WNBL Preview Round 16

Bendigo vs Logan

Time: 7:30PM

Bendigo Basketball Stadium

Friday 24th January

Logan's frequent flyer miles are running up, as they travel back to Melbourne for the second week running. They face Bendigo, who saw their 16-game winning streak end via a disappointing loss to a streaking Townsville. Last week, in front of a national audience, the Spirit were hampered by a terrific defensive performance from the Fire, going on long stretches of play without baskets. When things go wrong for the league's top side --which is barely ever-- they need to go back to the basics. Instead of forcing things, getting the ball back inside to the much-publicized bigs of Bendigo is a better way to go. With Chelsea Poppens dominating inside against Logan last week, Bendigo should be able to make the most of the advantage on the inside.

Will the real Sarah Graham please stand up? She was fantastic against Melbourne, with 14 points in the encounter hitting 4 three's. Against Adelaide, she made 4 out of a possible 17 shots. Whenever Graham is on song from the field, The margin is narrowed between the Thunder's opponents. Emma Langford scored 24 points on 17 shots against Melbourne, but proceeded to only score 8 on 8 shots against the Lightning. Get her the ball Logan! If Emma can draw fouls on Kelsey Griffin and Gabe Richards early, while playing aggressively at the rim, there is no doubt the Thunder could cause an upset.

Dandenong should be too good for the Thunder. With the more experienced team, they will be sure not to embarrass their home crowd. Rangers by 9

Dandenong vs Adelaide

Time: 7:30PM

Dandenong Basketball Stadium

Friday 24th January

The Rangers' offence was almost perfect against the Fire, where they exploded to make 103 points at 51.3% from the field. Adelaide was very good against the Logan Thunder in moving the ball, as seen in the fact that they assisted on 66% of their baskets. Jenna O'Hea really is the full package for the Rangers; she can fill up the stat sheet in so many different ways, and has been the Rangers' key to a potential finals berth. She has averaged 7 rebounds in her past 6 games, and at the same time has had multiple 5+ assist games, something extraordinary for a forward. Jenna's passing ability to find sharpshooters Natalie Novosel and Alice Kunek on the wing is key, which puts pause onto Laura Hodges' decision to close her out. The Rangers have been given a scoring burst from a variety players off the bench from multiple players, including Aimee Clydesdale and Brigitte Ardossi. It doesn't take a genius to understand, the Rangers need another high scoring bench performance for a win.

Adelaide's late season run to the promise land (or the final four) continued last week with a terrific 20-point win against Logan. Have no doubt, Adelaide's team-play has gotten them far after the Christmas break; they are recording 19.3 assists per game and making assists on 67% of made field goals. Against the Rangers, who are a top defensive team, the Lightning need to keep them moving on defense. Now without Jess Foley, Angela Marino stepped up with an increase in ball-handling opportunities. She not just recorded 9 rebounds, but recorded 7 assists. Against Lellani Mitchell, she'll need another stat-line of the same accord, while playing stingy defense on our newest Australian.

I like Adelaide's chances. Dandenong have slipped in games against sides out of the 4, and this will be another one. Adelaide by 4

Credit Geoff Tripp for photography.

Melbourne vs Sydney Uni

Time: 7:30PM

State Basketball Center

Friday 24th January

The last time these two teams met in Sydney, Chelsea Poppens recorded 8 turnovers, Amber Hegge was fouled out in 20 minutes, and no Boomer made 50% of their shots. This coincided with Sydney notching a 12-point win. Now that the team is back in Melbourne, the Boomers will look to revert to the old ways, which saw them score a win on the Flames all the way back in round 1. Tess Madgen and Rebecca Allen were the stand-outs on that day, stemming from playing the same lock-down defense enforced on them by the Flames last time they met.

The Flames are stemming with confidence after their big 32-point win over West Coast last week. Katie-Rae Ebzery continues to score the ball at a consistent rate, scoring 15 points in 3 of her last 4 appearances. Those 15 points --should she reaches the same mark again-- will be crucial in a close game. Alicia Poto should be tasked with guarding the resurgent Nicole Romeo. If Poto can keep Romeo away from the perimeter, where she was so deadly last week, the Flames could definitely notch an upset victory.

