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

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

Youth League: Central Coast 63 lost to Penrith 69

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Championship: Manly 58 defeated Norths 56

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Waratah Championship Week 15 Roundup

The top four teams are locked in after Sutherland and Newcastle’s slim chances fell by the wayside. Norths moved within one win of securing second place, whilst Manly and Bankstown are now set for a thrilling final day showdown to decide their spots on the ladder.

Bankstown 80 defeated Sutherland 71

A win for Bankstown in this game would secure their playoff spot, whilst a win for Sutherland could potentially keep their season alive. As it happened, it was the Bruins who secured victory to lock down a position in the top four.

The first quarter was a remarkably tight affair, with a number of ties and lead changes throughout the opening ten minutes. Sutherland scored the first five points of the game before Casey Samuels tied things up by scoring the Bruins’ first five points. Bankstown eventually secured a 10-7 lead, but Peta Kneen pushed Sutherland ahead 14-10 until a late rally saw Samuels tie things at 14-14. Shelley Bates hit the final basket of the quarter to give Sutherland a 16-14 lead after ten minutes of action.

Ten points for Samuels in the first five minutes of the second quarter helped Bankstown get out to a 26-20 lead before Ellie Gleeson and Marjy Grealish took control of the scoring. Kneen continued to do the bulk of the scoring for Sutherland, but Bankstown put their foot down as the quarter progressed, putting together a 23-11 second term which culminated in a 37-27 halftime lead for the home side.

Samuels continued to have a day out on offence, racking up points in astounding fashion. However, Kneen, as well as Lisa Watkins, kept Sutherland in the hunt as the second half progressed. The pair led Sutherland’s charge as the Sharks trimmed the Bankstown lead to 51-44. Briana Maimone hit back with seven points to end the quarter, but Sutherland did enough to keep the deficit within ten at 58-49 with a quarter to play.

The fourth quarter started brightly for Sutherland, with scoring from Jane Scrivens and Rachel Herrick trimming the Bankstown lead to 58-54 soon after the start of the final term. Samuels countered with a three for Bankstown, but more scoring for Sutherland meant the game was evenly poised at 63-61 with six minutes to play. Despite dragging themselves back into the contest, Sutherland were undone by a 9-0 Bankstown run late in the quarter that handed the Bruins a 75-63 lead with just over two minutes remaining. Bankstown were hardly in danger at that point, and although Sutherland scored the majority of the points in the dying stages, Bankstown secured the 80-71 win to secure a playoff berth.

Casey Samuels was utterly dominant to finish with 36 points, whilst Briana Maimone added 19 points and 9 assists for Bankstown. Peta Kneen top scored for Sutherland with 21 points, whilst Lisa Watkins added 15 points and 5 assists. Jane Scrivens came just short of completing a double-double for the Sharks, tallying 9 points and 11 rebounds.

Norths 71 defeated Comets 52

Norths also mathematically secured a playoff berth with a win over Comets, knocking Newcastle out of the finals race in the process.

Sydney Uni Sparks guard Serika Shillingsworth opened the scoring with a three, but Norths soon set about securing a lead. Tristan Black and Kallie Hovatter did much of the early scoring before a Taylor Jones three moved the Bears into a 12-7 lead. Tatyanna-Pogonza Dumas found her way to the line and converted a pair, but a late Hovatter lay-up kept the Norths lead at 5, with the scoreboard reading 14-9 in the home side’s favour after a quarter.

The teams traded baskets in the early stages of the second quarter before an 8-0 Norths run capped by four points from Ali Burke pushed the Bears into a 26-13 lead. Samantha Hewitt snapped that run with a three for Comets, but the home side’s dynamic backcourt of Hovatter and Kate Seebohm accounted for the next eight points of the game, with Seebohm picking off passes for fast break lay-ups on two consecutive plays. Rachel Higgisson put a bow on an electric 22-7 quarter with the final basket of the half to hand Norths a 36-16 lead.

Norths’ dominance continued into the second half as the lead ballooned to 40-16 before Shillingsworth knocked down another three. Tristan Black managed to find a bit of room inside to score six points for the quarter, whilst much of Comets’ scoring came from the line courtesy of Megan Cantellano and Pogonza-Dumas. Despite an improved performance from Comets, Norths retained a 51-27 lead through three quarters.

Shillingsworth hit her third three of the afternoon to open the fourth quarter, but it only served as the prelude to another 9-0 Norths run as Burke added five more points to an impressive personal tally for the young guard who was fresh off a Youth League game that finished just twenty minutes before this contest began. Comets put together a solid middle of the quarter, with Maja Jurlina especially impressive in scoring seven points in quick time. Comets won the final quarter 25-20, but the game was well and truly in Norths’ control by that stage, and the Bears ran out 71-52 victors to maintain their hold on second place.

Kallie Hovatter top scored for Norths with 16 points, with support from a number of players. Tristan Black finished with an impressive double-double of 12 points and 11 rebounds, whilst Kate Seebohm added 10 points, 8 assists and 6 steals. Eleni Valos popped up with points at regular intervals to finish with 10 points and 8 rebounds, whilst Ali Burke tallied 9 points in her second game in the space of a few hours. Serika Shillingsworth top scored for Comets with 17 points, whilst Maja Jurlina added 9 points and 8 rebounds. Lauren Breen was solid on the boards to finish with 11 rebounds alongside 7 points.

Manly 80 defeated Hills 56

Manly needed to keep winning to give themselves the best chance of finishing in a favourable finals position, and did that just that against the lowly ranked Hills side.

Rebecca Duke and Belinda Snell got Manly off to a solid start, but the underdog Hills side showed no fear in the early stages, and with Madison Hare starring, the Hornets took a 20-16 lead on the back of mid-quarter 9-0 run. But the Sea Eagles hit back to take a 24-20 lead by the end of the quarter with an 8-0 run of their own.

