defencejobs WNBL Round 16 wrap
Defending champions Canberra tightened their grip on the minor premiership and guaranteed themselves a home semi-final after defeating the Adelaide Lightning in Saturday night’s top of the table clash in Canberra.
The Adelaide loss was made worse by Erin Phillips’ season-ending ACL injury, throwing the Lightning’s finals preparations into disarray.
Sydney Uni, meanwhile, is sweating the reoccurrence of an ankle injury to team leader Natalie Porter.
Amidst the upheaval of Round 16, one piece of the defencejobs WNBL finals puzzle became clear - the season is over for the Townsville Fire.
The round opened at the Distinctive Homes Dome on Friday night with the AIS turning in one of its best performances of the year, pushing league heavyweight Adelaide all the way before falling 79-70.
Mindful that they were scheduled to play the Capitals 24 hours later with the minor premiership on the line, the Lightning almost paid the ultimate price for looking past the AIS.
Despite holding an 8 point halftime lead and out-rebounding the best rebounding team in the league 48-38, the youngsters from the AIS were outscored 47-29 in the second half, thanks mostly to a 27-point, 9 rebound, 4 assist, 3 steal blinder from defencejobs Opal Erin Phillips.
Recently re-signed duo Tracey Gahan and Sam Woosnam were terrific for Adelaide, posting 19 points and 5 rebounds and 12 points and 3 assists respectively.
Cayla Francis was outstanding for the AIS, bagging 22 points with 9 rebounds and 2 blocked shots while Katie Ebzery contributed 11 points and 5 rebounds and Rebecca Schatz posted 8 points and 5 rebounds.
A career high 33 point performance from defencejobs Opal Hollie Grima ended Townsville’s season and strengthened the Bulleen Melbourne Boomers’ grasp on fourth spot in a comfortable 95-80 win over the Fire at the Veneto Club on Friday night.
Bulleen cruised to a 17-point three-quarter time lead behind an all-round team performance that saw five Boomers – Grima (pictured), Kate McMeeken Ruscoe (17 points), Desiree Glaubitz (15 points), Kylie Jordan (12 points) and Karen Ashby (12 points) – post double figures compared to Townsville’s two.
Renae Camino top scored for the Fire with 26 points while Rohanee Cox added 11 points, but Townsville were easily out-rebounded 38-27 and the deficit proved costly.
Championship favourites in the preseason, Townsville’s high error count once again worked against them, committing 14 turnovers to the Boomers 8. “They lacked discipline and patience to complete their sets,” the disappointed Townsville coach Dave Herbert said.
The Dandenong Rangers remained in the playoffs race with a solid 90-78 win over the Townsville Fire in front of a capacity crowd at the Dandenong Basketball stadium on Saturday evening.
Playing the curtain raiser to the South Dragons v West Sydney Razorbacks Philips NBL Championship match, Dandenong acted like a team that wanted to play in the finals, racing to a 15-point quarter time lead that was never overcome.
Co-captain Caitlin Ryan and guard Kathleen McLeod bagged 23 points apiece while Jenna O’Hea (pictured) registered 22 points and 8 rebounds. 7-time Defensive Player of the Year Emily McInerny contributed a massive 16 rebounds in the win.
With 17 points each, Jennifer Crouse and Renae Camino were Townsville’s best, while Rohanee Cox contributed 14 points and Tania Heritage 12 points.
If Bulleen defeats the AIS in next week’s final round they may yet miss the playoffs – Rangers victories against Perth in Perth on Thursday night and Adelaide in Adelaide on Saturday night would mean Bulleen and Dandenong finish equal on wins and the Rangers would take the final playoff position after claming the head-to-head season series (the Michele Timms Cup) 2-1.
The Sydney Uni Flames moved one step closer to securing a home semi final after defeating the AIS 84-65 at the Sydney Uni Sports and Aquatic centre on Saturday night, but at what cost?
With three minutes remaining in the final quarter and the Flames ahead by 20 points, star forward Natalie Porter re-injured her ankle and immediately left the court 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocked shots and 1 steal before sustaining the injury. She was ably supported by Michelle Musselwhite, who added 13 points and six rebounds, and Eva Afeaki who chimed in with 12 points.
18-year-old Cayla Francis (pictured) posted the only double-double of the round, a 14-point, 12 rebound, 4 assist, 2 steal performance for the AIS while Mia Newley contributed 14 points and 5 rebounds.
If the Flames defeat Canberra in the ABC Game of the Week this Friday night and the Capitals lose to Townsville in Townsville the following night, Sydney Uni will claim the minor premiership.
The top of the table clash between Adelaide and Canberra was a nightmare come true for the South Australian side, who not only relinquished their equal-first position on the ladder by losing the game 85-68, but lost their star playmaker Erin Phillips to a season ending knee injury to boot.
Phillips went to ground with less than two minutes remaining in the third quarter, sending the 1400-strong crowd at the AIS Arena into a silence only broken by the world champion guard’s screams of pain.
The Capitals took control of the match thereafter, extending the 10-point lead they already held to claim the series split 2-1, thanks largely to Tully Bevilaqua’s 20 points (her season high), 7 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals.
In Canberra’s solid team performance, forward Abby Bishop added 15 points and 8 rebounds, Jess Bibby bagged 15 points, Captain Kellie Abrams contributed 14 points and 3 assists and Tracey Beatty compiled 10 points and 7 rebounds.
Sam Woosnam posted a gallant 19 points for the Lightning while guard Jess Foley scored 14 points and Tracey Gahan contributed 8 points and 8 rebounds.
Canberra’s tenth straight home win moved them to top spot on the ladder and with a home final scheduled it sent an ominous warning to the Caps’ top four rivals.
AT A GLANCE:
Adelaide 79 – Phillips 27, Gahan 19, Woosnam 12
AIS 70 – Francis 22, Ebzery 11, Schatz 8
Bulleen 95 – Grima 33, McMeeken-Ruscoe 17, Glaubitz 15
Townsville 80 – Camino 26, Cox 11, Crouse 9
Dandenong 90 – Ryan 23, McLeod 23, Cavanagh 22
Townsville 78 – Camino 17, Crouse 17, Cox 14
Sydney Uni 84 – Porter 19, Musselwhite 13, Afeaki 12
AIS 65 – Francis 14, Newley 14, Ebzery 9
Canberra 85 – Bevilaqua 20, Bishop 15, Bibby 15
Adelaide 68 – Woosnam 19, Foley 14, Gahan 8, Lindsay 8
1. Canberra (15-4)
2. Sydney Uni (15-5)
3. Adelaide (15-5)
4. Bulleen (11-9)
5. Dandenong (10-9)
6. Townsville (11-9)
7. Perth (3-17)
8. AIS (1-19)