Melbourne have looked great at home, and with the resurgence of Romeo, it should push them over the line. Melbourne by 6

Canberra vs Melbourne

Time: 6PM

AIS Arena

Saturday 25th January

Melbourne start their second weekend game less than 24 hours after their first, albeit in a different state. They face the Canberra Capitals, a team desperate to keep the slim chance of a finals appearance alive. Canberra, led by MVP candidate Abby Bishop, will be looking to her to not only beat Chelsea Poppens in her match-up, but to limit Melbourne's opportunities at the rim as well. Jess Bibby played a terrific game last week, scoring 32 points from the bench to earn the player of the week award. Even though 32 points is cutting expectations a bit too high for two weeks straight, don't be surprised if she drops 20 on the Boomer defense that tends to fall asleep at times.

Much like Jess Bibby, Nicole Romeo was also the spark-plug from the bench for the Boomers last week, where she had her coming out game against the Logan Thunder. She scored 21 points, and much like Bibby, she scored from wherever she pleased. Look for those two to go basket for basket as the game progresses. Tess Madgen has been disappointing offensively lately: her scoring and percentages have been down. She needs a big confidence booster to get to the level she was playing at in the first 3 games of the season.

Coming off a game the night before in a different state is tough, so the Capitals will just make advantage of this factor. Capitals by 3

Townsville vs Bendigo

Time: 1PM

Townsville RSL Stadium

Sunday 26th January

These two teams play again? Yes, they do. This just goes to show you how badly the WNBL handled the fixturing for this season, but fans shouldn't worry, with the top-4 sides ready to entertain us. The Fire were nothing short of sensational against their opponents this week, the Bendigo Spirit. The Fire sustained a top-class defensive performance throughout the game, including 5+ minute stretches of play without the Spirit scoring, while managing to force turnovers on Bendigo. They will be sure to administer the same punishment they inflicted last week, now 2-0 against the Spirit. The Fire were led by veteran guard Rachel McCully, who is questionable this week after sustaining a cheek injury against Dandenong. She stepped up to score 18 points, 5 rebounds and have 6 assists, giving the Townsville Fire the X-factor performance they so badly desired. If McCully misses this week, Bendigo should be silently celebrating.

The Fire lacked any offensive firepower last week. No player was in their groove on offense, so much so that Kristi Harrower had to take 15 shots, scoring 20 points overall. Elyse Penaluna was kept out of the game by the Fire, and struggled to make any impact. Sara Blicavs was left scoreless, missing on all 5 shot attempts, while the team as a whole shot 34%, a difference of 17% from their opponents. Much like how Rachel McCully was an X-factor for the Fire, the Spirit need one too. Look no further than Sara Blicavs. She'll be sure to make up for missed opportunities last week, and is currently scoring 8.5 points per game. She needs to come off the bench and assert herself immediately in unfamiliar territory.

Townsville will sweep the Spirit. Fire by 7

Adelaide vs Sydney Uni

Time: 1:30PM

Adelaide Arena

Sunday 26th January

Adelaide get two chances to make a run to the finals this week, with a second game coming against the Sydney Uni Flames. The Lightning are currently only 2 and a half games outside the top-4, and won't look to be complacent against a class team in Sydney. Laura Hodges was sensational against the Logan Thunder, dominating with 24 points and 9 rebounds. Likely opponent LeSondra Barrett struggles with foul trouble, so Hodges should be able to make it to the line frequently, putting up easy Adelaide points. Jo Hill was another surprise last week, among many big bench performances, she responded from two weeks with "0" next to her name in the points category with a 17 point, 3 steal game. Can she do it again? If she can, the Lightning will win.

Sydney went down to the Waves by 1 and 3 respectively in the 2 encounters this season, so can the fortunes change? If they can, Rohanee Cox and LeSondra Barrett will need to form a strong front line. Both players need to contain Laura Hodges. If they can eliminate her impact, Cox and Barrett should find easy points at the other end. Lauren King's impact cannot be understated. She scores off the bench, she defends, and she can dish assists. Lauren needs another stat-sheet filling game against the Lightning.

Adelaide will continue the push towards the playoffs. Lightning by 5