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Rd4 WNBL: Spirit atop the tree alone

BENDIGO in this new Kennedy Kereama era, remains the WNBL's only undefeated team as it sits atop the ladder after road wins in Townsville and Sydney, the Flames and Canberra yet to break through but set to do so in Round 5 where they will square off in Canberra. And is Southside as good as we feared?

The Flyers were unimpressive going under to the Fire in Townsville, without Lauren Jackson (ill), scraped past Sydney, then trailed by as many as 24 as Adelaide spanked them.

Jackson was out of that one too but Southside is supposed to have the league's greatest depth and adding Monique Conti to the lineup certainly didn't hurt at all.

Its inability to sustain defensive pressure, frenetic offence and often wayward (and sometimes simply selfish) decision-making are all areas coach Cheryl Chambers will need to review.

Next round, the Flyers are away to Perth and home to Townsville, with two wins surely the minimum requirement?

Meanwhile Bendigo continues to blossom, beating the Fire in Townsville a very rare event. They proved it can be done, even if the home team has 14 free throws and you have two.

But then, looking at the TV for the Adelaide-Canberra game, it seems the locals gave Lightning 96 minutes to catch Canberra in the second half. That doesn't seem fair.

Adelaide took a big step forward with twin home wins balancing their ledger at 3-3. Canberra also looked far better in defeat, as did Sydney, making their battle to be the first to score a W a big one next round.





LIGHTNING looked super sharp early, catching Canberra on back cuts and breaking nine clear before Alex Bunton was instrumental in the Caps' reversal of fortune in the second period. Trailing 41-47, Adelaide clicked into gear behind Steph Talbot, Izzy Borlase and Marena Whittle for an 8-0 run in a 19-6 close to the end of the third period. A 32-point final quarter by Adelaide and 27 from Canberra turned the match into a shootout, with the home team never in danger of being caught.

ADELAIDE LIGHTNING 90 (Monroe 19, Whittle 18, Borlase, Talbot 13; Monroe 6 rebs; Mansfield 6 assts) d UNI of CANBERRA CAPITALS 80 (Burrell 20, Bunton 13, Swain 11, Melbourne 10; Munger, Bunton 9 rebs; Burrell 3 assts) at The Lighthouse, Adelaide 36ers Arena. Crowd: 487

THE news Lauren Jackson would not be playing for Southside against incoming Sydney resulted in the Flames pulling together arguably their best performance of the season. Whether her absence fuelled their self-belief, they started showing a fierce competitive instinct not always prevalent so far this season. At the last break, Sydney was ahead 61-57 but Bec Cole (11 points) and Sara Blicavs (5) orchestrated a 16-3 run which bumped the lead to 73-64 and left the startled Flames playing catch-up the rest of the way.

SOUTHSIDE FLYERS 82 (Cole 24, Thornton 20, M.Rocci, Blicavs 12; Blicavs 8 rebs; Conti, Blicavs 5 assts) d SYDNEY FLAMES 75 (Froling 20, Willoughby 19, Mangakahia 17; Mangakahia 7 rebs; Heal 4 assts) at The Hangar, State Basketball Centre. Crowd: 1,023

PROMOTED into the starting five due to the absence of Kelly Wilson, Ali Wilson produced a season-high 16-point game for Bendigo as the Spirit maintained its unbeaten start in Townsville with a thrilling road win. Wilson hit 4-of-8 threes but it was the 3-pointer from Anneli Maley (12 points, 16 rebounds) which pinched the game for the Spirit. Before that, Tianna Hawkins' triple gave the Fire a 66-65 lead after Tessa Lavey's three put Bendigo 65-63 ahead. Some post-game allegations of boorish fan behaviour will be investigated this week by Basketball Australia's integrity unit.

BENDIGO SPIRIT 68 (A.Wilson, Griffin 16, Froling 13, Maley 12; Maley 16 rebs; Wehrung 4 assts) d TOWNSVILLE FIRE 66 (Hawkins 21, Nicholson 13, Reid 9; Ruef 8 rebs; Samuelson, Hawkins, Reid 3 assts) at The Fire Station, Townsville Entertainment Centre. Crowd: 2,014

BOOMERS pair Cayla George and Kristy Wallace left no-one in any doubt why they were so pivotal to the Opals winning Bronze at the FIBA World Cup with imposing double-doubles in another solid road rout in Perth. George produced a 23-point (at 56 per cent, with 3-of-6 threes) 13-rebound tour de force and playmaker Wallace paired 10 points with 11 assists. Mia Murray showed her inestimable value with 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting, with 4-of-6 triples, eight rebounds and two assists as Melbourne used a 24-14 second quarter assault to leave the Lynx in their wake.

MELBOURNE BOOMERS 88 (George 23, Murray 18, Mitchell 16, Nelson-Ododa, Wallace 10; George 13 rebs; Wallace 11 assts) d PERTH LYNX 73 (Whitcomb 20, Scherf 15, Bibby 12; Whitcomb 9 rebs; Whitcomb 5 assts) at The Jungle, Jack Bendat Stadium. Crowd: 670

AGAIN missing Lauren Jackson but this time adding Kayla Thornton (groin) to its injury list, Southside did not appear to miss a beat as it raced away from the Lightning in Adelaide. Throwing in a fullcourt zone press to unsettle Lightning's ball carriers after Lauren Mansfield collected two quick early fouls, the Flyers were ahead by 14 during the second quarter. But imports Kierstan Bell (23 points, 14 rebounds, five assists, three steals, two blocks), and Jacinta Monroe (22 points at 60 per cent, 10 rebounds, three steals, an assist and a block) led Adelaide storming back to within two by halftime. Steph Talbot (12 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists) was active everywhere, Lauren Mansfield had eight assists with her 11 points and Izzy Borlase's nine points in a foul-hindered 16 minutes came off 4-of-4 shooting as the Lightning stampede trampled a Flyers team out of ideas. 

ADELAIDE LIGHTNING 91 (Bell 23, Monroe 22, Talbot 12, Mansfield 11; Bell 14 rebs; Mansfield 8 assts) d SOUTHSIDE FLYERS 72 (M.Rocci 26, Blicavs 16, Cole, Ernst 9; Ernst 7 rebs; Bishop 5 assts) at The Lighthouse, Adelaide 36ers Arena. Crowd: 1,247

AFTER pushing Southside to the limit, Sydney, at home in the cavernous Qudos Bank Arena, had every reason to feel good about its chance of inflicting Bendigo's first loss of 2022-23. Taking a 39-33 buffer into halftime would have reinforced the enthusiasm, which the Spirit then erased with a dominant 24-9 third quarter. Anneli Maley, en route to a 26-point, 11-boards double, was the game's key player. But from 46-48 down in the third, Bendigo closed the quarter ahead 57-48, then further built that to 61-48 to start the fourth period, an uninterrupted 15-0 rally which sealed the match and the Flames' fate. 

BENDIGO SPIRIT 77 (Maley 26, Griffin 18, Froling 13; Maley 11 rebs; A.Wilson 7 assts) d SYDNEY FLAMES 60 (Froling 17, Heal 15, Willoughby 10; Froling 7 rebs; Heal 4 assts) at The Kingdome, Qudos Bank Arena. Crowd: 2,091

Dec 4

Content, unless otherwise indicated, is © copyright Boti Nagy.