead after a low-scoring quarter in which both teams found it tough to get anything of substance created on offence.

Sarah-Jane Thomas took her personal tally to six early in the second quarter as Norths found the better looks. Meiling Patfield was Newcastle’s scoring leader through the second quarter, but with Katerina Diamant and Elle Carroll finishing a couple of tough looks, it soon looked as if the Bears would break away from the visitors. However, late baskets to Grace Kibble and Hannah Fox saw the Hunters able to trim the Norths’ lead to 24-16.

Newcastle hung with Norths in the early stages of the second half as Patfield continued to add points, but the class of Carroll showed through in the third quarter. 12 points in the term for the recently returned guard was the catalyst for Norths to take a 44-23 lead after three quarters as the Sydney Uni Sparks program member took the game into her own hands to put the game beyond doubt when it had earlier appeared that Newcastle were set for a comeback.

The Hunters put together an 8-1 run early in the fourth quarter, but it was more a case of stopping Norths’ scoring on a number of consecutive occasions than getting quick points, as the scoreline read 45-31 with 4 minutes to play. Whilst more scoring followed, there was very little of it, and Norths ran out 51-34 winners to finish the regular season on 11 wins and secure a finals spot.

Elle Carroll led all scorers with 16 points, whilst Sarah-Jane Thomas, Katerina Diamant, and Annobel Starr each tallied 6 points for the home side. Meiling Patfield led Newcastle with 10 points, whilst Melanie Edwards and Hannah Fox each added 6 for the Hunters.

Illawarra 76 defeated Hills 65

A win in this game wouldn’t be enough for Illawarra to secure the first round bye in the finals, but they could certainly upset Hills’ plans to do so, and with Eleri Morris resembling some sort of fireball, the young Kittyhawks chalked up a 76-65 win.

Morris was on a tear early in the contest, scoring 9 of the game’s first 13 points as Illawarra took an 11-2 lead inside four minutes. Five early points from Paris Roditis kept Hills in the mix early at 12-7, and two late threes from Rachael Mules kept the Hornets’ offence ticking over. However, in the meantime, Tyler Vukovcan and Bronte Covington took the reins from Morris and ensured Illawarra would take a 24-13 lead into the first break.

Mules, as well as Madison Hare, did their level best to keep Hills in touch as the game progressed into the second quarter, but Vukovcan and Covington continued to provide perfect foils for Morris, with the trio leading Illawarra past the half-century mark before halftime with some electric scoring. Paris Roditis added five more points for Hills, but nonetheless, Illawarra held a commanding 51-33 lead at halftime.

With Mules continuing to hit threes, Hills moved back within 11 early in the third quarter before Claudia Flynn found herself at the line three times in quick succession, converting four of her opportunities in the process. The Hornets continued to have the better of the quarter though, with Hare and Mules, backed up by Zoe Burke and Laura Davidson, trimming the Illawarra lead to 61-56 with 90 seconds remaining in the the third quarter. Morris came up with a big three point play with just under a minute to play to push Illawarra out to 64-56, which is how the quarter ended.

Morris and Flynn hit early shots in the fourth quarter for Illawarra, and Hare countered with one of her own, but after six points in a minute, the teams would combine for the grand total of zero points in the next four minutes of play. Hills really needed to be the next team to score, but instead it was Morris extending Illawarra to a 72-58 lead with just under 5 minutes to play. Hare played a lone hand in the dying stages to give Hills a pulse at 74-65 down with two minutes to play, but Morris scored the only basket of the final stages to deliver Illawarra a 76-65 victory.

Eleri Morris was simply scintillating, stuffing the stat sheet with 36 points. Tyler Vukovcan added 12 and Bronte Covington chipped in 11, whilst Claudia Flynn’s ability to get to the line helped her to 10 valuable points. Rachael Mules’ three point scoring helped her to 20 points, with six threes forming the bulk of her points. Madison Hare tallied 18 points for the Hornets, whilst Paris Roditis added 12.

Penrith 65 defeated Central Coast 46

With a few tiebreakers in their favour and facing a depleted Central Coast side in their final game of the season, Penrith came into this one with a chance to jump to third, and they did exactly that with a 19 point win over the ladder leaders despite Natalia Beaumont’s absence.

Although Central Coast were suffering from a lack of numbers, you only need five players to take the court to start the game, and with most of the starting lineup intact, the Crusaders jumped out to an early 9-2 lead courtesy of four early points from Losalini Katia. Dominika Offner quickly put paid to any ideas of the Crusaders getting away from the Panthers though, with two quick threes that delivered Penrith a 10-9 lead. Katia continued to dominate the opening quarter though, and two late Taylor Ferris free throws helped Central Coast to a 15-12 lead after a quarter.

