WNBL Round 15 Preview

Credit Geoff Tripp for photography.

Sydney Uni vs West Coast

Time: 7:30PM

Friday 17th January

Brydens Stadium

Sydney Uni may feel that this match-up with West Coast is well-timed. Fresh off two straight losses to Canberra and Townsville, the Flames confidence is running low. Desperately seeking to get back into contention for the Finals, being 5 games out indicates that their chances are slowly slipping away. West Coast are back to playing much better basketball. Even with recent losses, they are showing signs of hope, almost beating the Logan Thunder by 4 points. West Coast's Achilles heel is Antonia Edmonson, the Waves would fall apart without her. The talented guard averages 12.6 points and is recently coming off a streak of 15+ point performances. Edmonson will always perform well for the Waves, and if Sydney stops her, there's no doubt they will win this game. After the 9-day break, Sydney's stars who failed to show up offensively (I'm looking at you Alicia Poto and Rohanee Cox) hopefully will be able to regain their former scoring mentalities. If they shot at a higher percentage last week, they would have won, so making the extra pass is key.

West Coast will be looking for the consistent scoring outburst they have been receiving from the bench, thanks to young guns, Darcee Garbin and Gabi Clayton. Clayton is shooting at a 67.8% clip from the field in her previous 5 games. Something that has been so key for the Waves who have struggled for efficient offense outside of Edmonson. The Waves has to be aggressive on defense and on the boards. Nat Burton and Lisa Wallbutton started early last week in this regard, scaring the Spirit for 5 minutes. If they can out rebound the Flames bigs, no doubt they might just get a much-needed win.

West Coast have been mighty impressive. This might just be the week when they see the number "2" in the win column. Waves by 4

Melbourne vs Logan

Time: 7:30PM

Friday 17th January

State Basketball Center

Melbourne needs to leave the game victorious against the Thunder in order to extend the gap between the top-4 and the rest of the competition. Melbourne's dominant trio of Tess Madgen, Chelsea Poppens and Bec Allen continue to infuriate opponents with stellar defensive and offensive play. They combined for 27 of Melbourne's 38 rebounds and 48 of their 65 points last week. The Boomers continue to rely upon one of these three players when times get tough. Hayley Munro is the x-factor for the Boomers. She's an excellent defender; she picks the opposition's pocket with ease and rebounds the ball well. While she can score at the same time, i'm predicting a breakout game for Munro. Now with Jarry out once again, Madgen needs to continue to lead this team towards the finals.

Logan is not a consistent team. We've seen them perform so well (the 40 point win against West Coast and the wins against Canberra), yet they've been awful for more often that not, with their previous two games a prime example. The Thunder will be dealt with the difficult task of attempting to stop a streaking Melbourne side, so we'll need to see a level of play we haven't yet seen from the squad this season. The Thunder's game needs to revolve around their bigger bodies in Cunningham and Langford, but in order for Logan to do so, these two cannot combine for 10 turnovers. Both are gifted scorers, so they'll need to find their knack against Melbourne's above-average defense. Sarah Graham, Kristen Veal and Laurie Koehn combined to shoot 10/31 against the Rangers last week. If this happens again, they will be blown out of the water.

Melbourne at home should be too good. In a game that I will be attending (look out for me at half-time), I see the Boomers winning comprehensively. Boomers by 22

Bendigo vs Townsville

Time: 3PM

Saturday 18th January

Bendigo Basketball Stadium

Won't this game be a thriller? Both teams are playing some terrific basketball and the whole Batkovic-Standish vs Griffin-Richards-Penaluna match-up will see some of the best bigs in the competition face-off. Both teams are in the top-4 and are looking to increase their leads over the rest of the competition and the teams outside the 4 respectively, so a lot is on the line. Elyse Penaluna has been on an absolute tear as of late, averaging 14 points and 6 rebounds throughout her past 5 games. Her surprisingly terrific games have made the Spirit that much more difficult to play. Kristie Harrower will need to have her passing knack come Saturday afternoon and with big Suzy Batkovic guarding the key, Bendigo's outside shooting will be more in focus then ever.