The generally efficient Manly offence lost its way slightly in the second quarter, and added just seven points to their total, but Hills were unable to punish the home side. Sherrie Calleia tallied four points and Emma Claus added five, but Hills were only able to tally ten points for the quarter. However, this was enough to push the Hornets within a solitary point at 31-30 down at halftime.

The halftime break clearly helped Manly regroup as they proceeded to dominate the third quarter. Kristen Forbes and Candice Trevenna helped put Hills to the sword, with Opals stalwart Belinda Snell also chipping in at times. With Hills going several minutes without scoring on multiple occasions, Manly were able to extend their lead to 51-39 with a quarter to play, putting them in the box seat going into the final term.

Hills’ offence improved in the final quarter, tallying 17 points as Hare and Calleia continued to be the Hornets’ main scoring weapons. But unfortunately for the Hornets, Manly racked up 29 points to roll to an 80-56 win as their experienced core continued to deliver throughout the game against a talented but inexperienced Hills lineup.

Candice Trevenna finished with 14 points for Manly, whilst Kristen Forbes registered a 13 point, 10 rebound double-double and Belinda Snell added 12 points and 8 rebounds. Madison Hare top scored for Hills with 21 points, whilst Sherrie Calleia added 18 points and Emma Claus tallied 11.

Hills 58 lost to Newcastle 74

Even without finals basketball to play for, Newcastle could still finish in a respectable fifth position, and this weekend’s win over Hills appears to have secured that spot, although it took until the final quarter for the Hunters to put away the young Hornets side.

Five different Hunters got their name on the scoresheet in the opening quarter, with Suzy Batkovic and Alison Ebzery leading the way with six points apiece. Kelsey Moss also had a solid start to the day, scoring four of Newcastle’s first six points. Despite some solid early scoring from Emma Claus for Hills, the Hunters jumped out to a 23-14 lead by the end of the first quarter.

Hills remained unfazed, and stuck with Newcastle throughout the second quarter to keep themselves right in the contest. Anja Kolodziej got Hills rolling, before Madison Hare notched six second quarter points for the Hornets in a solid effort from the home side. Newcastle continued to find scoring principally from Moss and Batkovic, and despite not extending their lead, were still able to maintain a nine point lead, taking a 39-30 advantage into the halftime break.

An 8-2 run provided Newcastle with an excellent start to the second half, and for a time it looked as if Hills were about to be blown away. However, the Hornets slowly chipped away at Newcastle’s lead, with Kolodziej, Claus, and Sherrie Calleia all getting amongst the points. But trailing by nine with just 90 seconds remaining in the quarter, it looked as if Hills would not make any real inroads. Enter Andrea Roditis, who scored the last five points of the quarter to put Hills within four at 53-49 down with a quarter to play.

Hills managed to hang with Newcastle in the opening stages of the last quarter, still trailing by just four with seven minutes to play. Newcastle’s class began to shine through in the latter stages though as a 13-0 run over the course of five minutes secured victory for the Hunters. Calleia added a couple of late points for the Hornets, but the 74-58 win was well and truly in Newcastle’s hands by that point.

Suzy Batkovic dominated for Newcastle yet again, finishing with 27 points and 24 rebounds. Kelsey Moss added 21 points, whilst Alison Ebzery tallied 9 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists. Emma Claus registered a double-double for Hills, tallying 16 points and 13 rebounds. Sherrie Calleia added 10 points, whilst Anja Kolodziej picked up 8 points and 7 rebounds.

Illawarra 42 lost to Norths 68

Norths locked Illawarra down, restricting the Hawks to single figures in both of the first two quarters on their way to a comprehensive 26 point victory.

Illawarra opened the scoring through Olivia White, and although Norths scored the next six points of the contest, Illawarra remained in touch in the early stages. The score read 8-7 in Norths’ favour after six minutes, but five consecutive points from Jaimee Kennedy, who had sat out Saturday’s game against Comets, delivered the Bears a 15-7 buffer by the end of the quarter.

The second quarter was remarkably low scoring. Eleni Valos tallied five points in the quarter for the Bears, and that alone was half of the team’s points for the quarter. Even more surprisingly, Valos outscored the entire Illawarra side, who registered just four points for the quarter. Despite the lack of scoring, the Bears were still able to extend their margin to 14 points, taking a 25-11 lead into halftime.

The third quarter brought far more excitement to the table as both offences managed to fire at times. White and Georgia Ohrdorf led Illawarra’s scoring in the early stages and managing to trim the Norths lead to ten points by the midpoint of the quarter. However, Norths hit back in the latter stages of the period, and with scoring coming from a number of players, including Kallie Hovatter and Kate Seebohm, the Bears maintained the 14 point lead they had built, holding a 45-31 lead going into the final quarter.

Norths opened the fourth quarter on a tear, scoring the first 16 points of the quarter to put the game beyond doubt early in the term. Seebohm and Kennedy did the bulk of the damage, with Tristan Black chipping in to help Norths get out to a 61-31 lead. Illawarra managed to trim the margin in the last few minutes of the quarter, but Norths still ran out 68-46 victors.

Jaimee Kennedy top scored for Norths with 19 points, and also added 7 rebounds. Kallie Hovatter chipped in with 13 points, whilst Kate Seebohm completed a double-double of 10 points and 10 assists, and also chipped in 6 rebounds, 5 steals, and 2 blocks to finish just shy of a 5×5 performance. Eleni Valos added 10 points and 7 rebounds, whilst Tristan Black enjoyed a day out on the boards with 12 rebounds to go with her 6 points.

Weekly Scoring Leaders:

Casey Samuels (Bankstown) – 36 points v Sutherland
Suzy Batkovic (Newcastle) – 27 points v Hills
Madison Hare (Hills) – 21 points v Manly
Peta Kneen (Sutherland) – 21 points v Bankstown
Kelsey Moss (Newcastle) – 21 points v Hills

Waratah Championship Week 14 Roundup

Hornsby lost their second game of the season on Sunday, but did enough on Saturday to mathematically secure top spot. Newcastle remain clinging to one remaining shred of hope after a win over Sutherland, and Manly secured their finals spot with a nail-biting win over Norths.