The Panthers opened the second quarter in dominant fashion, with Tatiana Beaumont scoring seven of the first nine points of the term and Penrith unable to get on the board for the first five minutes of the period. Somehow, despite these struggles, Central Coast were not completely blown away by halftime. Katia added five late points to combat the Panthers’ scoring, but the home side retained a 27-20 halftime lead courtesy of an excellent start to the quarter.

The third quarter proved to be Meg Jefferson’s time to shine. Whilst Katia and Rachel Williams combined to score all 10 Crusaders points in the term, Jefferson scored 14 of her own to put Penrith well and truly in the driver’s seat. With teammates chipping in points here and there, Jefferson’s heroics extended Penrith’s lead to 48-30 with a quarter to play.

Four more points to Jefferson opened the final quarter and soon the Panthers had pushed the margin out beyond the 20 point mark. Williams and Ferris did what they could to attempt to trim the lead, and Shakera Reilly added some late points, but with Penrith adding points at regular intervals, the Panthers were able to hold the lead at around 20 points throughout the fourth quarter and secure a 65-46 win to shake up the finals positions as Penrith jumped into third with the win.

Meg Jefferson led all scorers with 24 points, thanks mainly to that third quarter barrage. Tatiana Beaumont added 12, whilst Dominika Offner’s early three point shooting helped her to 9 points. Losalini Katia led Central Coast with 19 points, whilst Rachel Williams finished with 11 points. Taylor Ferris and Shakera Reilly each added 7 for the depleted Crusaders side which still finished well clear atop the table despite the loss.

Liverpool-Macarthur 61 lost to Sutherland 83

In a game with little hanging on it but pride, Sutherland completed a 10 win season but finished narrowly out of the finals after a 22 point win over Liverpool-Macarthur.

Brianna Morris was the one doing early damage for Sutherland, tallying five early points as Sutherland manufactured an early 12-5 lead before Taylor Muaulu and Kimberley Sepuloni hit back for Liverpool-Macarthur. The Razorbacks’ pair combined for 11 points and saw the home side claw back to see the teams tied at 15-15 after a quarter of play.

Bianca Carusio added a couple of baskets early in the second quarter for the Razorbacks, but the class of Maddy Norris quickly shone through. The Sutherland star tallied 9 points in the opening stages of the quarter to help push the visitors out to a 30-20 lead. Carly McLachlan chipped in a few points before Parrish Leavai rounded out what turned out to be a dominant second quarter for the visitors with five late points to see the Sharks take a 42-27 lead into the halftime break.

Although Sutherland continued to extend their lead in the third quarter, Liverpool-Macarthur found a significant positive in the play of debutant Jenarl Faraimo, who hit shot after shot to tally 11 points in the third quarter alone. Norris and Leavai continued to keep the Sharks’ score ticking over, with Meredith Hines also stepping up at times as the Sharks took a 63-42 lead into the final quarter.

The Razorbacks kept pace with Sutherland in the fourth quarter, with a number of players tallying points for the home side in a solid team performance from the depleted Liverpool-Macarthur side. However, the Sharks had this game well and truly sewn up and ran out 83-62 victors in their final game of the season.

Jenarl Faraimo led Liverpool-Macarthur with 24 points, whilst Kimberley Sepuloni and Taylor Muaulu each tallied 12 points and Bianca Carusio added 9 for the Razorbacks. Maddy Norris led all scorers with 27 points, with Parrish Leavai adding 20 for the Sharks. Brianna Morris chipped in 13 for the visitors, whilst Carly McLachlan added 12 as four Sharks finished in double figures.

Manly 79 defeated Bankstown 42

A win for Manly would deliver them the first-round bye, and they secured the win in dominant fashion, locking down the Bankstown offence throughout the contest on their way to a 37 point victory.

Manly didn’t have it all their own way in the early stages as Bankstown proved more than a match for the Sea Eagles. Whilst Katie Castle and Faith Bulgin each started solidly, Tasmyn Haynes and Georgia Gale made a living at the free throw line early in the game to keep the Bruins right on pace with Manly. A run of five points from Antonia Henderson looked as if it might set Manly on a bit of a run, but Sabrina Zenatti’s late three kept Bankstown within a basket at 15-13 down after a quarter.

Manly looked dangerous in the early stages of the second quarter, with Josie Bulman adding a couple of baskets in the opening minutes. However, Bankstown hit back on each occasion until midway through the term. From 22-19 up, Manly went on an 8-0 run to extend their lead to 11 points and put Bankstown under some real pressure. Brittany Pulling added a late basket for Bankstown, but Manly retained a 30-21 lead at halftime.

