WNBL 2014/15: Round 11 Preview
We're back in business in women's basketball with the return of the WNBL after the Christmas break. While some clubs were desperately waiting for the break, there were others itching to get game time and the second half of the season is bound to answer some lingering questions.
Townsville Fire vs. University of Canberra Capitals
Friday, 2nd January - 7:00pm local time
The best of the best match up in the re-opening game of the WNBL, with Australian superstar Lauren Jackson set to unleash her full capacity on the league. Despite missing the majority of the early part of the season through injury, Jackson and the Capitals will face the highly fancied Townsville Fire led by their twin towers in Suzy Batkovic and Cayla Francis.
In addition to Jackson's absence, the Caps have been without Kristen Veal and Hannah Zavecz in patches, yet are still poised to make a late run to the playoffs.
For the Fire, both Batkovic (third) and Cayla Francis (fourth) rank in the top four in the league in scoring, with the pair averaging 36ppg combined. The team heavily rely on these two stars for the majority of games so if the Capitals are able to push at least one of them out of their groove, an opportunity may open up for the visitors to snatch the game.
It seems as if this match could be the game of the round, with Townsville's big girls matched for size for the first time this season as Lauren Jackson and MVP candidate Abby Bishop head north to burn out the Fire.
Townsville by 2
Sydney Uni Flames vs. Dandenong Rangers
Saturday, 3rd January - 3:00pm local time
The rematch of the final round of 2014 which saw the Dandenong Rangers hold home court against the Flames in which they controlled the majority of the match to win by double digits.
With Dandenong's new found star power, the Rangers will be tough opponents over the second half of the season. Boasting a healthy squad of Penny Taylor, Cappie Pondexter, Alice Kunek, Kath MacLeod and Annalise Pickrel the Rangers will travel to Sydney hoping to replicate their strong victory only a couple of weeks ago.
For the Flames, the absence of Rohanee Cox is evident with the side only managing to win just one game out of the last five before the break, however Sydney's style of game play under head coach Shannon Seabohm will have the Rangers on their toes for the majority of the contest.
Leilani Mitchell will provide the key for the Flames, opening up all angles and hoping to rack up the assist numbers if they are to hold strong on their home court. A big game from her is nearly essential.
Rangers by 4
Bendigo Spirit vs. West Coast Waves
Saturday, 3rd January - 3:00pm local time
Photo Credit: Michelle Couling Photography
The Bendigo Spirit kick off their 2015 campaign hosting the new and improved West Coast Waves.
Despite the Spirit holding the crown of back to back champions, West Coast actually have the wood over their opponents in most recent terms. A WNBL Spring Shield victory in the final of the pre-season tournament (held in Bendigo) before a Round 4 stunning 72-61 victory back in Western Australia which saw a Deanna Smith/Lindsey Moore offensive show.
However, a regular season match-up in Bendigo is not so easy, especially when the reigning champs are trying to chomp at Townsville's one and a half game gap for the top spot on the WNBL ladder.
It doesn't make it any easier when Louella Tomlinson is currently doubtful for Saturday's game battling injury. In that case, the Waves will be relying heavily on Cassie Harberts and once again Lindsey Moore and Deanna Smith to keep the scoreboard ticking over, while attempting to limit Bendigo's firepower.
Bendigo by 11
Adelaide Lightning vs. West Coast Waves
Sunday, 4th January - 11:00am local time
Photo Credit: Optus Zoo
It may be declared that this game is for the 'Bottom Feeders Cup', however it really only feels as though one team is playing like a bottom two side.
As West Coast have literally been 'making waves' this season, the Lightning on the other hand really haven't lit any sparks at all.
Their resurgence must start in this game, their first of the New Year. The WNBL scheduling has been very kind to the Lightning kicking off 2015 with a real chance to bring life back into the fans of Adelaide alongside the players who have struggled to find any positive consistency.
Offensive struggles has been one of the major factors and it is here where leaders such as Laura Hodges and Jenni Screen to show the way, while at the other end the team as a unit must shy away from leaking easy buckets.
A back-to-back for the Waves certainly doesn't help their chances, especially when the team is having to depart Melbourne the day before and be prepared for an 11am tip-off.
The Lightning may strike early in this game if they are to make a real statement, as their losing streak continues to linger the depleted side.
Adelaide by 2
University of Canberra Capitals vs. Dandenong Rangers
Sunday, 4th January - 1:00pm local time
Rebounding and intensity is set up to be determining factors in this contest which sees the University of Canberra Capitals led by both Lauren Jackson and in-form MVP candidate Abby Bishop take on the evenly spread Dandenong Rangers.
In previous encounters the rebound count has led to victories and the way this game shapes up, it seems like there will be no difference in outcome.
This pits Dandenong youngster Lauren Scherf in another tough battle with Opals star Jackson, while the combination of Alice Kunek and Annalise Pickrel will have to deal with Abby Bishop's productivity.
As both clubs are heading into their second game of the weekend, fatigue will also play a part later in the game. This means shooting percentages will be key heading down the stretch, with the two teams looking to go to their key players in Bishop and Steph Talbot for the UC Capitals and Penny Taylor and Cappie Pondexter for the Rangers.
The last time these two teams met Taylor and Pondexter were allowed to get off their leash which is surely something the Caps will fix early on, hoping to limit the WNBA stars' production.
Capitals by 3