Norths 72 lost to Manly 76

Manly couldn’t quite overturn Norths’ advantage in the season series between the two teams, but their win in this game against the Bears did plenty to help the Sea Eagles in their charge to stay ahead of Bankstown and secure a spot in the 2-3 matchup in the semi-finals.

The opening stages saw Norths’ backcourt defence, led by Kallie Hovatter, disrupt the Manly offence on several occasions and soon enough the Bears had opened up a 13-5 lead to force a Sea Eagles timeout. Manly were vastly improved out of the timeout, with Candice Trevenna leading the Sea Eagles’ charge. With Norths managing just three points in the final four minutes of the quarter, Manly were able to tie the game at 16-16 after the opening term.

Opals stalwart Belinda Snell scored the first five points of the second quarter as Manly opened up a 24-16 in the early stages of the term. However, Kate Seebohm hit back with two consecutive baskets of her own to cap an 8-0 run that delivered Norths a 26-24 lead. Despite this, Trevenna and Snell continued to rack up the points and it was only some late scoring from Hovatter and Seebohm that kept Norths close, with the Bears down 35-32 at halftime.

Jaimee Kennedy and Tristan Black were Norths’ main scoring options early in the third quarter, whilst Trevenna and Snell continued to keep things rolling for Manly. With the teams trading baskets throughout the quarter, the game was destined to remain close for the entire term, and it proved as such. Neither team gained anything more than an one-possession lead for the last six minutes of the quarter, with some late three pointers from both sides leaving the game on a knife-edge at 51-50 in Manly’s favour with a quarter to play.

Norths certainly started the faster of the two teams in the final quarter, scoring the first eight points of the term to move into a 58-51 lead as Hovatter scored the first six points of the quarter. Manly called a timeout, and quickly regrouped to tie things at 60-60 with four minutes to play before a pair of free throws from Snell handed Manly the lead. Hovatter and Ali Burke pushed Norths back in front, but it was clear that Manly were far from done. Trevenna and Snell continued to be the story of the day, and it was Snell who went to the line with 21 seconds remaining to attempt to ice the game. As you would expect, the Sydney Uni Flames and Opals legend connected on both to deliver victory to Manly and cement the Sea Eagles’ finals spots.

Kallie Hovatter led all scorers with 31 points, and also finished with 7 rebounds and 4 assists. Backcourt partner Kate Seebohm was also on fire offensively, finishing with 19 points and 7 assists, as well as 8 rebounds. Tristan Black and Jaimee Kennedy came close to double-doubles. Black finished with 8 points and 10 rebounds, whilst Kennedy registered 9 points and 10 boards of her own.

Belinda Snell top scored for Manly with 24 points, and also added an impressive 14 rebounds and 6 assists. Candice Trevenna tallied 22 points, and also picked up 7 assists as the duo led Manly to victory.

Sutherland 57 lost to Newcastle 72

A Sutherland win in this game would both strengthen Sutherland’s finals chances and also extinguish what little chance Newcastle had left, but Suzy Batkovic ensured that Newcastle would live to fight another day with yet another dominant performance from the five-time WNBL MVP.

Neither team’s radar was calibrated quite properly in the opening stages, as a Batkovic free throw over two minutes into the contest proved to be the first scoring play. Both teams quickly settled in after that though, with Newcastle opening up a 9-2 lead before Sutherland stormed back through a couple of Maddy Norris threes to remain just two points behind Newcastle at 13-11 after one quarter of play.

A 10-0 run to start the quarter gave Newcastle a 12 point lead and set Sutherland back on their heels a bit as their usual rebounding and height advantage was negated slightly by the Australian basketball legend playing centre for the opposition. The Sharks were able to stem the flow slightly as the quarter progressed, but Newcastle maintained a healthy advantage as a number of players, including the recently returned Charlotte Bull, knocked down shots. A late three from Norris reduced the margin to a manageable 13 at halftime, with Newcastle leading 39-26 as the teams headed for the locker rooms.

Batkovic scored the first ten Newcastle points of the third quarter, but Sutherland hung with the Hunters in the opening stages of the second half. Unfortunately, at 13 points down, hanging with the opposition will only result in a team having plenty to do in the fourth quarter. The Newcastle lead only moved out another three points in the third quarter, but that still left Sutherland down 57-41 with a quarter to play.

Alison Ebzery opened the fourth quarter with a pair of threes to push the Newcastle lead out to 63-44, and with both teams going on a long scoring drought soon after, the margin hovered around the 20 point mark deep into the final term. Some late three pointers for Sutherland trimmed the lead back to 72-57, but Newcastle had well and truly wrapped up the win several minutes earlier with their start to the final term.

Suzy Batkovic led all scorers with 30 points, and also topped the rebound count with 15. Alison Ebzery chipped in 13 points for the Hunters, whilst Cherub Lum dished out 9 assists to go with her 7 points. Maddy Norris connected on 5 of 6 three point attempts to top score for Sutherland with 15 points. Peta Kneen and Lisa Watkins each added 11 points, whilst Jane Scrivens collected 11 rebounds alongside 8 points for the Sharks.

Hornsby 98 defeated Hills 61

As was the case against Bankstown the week before, Hornsby had just six players available for this game against Hills, but the result was far more pleasing for the Spiders’ faithful this time, with their team cruising to a 37 point win.

The opening stages were remarkably close as the teams traded baskets for the opening few minutes. Hills jumped out to a 10-6 lead midway through the quarter, but the scoring of Darneka Rowe and Alicia Poto moved Hornsby within striking distance before a pair of free throws from Serena Waters ensured the Spiders would hold the lead at the end of the first quarter, with the home side leading 16-14 after ten minutes of play.

The second quarter saw Hornsby begin to assert their dominance and put a bit of distance between themselves and Hills. Whilst Emma Claus regularly knocked down shots for Hills, the balanced offence of Hornsby saw Poto’s scoring supported by Tylah Mundine, Olivia Sheehan, and Tara Kilminster, whose free throws with just under three minutes to play in the half extended the Spiders’ lead to 35-24. Claus briefly trimmed that lead to eight points, but Hornsby maintained a 10 point buffer at halftime with the scoreboard reading 42-32 in the home side’s favour.

