Compiled by Roy Ward. Photo courtesy of UC Capitals.
Perth 82 – Townsville 69
Game: Perth made sure of their place in the WNBL major Semi-Final with a strong win over Townsville. The Lynx got back to the pressure defence and balanced scoring which got them into the finals race forcing 21 turnovers and having Sami Whitcomb (20 points), Betnijah Laney (16 points), Tessa Lavey (13 points) and Carley Mijovic (12 points) scoring baskets. The Fire’s Suzy Batkovic recorded 19 points and 10 rebounds, Natalie Novosel added 13 points while Cayla George had 11 points and 16 rebounds. Louella Tomlinson returned from injury for the Lynx with 17 minutes.
Andy Stewart, Lynx coach: “I’m ecstatic – the girls were great and I feel like we are back to playing the sort of basketball we were earlier in the season. We had a tough little period but everyone goes through it where you lose a player or two for different stages but the fact we now have a full squad fit and ready to go means I’m loving it.”
Chris Lucas, Fire coach: “It’s always disappointing to lose but full credit to Perth they had a game plan in place to take us out of our stuff and they did that. Suzy and Cayla are playing pretty well but we want to see some other players in double figures, we had three tonight but we need more like five.”
Sydney Uni 90 – Bendigo 83
Game: The Flames closed their season on a winning note while ending the Spirit’s chances of making the top four. Katie-Rae Ebzery made yet another match-winning performance with 21 points while four other teammates joined her including Joslyn Tinkle (17 points) and Alex Wilson (14 points). The Spirit made a good run at the Flames in the second half but couldn’t overcome the home side’s quarter time lead with Kelsey Griffin scoring 22 points and adding 11 rebounds while Belinda Snell and Kelly Wilson scored 18 points each. Flames veteran Rohanee Cox played her last WNBL game scoring two points in just under 10 minutes.
Shannon Seebohm, Flames coach: “This shows that when we get back to the style of play we want then we can be successful with it. For three weeks prior I felt we did that in patches but tonight we did it for three and a half quarters and that was enough to get us over the line. It’s good to see some of our younger girls take some opportunities – it’s exciting and we are moving forward with the group we have got.”
Spirit: WNBA forward Kelsey Griffin made a return from her hamstring injury and top scored with 22 points but she didn’t play on Saturday against Canberra on Saturday night with the Spirit’s finals hopes dashed.
UC Capitals 78 – Bendigo 71
Game: Canberra gave departing legends Carrie Graf and Jess Bibby a winning exit as they held off the Bendigo Spirit at AIS Arena. The Spirit had a 29-11 first quarter and looked primed to end their own campaign with a win by a 16-0 run from the Caps then some determined shooting, topped off by a sealer from Bibby made sure of the win. Abby Bishop led the Caps with 20 points and 15 rebounds while Bibby had 16 points off the bench. Kelly Wilson led the Spirit with 24 points.
Carrie Graf, Capitals coach: “I think the emotion’s just being part of something for so long, there’s no sadness on my end,” Graf told Canberra Times. “Tears can be deceptive, it’s more just the emotion of saying goodbye to something, or closing a chapter and kids getting your autograph and parents saying thanks for being a role model, those are the things that bring the emotion.”
Simon Pritchard, Spirit coach: “We had a great first quarter and that’s something we haven’t done well this season so it was great for us to have a fantastic start but then the Caps went on a 16-0 run which we couldn’t stop even with a couple of time outs,” Pritchard said. “Credit to Canberra for the way they played, they really rose for Graffy and Bibby’s last game. It was a great game and it was tough for us to lose it.”
Melbourne 81 – SEQ 67
Game: Melbourne put an injury-marred season in their rear-view mirror and recorded a great win over SEQ in front of 1300 fans. Tess Madgen showed she has regained some of her leg power after ankle problems with 15 points, seven rebounds and eight assists while Alice Kunek knocked down 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds while Maddie Garrick had 19 points. The Stars couldn’t get their offensive game in order and struggled with the Boomers’ pressure defence with only Ify Ikebwe’s 26 points and seven rebounds preventing an even bigger defeat. For the Boomers it was a small example of what their season could have been like with a healthier side while the Stars showed they still had work to do replacing injured point guard Lauren Mansfield.
Guy Molloy, Boomers coach: “I’m really pleased with the girls who have trained hard through this really horrendous period, kept putting in the work. There was a big difference tonight in that Tess Madgen played a lot closer to the Tess Madgen we know. It would have been easy a month ago to make a call and end her season – that’s how serious her injury has been but she means so much to our side and tonight physically she felt well so having her direction at the point guard meant we could play well.”
Megan Thompson, Stars: “I don’t think it was our missing Lauren Mansfield on offence that hurt us tonight – our defence let us down. On a finals run if you are going to have a loss than that was our loss, that’s our shake up and now we’ll turn around on Sunday and get it done.”
