WNBL 2014/15: Round 9 Preview
Round 9 in the WNBL is headlined by two games involving top-four teams. Sydney and Townsville face-off as well as Bendigo and Melbourne, where they'll all be looking to extend the gap between the top-four and bottom-four sides.
Adelaide Lightning vs Melbourne Boomers
Friday 12th December - 5PM (local time)
Adelaide remain in their funk, with a 26-point last round loss to Bendigo, which has left the Lightning a clear last place on the WNBL ladder. Their match-up isn't an easy way out however, as they play the red-hot Melbourne Boomers, winners of their last five encounters.
Adelaide last played Melbourne in round 6 where the Boomers ran out 17-point winners, with Adelaide now losing 7 games in a row, that winning margin could be easily predicted to increase.
Laura Hodges often plays a huge role for the Lightning, and she'll be highly relied upon to earn a much-needed win in a much-needed home appearance for the Lightning. Hodges was the only Adelaide player who shot more than 50% last week against Bendigo for Adelaide.
Laura needs to be making her easy shots on the inside to make up for the Lightning's lack of offensive efficiency when shooting the ball.
Melbourne meanwhile, are playing their best basketball of the season. Apart from their late game collapse to West Coast which saw them prevail in overtime, Guy Molloy has got his team playing fantastic, attractive basketball.
The addition of Laurie Koehn to the Boomer squad has been worthwhile, as she's hit several crucial shots from beyond the arc on a consistent level which has added another layer to Melbourne's offense. Koehn should have a big influence from three-point territory against an Adelaide team who's allowed other teams to score 75 points over the last 7 games.
Melbourne by 18
West Coast Waves vs Dandenong Rangers
Friday 12th December - 7:30PM (local time)
Dandenong got the better of West Coast last week at Dandenong Stadium, where the Rangers ran out 17-point victors in a game which was largely highlighted by the shoot-out between Penny Taylor and Deanna Smith.
Another shoot-out between two different players is on the cards in my view, with both squads holding players capable of exploding offensively on any given night.
Sarah Graham is scoring 19 points per game in the last three contests, while Rangers import Cappie Pondexter is scoring 18 points per game over the same period of time. Both are high-quality scorers, and in a game where the majority of the action is likely to be found on the offensive end of the floor both players will be putting up large numbers on the scoreboard.
The team that has the better supporting cast will be more likely to win, after Dandenong's core of Cunningham, Pickrel and Kunek outplayed the Waves supporting cast last week.
West Coast will be looking rebound and re-earn their position in the top-four with consecutive victories, starting with Dandenong.
West Coast by 4
Sydney Uni Flames vs Townsville Fire
Saturday 13th December - 1:00PM (local time)
The first top-four match-up of the round is sure to be a classic between the first and third placed teams on the ladder.
With the Melbourne Boomers slowly climbing up the ladder after a slow start, a loss for either squad could be disastrous for each team's position leading into the Christmas break.
Sydney Uni struggled enormously with Belinda Snell last week, who scored an unheard of 41 points. The Flames could not contain Snell whatever the did, and are likely to find the same issues with Townsville's star Suzy Batkovic.
Townsville's season to date has been remarkable. They've established themselves as arguably the competition's best team, with their signing Cayla Francis having a large part to do with their success.
Francis has been consistent for the Fire all of this season, and could be considered to be their most important player to date. Another top-tier performance from Francis could not only cement her position as a favourite for an All-Star Five position at the mid-point of the season, but another Fire win as well.
This game is going to be a terrific exhibit of women's basketball televised nationally on the ANC. With superstars like Leilani Mitchell, Katie-Rae Ebzery, Suzy Batkovic and Cayla Francis all taking the floor, be sure to "vote with your eyeballs" and tune in to this game.
Fire by 3
Melbourne Boomers vs Bendigo Spirit
Saturday 13th December - 7:30PM (local time)
Melbourne pulled the upset victory away on the Spirit away at Bendigo in a 3-point thriller last time these two sides matched up. With both teams on a great run of form, this games looks certain to be another thriller that deserves a giant crowd at the State Basketball Center.
Melbourne get a chance to go for seven straight dependent on their ability to beat Adelaide. Confidence is high in the Boomers camp, especially after defeating the Spirit early in the season.
After a 41-point game, Melbourne's focus on defense is going to lie squarely on the hot-hand of Belinda Snell. Molloy knows his team can prevent Snell from making her shots, limiting Snell to only 10 points in their win against the Spirit.
Bendigo strung together two important wins last week, disposing of Sydney and Adelaide in a convincing manner. This match-up with Melbourne should be their biggest task yet, providing the veterans in the group with an imposing challenge.
Kelsey Griffin and Gabe Richards present the Spirit with their most effective way to put points on the Boomers. Griffin and Richards scored more than half of the Spirit points in their previous loss. Due to Melbourne's lack of an interior presence on defense, Griffin and Richards should relied upon to score the majority of Bendigo's points.
This will be a cracking match-up between two teams fighting for position on the ladder, both desperate to maintain their place.
Melbourne by 6
University of Canberra Capitals v Townsville Fire
Sunday 14th December - 3:00PM (local time)
Abby Bishop and Suzy Batkovic have produced some classic match-ups, and this looks to be another one to add to the collection. Bishop was named Player of the Month, while Townsville's coach Chris Lucas was named Coach of the Month for November.
Bishop averaged 22.8 points and 12.5 rebounds in November, which has proven why she is the league's most attractive MVP candidate to date. Bishop has a difficult task in Cayla Francis and Suzy Batkovic, two of the league's other premier bigs to earn a needed win.
Canberra are slowly falling behind the 8-ball, now falling two games out of the top-4. The Capitals are desperate for a win, and are lucky to see the Fire at home, where they're 3-1 on the season.
Townsville meanwhile, are quietly on top of the league thanks to their high-tempo style of basketball. They dominate rebounding the basketball, and make the most of these opportunities with quick baskets down the opposite end of the floor.
The Fire need to stick to this game-plan against the Capitals, not allowing pesky guards Steph Talbot and Jess Bibby to get on top of them defensively. Townsville shoot the ball better than any other team in the league, due to their ability to make these easy buckets off transition opportunities.
Bishop has been playing the best basketball of her life, however Townsville is easily too strong for the Capitals, and should run out convincing winners.
Fire by 11