Hills came out strongly in the third quarter, and for a time looked as if they might make a real charge at Hornsby. Led by Madison Hare, the Hornets remained with in seven points at 51-44 midway through the third quarter, but ten consecutive points from Serena Waters was just the start of an 18-0 Hornsby run that was not only an exercise in dominance, but ended the game as a contest as Hornsby held a 69-44 lead by the end of the term.

Hare continued to battle for Hills and continued to keep the scoreboard ticking over for the visitors, but the scoring of Waters, Sheehan, and Mundine proved to be too much in the final term as Hornsby rolled to a 98-61 with a 29-17 final quarter. With Norths losing earlier in the day and Hornsby holding the season series over Norths, Hornsby also mathematically secured top spot for the regular season with the win.

A second half barrage of points saw Serena Waters top score for Hornsby with 26 points at a remarkable 81% clip. Alicia Poto finished with 25 points, 9 rebounds, and 7 assists to come close to a triple-double, whilst two Hornsby players completed double-doubles. Tylah Mundine finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds, whilst Olivia Sheehan registered 15 points and 11 rebounds, as well as 5 assists and 4 steals.

Madison Hare top scored for Hills with 25 points and completed a double-double with 11 rebounds. Emma Claus also finished in double figures for the Hornets, tallying 15 points as well as 9 rebounds.

Sutherland 94 defeated Hornsby 60

Hornsby again dressed just six players, but found things much tougher against a Sutherland team in desperate need of a victory to stay in the finals race after Saturday’s loss to Newcastle.

The Sharks started the game on a tear, with the experienced trio of Rachel Herrick, Peta Kneen, and Jane Scrivens lighting it up early before Maddy Norris knocked down a three to take the score to 14-2 just five minutes into the contest. Tylah Mundine and Olivia Sheehan helped to drag Hornsby back into things, with the Spiders finishing the quarter on a 13-6 run to move within five at 20-15 with one quarter in the books.

Threes from Mundine and Tara Kilminster early in the second quarter moved the Spiders within a point of the hosts, and for a few minutes the game remained remarkably close considering the Sharks’ start to the game. However, then came a 16-3 run for Sutherland. With scoring from a variety of options, the Sharks took full advantage of their chance against an understrength Spiders side to open up a 45-28 lead by halftime.

The Spiders were valiant throughout, but with all five starters having played 29 minutes or more just a day prior, it was always going to be tough as the game progressed for the ladder leaders. The Sharks, and particularly Norris and Herrick in the early stages of the third quarter, were hardly in a sympathetic mood though, and continued to pile on the points with a 28-13 term that extended their lead to 73-41 with a quarter to play.

The fourth quarter was a far closer affair, with some accurate three point shooting from young Serena Waters proving to be a positive for Hornsby in the latter stages of the contest. The final quarter ended 21-19 in Sutherland’s favour to round out a 94-60 win that may have offered little in terms of a window into the future, but kept Sutherland’s season alive going into next week’s must-win game against Bankstown.

Five Sutherland players finished in double figures, led by Peta Kneen, who tallied 18 points and 9 assists. Rachel Herrick finished with 16 points and also collected 15 rebounds to finish with a double-double. Jane Scrivens also finished with a double-double consisting of 15 points and 11 rebounds, whilst Maddy Norris finished with 11 points and Lauren McCaffrey tallied 10 points. Lisa Watkins also finished with 11 rebounds alongside 8 points and 6 assists.

Serena Waters’ fourth-quarter barrage of threes saw her top score for Hornsby for the second time in two days with 16 points. Olivia Sheehan added 14 points and also collected 10 rebounds to finish with a double-double, whilst Tylah Mundine registered 13 points for the Spiders.

Weekly Scoring Leaders:

Kallie Hovatter (Norths) – 31 points v Manly
Suzy Batkovic (Newcastle) – 30 points v Sutherland
Serena Waters (Hornsby) – 26 points v Hills
Madison Hare (Hills) – 25 points v Hornsby
Alicia Poto (Hornsby) – 25 points v Hills

Waratah Championship Week 12 Roundup

It’s becoming more apparent that Hornsby and Norths will finish as the top two teams in the Championship after their wins this week. However, Suzy Batkovic was the undoubted star of the week with an almost unfathomable performance against Illawarra.

Bankstown 67 defeated Hills 45

Bankstown continued their push towards finals with a win over eighth placed Hills to maintain a gap between themselves and Sutherland and also keep pressure on third placed Manly.

Opening the game on a 12-0 run led by player-coach Briana Maimone, Bankstown set about asserting their dominance from the outset, and their first quarter performance certainly did that. With Hills unable to get on the scoreboard until the seventh minute of play, Bankstown looked set to jump away to a game-winning lead even at that early point. To Hills’ credit, though, they ended the opening term on a 9-3 run to ensure Bankstown would only take a six point lead into the second quarter as Brittany Ridlen added four late points for the Hornets.

Hills opened the second quarter scoring over two minutes into the term courtesy of Zoe Burke before Emma Claus hit a three to move Hills within a point of the Bruins at 15-14. However, ten points from Casey Samuels, which represented all of Bankstown’s scoring for the quarter, restored the Bruins’ buffer even as Madison Hare tallied a couple of late baskets for the Hornets. The quarter ended 10-9 in Bankstown’s favour as an outstanding effort from Hills saw them trail by just seven as the halftime score read 25-18 to the Bruins’ advantage.

Maimone and Samuels continued their solid scoring days into the third quarter as Bankstown began to establish more of a significant margin in the second half. The home side opened the quarter on a 13-5 run, with a couple of baskets from Claus the only thing preventing the Bruins from blowing the game open even further than they eventually did. A pair of Paris Roditis free throws trimmed the margin to 13 before Bankstown went on another run, extending the lead to 46-31 by the end of the term as the scoring slowed in the minutes before the last break.