Surely not wanting Bankstown to get even a sniff of a comeback, Manly held firm in the opening minutes of the second half before putting the hammer down as the third quarter progressed. A seven point lead quickly became ten, and then rolled past the 15 and 20 point mark. With Castle and Bulman hitting shots with aplomb, the Bruins became almost powerless to stop the Manly side, who conjured a 57-34 lead by the end of the third quarter to have this one in the books with ten minutes to play.

The Sea Eagles weren’t done, though. Bulman continued an outstanding second half on offence, and with Bankstown’s scoring drying up, Manly rolled to a 79-42 lead which secured a first-round bye for finals, allowing the Sea Eagles plenty of preparation for their semi-final in Maitland in a couple of weeks.

No player scored over 15 for Manly, but 11 players contributed, led by Antonia Henderson’s 15 points. Josie Bulman added 14, whilst Katie Castle chipped in 13 for the Sea Eagles. Tasmyn Haynes played an almost lone hand for Bankstown, tallying 17 points for Bankstown to be the Bruins only player in double figures, with Georgia Gale next best with 7 points.

Weekly Scoring Leaders:

Eleri Morris (Illawarra) – 36 points v Hills
Madeleine Norris (Sutherland) – 27 points v Liverpool-Macarthur
Jenarl Faraimo (Liverpool-Macarthur) – 24 points v Sutherland
Meg Jefferson (Penrith) – 24 points v Central Coast
Rachael Mules (Hills) – 20 points v Illawarra

Youth League Week 18 Roundup

Sutherland saw their finals chances fall by the wayside without even playing a game as wins to Norths, Penrith, and Hornsby left the Panthers locked into a playoff berth, and Hornsby just barely hanging by a thread and relying on results to go their way next weekend. Elsewhere, Central Coast laid down a marker ahead of the playoffs with a 30 point rout of Manly.

Bankstown 61 lost to Norths 83

A win over Bankstown would go a long way to securing finals basketball for Norths, and despite a cagey start, the Bears were able to secure a win that put them in the box seat for one of the two remaining finals spots.

Tasmyn Haynes, as per usual, was at the forefront of Bankstown’s scoring in the first quarter. It seemed as though every Norths basket was replied to with one from the Bruins guard as Haynes finished the opening term with 14 of Bankstown’s 18 points. Norths, on the other hand, found points from a variety of options, with four points apiece from Milly Yates and Geena Valos accounting for half of the Bears’ 16 first quarter points as Bankstown held a slender 18-16 lead after ten minutes of play.

An incredibly low-scoring start to the second quarter saw Norths open the term on a 6-0 run which lasted for six minutes before Haynes responded to trim the Norths lead to 22-20. Annobel Starr replied with a basket to take her tally to four for the quarter, before Carla Liebenberg tallied five quick points as the visitors began to put a buffer between themselves and Bankstown. Haynes registered a late score for Bankstown, but the halftime score read 34-24 in Norths’ favour, a far cry from the closeness of the opening term.

Bankstown did a far better job of hanging with Norths in the early minutes of the second half. Georgia Gale chipped in a couple of baskets, and soon enough the Norths lead had been trimmed to 47-39. But a surge from the returning Elle Carroll re-established Norths double-digit lead, and with a couple of Bankstown players in foul trouble, the Bears held a 60-47 advantage with a quarter to play.

Norths dominated the opening stages of the last quarter to sledgehammer the final nails into the Bankstown coffin. A 13-0 run to open the term extended the margin to 26 points midway through the term and ensured Norths would give themselves the best possible chance of securing playoff basketball going into the final week of the regular season. Bankstown chipped away at the lead slightly as the match wound down, but Liebenberg secured a couple of trips to the line late in the game to wrap up the 83-61 win.

Tasmyn Haynes top scored with 26 points for Bankstown, but her only real scoring support came in the form of 11 points from Georgia Gale. Norths, on the other hand, finished with four players in double figures. Carla Liebenberg top scored with 19 points, with Annobel Starr registering 15. Elle Carroll chipped in 13 on her return from injury, whilst Milly Yates added 12.

Central Coast 74 defeated Manly 44

Central Coast’s trademark defence was in lockdown mode at Terrigal on Saturday, shutting down the Manly offence for long stretches in a 30 point rout which proved to be a real statement of intent from the Crusaders going into finals.

Each team was on the scoreboard inside the opening minute of the contest, but although Central Coast led 4-2 almost immediately, it would be another couple of minutes before they could extend that lead. Both offences stuttered slightly in the early running, with a few passes failing to find their mark and both defences doing a solid job of disrupting ball movement. Shakera Reilly finally got things moving again with a three which was quickly countered by Faith Bulgin for Manly, who knocked down a three of her own. Bulgin was the undoubted focal point of Manly’s scoring, chalking up 7 of the team’s 10 points in the first quarter in the absence of Sydney Uni Sparks forward Kimberley Hodge. Meanwhile, Alessandra Gasparotto did a solid job of making up for the absence of Sparks guard Charlie Evans, chipping in 7 points for Central Coast as the Crusaders edged out to an 18-10 lead after Lucy Chapman knocked down a late three.

