As the WNBL season hits halfway, two clubs reminded the rest of the competition the road to the championship and indeed the finals is far from sorted out.
Bendigo Spirit and Adelaide Lightning put aside their struggles in the earlier rounds to record two wins each.
The Spirit beat Townsville Fire in Townsville for the second time this season and snared the season series in the process then knocked off South East Queensland Stars on Sunday as the Stars continue to feel the heat after some recent tough losses.
With season-series wins over the Fire and Perth Lynx, if the Spirit can keep winning and make the finals then they could finish in a very high position.
The Lightning caused two major upsets thumping a below par Sydney University Flames on Friday night then riding Leilani Mitchell’s buzzer beater to a two-point win over Dandenong Rangers in Adelaide on Sunday.
After looking too youthful and inexperienced early on, the addition of Kayla Standish and the maturity of rest of the roster has seen the Lightning take some big scalps setting them up for more wins in the coming weeks.
The second-placed Flames will face some tough questions over the next week despite splitting the weekend with a close win over University of Canberra Capitals at Tuggeranong on Saturday night as they have dropped several recent games to sides below them.
The return to the court of Rohanee Cox will add experience and scoring punch to the Flames while import centre Carolyn Swords has the potential to be a match-winner if she can stay out of foul trouble.
Spirit coach Simon Pritchard said the kinks in this year’s WNBL draw meant the ladder and halfway win-loss records couldn’t be judged without also seeing who teams have played and who they haven’t.
“The ladder isn’t a true reflection of way the team’s are positioned,” Pritchard said.
“Sydney has played Adelaide three times and they have played Canberra twice.
“We’ve played Perth three times and not yet played Sydney so you need to take the ladder with a grain of salt.”
The re-imagined Perth Lynx remain on top after round nine and deserve every one of their nine wins from 13 games with only Bendigo having played more games in the first nine rounds.
The Lynx’s professional management and pressuring, frenetic style of play will win plenty of fans as people start taking notice of the club once again.
Lynx coach Andy Stewart said his side was growing but had plenty of work ahead of them to remain in the finals race.
“We are sitting 9-4 and in the top pack but isn’t it a great league? On Friday night the three top sides all lost,” Stewart said.
While Opals point guard Tessa Lavey and post players Louella Tomlinson and Natalie Burton have been strong for the Lynx, import shooter Sami Whitcomb has turned heads in her first WNBL season after spending her recent years in the WA State League.
After seeing Whitcomb again on Friday night Dandenong Rangers’ coach Larissa Anderson had no problems putting Whitcomb at the top of her most valuable player list thus far.
“I think Alison Downie and Amelia Todhunter did a great job on the player I think is the league MVP in Whitcomb,” Anderson said.
“She is a quality player, very consistent and worthy of that tag.”
Whitcomb sits high in the league scoring and shooting numbers while her club has been a winner so far but perennial MVP candidate Suzy Batkovic continues to put together big games for Townsville Fire as does Cayla George while Kelsey Griffin, Katie Rae Ebzery and Tess Madgen have all performed at an elite level.
The Rangers look like a side who will only get better with Aimie Clydesdale yet to play due to a knee injury and Alex Bunton to return later in the campaign after a knee problem.
Melbourne Boomers have to find a way to play cohesive basketball after some costly early season losses but they retain hope they can string together a run of games and move up the table.
SEQ Stars have changed imports with Jordan Hooper making a positive start while Rachel Jarry and Rebecca Allen look ready to have some big games in the coming weeks.
University of Canberra Capitals hope to have new import Denesha Stallworth eligible to play for the season half of the season and with Abby Bishop and Renee Montgomery looking in better touch don’t expect the Caps to stay winless for long.
Every win is to be cherished in the WNBL and every win from here on will come at a premium.