Bankstown came out firing to open the fourth as well, with a 9-2 run pushing the lead past 20 points. The margin would hover around that mark for the remainder of the contest as Maimone and Madison Bennett added some more points in garbage time to see Bankstown run out 67-45 winners.

Casey Samuels led all scorers with 18 points, whilst Briana Maimone added 14 and Madison Bennett chipped in 11 for the Bruins, whilst Maimone also finished with 8 rebounds to lead all players. Paris Roditis top scored for Hills with 13 points, whilst Emma Claus finished with 12 points and 5 rebounds for the Hornets.

Box Score

Illawarra 64 lost to Newcastle 71

A valiant effort from Illawarra kept the Kittyhawks in the hunt throughout this contest, but a vintage Suzy Batkovic performance led Newcastle to a seven point victory.

The first couple of minutes were tight enough, but Newcastle soon went on a scoring run that pushed the Hunters out to a double-digit lead late in the quarter. Cassidy McLean, Suzy Batkovic, and Alison Ebzery all converted multiple scoring opportunities in the opening term as the visitors moved out to a 17-6 lead after Megan Johnson’s basket to round out a dominant back end to the opening term for Newcastle.

The Newcastle lead ballooned to 15 on the back of six points from Batkovic to start the quarter, but when the Opals legend picked up her third foul, Georgia Ohrdorf went to work for Illawarra. The Metro State University star dominated the latter stages of the first half with six points in the last three minutes as the half ended with the scoreboard reading 33-28 in Newcastle’s favour – a vast improvement on how things had been for Illawarra five minutes earlier.

Batkovic returned with a vengeance in the third quarter, opening proceedings with six more points as her tally continued to swell. Ohrdorf and Lauren Sparks continued to find points for the Kittyhawks, but Batkovic, combined with late support from Emily Keith, ensured Newcastle would take a 58-45 lead into the final term.

Illawarra refused to lie down though. The home side scored the first five points of the final term to move within 8 just a minute into the fourth quarter. Ebzery and Bianca Green pushed Newcastle back out to a 12 point lead before Sparks and Batkovic traded threes to maintain that margin. A Tiarna Porter basket with just over 2 minutes to play kept Illawarra within 8, but from that point the offence simply dried up at both ends. Batkovic scored Newcastle’s final points right on the 2 minute mark, and Illawarra’s comeback attempt was halted as Paige Phillips’ late three proved to be the only score of the final two minutes as Newcastle took home a 71-64 victory to move to 5-7.

Suzy Batkovic was simply unstoppable for the Hunters. Finishing with an astounding 39 points, 24 rebounds, and 6 blocks, the reigning WNBL MVP accounted for over half of Newcastle’s scoring. Cassidy McLean also picked up a number of rebounds, tallying 10 boards to go with 5 points. Lauren Sparks top scored for Illawarra with 20 points and also tallied 6 assists, whilst Georgia Ohrdorf added a double-double with 17 points and 13 rebounds in a sterling effort.

Box Score

Comets 57 lost to Hornsby 78

A vastly understrength Hornsby dressed just six players for this game, but still managed to get the job done. Four players reached double figures in a 21 point victory over Comets which leaves the Spiders just one win shy of mathematically securing top spot.

With just the one player on the bench, it would have been reasonable to think that the Spiders’ biggest test would come in the latter stages of the game. However, the opening moments saw Comets take a 10-9 lead midway through the first quarter on the back early scoring from Megan Cantellano and Serika Shllingsworth. Hornsby quickly got back on top though, with Serena Waters coming off the bench to score five points in 17 seconds and put the visitors up 18-14 after one quarter.

The second quarter saw Hornsby extend their lead in the early stages with back-to-back threes from Alicia Poto. Comets remained right in the contest though as Tatyanna Pogonza-Dumas edged the home side back within four. The Spiders quickly broke off a 9-0 run courtesy of Waters, Rachel Maenpaa, and Darneka Rowe, and quickly the game was spiralling out of Comets’ reach. Fortunately for the home side, Annie Turner added the last three points of the quarter to keep Comets within 11, with the halftime score reading 35-24 in Hornsby’s favour.

The third quarter was Maenpaa’s time to shine. Backed up by Waters, the former SEABL player helped the Spiders move their advantage out to 54-35 by the end of the quarter with eight third quarter points. Maja Jurlina added seven for Comets, but with little support, the Spiders’ lead was bound to increase, and a 19 point margin with a quarter to play meant the game was all but done as a contest.

The fourth quarter was a far tighter affair as the effects of playing with just one available substitute perhaps took its toll on the Spiders. Kristina Moore continued to add points from the line for Hornsby, whilst Poto kept up her shooting from beyond the arc to knock down a couple in the final term. Turner was exemplary for Comets in the final term as the home side were able to tally 22 points in the final term. However, Hornsby added 24 to run out 78-57 victors.

Rachel Maenpaa and Alicia Poto each finished with 18 points and double figures in rebounds as the two senior players collected double-doubles. Kristina Moore also finished with a double-double, tallying 14 points and 11 rebounds, whilst Serena Waters added 13 points and 7 rebounds. Annie Turner was Comets’ leader with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Maja Jurlina added 10 points, whilst Tatyanna Pogonza-Dumas was outstanding on the boards, finishing with 13 rebounds to go with 7 points.

Box Score

Sutherland 46 lost to Norths 66

Norths all but mathematically secured a finals spot with a 20 point win over Sutherland that also dropped the Sharks a game behind Bankstown in the race for fourth place.

The Bears flew out of the gates, opening the game on an 11-1 run. Points came from all over the court, with Tristan Black and Jaimee Kennedy getting things done inside before Kate Seebohm and Kallie Hovatter came to the party with baskets of their own. Jacki Nicholson knocked down a pair of threes to keep Sutherland in the hunt, but Norths rattled off another 7 points to end the quarter with a 20-9 lead that put the Sharks on the back foot early.

