WNBL Round 13 Preview

As we enter 2014, the thrilling 2013-14 WNBL season kicks off the new year with some exciting match-ups this weekend and here is the list of exciting showdowns in the league.

Bidgee [CC-BY-SA-3.0-au (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/au/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons

Canberra vs Bendigo

Time: 7PM

Friday 3rd January

AIS Arena

Alex Bunton is Canberra's most crucial player and that was proven after two losses in a row against the Logan Thunder where they were without her rebounding presence. Canberra was out-rebounded 70-60 in those two games against the 7th-ranked squad in terms of rebounding. Though the recent losses may have dampened the Capitals hopes of a Finals' appearance, the Canberra squad remains a spirited bunch. With high chances of Bunton being back this week, the Capitals are on the bounce-back. Jess Bibby needs to be efficient from the bench, scoring-wise, with the talented Bendigo line-up capable of dismantling the presence she has. Abby Bishop and Bunton have a big task of taking on the Bendigo bigs, but if Bishop can perform like she has in the recent weeks, anything's possible.

There isn't much else to say about Bendigo other than the fact that they're really, really good. They've won their past 12 games and no team has looked to really make a sustained challenge. Even though her game has resembled Ricky Rubio in the past 3 games (shooting 2/21 from the field), Kristi Harrower's passing ability is unmatched. Her ability to link up with the tall-timber for Bendigo is key for the Spirit in the past 12 games they've played. Elyse Penaluna has made the most of Harrower and after apparently staying over-time to work on her game in recent weeks, she has emerged as one of the league's better bigs, averaging 20 points and 8 rebounds over her past two games.

I usually love an underdog, just like how much I love the Bishop/Bunton duo, but Bendigo will make it number 13. Spirit by 5

West Coast vs Logan

Time: 12PM

Saturday 4th January

WA Basketball Center

Logan will move into equal 5th spot Saturday afternoon. Hannah Zavecz and Tegan Cunningham have been inspirational in recent weeks with the pair averaging 25.3 points and 15.7 rebounds in the past 6 games. Logan defeated the Waves by 40 points back in round 9, but they've been up and down with their results in the following weeks. With that said, one could expect a change in margin in this encounter, however, the result looks to be the same. Tegan Cunningham almost had a triple-double last time she saw the Waves, scoring 19, rebounding 11 and assisting 7. She almost reached the rare feat in the previous match and I'll put money on her doing it in this game.

Gabi Clayton and Darcee Garbin might be an exciting wing duo for the future, but last week they exhibited what may be in store for fans around the league. Both players combined for 20 points and 9 rebounds, giving the West Coast side a much needed burst of scoring considering that they've only exceeded the 70-point mark once this season (Round 2 v Townsville, 75 points). Antonia Edmonson has averaged 17.8 points in her past four games and the veteran seems to be in need of her teammates to step up on a more consistent basis to avoid a dreadful 1-win season. Thunder by 18

Adelaide vs Dandenong

Time: 5:15PM

Saturday 4th January

Adelaide Arena

The last time these two teams faced off, it was Round 19 of the previous season. The Adelaide Lightning defeated the Rangers by 2 points, but that being so long ago, expect the results to change. The Rangers are in flying form and in second place, while Adelaide find themselves four and a half games back in 6th place. Dandenong play their starting five in high doses, without relying much on their bench. Even though the Ranger 5 are now rested up thanks to Santa, Mark Wright will look to find a spark from his lowly bench. Dandenong has the league's most exciting offense where every single one of the Rangers starters average over 10 points (O'Hea, Kunek, Pederson, Mitchell, Novosel), additionally, this starting line-up is difficult to defend and Adelaide may struggle to contain this lively group.

Jess Foley has been killing it offensively in the past 3 games, scoring an average of 17 points per game. With Laura Hodges out with an injury, Adelaide needed a spark in the game against Sydney and Foley stepped up for the team. Her offensive burst helped Adelaide to an upset and she hasn't looked back since with Hodges taking a backseat to Foley in the previous two games. Chay Shegog has given the Lightning another much needed weapon on offense, but has struggled with fouls. She'll need to keep in the game and play extended minutes, so that she can help Laura Hodges contain both Kayla Pederson and Alice Kunek on offense and defense.

The Rangers are simply leaps and bounds above the Lightning so expect them to put up another high-scoring game. Rangers by 11

Sydney Uni vs Canberra

Time: 7PM

Saturday 4th January

Brydens Stadium

Abby Bishop averaged 24.7 points and 15.7 rebounds in the last three Canberra games - with only one game being a win out of these dominant performances. After losing focus in the two encounters against Logan where they were outplayed by a more athletic Thunder outfit, Bishop's teammates needed the Christmas break to pull themselves together, physically and mentally. After only playing 5 minutes last week, Jess Bibby's scoring punch which would be normally enough to push any team forward was sorely missed due to a stomach bug forcing her out of the game.

Meanwhile, Sydney are coming off a win against Logan, overwhelming the team that the Capitals had much difficulty in defeating by 18 points. Sydney has a well-balanced attack, led by the entertaining Alicia Poto. She lit up the Thunder for 22 points, draining 6 from 8 from deep and dishing out 4 assists. Poto is the complete package and is capable of doing anything on offense. Her match-up with Natalie Hurst looks to be a thrilling one with both players remarkably similar in ability. LeSondra Barrett has been slightly disappointing in the games following her encouraging 18 points, 10 rebound performance against Dandenong as she has failed to reach those numbers in her last two outings; she obtained a total of 16 points, 9 rebounds in the past two matches while shooting 4/21 from the field.

This should be a close game, but I'm giving the edge to Sydney who will be playing in front of a supportive home-crowd. Flames by 3

Bendigo vs Melbourne

Time: 7:30PM

Saturday 4th January

Bendigo Basketball Stadium

Melbourne has yet to defeat the Dandenong Rangers or Bendigo. In each confrontation, the Boomers have had at least one paltry quarter which resulted in a loss. This week, with the possibility of WNBA-champion Rachael Jarry returning, the Boomers will be striving for a big four-quarter performance from the entertaining young side. Bec Cole who has provided big performances at in several instances throughout the season, will be the x-factor for the Boomers if she can repeat her 17-point, 6 steals performance in the previous game against Adelaide. Also, Tess Madgen needs to get going against her former team since Bendigo would make sure to limit her ability in putting the ball into the basket.

Bendigo travel home to play at home after spending the previous night in Canberra. In the previous encounter between both teams, Bendigo had the edge thanks to Gabe Richards' outstanding performance on a day where no other Spirit member found their fire. Richards was the decisive factor in helping the Spirit ensure a win in the low-scoring encounter and looks to do the same this time round. Both teams will look to protect their own restricted area, aiming to keep the bigs of each team outside of the paint.

Rachael Jarry looks to be a huge inclusion for the Boomers. I like the Boomers who I think will come out winners in this encounter, getting the better of Bendigo. Boomers by 4

Stay tuned every day, all week, for more WNBL news, reviews and previews here at The Pick and Roll!