Steph Cumming is coming off a game against Sydney where she was nothing short of exceptional. She nailed 27 points on 60% shooting. She failed to back up the stellar performance one night later by shooting 27% against the Rangers. Cumming needs to find her shooting stroke with the Spirit sure to cut off inside baskets from opposing guards. The Fire tend to find their baskets through players creating their own shot with no player averaging over 3 assists. Townsville will need to create shots for others through on and off ball movement to get a shot at finally knocking off the Spirit.

Bendigo, at home, should be able to take care of the Fire. Spirit by 8

Adelaide vs Logan

Time: 5:15PM

Saturday 18th January

Adelaide Arena

Haven't Adelaide just come out of nowhere? After settling in with new coach Richard Dickel, the results are finally flowing in a positive direction for the Lightning who are coming off a big win against the Capitals. Adelaide may find it difficult going up against Logan without the presence of Jess Foley who may miss a month with a fractured cheekbone. Foley was averaging 16.3 points in her previous 5 games, so without her, the Lightning should look to seldom-used back-up guard Lauren Mansfield. Her 3.1 points and 0.6 assists per game might not be fancy, but she consistently averaged 5 assists in her college days, while she scored in bunches.

The hopeful return of Hannah Zavecz will help the Waves guard the Hodges-Shegog duo. With Foley out through injury, more effort can be placed on stopping the dominant inside duo. Emma Langford and Tegan Cunningham combine to average 10 turnovers in the last 2 games. These two bigs need to give the ball to their own team, as Angela Marino and Lauren Mansfield will be ready to strip them of all opportunity.

Adelaide are playing terrific basketball and they'll continue to make an assault on the top 4. Lightning by 10

Canberra vs West Coast

Time: 6PM

Saturday 18th January

Southern Cross Stadium

Canberra shot a paltry 30% from the field in their game against Adelaide. And by sheer coincidence, they lost by 11. Jess Bibby, Abby Bishop and Natalie Hurst shot 8/36 combined. West Coast is the perfect opportunity to get their shooting stride back and they need to do so this week with the Finals still a possibility. Bishop has a shot at MVP, with Suzy Batkovic her closest competitor. Bishop needs to pad her stats this week to push ahead of Batkovic.

West Coast has been inspiring in the past two weeks. They almost beat the Thunder, while they put in good performances against the Boomers and Spirit. The Waves need to continue to move the basketball, while limiting opposition offensive rebounds and second chance opportunities. Melbourne took 18 more shots than the Waves, while Bendigo took 16. When a match comes down to the brink, every shot matters, and with opportunities to win at a low, the Waves need to even out the shot count.

Abby Bishop is going to have a massive game. Capitals by 12

Dandenong vs Townsville

Time: 1PM

Sunday 19th January

Dandenong Basketball Stadium

Townsville's weekend doesn't get any harder with visits to the number 1 and 2 sides. But I'm sure they wouldn't have it any other way. Furthermore, with the Finals coming up, the ability to test their skills against the league's top 2 teams would be a great opportunity. Seeing Steph Cumming face-off against former teammate Jenna O'Hea will be a thrilling contest. Both are coming off massive games and will surely be trying to outdo their former ally. It's only been one week since these two team last played in Townsville where the Rangers won by 15, but the Fire suffered from a bad performance from their bench troupe so they'll be looking to make a bigger impact this week.

Brigitte Ardossi has played some terrific basketball coming off the bench these past two games. Averaging 12.5 points and 6 rebounds per game, she's been crucial for a team lacking bench production, especially needing it near Finals time. Townsville had 13 and Dandenong has 12 offensive rebounds last week. Way too many for both teams. The winner of this game will be the team who wins the battle on the offensive boards and I think this team will be Dandenong.

Dandenong will keep the Fire off the offensive glass and pull out a big win to retain their second spot. Rangers by 6