Central Coast scored the first seven points of the second quarter, thanks mainly to some high pressure defence and the scoring of Reilly. It took nearly four minutes, but Manly were able to launch a run of their own as a couple of defensive lapses from the Crusaders allowed the Sea Eagles to take advantage and put together an 8-1 run to draw within eight points at 26-18. Losalini Katia found room around the basket to snap the run, but five more quick points from Antonia Henderson edged Manly back to a 28-21 deficit. The home side certainly enjoyed the better of the final minutes of the half, though. Reilly and Katia proved unstoppable at times in the last two minutes as the Crusaders’ lead quickly blew out to 40-25 by halftime.

Reilly and Katia continued to do the bulk of the scoring for Central Coast in the opening minutes of the third quarter, as the Crusaders’ multiple offensive options proved tough for Manly to defend. Caitlin Keefe knocked down a three for the visitors to stop the rot, but the Crusaders quickly put paid to any idea of a miraculous comeback. Four quick points from Taylor Ferris backed up more scoring from a rampant Reilly, whose final second three pushed the Central Coast advantage out to 59-35 with a quarter to play.

The final quarter saw Central Coast afforded the luxury to get some playing time into the legs some of their lesser-used players, with five-in, five-out substitutions not uncommon for the Crusaders as the game wound down. Emma Tunstead was the main beneficiary of some extra minutes, chipping in four last-quarter points as the game meandered to its inevitable conclusion, with Central Coast chalking up a 74-44 win over one of their championship rivals.

Shakera Reilly led all scorers with 22 points, whilst Losalini Katia added 20 and Alessandra Gasparotto chipped in 11 for the Crusaders. Caitlin Keefe top scored for Manly with 9 points, whilst Faith Bulgin’s first quarter burst helped deliver her 8 points.

Newcastle 68 defeated Liverpool-Macarthur 37

In a game with little hanging on it other than pride and, in Newcastle’s case, potentially finishing above Bankstown for 9th place, it was the Hunters who secured a dominant 31 point win over Liverpool-Macarthur.

Laura Dick fired in the opening stages, scoring six points in the first five minutes to help Newcastle set up an early 14-4 lead. A Taylor Muaulu three and some early free throws from Rayan Danine ensured Liverpool-Macarthur would not be blown out early in the contest, remaining well and truly in touch at 18-11 down after a quarter of play.

Muaulu continued to lead the Razorbacks’ offence in the early stages of the second quarter, but Newcastle slowly started to compile a significant advantage. Seven points in the space of two minutes from Bonnie Frost delivered a 35-20 advantage for the Hunters before a late Kimberley Sepuloni basket trimmed the margin back to 35-22 going into halftime.

Muaulu continued her scoring dominance for the visitors, with five points to start the quarter pulling the visitors back within 8 points. Despite this, it wasn’t long before the home side broke off another extended run, with a 10-0 streak that spanned four minutes or so extending the margin to 22 points and putting the game beyond doubt before the final break with the scoreline reading 52-30 in Newcastle’s favour with a quarter to play.

With a number of players chipping in points throughout the fourth quarter, a total of eleven Newcastle players managed to register a basket, which represented five more players than the understrength Liverpool-Macarthur side even dressed for the game. Using that depth to their advantage, the home side were able to gradually extend their lead past the 30 point mark to secure a 68-37 win.

Laura Dick top scored for Newcastle with 12 points, whilst Bonnie Frost’s second quarter charge helped her to 10 points. Taylor Muaulu led all scorers with 15 points for Liverpool-Macarthur, whilst Kimberley Sepuloni added 11 for the Razorbacks.

Hills 54 lost to Penrith 63

Both teams came into this one down a star, with Hills guard Sherrie Calleia and Penrith post Natalia Beaumont both away in Melbourne with the Sydney Uni Sparks. With the Panthers needing one more win to secure a playoff spot and their final game coming against the ladder-leading Central Coast, this was the defending champions’ chance to secure a finals spot, and they did exactly that with a solid 63-54 win.

Hills started the better of the two teams, establishing a 7-2 lead early in the contest. Penrith were far from rattled though, and quickly overturned the deficit to establish a 12-10 lead midway through the quarter. Madison Hare would have the last say in the opening term though, with her seven points for the quarter helping Hills establish an 18-14 lead through ten minutes.

Hills opened the second quarter with the first five points to further extend their margin to 9 points, but Penrith aren’t a champion team for nothing. The Panthers scored 15 of the next 19 points to take a two point lead, with Dominika Offner and Meg Jefferson setting things up before Tatiana Beaumont rattled home a pair of threes in quick succession. Kelsey Curtin temporarily restored Hills’ lead, but four points from Abbi Williams to end the quarter saw Penrith hold a 33-30 lead at halftime.

