WNBL Round 1 review: Perth goes top as UC capitalise in third term

PERTH Lynx have taken the honours in Round 1 of the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) season, defeating the Adelaide Lightning who won their opening game, to move to top spot on the table. It was a good weekend for Melbourne Boomers, Southside Flyers and UC Capitals who all won their opening round games. On the other end of the scale, Sydney Uni Flames went down in both matches, while Bendigo Spirit and Townsville Fire also lost their opening games. We also began our DC Medal count with a 3-2-1 vote for our top players in each game with the winner to be announced at the end of the season.

Adelaide Lightning (89) defeated Sydney Uni Flames (79)

Tipping off the start of the WNBL season, Adelaide struck early against last year’s wooden spooners, to pile on 29 points to 19 in the opening term. The Lightning were strong from the get-go, and extended their lead to 12 by the main break and 16 by the last change. To the Flames’ credit, they never gave in and won the final term with a 19-13 term to cut the final deficit to 10. Despite the best efforts of Colleen Planeta (30 points at 71.4 per cent from the field), 11 rebounds and a block, the Flames could could not contain the likes of Crystal Langhorne (20 points, 13 rebounds) and Chelsea Brook (19 points, four rebounds) in a strong team effort. Stephanie Talbot (12 points, five assists) and Nicole Seekamp (11 points, eight assists and two steaks) were also prominent on the scoring front, with the scary factor being that star Lauren Nicholson had a quiet game by her lofty standards with just seven points, as well as two assists. For the Flames, aside from Planeta’s massive effort, Lauren Scherf had a huge game on debut with 17 rebounds and two steals to accompany her 10 points, while Alice Kunek (16 points, six assists, and three rebounds) was also strong.

DC Medal: 3 – Colleen Planeta (SU), 2 – Crystal Langhorne (AD), 1 – Chelsea Brook (AD).

Bendigo Spirit (72) defeated by Melbourne Boomers (87)

Dominant first and third terms by Melbourne Boomers gave the city side an early win on the board against their country counterparts, Bendigo Spirit. The Boomers raced out to an eight-point lead at quarter time, and despite the home side’s best efforts, maintained the advantage at the main break. The visiting team put the foot down at Bendigo Stadium in the third term, piling on 27 points to 17 to race out to an 18-point lead with a quarter to play. Bendigo managed to cut the deficit by three, but could not reduce it to less than the 15-point final margin. Lindsay Allen top scored for the Boomers, with all five starters contributing double-figure points. Allen (19 points, six rebounds and seven assists) led the way with Madeleine Garrick (15 points, five rebounds, three assists), Ezi Magbegor (13 points, seven rebounds and two assist), Cayla George (12 points, nine rebounds, two assists and two blocs) and Sophie Cunningham (11 points, four assists and two rebounds) all sharing the baskets. For the Spirit, three players finished with 14 points apiece, with Marte Grays (14 points, nine rebounds and three assists) the only starter to reach double figures, while Shya Heal (14 points, two assists) and Demi Skinner (14 points, four rebounds) were prominent off the bench. Kelly Wilson (nine points, five rebounds and eight assists) covered a fair portion of the court, while Carley Ernst (six points, seven rebounds and four assists) also had a playmaking role.

DC Medal: 3 – Lindsay Allen (MB), 2 – Cayla George (MB), 1 – Madeleine Garrick (MB)

Southside Flyers (81) defeated Townsville Fire (72)

