2017 FINALS PREVIEW
Take a look at the four teams in contention for the 2017 WNWBL title this weekend with the finals tipping off Friday night.
Photo via Sydney Uni Flames.
SYDNEY METRO BLUES
Record: 13-2, 1st
Leading Scorer: Georgia Munro-Cook- 16.1 points per game
Why They Can Win the Title: On top of the ladder for most of the season, the Blues have been the team that clubs have been chasing in 2017. They come into the post-season on a nine-game winning streak and have only dropped two matches for the season.
Offensively, they have no player in the top five for scoring in the league but five players are averaging over eight points per game. That range of options is leading the Blues to the most effective offence, averaging three more points per contest than any other club.
Alongside leading scorer Munro-Cook, import Courtney Ryan has been a brilliant addition to complement Cobi Crispin while Bridie Kean is also leading them in assists per game.
At the other end of the floor, they are giving up a very impressive 43.4 points per game and over the past six games, have lowered that mark to 39.2.
Having lost in the Grand Final last year, Sydney Metro will be out for revenge and aiming to go one step further in 2017.
Why They Can’t: Sydney Metro’s only two blemishes through the regular season came against the Flames and while that was earlier in the year, it will give Sydney University confidence heading into the Qualifying Final.
Giving up only 43.4 points per contest, the Flames have managed to score 57.6 points across three meetings and look to be the one team that can stop the Blues.
X-Factor: Perhaps the difference this season for the Blues as they look to improve on their silver medal from 2016, Ryan has scored in double-figures in all but two games. Her attack on the basket will be integral to Sydney Metro’s chances and she is shooting an effective 52% from the field.
SYDNEY UNI FLAMES
Record: 12-3, 2nd
Leading Scorer: Annabelle Lindsay- 16.5 points per game
Why They Can Win the Title: The Flamesonly missed top spot by a game but have still earned a double-chance as they look to improve on last year’s bronze medal.
They fell in the Preliminary Final to the Blues in 2016 and get a chance to exact their revenge on them in the Qualifying Final this season. Their defence will be the key, giving up a league-low 42.8 points per game but they will require a strong team effort to counter the Blues’ range of scoring options.
The experience of seasoned campaigners Sarah Stewart and Hannah Dodd will also provide a strong influence for the Flames with Stewart sitting second in the competition for assists (8.7) while Liesl Tesch was extremely helpful through the regular season.
Why They Can’t: While Sydney Uni have a winning record against the Blues, their overall record against fellow top four teams is only 6-3 with the Comets and Blues getting the better of them this season.
With no player shooting over 50% from the field, the Flames need to ensure they are taking quality shots, otherwise they could struggle to keep track with their opponents on the scoreboard.
X-Factor: A revelation in Australian wheelchair basketball, Annabelle Lindsay sits fifth overall for points per game and second for rebounds (13.3). She proved her ability on the international stage with the Gliders earlier this year and will now be keen to add to her trophy cabinet with a WNWBL gold medal. Her length and strength under the rim provides a valuable option for the Flames every time they head down the court while her four offensive boards per game gives them consistent second chance opportunities.
BE ACTIVE WESTERN STARS
Record: 9-6, 3rd
Leading Scorer: Amber Merritt- 29.6 points per game
Why They Can Win the Title: The Stars finished the regular season in third place but with the calibre of their roster, they are arguably the team that nobody will want to play.
A couple of injuries and absences hurt their overall record but with a healthy roster at the business end of the season, the Stars have a good chance to defend their 2016 Championship.
Amber Merritt continues to be the most dominant offensive player in the competition, leading the league in scoring and sitting fifth for rebounds with 10.9 while her partner in crime over the past two campaigns, Chihiro Kitada (16.6 points, 13.5 rebounds) has also been integral.
Sarah Vinci has once again starred in 2017 while the addition of Jocelyn Neumueller has helped the Stars win the rebound count on several occasions with the tough one-pointer a battler on the glass.
Why They Can’t: There is no doubt the Stars are a dangerous teams but the two Sydney clubs own a 4-2 record against them which is cause for concern should the Stars reach the Preliminary Final or gold medal game.
In those defeats, they have lost by an average margin of 30.3 points and the question remains if oppositions can match Merritt and Kitada, do the Stars have the ability to find enough firepower from the rest of their list?
X-Factor: Kitada missed a couple of contests against the Blues and Flames this season but in four clashes, she has tallied three triple-doubles while in the other game, she recorded 22 points and 17 rebounds. That ability to impact all areas of the floor makes her an extremely dangerous player and some big assist numbers in the post-season could see her average a triple-double on the year.
Record: 5-10, 4th
Leading Scorer: Mari Amimoto- 24.9 points per game
Why They Can Win the Title: Mari Amimoto, a national player for Japan, has been huge this season for the Comets and leads the league in three-point shooting with eight makes.
Her long-range shooting will be required in the Qualifying Final to get past the Stars but she will need help from Alison Mosely who is also averaging double-figures in scoring.
While Queensland do not have other big scorers apart from those two leaders, they still possess six players collecting over five points per contest and if they can find some production out of their bench in the playoffs, an upset will be on the cards.
Having reached the finals, the Comets have improved on last year and they can now play with abandon and embrace their underdog status as they face last year’s Champions.
Why They Can’t: While they did finish in the top four, the Comets own the second worst defence in the league and facing the three most potent offences in the competition will stretch them even further at that end of the court.
Their only success against fellow finalists came in Round 3 when they faced the Comets who lost Merritt early and with full rosters, the Comets will most likely have their backs against the wall.
X-Factor: One of those six players averaging over five points, Ella Sabljak is a critical piece to Queensland’s line-up. She also sits second for the club with 2.9 assists and for a team that does not rack up many assists, her passing and creating for the rest of the team will play a major role in their offensive game this weekend.
Friday 28th July Qualifying Final 1- Sydney Metro Blues v Sydney Uni Flames @6pm
Friday 28th July Qualifying Final 2- Be Active Western Stars v Queensland Comets @8pm
Saturday 29th July Preliminary Final- Loser of Qualifying Final 1 v Winner of Qualifying Final 2 @6pm
Sunday 30th July Bronze Medal- Loser of Qualifying Final 2 v Loser of Preliminary Final @10am
Sunday 30th July Gold Medal- Winner of Qualifying Final 1 v Winner of Preliminary Final @12pm