Hare continued to be Hills’ main attacking weapon into the second half, but Penrith continued to edge ahead, with Binta Salawu putting the Panthers up 41-34 three minutes into the third quarter. The Panthers’ scoring slowed in the latter stages of the quarter, and a Paris Roditis three which drew Hills within one possession at 43-40 proved to be the only scoring play of the last three minutes or so, setting up a tasty fourth quarter.

The teams were almost inseparable in the early stages of the fourth quarter, with Meg Creanor’s six points for Penrith countered by a more shared approach to scoring from Hills. Nonetheless, the teams remained separated by just four points at 49-45 approaching the final five minutes. Then, suddenly, everything clicked for Penrith. Beaumont knocked down another two threes, stepping up massively in her sister’s absence, whilst Creanor continued to hit her shots as Penrith put together a 12-0 run to put the game beyond doubt at 59-45 with just under 3 minutes to play. Penrith were able to put a late run together courtesy of Zoe Burke and Rachael Mules, but it was too little, too late as the Panthers secured a finishing position of no worse than fifth with a 63-59 win.

Madison Hare top scored for Hills with 16 points, whilst Rachael Mules and Zoe Burke each added 10 for the home side. Tatiana Beaumont stepped up massively in a vital game to finish with 15 points for Penrith, all from beyond the arc. Meg Creanor was accurate in big moments to finish with 11 points, whilst Meg Jefferson tallied 10 for the Panthers.

Hornsby 61 defeated Illawarra 54

Only a win would be enough to preserve Hornsby’s minute finals chances, and that is exactly what they secured with a dominant victory that is not reflected in the seven point margin.

Seven points from Jess Sancataldo had the Spiders flying in the early stages as the home side established a 13-6 lead within seven minutes of play. With Illawarra unable to get much going on the scoring front, a late Maddison Delaney basket was like gold dust to the visitors. Despite this, Hornsby retained a 17-8 lead after a quarter of play, with desperation for victory perhaps fuelling their charge.

Brittany Clark scored the opening points of the quarter to trim Hornsby’s lead to 7, but that was merely a precursor to a 9-0 Hornsby run. With that run extending over a period of nearly five minutes, it was well into the latter stages of the half before Illawarra managed to score again. 26-14 would have been a manageable deficit going into the second half for Illawarra, but Serena Waters had other ideas. Two threes in the final minute or so of the half blew the Hornsby lead out to 18 points and put the game firmly in the Spiders’ hands going into the second half.

In a remarkably low scoring start to the second half, Hornsby could only add 2 points to their halftime score in the first five minutes, whilst Illawarra tallied six points to start the third quarter. Although things were not yet looking dangerous for Hornsby, they very well could have if their inability to find the bottom of the basket continued. However, Sancataldo and Amy Laws stepped up late in the piece to further extend Hornsby’s lead as Illawarra’s scoring dried up. A 9-3 run to end the third quarter pushed the Hornsby lead out to 49-27 with a quarter to play and effectively ended the game as a contest.

Illawarra showed glimpses of their best in the fourth quarter, but it was all in vain. Paige Phillips knocked down a trio of threes to showcase her abilities from beyond the arc, whilst Claudia Flynn accounted for the last ten points of the game to add some respectability to the scoreline. Hornsby, on the other hand, would have been slightly aggrieved at the fact that they could only add 12 points in the final quarter after dominating for so long. Despite this, the Spiders still emerged 61-54 victors. Whilst still reliant on a number of results to go their way next week, Hornsby are still a mathematical chance of making the finals.

Jess Sancataldo led all scorers with 23 points, whilst Serena Waters tallied 13 for the Spiders. Paige Phillips fourth quarter shooting helped her register 15 points, whilst Claudia Flynn’s late-game surge took her personal tally to 12 for the contest.

Weekly Scoring Leaders:

Tasmyn Haynes (Bankstown) – 26 points v Norths
Jess Sancataldo (Hornsby) – 23 points v Illawarra
Shakera Reilly (Central Coast) – 22 points v Manly
Losalini Katia (Central Coast) – 20 points v Manly
Carla Liebenberg (Norths) – 19 points v Bankstown

Youth League Week 7 Roundup

Maddy Della Franca was the hero for Hornsby on Saturday, whilst Central Coast continued their outstanding start to the season.

Illawarra 60 lost to Hornsby 62

In what was no doubt one of the games of the season, Hornsby looked destined for victory before Illawarra came storming back to set up a frantic last couple of minutes which culminated in a dramatic finish.

