With the mid-season break occurring last weekend, here’s an overview of how the teams are progressing through the 2015 season.
By Grant Richardson
Dandenong Rangers- 1st (9-2)
Retaining much of the same side from last season, Dandenong are looking at a seventh straight finals appearance. Not even an injury to point guard Amelia Todhunter, who has played just four matches, has slowed them down as Aimie Clydesdale and Rachel Antoniadou have seamlessly picked up the slack. Jacinta Kennedy (21 points and 9.5 rebounds per game) is having an outstanding year, grabbing 13 more offensive boards than any other player.
FACT: The Rangers have finished first in the East Conference two of the past three years and have a regular season record of 67-20 since 2012.
Nunawading Spectres- 2nd (6-3)
An ACL injury to Bec Cole has put a serious dent in Nunawading’s aspirations as she was averaging 20.8 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.7 assists. She managed just one full game with off-season acquisition Nicole Romeo, who must now pick up the scoring while Hayley Moffatt and Kate Oliver hold down the defensive end. Don’t expect many long range shots to connect at Nunawading games as they own the worst three-point percentage (22%) and the best three-point defence (25%).
FACT: The Spectres have ground more than a few teams into the ground in the first half of the season with an averaging winning margin of 20 points.
Geelong Supercats- 3rd (8-4)
Geelong are the only unbeaten side at home in the East Conference but have the worst road record (3-4) of any current playoff contender. Sara Blicavs is one of just five players averaging a double-double while her activity at the defensive end alongside Tayla Roberts sees them sitting in the top five for steals and blocks respectively. Alex Duck and Cortney Williamson are combining to become one of the deadliest point guard combinations in the league, adding 21 points and 6.6 assists a game together.
FACT: That unbeaten home stand puts the Supercats in good stead for the second half of the season as they play six of their final ten games at the Geelong Arena.
Brisbane Lady Spartans- 4th (6-4)
Brisbane have shown signs of their capabilities in wins over the CoE and Launceston but losses like a 25-point hiding to Nunawading are keeping them from cracking the top three in the East Conference. In her seventh season, Odette Andrew has bettered her career point average of 9.7 to 15.6 a game and Sarah Graham is proving a dead-eye from beyond the arc, with the third best three-point percentage. Rebounding is their main area of concern as they are the worst team on the glass, giving up almost 16 offensive boards per match.
FACT: Through ten games, the Lady Spartans have scored 703 points and conceded almost exactly the same amount, at 702.
Canberra Capitals Academy- 5th (2-9)
Canberra come in to the mid-season break with a five game losing streak, the worst form of the conference. Surprisingly, their two wins this year have come on the second night of a back-to-back with the victory over Launceston showcasing the form they are capable of. Steph Talbot has been a revelation, leading them in points, rebounds, steals and blocks but national commitments has seen her play only seven games. Bringing in Julie Foster (13.3 points and 15.7 rebounds in three games) has been another positive move as she shores up their forwards stocks.
FACT: No player for Canberra has featured in every game this season, the only side with that statistic.
Albury-Wodonga Lady Bandits- 6th (1-6)
A bad sign of Albury-Wodonga’s start is the fact that they have played the least amount of games of all teams including the CoE. This means they will face eight road games in the second half of the season while playing five double-headers. Arresting the margin of defeats is a priority as their average deficit is 31 points while they also score ten points less than the league average. Imports Kristina Baltic and Alison Bouman have been efficient from the field but are combining for only 19 points a game.
FACT: Although Albury-Wodonga hit just four three-pointers per game, Montana Farrah-Seaton has improved her career average of 30% to 37%, placing her in the top ten.
Ballarat Rush- 7th (1-10)
Ballarat were able to get the monkey off their back with a win over Canberra in Round 5 but there have not been many other reasons to smile this season. Winless on the road with an average losing margin of 16 points, the Rush have a chance to regain some form with five of their first six games out of the break at home. As point guard, Abbey Wehrung has been the standout for Ballarat while newcomers Shanae Greaves and Olivia Thompson have combined for 23 points and 15 boards.
FACT: The Rush have had little luck even at the free throw line, with oppositions shooting 75% from the charity stripe against them compared to the league average of 69.5%.
Kilsyth Lady Cobras- 1st (9-2)
With the best offence and equal-second best defence, the Lady Cobras are currently the team to beat. After a Round 1 loss to Dandenong, their only slip-up has come against Launceston while they have punished the likes of Hobart, Geelong and Bendigo. With offensive powers in Steph Cumming (21 points per game at 51% shooting) and Cassie Sant (19 points at 60%) Kilsyth are the best shooting side in the league and have reached the century mark three times. The defence of Sarah Parsons (who had a triple-double against Ballarat) and Rosie Moult is the perfect complement to this well-oiled machine.
