WNWBL FINALS PREVIEW
Take a look at the four teams in contention for the 2016 WNWBL title this weekend with the finals tipping off Friday night.
BE ACTIVE WESTERN STARS
Record: 15-1, 1st
Leading Scorer: Amber Merritt- 30.4 points per game
Why They Will Win the Title: The Stars have been the team to beat all season, starting the year with a 13-game winning streak while their average margin for victory is 26.6 points.
Amber Merritt has been the best player in the league, leading the competition with 30.4 points per game, ten more than any other player while sitting second for rebounds with 11.5. Teams may consider double-teaming her this weekend but they cannot forget about Sarah Vinci or Georgia Inglis who leads the league in assists with 8.1 per contest.
Why They Won’t: A loss to the Blues in Round 4 was the only hiccup in a near-perfect regular season but it may give the Stars a few nerves heading into this weekend. The finals will be played at Sydney’s home court and their defence, which held the Stars to 37% shooting in that last meeting, has shown signs that it could restrict them once again.
X-Factor: Flying slightly under the radar considering the might of Merritt this season, import Chihiro Kitada is still the WNWBL’s second best scorer with 20.4 points. She is also averaging a double-double, having reached that mark ten times already and is shooting 50% from the field.
SYDNEY METRO BLUES
Record: 13-3, 2nd
Leading Scorer: Bridie Kean- 18.5 points per game
Why They Will Win the Title: With a 13-3 record, the Blues easily earned a double-chance in the post-season as they won nine of their final ten games for the year.
A 13-point victory over the Stars in Round 4 will have given them a major confidence boost when Bridie Kean recorded 22 points and 15 rebounds and Cobi Crispin scored 24 points on 12-18 shooting. They also own a 3-1 record at the Sydney Uni Sports & Aquatic Centre (SUSAC) where the finals will be held.
Why They Won’t: Despite that most recent win over the Stars, the Blues’ overall record against the ladder leaders is 1-3 with an overall margin of -43. They should be able to reach the Grand Final even with a loss in the Semi-Final but the gold medal may just be out of reach this season.
X-Factor: A healthy spread of scorers helped the Blues achieve their 13-3 record with Kylie Gauci one of three players to average double-figures in scoring. She is also the most competent three-point shooter in the competition, hitting nine for the season including 2-6 against the Stars.
SYDNEY UNIVERSITY FLAMES
Record: 5-11, 3rd
Leading Scorer: Sarah Stewart- 9.2 points per game
Why They Will Win the Title: Finding form at the right time of the year, the Flames moved from a 2-9 record to win three of their last five games and race into a playoff position.
Sarah Stewart not only leads the team in scoring, she also averages 5.6 assists to sit second overall and is close to averaging a double-double with 9.8 boards.
Why They Won’t: A nice spread of scorers sees four players averaging over five points a game but they do not look to have a player that can match the output of Merritt or Kean while they are yet to beat the Stars or Blues in season 2016.
X-Factor: Hannah Dodd is averaging 7.6 points per game and has scored in double-figures five times this year. She is shooting just 28% from the field though and 33% from the free-throw line but if she can improve that efficiency, she could be potent enough at the offensive end to match it with one of the top two teams in a potential Preliminary Final.
Record: 4-12, 4th
Leading Scorer: Leanne Del Toso- 16.6 points per game
Why They Will Win the Title: Kilsyth did what they had to down the stretch of the regular season, winning enough games to beat the Comets for the final playoff position.
Two victories over the Flames, including one in SUSAC in Round 1, will give them confidence heading into the must-win Semi-Final and with momentum, an upset could be on the cards.
Why They Won’t: Realistically, a win in the Semi-Final does seem a pipe dream for the Cobras who have a 2-10 overall record against the fellow three finalists.
Their average losing margin against the Stars and the Flames is also less than favourable at 23.8 points.
X-Factor: Kilsyth’s season record could be different had they had Alice Hammond in the line-up all year as she leads the league in rebounds through eight games with 13 boards per contest to go with 14.4 points. She has a double-double in every game and if she returns to the court in the playoffs, the Cobras’ chances will drastically improve.