Townsville 64 – Adelaide 57
Game: Townsville’s defence locked down in the second half keeping the Lightning to just 18 points as the Fire recorded a gritty win. It didn’t look good early for the Fire as the Lighting took an early lead but with Suzy Batkovic struggling offensively, Cayla George (16 points, 12 rebounds), Darcee Garbin (13 points) and Natalie Novosel (12 points, 11 rebounds) made sure they scored enough to win. Kelly Bowen led the Lightning with 15 points and 10 rebounds while Mikaela Ruef had 10 points and 15 rebounds.
Claudia Brassard, Fire: “Garbin was the difference in the second half,” Brassard told the Fire website. “Her performance at both ends of the floor won us the game. Cayla was very good throughout the night and our energy – particularly on the defensive end in the second half – was the difference between losing and winning. It is such a long road trip, and to get that result after travelling the kilometres that we have, is a testament to the entire team.”
SEQ 88 – Dandenong 64
Game: Stars forward Jordan Hooper showed Dandenong’s supporters exactly why she is a WNBA level talent with 28 of her 33 points in the first half including seven three-pointers. Hooper’s stellar game included 14 rebounds as the Rangers found out what happens when they don’t step to the Stars’ import. Rebecca Allen (15 points, eight rebounds) showed her athleticism and skills are just as good as her time with Melbourne as the Stars took a 28-point lead into half time – a margin the Rangers could never catch. Steph Cumming led the home side with 20 points but her side paid dearly for missed defensive assignments and their 35% shooting.
Megan Thompson, Stars coach: “Wow – these girls really know how to get it done. We had a bit of a slip up against Melbourne but that was bound to happen with the emotional roller-coaster we have been on but with the girls professionalism and togetherness – we just got it done today. This wasn’t a dead rubber and you want to play every game like it’s a Grand Final and you want to set the tone for how you want to play the next week and send a message which we did.”
Larissa Anderson, Rangers coach: “We just need to keep training and keep going. We’ve had a seriously big two weeks and it has taken its toll on the group and we took a big step forward at training this past week. I don’t know if this game not having any meaning restricted us but it shouldn’t have. It’s exactly the sort of game we needed and I didn’t like the deficit but we won the second half and played a lot better on defence in particular.”
No centre, no point guard, no worries.
South East Queensland Stars had everything to lose in their final round visit to Melbourne as two losses plus Bendigo Spirit wins in Sydney and Canberra would see them out of the top-four.
But after surviving a horror end to the season in which the club’s off-court problems almost forced them out of the league, the players have banded together and pledged to fight their way into the finals.
Not even the loss of influential point guard Lauren Mansfield was going to derail the Stars who instead made shooting guards Amy Lewis and Rachel Jarry share the ball-handling duties while Rebecca Allen and WNBA import turned stand-in centre Jordan Hooper offered support as playmakers late in the offence.
“With no point guard and no centre it can be really tough but our biggest thing is to be poised and just get the ball up the court,” Allen said.
“We don’t need all the fancy moves, Lauren was great for us and showed she can play at the highest level but now we just have to get the ball up the court and run our plays.”
While the Stars’ had a shocker against the Boomers on Saturday night, they still made their way into the finals after the Spirit’s tough losses to Sydney and Canberra.
So on Sunday, stand-in coach Megan Thompson told her players they had to treat the supposed “dead rubber” with Dandenong like a Grand Final and show why they were worthy of the WNBL top four.
Hooper must have taken those words to heart as she scored 28 points by half time.
“I just took the shots I was given – we actually came in with the plan to let them shoot more three-pointers,” Hooper said.
“I don’t think we planned to shoot that many threes but we kind of took the shots we were given.”
The Rangers came back into the game in the second half but the Stars could not be caught.
Allen said the team was determined to show they deserved to be in the finals.
“It’s us showing we deserve to be in it and if we keep playing the way we are – with energy – then that works for us,” Allen said.
“We saw on Saturday night we didn’t bring the energy against the Boomers – we knew that sort of loss was going to come eventually.
“We wiped that from our memory on Sunday and showed why we deserve to be here [in the finals].
Jon Tuxworth (@Tuxy81) covered the farewell game for Carrie Graf and Jess Bibby for the Canberra Times: http://www.canberratimes.com.au/sport/basketball/end-of-a-canberra-capitals-era-as-jess-bibby-and-carrie-graf-pull-stumps-20160218-gmxp1o.html
The Age looked closer at Dandenong’s loss as Steph Cumming called out her team’s defence: http://www.theage.com.au/sport/basketball/wnbl-south-east-queensland-stars-send-message-in-win-over-dandenong-rangers-20160221-gmzr0c.html
Townsville Fire have all the info for their major Semi-Final this weekend: http://wnbl.com.au/townsville_news/fire-to-host-major-semi-final-2/