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WNBL Semi-Finals Preview - Who Will Make It To The Finals?
After a fantastic 19 rounds of basketball, it's now time for what we've all been waiting for. Finals! Now with four teams left in the running for the title, who will come out as champions? Bendigo has been the premier team of the competition and the one to beat this season. Will they get ahead of themselves or underestimate the competition? Dandenong's starting 5 is of WNBA-caliber and have been incredible all season. However, their bench has been woeful and could that be their downfall? Townsville has a terrific inside-outside game headlined by Suzy Batkovic; but if she gets into foul trouble, who will pick up the slack? Melbourne have been the surprise side in the competition with nobody expecting them to be where they are now, however, can they still compete with the competition heavyweights without Chelsea Poppens and Rachael Jarry?
Only time will tell.
With two big nationally-televised matches on ABC, it's time to preview this week's two games.
Credit Geoff Tripp for photography.
Townsville vs Melbourne
Saturday 22nd February
Townsville RSL Stadium
Didn't we see these two teams up in Townsville last week? Yes, we did. Townsville got the better of the Boomers by 15 points with Suzy Batkovic and Steph Cumming both leading the way for the Fire with 19 each. Can these two produce the same type of brilliance again? Or will the young defiant Boomers have their way for at least one more week?
Coming off another WNBL All-Star Five nomination, Suzy Batkovic and her interior presence should prove crucial against an undermanned Melbourne outfit. Her presence inside on defense has always been a big reason why teams have struggled to score. Last week, she once again altered shots by the Boomers squad, holding the Boomers to 55 points.
Kayla Standish looms as the X-factor player for the Fire. She's been benched recently, but ended up playing more minutes than Rosie Fadljevic, the player who replaced her. After Standish's 10 points and 9 rebounds off the bench, it remains a mystery as to whether coach Chris Lucas will insert her back into the starting line-up, or look for her as a spark off the bench. Standish provides a spark when she enters the line-up on a good day. I expect her to receive heavy minutes to limit the impact of Melbourne's Rebecca Allen and Rebecca Cole.
Tess Madgen is playing with terrific form and will be a key player for the Boomers. Madgen is currently having a scoring tear, averaging 20.8 points in her last 4 games. She has consistently found holes in the defense and managed to put up points. Tess needs to lead the Boomers on Saturday and that will start with a big performance on the offensive end. Melbourne's recent wins seem to come off the back off a big scoring outburst from a member of the bench. Whether it be Hayley Munro, Amelia Todhunter or Nicole Romeo, one of these three step up each time to knock down big crucial shots. Expect one of the two guards (Todhunter or Romeo) to play a Jess Bibby role this week. To come off the bench and provide instant offense is something that will be key to Melbourne's chance for success come Saturday.
However, Townsville should be the stronger side. They'll have their 2000-odd crowd coming in to support them and with the more imposing interior presence, they should get the job done by pounding the rock in low. Fire by 11
Credit Geoff Tripp for photography.
Bendigo vs Dandenong
Sunday 23rd February
Heading into this game, Bendigo has won all 3 head-to-head games this year against Dandenong, often by a convincing margin. Last time they played, the Rangers lost by 18 at home in a game that signified the dominance of the Spirit. Would we see any changes now that the Rangers are playing in Bendigo? Can Dandenong cause an upset and steal a home final?
Kristi Harrower's passing expertise has led them to the promise land this season; and we should expect the same come Sunday. Harrower's last game against Melbourne was a passing masterclass. She delivered a whopping 19 assists and was able to find gaps within the defense when nobody else could. With Dandenong's lack of an inside presence, look for Harrower to be going back to basics with her bigs. Chelsea Aubry is one interesting player as she can either be very productive (17 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 7/9 FG vs Logan, 19 points, 8 rebounds, 4/5 3PT vs Sydney) or simply fail to show up (0 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 0/9FG vs Melbourne). Bendigo needs Chelsea to have one of her better games and the percentages say that Bendigo wins convincingly whenever she does so.
Jenna O'Hea has a scoring ability that cannot be matched. She is arguably the best player in the competition and her performances this season have proven so. Jenna needs to light it up from the outside, an area where Bendigo struggle to defend compared to their work inside the paint. Alice Kunek, Leilani Mitchell and Jenna need to exploit the Spirit defense and find open shots. Dandenong's ability to win this game should largely come down to their bench. Bridgette Ardossi has been the only member that has been remotely consistent throughout the year. Names such as Aimee Clydesdale, Alison Downie and Rosie Moult have big challenges ahead of them after they've failed to add to the Rangers offense this year.
I'm going with the home side once again. The Spirit's ability to score from both inside and outside will prove too damaging, and Gabe Richards will likely have a fantastic game. Spirit by 4
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