The teams traded baskets in a cagey start to the game, with Illawarra scoring the final four points of the first quarter to take a 12-10 lead into the second term. With points tough to come by, both teams looked to a variety of options for their scoring. Eleri Morris and Paige Phillips each hit baskets in quick succession to put Illawarra up by five, but Hornsby quickly fired back through Piper Duck and Madeline Suprain to lead 24-22 at halftime.

Paige Phillips and Tylah Mundine scored five points apiece to start the third as the game remained incredibly tight. However, despite neither team opening up a meaningful lead for the entire game to that point, Hornsby suddenly exploded with a 7-0 run to finish the third quarter courtesy of five points from Maddy Della Franca and a late basket from youngster Amy Laws to lead 41-34 with ten minutes to play.

Illawarra hit back in the early stages of the fourth quarter, taking a 46-45 lead just three minutes into the fourth quarter. Hornsby were able to regain the lead on a Tylah Mundine three-pointer, before Illawarra managed to take a lead and extend the margin to 60-55 with 48 seconds to play as Soriah Vos and Eleri Morris managed to find the bottom of the basket. Four free throws from Tylah Mundine in the space of 26 seconds put the Spiders within a point, and from there, everything went a little bit crazy.

With just 13 seconds remaining, Illawarra were up 60-59 and inbounding the ball in their own offensive half. Enter Maddy Della Franca for Hornsby. Picking off the inbounds pass, Della Franca managed to draw the foul on the way up and finish from a tough angle to put the Spiders up 61-60. One of Hornsby’s best on the day, Della Franca then stepped up to complete the and-one and force Illawarra into a final decision – go for the three to win, or try to take the game to overtime? The options looked simple enough – either Paige Phillips for three, or Eleri Morris driving to the basket for the lay-up. In the end, Illawarra had looks at both. Out of the timeout, Phillips was the initial option, but the Hornsby defence jammed up on the Illawarra star and forced her to hand the ball off to Morris. Morris found a seam and drove to the hoop, but her release was a fraction of a second late, and Hornsby held on for a 62-60 win with Morris’ attempted lay-up coming off the front of the rim in any case.

A pair of quick scoring streaks comprised the majority of Tylah Mundine’s 14 points which led the Spiders’ scoring. Maddy Della Franca tallied 12 points including the game winning basket. Piper Duck added 11, whilst Serena Waters registered 10 points whilst running the team from the point outstandingly. Eleri Morris and Paige Phillips were each outstanding for Illawarra, scoring 17 and 15 points respectively.

Box Score

Newcastle 54 defeated Manly 50

Newcastle opened up an early lead, but Manly were undeterred and stormed home to almost snatch victory before the Hunters managed to secure the win.

The Hunters started well, but Manly hung with the home side well enough in the early stages to remain just six points in arrears at 16-10 down after a quarter. However, a 7-0 run to open the second quarter established a 13 point lead for the home side and suddenly Manly were in a bit of early trouble. But Rachel Duncan, Kimberley Hodge, and Katelyn Castle stepped up for the Sea Eagles and shortly after halftime the margin was back to 27-26 and the game was on a knife-edge.

Another Manly run a few minutes later saw Castle and Hodge again involved heavily as the Sea Eagles took a 38-33 lead, but with Alison Ebzery and Cassidy McLean firing, the Hunters kept themselves firmly in the contest throughout.

Lauryn Walker opened the final quarter scoring to put the Sea Eagles up 44-38, but that only seemed to spark the Newcastle team. A spectacular 15-1 run put the home side up 53-45 with 90 seconds to play, and whilst Manly found late scoring from Hodge and Castle, it was too little, too late as the Hunters held on for a 54-50 win.

Alison Ebzery and Cassidy McLean led Newcastle with 16 and 14 points respectively, with each getting baskets at vital times throughout the game to lead the home side to victory. Katelyn Castle was Manly’s top scorer with 14 points, whilst Kimberley Hodge notched 10 points.

Box Score

Penrith 46 lost to Hills 53

The defending champions’ early season struggles continued as the Panthers dropped to 3-4 on the back of a loss to Hills. The home side had their start to blame for the defeat, as a last quarter charge from 11 points down proved futile.

Hills came out of the blocks flying, with Madison Hare’s three-pointer to open the scoring a window into what would come. The Hornets found scoring from a number of players and soon pushed the lead to double figures, leading 18-6 after a quarter and putting the Panthers in real trouble.

The Hornets’ charge continued into the second quarter, but Penrith were able to vastly improve their scoring. Although the margin grew to 36-20 by halftime, the efforts of players such as Natalia Beaumont ensured that the Panthers would not be completely blown out of the water by halftime.

Nine third quarter points from Beaumont led a charge from the Panthers that saw the home side head into the fourth quarter down 45-34 following an outstanding defensive effort. With the Hills side able to tally just 9 points in the third quarter, there was certainly a chance for Penrith to complete would have been a remarkable comeback.