FACT: Kilsyth’s incredible shooting extends to the free throw line where they have hit 81% with Cumming, Sant, Parsons and Chantella Perera all sitting in the top 20 for makes.
Hobart Lady Chargers- 2nd (7-2)
The inclusion of Cayla Francis last season rocketed Hobart to the Grand Final but Amy Kame is having an even more productive year on the scoreboard so far, averaging 23.8 points. Kathleen Scheer’s 29 blocks have helped a stacked front court of herself, Kame, Klara Wischer and Kylie McCauley to the fourth best defence in the league. Playing big, Izzy Chilcott aside, Hobart have a far less experienced back court but having gelled in recent weeks, they have won their past four games and look poised to make an assault in the second half of the year.
FACT: Since 2012, the Lady Chargers have reached the Semi-Final, the Preliminary Final and finished Runners-Up in consecutive seasons. If the trend continues, it will be a Hobart Championship this year…
Launceston Tornadoes- 3rd (6-4)
Already equalling their win-tally from last year, Launceston’s impressive front court of Mikaela Ruef (first in rebounds, fifth in assists), Ally Wilson (19.7 points per game) and Emilee Harmon (19.4 at 50% shooting) are dominating. At point guard, Lauren Mansfield (17.5 points) balances the floor and is proving a deadly outside shooter, hitting 42% from the three-point line while her defence (second in steals) creates headaches for opposition back courts. With five straight wins, Launceston have the best form in the South Conference but will face seven road games in the second half of the year.
FACT: The Tornadoes will need to improve their scoring during that heavy road schedule as they currently give up seven more points on the road while averaging eight less at the offensive end.
Bendigo Lady Braves- 4th (3-5)
A light schedule has seen Bendigo play the least amount of matches in the conference but they will be hit with four double-headers in the second half of the year as well as eight road games. They have won just once at home and have fallen from a 2-1 start with four losses from their past five contests. Although they have five players averaging double-figures, the Lady Braves own the fourth worst shooting percentage in the league (38%) and their two leading scorers, Kelly Wilson and Tessa Lavey, have been available for just four games each due to Opals commitments.
FACT: Bendigo’s season could rest on the results of Rounds 13 and 14 as they face conference rivals Launceston (twice) and Hobart (once) as well as Geelong in an eight-day stretch.
Frankston Lady Blues- 5th (3-6)
Frankston have been unable to succeed in front of their fans, with a 1-4 home record belying their 2-2 road record. Aside from Kelly Bowen, who is scoring 39% of Frankston’s points with 24.9 a game, the Blues have limited offensive options, especially when Maddie Garrick is away with the Opals. Kate Gaze (10.5 points) has proven herself in her debut season but they are the worst shooting team in the league (35%).
FACT: One good aspect of Frankston’s offence is their assist ratio, with a league-best 57% of their scores coming from assists compared to the competition average of 46%.
Sandringham Sabres- 6th (1-9)
It took twelve games into last season before Sandringham recorded their first victory and although they have beaten that with a win over Bendigo in Round 4, their overall record is still as disappointing. The one highlight is Brittany Smart, who is having an MVP-type season. She leads the league in points per game (26.3) and three-point percentage (46%) while sitting fifth for offensive rebounds. When available, Alice Kunek has impressed while the defence of Caitlin Rowe has been vital. Having only played three games against non-finalists, the Sabres second half of the season gives them an opportunity to improve their record with six matches against teams not currently in playoff contention.
FACT: With three players in the top five for fouls, Sandringham concede 19 per game and allow five more free throw attempts than the competition average.
Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence- (6-2) ineligible for finals
The CoE have been clinical so far this year with an average winning margin of 19 points. Their two defeats were a 1-point loss to Brisbane and a loss to ladder-leaders Kilsyth when two of their top three scorers were absent. Katie-Rae Ebzery (13.6 points per game) is starring, sitting fourth overall for assists (4.6) while her turnover rate of 1.6 a game is the lowest of any player in the top ten. 19 year old Lauren Scherf is second for blocks, Alanna Smith (18 years old) is shooting 59% from the field and 15 year old Ezi Magbegor is sure to be a star of the future.
FACT: Although they will not compete in the finals, the CoE would currently sit third in the South Conference and fourth overall.