The second quarter was a better affair for Sutherland, cutting the margin to 8 at one point. Lisa Watkins added 7 points and Peta Kneen found her way to the line a couple of times before knocking down a three. But with Sutherland managing just one scoring play in the final four minutes, it allowed Norths the opportunity to re-establish a double-figure margin. Taylor Jones hit a couple of threes and Razz Muir added a late basket to actually see Norths extend their margin by two points to 37-24 at halftime.

Peta Kneen and Rachel Herrick combined for 10 early points for the Sharks as the third quarter began with a flurry. However, as was the case in the second quarter, the back end of the quarter belonged to Norths. The Sharks started the quarter on a 9-4 run, but by the end of the term the Bears had trimmed that to 13-12 for the quarter and in the process ensured their lead would remain almost unchanged. Seebohm continued to add points at regular intervals behind the charge from Jaimee Kennedy to ensure Norths would hold a 12 point lead going into the final quarter.

The fourth quarter brought out the best in Kallie Hovatter as the American point guard added 12 points in the final term, which outscored Sutherland’s entire production for the quarter. Youngster Hannah Clinen added four points for the Sharks, but any comeback bid was dashed as the home side could tally just nine points in the final term as Norths rolled to a 66-46 win.

Peta Kneen top scored for Sutherland with 12 points, and also collected 7 rebounds. Jane Scrivens managed just 3 points but contributed on the glass with 10 rebounds. Kallie Hovatter’s 12 final quarter points led to a total of 14 for the American, who also added 7 rebounds and 6 steals. Jaimee Kennedy completed an outstanding double-double of 12 points and 16 rebounds, whilst Kate Seebohm tallied 9 points and 4 steals.

Box Score

Weekly Scoring Leaders:

Suzy Batkovic (Newcastle) – 39 points v Illawarra
Lauren Sparks (Illawarra) – 20 points v Newcastle
Rachel Maenpaa (Hornsby) – 18 points v Comets
Alicia Poto (Hornsby) – 18 points v Comets
Casey Samuels (Bankstown) – 18 points v Hills

Waratah Championship Week 11 Roundup

Hornsby look to be out of reach atop the Waratah Championship table after dominating Norths for the second time this season. Elsewhere, Bankstown and Sutherland both picked up wins as their fight for fourth place continues to intrigue.

Bankstown 57 defeated Illawarra 38

A rampant Bankstown side started the game on a tear, opening up an early margin that proved to be enough to clinch the game as Illawarra stemmed the tide but were unable to chip away at the Bruins’ margin to any significant degree.

Neither team was able to find much joy on offence in the early stages of the contest, but it was the Bruins, courtesy of former WNBL player Casey Samuels, who had the early running and moved to a 7-0 lead after 4 minutes. A late run from the Bruins saw Marjy Grealish add 5 points and Rhiaan Te-Hira tally 4 as Bankstown somehow moved out to a 22-0 lead by the end of the first quarter. The Kittyhawks were not without their chances, but somehow the shots just refused to fall every time in the opening term.

Things looked unlikely to improve in the short term when Samuels opened the second quarter scoring with a three, but Paige Phillips knocked down two of her own in quick succession to get the visitors on the board over 12 minutes into the contest. Although Samuels continued her scoring charge, Illawarra found a renewed vigour following Phillips’ quick scoring barrage, and although Bankstown continued to find points, Illawarra actually won the second quarter 14-12 with Georgia Ohrdorf adding four points alongside six from Phillips. However, Bankstown remained 34-14 ahead to maintain control of the game.

Bruins player-coach Briana Maimone fired in the third quarter, registering eight points as the home side looked to ram home their advantage. However, Illawarra continued to prove that the first quarter was simply an aberration as they hung with Bankstown throughout the quarter. Captain Lauren Sparks added five quick points midway through the term, whilst Ohrdorf and Phillips continued to add to their totals. Despite this, Bankstown increased their lead to 49-26 with a quarter to play.

Offence deserted the Bruins somewhat in the final term, but it mattered little to a team that held a 23 point lead going into the fourth quarter. A low-scoring final quarter saw Lauren Sparks’ six points represent half of Illawarra’s total for the period, whilst four different players added a solitary basket apiece for the Bruins, who tallied just eight points in the final quarter to see the game finish 57-38 in the home side’s favour.

Casey Samuels led all scorers with 15 points for Bankstown, whilst Briana Maimone added 14. Marjy Grealish finished a point shy of a double-double with 9 points and 12 rebounds. Georgia Ohrdorf did the same for Illawarra, tallying 9 points and 11 rebounds, whilst Lauren Sparks finished with 11 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 steals for the Kittyhawks.

Box Score

Sutherland 72 defeated Hills 61

Hills put in one of their finest performances of the season, but it was unfortunately not enough against a Sutherland side that simply could not afford to slip up in their quest for finals basketball.

A low-scoring opening saw the scoreline read just 3-2 after four minutes of play, with neither team able to convert on a number of decent looks at the basket. Surprisingly, it would be the visiting Hornets who rectified that problem first. Madison Hare was able to find open space on a number of occasions, and with assistance from the likes of Samara Funnell and Sherrie Calleia, the Hornets opened up a 21-15 lead after a quarter.

Hare scored the first four points of the second quarter to extend Hills’ lead to 25-15, but an and-one for Rachel Herrick a minute or so later seemed to kick Sutherland into gear. Reeling of an 11-0 run, the Sharks took a short-lived lead before Andrea Roditis returned Hills to a 27-26 advantage. A Lauren McCaffrey three returned the lead to the home side, who then pushed the margin out to seven points by the end of the quarter, with McCaffrey tallying 10 points for the quarter. Hare continued to shine for the Hornets, keeping the visitors in the contest at 42-35 at halftime.

Having found their groove in the second quarter, Sutherland continued to push forward in the third quarter. Despite a valiant effort from Hills, Lisa Watkins and Jane Scrivens combined to help lead Sutherland to a double-digit lead midway through the the term. The Sharks turned this into a 9-0 run which was snapped late on by Calleia to leave the Sutherland lead sitting at 58-45 with a quarter to play.

