ROUND 1 REVIEW
The Be Active Western Stars have jumped out to an early lead on the ladder at the end of Round 1, finishing the weekend two games clear on top after winning four consecutive games.
Their opening round was full of intriguing match-ups but they succeeded in every one, doubling up Sydney Uni 75-37 in a 2017 Preliminary Final re-match, beating the Comets by 31 in a bronze medal replay and then taking care of the defending Champions, Sydney Metro, by 46 points.
The deadly combination of Glider Amber Merritt (29.5 points, 9.3 rebounds, 5.3 assists per game) and import Chihiro Kitada (19 points, 11.5 boards, 7.5 assists) made their intentions clear with both players recording a triple-double each for the round as well.
Georgia Inglis could be a difference-maker for the team though this season as they look to push beyond their 2017 bronze medal and the ex-Lady Heeler notched double-figures in assists in three of four games to average eight points, 6.3 rebounds and 9.8 assists.
Following a 14-point debut against the Flames, Sarah Vinci became the third player to finish with double-digits scoring at ten per game with the Stars showcasing a highly efficient offence that will have the rest of the competition wary.
In their first season last year, the Red Dust Lady Heelers owned the equal-third best defence overall and they showed that that will again be their trademark in 2018 as they went through Round 1 with a 2-2 record.
Averaging just 40.5 points against, the Lady Heelers defeated Kilsyth by nine points on Friday night before falling narrowly to both Sydney sides.
However, they broke up those defeats with a second victory over Queensland, 41-39, as they overcame a ten-point deficit at three-quarter time.
Clare Nott and Kathleen O’Kelly-Kennedy (nine points, 14 rebounds) led the charge and then Shelley Chaplin (18 points, six boards, five assists) put them in front of the back of a 12-0 run.
Cobi Crispin quickly responded for the Comets but with 70 seconds remaining, Nott (ten points, nine rebounds, three steals) scored what proved to be the final basket as Red Dust hung on in a thriller, restricting their opposition to just two points in the fourth quarter.
The addition of Chaplin is an important one for the Lady Heelers with the Australian Glider averaging 13.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 6.3 assists for the weekend. However, only four members of the side were able to hit the scoreboard and their depth will be the team’s main concern this season.
Red Dust sit at 2-2 on the ladder alongside last year’s Champions Sydney Metro and the bottom-placed team from 2017 in the Kilsyth Cobras.
Kilsyth look like they may have turned their fortunes around though, upsetting the Blues on Saturday with a three-point victory behind big performances from Leanne Del Toso (27 points, 7 rebounds, 13 assists, three steals), 2017 Best New Talent award winner Teisha Shadwell (19 points, nine boards, five assists, three blocks) and rising star Bree Mellberg (ten points, seven boards, four assists).
Jamie Villalon was also a consistent contributor under the rim for the Cobras over the weekend as they took care of Sydney Uni as well in a confidence-boosting round.
The Blues were missing Courtney Ryan who will be a key piece of their offensive structures and Georgia Munro-Cook (22.3 points, 11.5 rebounds) tried tirelessly but without Cobi Crispin and Bridie Kean this year, their Championship defence looks shaky.
While Queensland and Sydney Uni find themselves on the bottom of the ladder, every team picked up a victory in Round 1 with the Comets getting the better of the Flames while Sydney Uni surpassed Red Dust.
Crispin was dominant on the glass for Queensland, finishing with 20.8 points and 15.3 rebounds per game but the next best contributor on the scoreboard was Georgia Bishop-Cash with 6.5 points per game and they may need to find a more balanced attack to get some more wins on the board.
Sydney Uni were missing Annabelle Lindsay following her college Championship in the USA but have found someone in Brodie Palmer who averaged a double-double of 10.3 points and 12.3 rebounds while Paralympic legend Liesl Tesch added nine points and 8.8 boards.