The WNBL’s newest franchise started off its history with a win at Dandenong Stadium, getting up over Townsville Fire, 81-72. The Flyers flew out of the blocks to lead by eight points at quarter time, before the Fire narrowed the gap to six and four respectively over the next two breaks. With the momentum in the visiting side’s favour, the Flyers got back on top in the last term, adding 19 points to 14, to record a nine-point victory. Southside’s star-studded starting five all reached double figures, with Leilani Mitchell piling on 21 points, six rebounds, four assists and two steals on debut, well aided by Jenna O’Hea contributing 19 points, eight rebounds and three assists. American import, Mercedes Russell had a prominent start to her WNBL career, adding 12 points, four rebounds and two blocks, while Sara Blicavs (13 points, three rebounds and two steals) and Rebecca Cole (11 points, five rebounds and six assists) were also damaging. For the Fire, Bridget Carleton shone on debut, racking up 20 points, seven rebounds and two steals, while Tess Madgen played every minute of the match on her way to 17 points, seven rebounds and four assists. Darcee Garbin was the other dominant scorer with 16 points and seven rebounds. The Flyers only got five points out of their bench, but with the likes of Louella Tomlinson and Aimie Clydesdale waiting in the wings, there is no shortage of talent ready to make an impact.

DC Medal: 3 – Leilani Mitchell (SS), 2 – Jenna O’Hea (SS), 1 – Bridget Carleton (TF)

Perth Lynx (79) defeated Sydney Uni Flames (62)

Perth kick-started its season in style with a comprehensive win over the Flames to hand Sydney Uni its second loss of the opening round. The Lynx won a shootout in the first term, sinking 32 points to 23, then won the next term in an arm-wrestle 16-9, and had the game all but in the bag by the final break with a 64-42 lead. The Flames once again fought back in the final term to cut the deficit, but could only make inroads by five points, to end up going down by 17. Alison Schwagmeyer was the standout player on the court with a game-high 21 points and 10 rebounds, while also picking up two assists and two steals. Nadeen Payne (13 points, four rebounds), Imani McGee-Stafford (12 points, eight rebounds, two assists and two blocks) and Katie-Rae Ebzery (10 points, seven assists and four rebounds) were impressive starters, while Nes’eya Williams stepped up off the bench with 10 points and four rebounds. For the Flames, Kunek topscored with 15 points to go with her three assists, while Planeta (11 points, nine rebounds and two assists) and Scherf (11 points, eight rebounds and three assists) also produced a block each. Jessica Kuster was the surprise packet with 10 points and eight rebounds in a promising performance. The win moved Perth to the top of the table with the greatest points difference of the Round 1 winners.

DC Medal: 3 – Alison Schwagmeyer (PL), 2 – Imani McGee-Stafford (PL), 1 – Colleen Planeta (SU)

UC Capitals (90) defeated Adelaide Lightning (83)

Reigning premiers, University of Canberra (UC) Capitals showed that they can fight back from a deficit, producing the best individual quarter of the opening round with 33 points and a difference of 20 to their opposition in the third term. To that point, it was all the visitors who lead by 10 points at the main break, but that lead turned into a deficit, and despite the Lightning also winning the final term 15-12 – meaning they had won three of the four quarters – the Capitals secured the seven-point win. It was a triple threat from the winners, with Kia Nurse (28 points, seven rebounds) and Kelsey Griffin (22 points, 20 rebounds, three assists and three blocks) doing as many would expect, but Keely Froling showed she could add a massive element this season having played every game but never started last season, producing 22 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks in the big win. Olivia Epoupa (six points, seven rebounds and eight assists) was the key playmaker on the court and added serious talent to the Capitals’ outfit. For the Lightning, Nicholson clicked into gear for this game, piling on 32 points, three rebounds, four assists and three steals to do everything she could to try and get her side over the line. While unsuccessful, she did have plenty of support with Seekamp (17 points, seven rebounds and eight assists) and Talbot (13 points, seven rebounds, three assists and two steals) also prominent in defeat.

DC Medal: 3 – Kelsey Griffin (UC), 2 – Kia Nurse (UC), Lauren Nicholson (AL)

DC Medal Leaderboard:

4 – Colleen Planeta (AD)
3 – Lindsay Allen (MB), Leilani Mitchell (SS), Alison Schwagmeyer (PL), Kelsey Griffin (UC)
2 – Crystal Langhorne (AD), Cayla George (MB), Jenna O’Hea (SS), Imani McGee-Stafford (PL), Kia Nurse (UC)
1 – Chelsea Brook (AD), Madeleine Garrick (MB), Bridget Carleton (TF), Lauren Nicholson (AL)

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