WNBL Round 19 Preview - Batkovic the difference maker against Melbourne?

Canberra vs West Coast

Time: 7PM

Friday 14th February

AIS Arena

We say goodbye to Melissa Marsh this week, with the 28-year old sadly announcing her retirement from the league. The Waves have even more reason to make it two wins for the year with this game against Canberra, who are coming off a disappointing loss to Townsville. Marsh exploded in that final game to score 16 4th quarter points, giving her a fitting send off to her career in Western Australia. Marsh deserves a fitting send off to her career in general, so expect Melissa to be on song in her last encounter. Nat Burton has a big job trying to contain Abby Bishop, while Toni Edmonson needs to be at her team-leading best, but who knows?, the Waves might have a good chance of sneaking away with a win!

Canberra were disappointing in their clash with Townsville in a game that really should have been more competitive. The Capitals fell behind by 22 points, even without Natalie Hurst who has been granted an early release to play in Turkey. The presence that Hurst provides from the point guard position is tough to match, but Canberra should be relying on Nicole Hunt and Jess Bibby to fill that gap. Bibby is a lights out scorer, but has never been known for her passing proficiency, even though last week she had 6 assists. Bibby and Hunt both need to find Abby Bishop, Carly Wilson and Alex Bunton for good shots at the rim.

Waves by 3 in an upset.

Logan vs Melbourne

Time: 7:30PM

Friday 14th February

Logan Metro

Melbourne needs to win this game. If they manage to do so, the game in Townsville against the Fire on Saturday night will be a winner takes all situation, with the "all" being a home elimination final. With a lot on the line, Melbourne will draw inspiration from their incredible win over Dandenong, but there is no way Logan make it easy for them. Tess Madgen was the star of the weekend for the Boomers, who averaged 22 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4 assists in her two games last week. Madgen is now the go to player for the Boomers in the absence of Chelsea Poppens, and after playing that way since her injury, can she do it again? With Bec Allen who drained the clutchest of three's to send the Melbourne/Bendigo game into overtime and Defensive Player of the Year beside her, who knows?

Logan struggled to find the basket against the Flames last Sunday, shooting a terrible 30.5% from the field. With the team recording more turnovers than assists as well (10-7), it's safe to say they didn't have their day last week. Melbourne will look to play an up-tempo style of basketball with their short line-up, so the Thunder need to be moving the ball quick. Doing this should open up space around the restricted area, where both Tegan Cunningham and Emma Langford should look to benefit from the Boomers' lack of height.

Melbourne to make Saturday night's game ever so interesting. Boomers by 9

Sydney Uni vs West Coast

Time: 5PM

Saturday 15th February

Brydens Stadium

After this game, both Sydney and West Coast will be looking ahead to more successful campaigns in the 2014/15 season, with it being Melissa Marsh's last game and with Alicia Poto contemplating ending her career after this match. Katie-Rae Ebzery will be leading the charge for the Flames, with her incredible scoring ability. Ebzery needs to exploit West Coast's porous offence, by continuing to push the ball into the paint. Look for Alicia Poto to get extended minutes, even if the game gets to garbage time, so expect a big stat-line and game from the 36-year old guard.

West Coast's season has not been pretty. Along the way however, they've put in troubling performances for opposing teams, while the young core has look extremely promising, especially Gabi Clayton and Darcee Garbin. With these two coming off the bench, look for the both of them to make an impact through defense. These two need to work on getting stops, and also keeping Ebzery out of the key.

I like Sydney's chances playing at home, and with the stronger squad, however the Waves will challenge them on everything possible. Flames by 13

Credit: Geoff Tripp for photography.

Townsville vs Melbourne

Time: 7PM

Saturday 15th February

Townsville RSL Stadium

Will you be following this match? If you didn't plan on it, change your mind. NOW. Both exciting teams have everything to play for, with a home elimination final on the line, which could very well be the difference between going home or surviving another day. How good was Suzy Batkovic last week? She was 69 points and 30 rebounds over two games good. Or 34.5 points and 15 rebounds per game last week good. Melbourne will be sure to devise a game plan to keep Batkovic out of it, but with the lack of height, Suzy should be in for another big day. Look for Micaela Cocks and Steph Cumming to be draining the three-ball easily, given the amount of attention Batkovic should be receiving.

Batkovic is a match-up nightmare, however Guy Molloy has the current WNBL Defensive Player of the Year Rebecca Allen and also has import Amber Hegge at his disposal to make life difficult for her. Melbourne will win this game on defense, so if Hegge and Allen can make life difficult for Batkovic, the Boomers could leave Queensland with two wins. Hayley Munro provides an underrated impact for the Boomers. She can score, rebounds, play defense and pass the ball. Hopefully we see Hayley with extended minutes, where she could really make the Fire work for their shots.

After that game last week against the Spirit, I've got full confidence in the Boomers to keep that type of performance running. Boomers by 4

Adelaide vs Dandenong

Time: 7:30PM

Saturday 15th February

Adelaide Arena

Dandenong will be sure to avenge their gut-wrenching loss to the Melbourne Boomers last week with a better performance in Adelaide. With the possible return of Jenna O'Hea, the Rangers should enter Adelaide with a full squad available. Dandenong's biggest downfall has always been their bench. With extended minutes in a blowout loss to the Bendigo Spirit, all members of the bench scored, but they combined to shoot 9/29 from the field, a number that no bench should ever possess. By finals time, the bench of Dandenong will be their downfall, but that secondary mob can quickly change that perception with a big combined game against the Lightning.

Laura Hodges is one of my three picks to fill out the remaining All-Star five spots (the other two being Suzy Batkovic and Abby Bishop) and I fully expect her to finish out the season strong. Hodges has averaged 18.1 points, 7.7 rebounds and 2 assists this season, and has been the leader Richard Dickel had been looking for. Adelaide kept the West Coast Waves to 13 points throughout the second and third quarters last week. If they can produce this type of defensive performance on the more offensively-gifted Rangers, they should get the win. Look for Jenni Screen to lead the team on D, as they look to send off Jo Hill with a massive victory.

Adelaide by 2

Bendigo vs Logan

Time: 7:30PM

Saturday 15th February

Bendigo Basketball Stadium

Both teams have their final positions set in stone, with Bendigo clinching the minor premiership, while Logan sit way back in 8th position. The Spirit are now without Elyse Penaluna, so Bernie Harrower should be looking towards Chelsea Aubry to fit that role, who's a good scorer that can also mix it up on defense. However, she failed to produce against the Boomers, shooting a terrible 0/9 from the field (0/7 from three). Aubry is a key to the Spirit's finals run, she needs to use this encounter against the Thunder to get going. 19 assists. Who had that many? Kristi Harrower, that's who. The unbelievable passer has her eyes open and ready to feast on the Logan defense, look for the Spirit to put up a big score on the Thunder.

Logan's offense has been slightly disappointing, as they've failed to get going on multiple occasions this season. Veteran leaders Tegan Cunningham and Kristin Veal, who both have struggled with their shooting percentages in recent games. Both players need to wait for open shots and stay composed, especially facing the extreme Spirit defense, with the two twin towers waiting for you in the lane. If Sarah Graham can get going from the field, anything can happen Saturday night in Bendigo.

Bendigo should be too good and composed to throw this game away. Spirit by 11


Which game are you looking forward to? Don't forget to check out the ABC Grandstand Sport's TV schedule or if you're short on time, the live stats on WNBL.