Three minutes into the final term, Hills had cut the Sutherland lead to 9 courtesy of early scoring from Hare and Calleia, but the home side remained calm. Watkins led the Sharks on an 8-0 run, and by the time Hare scored Hills’ next points to put the Hornets back within 15, there were just 3 minutes remaining on the clock. Emma Claus added some late points for Hills, but the win was well and truly in Sutherland’s pocket by then, with the Sharks finishing 72-61 winners.

Madison Hare led all scorers with 22 points, and also collected 14 rebounds to star for Hills. Sherrie Calleia was also excellent at both ends, finishing with 14 points and a remarkable 8 steals. Hare and Calleia’s performances are made even more remarkable by the fact that they also played a Youth League game which finished just 40 minutes prior to this game. Four players finished in double figures for Sutherland. Lisa Watkins led the team with 17 points, whilst Jane Scrivens tallied a huge double-double of 14 points and 16 rebounds. Clare Thomson registered 11 points, whilst a scoring streak in the second quarter led to 10 points for Lauren McCaffrey.

Box Score

Manly 81 defeated Comets 40

Manly remain solidly entrenched in third position, moving to 8-4 with a dominant 41 point win over  a Comets side that just couldn’t find anything on offence for much of the contest.

The Sea Eagles fired from the outset, with Rebecca Duke and Jess Cullen each finding multiple scoring opportunities in the opening stages as the Sea Eagles moved out to a 15-4 lead within the first five minutes. Fortunately for Comets, they were able to slow Manly’s scoring to just four points in the second half of the opening term. Jaimee Cohen scored five of the visitors’ 8 points in the opening term, but Manly still held a double-figure lead at 19-8 after one quarter of play.

Duke continued to fire in the second quarter, with Opals stalwart Belinda Snell also firing for the home side as Manly continued to extend their lead. Things remained tough on offence for Comets, who could only muster two scoring plays in the entire quarter, adding just five points for the term. On the other hand, the Sea Eagles added 17 points in the second term to move out to a 36-13 halftime lead.

The third quarter saw the Comets offence finally hit double figures. Stephanie Perch found her range with a couple of early threes, and although the Manly side continued to keep the scoreboard ticking over, eight points late in the quarter from Maja Jurlina ensured that Comets would at least be able to see the third quarter as a positive they could take away from this game as the visitors tallied 18 points, which represented 45% of their final score. Nonetheless, Manly still extended their lead to 57-31 with a quarter to play.

Normal service resumed in the fourth term, with Manly again holding Comets to single figures for the quarter. Snell opened the quarter with four points for the Sea Eagles, before hitting a number of three pointers throughout the term to tally 15 points for the quarter in all. Those 15 points helped Manly to 24 points for the quarter to see the home side run out 81-40 victors.

Belinda Snell finished with 21 points for Manly, whilst Rebecca Duke added 13 points and Jess Cullen tallied 10 for the home side. Stephanie Perch tallied 12 points, all on three point shooting, whilst Maja Jurlina added 11 points and 8 rebounds off the bench for Comets.

Box Score

Bankstown 83 defeated Newcastle 50

After Sutherland’s win on Saturday night, Bankstown knew they needed to make this double-header count with a win over Newcastle, and promptly delivered with a comprehensive 33 point victory.

Things looked potentially ominous in the early stages for Bankstown, as Newcastle’s WNBL pairing of Cassidy McLean and Suzy Batkovic got the Hunters rolling early. However, Bankstown remained unfazed, and their own recent WNBL player, Casey Samuels, hit a couple of threes to tally 9 points in the opening term as the Bruins opened up a 22-14 lead after a quarter.

Neither team was quite as effective at scoring in the second quarter, which assisted Newcastle slightly as the visitors were able to trim the lead to a degree. Batkovic added four early points for the Hunters, but Samuels and Marjy Grealish continued their solid starts to the game to ensure that the home side’s advantage wouldn’t be completely erased. Emily Keith and Alison Ebzery added some late scoring for the Hunters, who cut Bankstown’s lead to 31-25 at halftime to leave the game hanging in the balance.

Evidently that didn’t sit well with Bankstown, who were lethal in the third quarter. Rhiaan Te-Hira and Aleesha Coulter unleashed a three point barrage on the Hunters, with Briana Maimone and Samuels getting in on the act as well as the Bruins racked up 30 points in the third quarter. McLean and Batkovic continued to add to the Hunters’ tally, and whilst 16 points in a quarter is generally not a terrible thing in Waratah League, it paled in comparison to the Bruins’ outstanding scoring for the term.

Bankstown hammered home their advantage in the final term, with Jasmine Barlow leading the charge in the final quarter with eight points. With the Hunters only able to muster 9 points in the final term, Bankstown extended their lead by 13 more to run out 83-50 winners and maintain their grip on fourth position.

Casey Samuels top scored for Bankstown with 19 points, and also collected 7 rebounds and dished out 6 assists. Adrianne Bywater kept the scoreboard ticking over with 11 points spread evenly throughout the contest and 10 rebounds to finish with a double-double. Rhiaan Te-Hira was electric off the bench to finish with 13 points, whilst Aleesha Coulter’s third quarter shooting helped her to 9 points. The WNBL contingent led Newcastle, with Suzy Batkovic registering 20 points and 13 rebounds, whilst Cassidy McLean tallied 10 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists.

Box Score

Hornsby 68 defeated Norths 48

Hornsby delivered the ultimate statement in a comprehensive victory over Norths to remain undefeated through 11 games, mathematically secure a finals spot, and all but seal top seeding for the playoffs.

An even start saw the teams trade baskets for the first few minutes of the contest, with neither team establishing a lead of more than two points for the first four minutes. Rachel Maenpaa and Kristina Moore each tallied four points for Hornsby, and Kate Seebohm did the same for Norths, before Bec Black’s jumper gave Hornsby a 10-6 lead for the first two-possession margin of the contest. The scoring dried up for a good two minutes or so before Hornsby’s offence clicked into gear for the final three minutes of the quarter. From a position of 6-4 down early, Hornsby scored the final 13 points of the quarter to establish a 17-6 lead by the end of the first quarter, with Moore scoring four late points to end the term with 8 points.

