ROUND 1 PREVIEW
Friday 23rd March -
Sydney Metro Blues v Queensland Comets @5pm
The defending Champions have the opportunity to get off to a hot start in 2018 as they only play two finalists from last season in Round 1 but their opening night match-up against the Comets should be one of their tougher games.
In the absence of Cobi Crispin and Bridie Kean, the Blues will be a different looking outfit compared to last season and it may take them some time to find their chemistry on court. Queensland have poached Crispin and her performance against her old club should make for fascinating viewing on Friday night.
Red Dust Lady Heelers v Kilsyth Cobras @7pm
The bottom two teams from last year will be eyeing off this first game as a real opportunity to kick-start their 2018 campaigns. Kilsyth only won two contests last season but one of those victories came against the Lady Heelers when Leanne Del Toso paced her side with 17 points as well as seven rebounds and seven assists.
However, Shelley Chaplin was just as influential with 13 points and ten assists and she has made the move to Red Dust this year. Chaplin will be looking to have a big game against her old team and together with Kathleen O’Kelly-Kennedy, the pair could do some real damage.
Be Active Western Stars v Sydney Uni Flames @9pm
The final two teams hit the court late on Friday night and with all games through Round 1 to be played at the Hawkesbury Basketball Stadium in South Windsor, Sydney Uni will enjoy a home court advantage this weekend (alongside Sydney Metro).
This clash is a re-match of last year’s Preliminary Final when the Flames were 15-point victors behind double-doubles from Annabelle Lindsay (13 points, 11 rebounds) and Liesl Tesch (nine points, 13 rebounds, 11 assists). Having just won a Championship at college level in the USA, Lindsay may not be back in time for Round 1 while Tesch played only 12 games last season so if Sydney Uni’s roster is depleted, the door will be open for the Stars to reverse their last result.
Saturday 24th March -
Sydney Metro Blues v Kilsyth Cobras @9am
A battle between first and last on the ladder from 2017 starts proceedings on Saturday morning and it should show how far Kilsyth’s young brigade have come since last year.
Bree Mellberg has been a part of the last three international tournaments for the Gliders and is certainly on the radar for the World Championships later this year as well as the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics while Teisha Shadwell was named the 2017 Best New Talent. If those kinds of players can perform consistently for the Cobras, they are sure to improve their win tally from last season but coming up against the defending Champs is a tough task.
Red Dust Lady Heelers v Sydney Uni Flames @11am
After a late game on Friday night, the Flames back up the following morning against Red Dust who will have had an extra two hours rest following their first match.
The Flames have a deep roster though and that is sure to be one of their strengths in 2018 with players like Tracey Carruthers and Stephanie van Leeuwen capable of taking over the scoring duties while Sarah Stewart is always a reliable resource on court. Without Deanna Smith and Georgia Inglis, the Lady Heelers need to find a couple more avenues to the basket and this match-up will provide a true test of that part of their game this season.
Queensland Comets v Be Active Western Stars @1pm
Meeting twice in the playoffs last season, the Stars defeated the Comets in the Semi-Final and the bronze medal playoff but the Comets pushed them all the way in their last game of the year, falling by just a point in the end.
Imports Mari Amimoto and Chihiro Kitada went head-to-head with Amimoto drilling three three-pointers and Kitada recording a triple-double of 20 points, 12 rebounds and 14 assists but Ashley Wardman was integral as well for Queensland, scoring 13 points and a late bucket to make it a one-point game. Natalie Alexander and Sarah Vinci came up big for the Stars late though and they will need similar type performances to hold off a Comets team that will be out for revenge on Saturday afternoon.
Kilsyth Cobras v Sydney Uni Flames @5pm
A rough schedule for Kilsyth sees them take on both Grand Finalists from last season in the space of eight hours but with both teams playing their second game for the day and third for the round, the playing field should be evened.
In the corresponding match-up last season, the Flames started their campaign in style with a 46-point victory but in the following two meetings, Kilsyth were able to narrow the final margin in each game. If that trend continues and Kilsyth can catch a Sydney Uni team not at full strength, they may be in line to cause an upset.
Sydney Metro Blues v Be Active Western Stars @7pm
The combination of Kitada and Amber Merritt is arguably the most dangerous duo in the league and with those two players returning in 2018, the Stars are immediately in the race for the Championship.
Both athletes were only available for one contest with the Blues last season though and Sydney Metro took advantage with a 3-0 record against them but even when they were available in Round 1, the Blues still proved too good. Kitada and Merritt combined for 38 points in that clash but only four players scored while Sydney Metro spread their total out amongst six players.
Queensland Comets v Red Dust Lady Heelers @9pm
The race for the fourth and final spot in last year’s finals came down to the last weekend when the Comets met Red Dust.
Both teams had taken a win in previous meetings but Queensland proved too strong in the third contest, winning 48-28 and finishing a game clear on the ladder to take fourth position. While the Lady Heelers will have been disappointed in being knocked out of contention in that fashion, they will take confidence from their performances in their debut season and will be better for the experience of exciting games like that.
Sunday 25th March -
Be Active Western Stars v Kilsyth Cobras @8am
Kilsyth’s difficult weekend comes to a close on Sunday morning against the Stars, their third consecutive game against a 2017 medalist.
The Stars will be looking to take advantage of that heavy schedule and deliver a knockout blow early as they did in all three match-ups last season but their defence will need to be wary of the Cobras who did score a season-high for 2017 against them. The Stars were let down by the defensive end at times throughout last year but an incredible 56 points from Merritt ensured they still won that game by 26.
Sydney Metro Blues v Red Dust Lady Heelers @10am
With both teams playing their fourth game of the weekend, Sydney Metro’s home court advantage could come in handy while the Lady Heelers will be looking to their experienced players like O’Kelly-Kennedy and Clare Nott to push the tempo.
After bursting on to the scene last year with 14.1 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game, American Courtney Ryan will again be a key part of the Blues’ title defence. When she is attacking, she draws the opposition away from someone like Georgia Munro-Cook and Bridie Kean and Red Dust could struggle to stop all those threats at the offensive end.
Sydney Uni Flames v Queensland Comets @12pm
Capping off the opening weekend, Sydney Uni will be keen to make the most of their games at home through Round 1 and 2 as they will not hit the court again after that until Round 6 but beating the Comets will be no easy feat.
Queensland must be at their best defensively, especially in the paint, as the Flames scored 18 points more per contest over 2017 while Lindsay averaged a double-double of 16.7 points and 10.3 rebounds against them across three meetings.