However, when Hills scored the first 6 points of the fourth quarter, the game looked done and dusted at 51-34 with six minutes to play. Enter Meg Jefferson, as well as Natalia and Tatiana Beaumont. The Panthers’ trio accounted for the next 12 points of the game to leave the game delicately poised at 51-46 with 2 minutes to play.

But suddenly, the scoring simply dried up. The only further points that would be scored were two free throws from Paris Roditis with 53 seconds to play, and Hills hung on for a 53-46 win that saw the Hornets leapfrog the Panthers in the standings.

Natalia Beaumont was the undoubted star of the game, scoring 23 of the Panthers’ points. Madison Hare top scored for Hills with 11, and Dijana Milisic added 10. The Hornets found substantial scoring from a lot more options than Penrith, with six players scoring six or more points. Conversely, Natalia Beaumont’s sister Tatiana was Penrith’s only other player to score more than five points.

Box Score

Norths 71 defeated Bankstown 46

Norths put Bankstown to the sword with a well-rounded team performance at the Bear Cave on Saturday night, moving to 4-2 for the season and staying in touch with the top teams with a 25 point win.

Milly Yates and Lana Marov were on fire early, helping Norths open up an insurmountable 22-2 lead after 9 minutes. A quick 6-0 run from Bankstown, thanks largely to Tasmyn Haynes, ended the opening quarter, but Norths were still well in control.

Ali Burke and Carla Liebenberg quickly reinstated the Bears’ 20 point margin, and whilst the home side did allow Bankstown another extended run of scoring to end the second quarter, Norths went into halftime up 38-18 and in cruise control. A slightly less frantic third quarter was far closer, with both teams only just reaching double figures as the Bears continued their march to victory.

The fourth quarter became slightly scrappy at times with both teams realising the result was obvious as Norths took a 20 point margin into the final term. However, the Bears were still able to add 19 points in the final term for a 71-46 win.

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Ali Burke stepped up having just played a Championship game to lead Norths with 13 points. Carla Liebenberg added 12 and Lana Marov tallied 11, whilst Milly Yates finished with 8 points and one outstanding block to deny Bankstown a basket in transition. Bankstown were led by Tasmyn Haynes’ 12 points. Haynes was the Bruins’ only player to finish in double figures, leading her team with a valiant effort.

Box Score

Penrith defeated Newcastle

Penrith rebounded with a win over Newcastle, but without more details available, we’re a little bit in the dark when it comes to the actual process by which the win came about!

Box Score

Hornsby 65 lost to Central Coast 70

With a narrow win over Illawarra the previous day in their legs, you could have forgiven Hornsby for finding it tough against the high-flying Central Coast Crusaders. However, the Crusaders had player availability issues of their own, and dressed just six players for this game. Suddenly, the game had a far more even look about it, but the events of the early stages did not suggest anything of that ilk.

Rachel Williams. Charlie Evans. Shakera Reilly. 7-0 Central Coast inside 90 seconds. Hornsby hit back through Kristina Moore and Tylah Mundine and for a minute things looked as if they might settle, but scoring from all five Crusaders starters saw the visitors take a 26-6 lead after a quarter.

Mercifully, the first quarter did end and allowed the Spiders to take a minute to regroup. Charlie Evans continued to knock down shots in the early stages of the second quarter, but Hornsby slowly edged their way back into the game. A Piper Duck three trimmed the margin to 13 with just over 4 minutes to play in the half, but by halftime Central Coast had extended the margin back out to 42-26.

However, with just six players on the roster for the game, the second half would be the real test for the Crusaders. The midway point of the third quarter saw Hornsby looking dead in the water at 21 down, but the second half of the term saw the Spiders turn things around. Tylah Mundine and Amy Laws each knocked down a three, and late points from Kristina Moore and Sarah Crisafulli put the Spiders within range at 59-51 down with a quarter to play.

A basket to Rachel Williams was the Crusaders’ only scoring play for the first six minutes of the quarter, and when Sarah Crisafulli found the bottom of the net with 4:16 to play, Hornsby had stormed back to 61-59 down. Somehow, Central Coast were sparked back into life and found points from Reilly and Williams to push the lead out to six.

Hornsby made it a one-possession game with 28 seconds to play through a pair of free throws from Amy Laws, but their 65th point of the game would be their last. Jamei Pate finished the game with a basket in the dying seconds to seal a 70-65 win for Central Coast.

Shakera Reilly led four Central Coast players in double figures with 22 points. Charlie Evans was also excellent with 18 points, whilst Losalini Katia and Rachel Williams tallied 11 apiece. Kristina Moore and Piper Duck led Hornsby with 19 and 17 points respectively, whilst Nicole Hutchins and Amy Laws added 9 apiece.