Hornsby extended their lead to 22-6 through Maenpaa and Alicia Poto before Kallie Hovatter led Norths on an 8-0 run of their own to cut the Spiders’ lead in half. However, Poto hit back with five consecutive points as the 2004 Olympian found her rhythm. Fortunately for Norths, Ali Burke knocked down a three late in the quarter to keep the visitors within 10 as the scoreboard read 27-17 in Hornsby’s favour at halftime despite some dismal shooting numbers from Norths.

Hornsby stormed out of the gates in the third quarter, scoring the first 10 points of the half. Poto continued to be chief destroyer for the Spiders, whilst Darneka Rowe came into her own in the third quarter to provide solid support as the Spiders set about putting the game completely out of Norths’ reach. With the backcourt pairing of Hovatter and Seebohm seemingly the only Norths players to have any kind of scoring success, Hornsby were able to extend their lead to 25 by the end of the third quarter courtesy of a 26-11 term that put the game beyond doubt.

With Hornsby’s starters taking up a well-earned position on the bench, Norths were able to trim the margin in the late stages, but Maenpaa and Poto had already completed the job in the early part of the fourth quarter as the Spiders’ experienced players came to the fore. Although Norths were able to put together a 20-15 final quarter, a second poor shooting effort in two games against Hornsby condemned the Bears to a 68-48 defeat.

Alicia Poto led all scorers with 26 points for the Spiders, with Rachel Maenpaa adding 16. Poto also tallied 9 rebounds, 5 assists, and 4 steals for an outstanding all-round performance. Kallie Hovatter top scored for Norths with 14 points, whilst Kate Seebohm chipped in with 11 points and 8 rebounds. Jaimee Kennedy and Tristan Black were outstanding on the boards for Norths with 13 and 10 rebounds respectively.

Box Score

Weekly Scoring Leaders:

Alicia Poto (Hornsby) – 26 points v Norths
Madison Hare (Hills) – 22 points v Sutherland
Belinda Snell (Manly) – 21 points v Comets
Suzy Batkovic (Newcastle) – 20 points v Bankstown
Casey Samuels (Bankstown) – 19 points v Newcastle

At The Turn: Norths Bears

As each Waratah Championship team reaches the halfway mark of their season, Sky Blue Hoops will take a look at their campaign to this point and their chances going forward. In this piece, we focus on the Norths Bears, who have set themselves up well for a shot at the championship with an outstanding first half of the season.

After crumbling in the back end of 2016 to miss out on what seemed like a certain finals berth, Norths certainly retooled well in their preparation for a tilt at the 2017 title. Although Norths were rocked by the loss of Kathryn Rendell to injury, the Bears managed to lure former Hornsby coach Shannon Seebohm to the Bear Cave, and the Under 17 Women’s World Championship winning coach brought a number of players with him to his new club. Tristan Black, Jaimee Kennedy, Kate Seebohm, and young star Alessandra Burke followed Seebohm to Norths, whilst Razzearne Muir joined the side after winning the 2016 title with Newcastle. Bree Delaney also made the switch from Comets as Norths were able to put together a lineup with plenty of depth.

Things have gone almost to plan to this point for Norths. Eight games in, their solitary loss was a 65-62 defeat to the still undefeated Hornsby in a nail-biter in mid-May. Outside of that loss, the Bears have compiled an impressive CV to this point. With wins over potential finals teams Manly, Bankstown, and Sutherland and a victory over Suzy Batkovic and Newcastle, Norths have shown that they will be one of the biggest obstacles to any team looking to take home the silverware this season.

However, there are still some areas in which the Bears can afford to improve. Their shooting percentage has not hit 40% in their past six games, with a number of their wins being heavily assisted by their ability to force opponents into turnovers and sheer dominance on the glass. Conversely, Hornsby have shot over 40% three times in recent weeks, and outshot Norths 39% to 29% in last month’s game between the two sides. Certainly, a hot-shooting Norths side is almost unstoppable, but first they actually need to shoot well consistently. It may become more crucial in the coming weeks too, with the unfortunate loss of forward Kate Cranney for the season through injury. Tristan Black, Jaimee Kennedy, and Razzearne Muir will still provide a solid inside presence for the Bears, but Cranney has been the team’s most accurate shooter to this point, and is also second in the league and blocks and second on the team in rebounding.

Going forward, Norths have little to worry about regarding whether or not they make finals. With four games remaining against teams that are now out of the finals race, 11 wins should be the absolute minimum that the Bears expect. They have also beaten every opponent they face from here on out with the exception of Hornsby, so they will know exactly what is required to secure the victories they need to finish in the top two and earn a preferred matchup in the semi-finals. However, the key game comes in the round following the June long weekend. The Bears travel up the Pacific Highway to face Hornsby in the return matchup. A four point win will earn Norths the season series, but a loss would put the side two games behind the Spiders and all but dash any hopes of the minor premiership.

With the Bears getting significant contributions from a number of players and outstanding depth despite recent injury troubles, things are looking very positive for the team from Crows Nest. Kallie Hovatter and Kate Seebohm are performing admirably in the backcourt, whilst Tristan Black and Jaimee Kennedy at times seem unstoppable on the glass. Meanwhile, a number of other players have stepped up when required, including Taylor Jones, Bree Delaney, Muffi Loader, Eleni Valos, and Razzearne Muir. After falling in the semi-finals in 2014 and 2015, and missing the finals in 2016, could this be the season that Norths finally break through for a title?

Waratah Championship Week 9 Roundup

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

Hornsby 88 defeated Newcastle 78

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sutherland 42 lost to Bankstown 65

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hills 43 lost to Norths 77

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

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

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

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

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

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

Illawarra 71 lost to Manly 88

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

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

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

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

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

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

Weekly Scoring Leaders

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