Box Score

Weekly Scoring Leaders:

Natalia Beaumont (Penrith) – 23 points v Hills
Shakera Reilly (Central Coast) – 22 points v Hornsby
Kristina Moore (Hornsby) – 19 points v Central Coast
Charlie Evans (Central Coast) – 18 points v Hornsby
Piper Duck (Hornsby) – 17 points v Central Coast
Eleri Morris (Illawarra) – 17 points v Hornsby

2017 Under 18 Nationals Preview

Two teams of outstanding young NSW basketball players will travel to Townsville this week in preparation for the Australian Under 18 Basketball Championships. The NSW Metro side will be attempting to win their first title since 2012, whilst NSW Country will be looking for their first title since going back to back in 2005 and 2006.

The NSW Country side features a mix of players with varying levels of experience, from tournament rookies through to members of last season’s Under 18 team. Paris Forcadilla, Bianca Green, Melanie Kirby, and Kayla McSpadden return from last season’s team, but gone are the Under 17 World Champion trio of Lara McSpadden, Jasmine Simmons, and Cassidy McLean. Stepping up will be three rookies: Lucy Chapman, Ashleigh Fasala, and Abbey Morton, as well as three players from last season’s Under 16 team. Among these are Newcastle’s Isabel Palmer, who averaged 21.56 points in last season’s Under 16 national championships to lead the NSW Country side to 5th place. Serena Waters and Matilda Flood will also make the step up to the Under 18 level having shone at the Under 16 level.

A highly talented 2016 NSW Metro side was struck down by illness, which forced the team to forfeit one of their pool games before eventually finishing the tournament in 11th place. Not one player on the 2017 NSW Metro team has experience at the Under 18 tournament level, but every member of the team has played at the Under 16 level. Interestingly, the team features one player with WNBL experience: Shyla Heal, who played 14 games for the now defunct SEQ Stars in 2015/16. Heal, daughter of Boomers legend Shane, played for Queensland South in the 2015 Under 16 championships, but has since made the move to Sydney and will don the sky blue this year.

Five members of the team are stepping up from last season’s NSW Metro Under 16 side, which reached the championship game before going down to Victoria Metro in the decider. Tatiana Beaumont, Rebekah Dallinger, Meg Jefferson, Gracie Lee, and Sadie Walsh-Gay were all members of that team, with Jefferson averaging 13.44 points per game throughout the tournament.

The side also incorporates four players who last featured at a national championships in 2015. Chloe Bloom, Deanna Kalivitis, Binta Salawu, and Lauryn Walker return to the representative fold as a young team attempts to atone for last year’s disappointment which was admittedly under difficult circumstances.

Both teams, and all others in the tournament, will be out to stop Victoria Metro from winning their fourth consecutive title. The team in navy has won 12 of the last 16 titles, with only NSW Country’s back to back titles in 2005 and 2006 and titles to NSW Metro and Queensland South in 2013 interrupting Victoria Metro’s dominance at this level.

The tournament begins on Saturday, April 8. The full fixture can be found here, with live stats available throughout the tournament.

Listed below are the rosters for each team and their statistics from their last national championship.

NSW Country Under 18 Squad

Name Club Championship PPG RPG APG
Chapman, Lucy Gosford None
Fasala, Ashleigh Coffs Harbour None
Flood, Matilda Bathurst 2016 U16 6.78 7.56 2.11
Forcadilla, Paris Gosford 2016 U18 1.62 3.00 0.88
Green, Bianca Newcastle 2016 U18 6.62 6.50 1.38
Kirby, Melanie Albury 2016 U18 3.00 4.12 0.12
McSpadden, Kayla Newcastle 2016 U18 0.88 2.88 0.25
Morton, Abbey Wagga Wagga None
Palmer, Isabel Newcastle 2016 U16 21.56 5.44 1.11
Waters, Serena Newcastle 2016 U16 6.89 2.11 0.56

NSW Metro Under 18 Squad

Name Club Championship PPG RPG APG
Beaumont, Tatiana Penrith 2016 U16 3.89 5.22 1.11
Bloom, Chloe Penrith 2015 U16 10.44 8.00 0.78
Dallinger, Rebekah Norths 2016 U16 3.67 7.67 2.33
Heal, Shyla Sutherland 2015 U16 10.44 6.00 2.00
Jefferson, Meg Penrith 2016 U16 13.44 9.67 0.44
Kalivitis, Deanna Sutherland 2015 U16 3.22 6.44 0.56
Lee, Gracie Manly 2016 U16 4.56 3.56 2.11
Salawu, Binta Penrith 2015 U16 8.33 4.56 1.78
Walker, Lauryn Manly 2015 U16 3.22 2.56 0.67
Walsh-Gay, Sadie City of Sydney 2016 U16 7.44 4.00 2.44