Round 2 of the 2022/2023 WNBL season was an exciting one. All eight teams have finally made their debuts which means no one is left behind in this round's Power Rankings. This round consisted of blowouts, rivalries, and tight games that made you want to grab popcorn and bite your nails.
Note: Last week's rankings are in brackets.
1. Bendigo Spirit (2)
Through two rounds, the Bendigo Spirit are continuing to shock the whole league. Forget about what was said with a new era of coaching staff and new rosters. Someway, somehow they've had no issue gelling together to put out a great start to the season.
Bendigo hosted Sydney for latter's season opener. The Spirit completely dismantled the Flames, defeating them with a score of 77-57. It was the Anneli Maley show as she put up another double-double with an impressive stat line of 23 points and 14 rebounds. Megan McKay joined her in the double figures market recording 12 points and eight rebounds.
The Spirit outperformed the Flames on all ends. Even though this win was against an opponent who hadn't played all season, it was still an important one to allow them to climb the rankings all the way to the top and remain undefeated at 3-0.
2. Townsville Fire (3)
Although not as comfortable as their win over the Canberra Capitals las round, the Townsville Fire found themselves on the correct end of a grudge match against the Adelaide Lighting. The 84-79 win would not have been possible if it weren't for their two import players and Stephanie Reid.
Karlie Samuelson put on a scoring frenzy, recording 20 points on an impressive 64 per cent shooting from the field. Reid joined the double digit scoring mark with a stat line of 12 points and four assists but that wasn't the most impactful part of her play.
Reid brought in four rebounds but led the defence, alongside Courtney Woods, with four steals that led to bucket on the other end. Those impact defensive plays helped lead to this win.
But the most impactful player of that game was none other than Tianna Hawkins. There are not enough words in the dictionary to describe Hawkins' impact on this game. She exploded for 33 points on 65 per cent shooting, grabbed 10 rebounds, and was disruptive defensively with a steal and a block. Without her overall play, this game could've gone opposite of what Townsville would've liked.
3. Melbourne Boomers (1)
The decision to place Melbourne ahead of Southside was not an easy one but it felt right. Despite losing 57-67 to Southside, the team's close 85-81 win over Adelaide is what pushed them ever so slightly over the Flyers.
Cayla George had an unusually quiet game against Southside so it was up to other players to step up. Kristy Wallace and Tiffany Mitchell were those two players who just took the game over and sparked their comeback. Wallace finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds while Mitchell finished with 18 points, seven rebounds, two assists, and a steal. Melbourne out-rebounded Southside 50-35 but it was just too little too late for the reigning Champions to come back.
Against Adelaide, it was a whole other story. The offence from their core four of George, Wallace, Mitchell, and Mia Murray were beyond what could've been asked for.
George was back on track with a double-double of 16 points and 11 rebounds. Wallace continued her hot streak with 16 points and six rebounds. Murray dominated practically everywhere with 16 rebounds, three rebounds, four assists, and two steals. Lastly, Mitchell continued to show the WNBL why she's one of the top players with a complete show. She finished with 23 points, six rebounds, seven assists, and a steal.
Melbourne was firing on all cylinders even in their loss to Southside. That's why they dipped to three but still stand one above one of its city rivals.
4. Southside Flyers (4)
Southside made it two wins out of two in so far in its WNBL campaign with an impressive 67-57 victory over Melbourne. Kayla Thornton lead the way for the Flyers with 15 points and 12 rebounds in a closely-fought contest. The difference maker on the night was the spacing and shot creation skills shown by the Flyers.
For anyone on GOAT watch, Lauren Jackson scored nine points in 23 minutes as she continues to re-acclimatise with the WNBL style of play. She's predominantly taking outside jump shots early in the season and while not having a great success rate with them, her presence on the team is a key influence and it would not be surprising if she has a breakout performance sooner rather than later.
The Flyers' guard play so far this season has been a throwback to back courts of old with Maddy Rocci, Rebecca Cole and Aimee Rocci managing 12 assists between them. Cole showed her prowess as an off-guard scorer which has brought so much success throughout her career, adding in 14 points.
The Southside Flyers take on the Townsville Fire this Wednesday in what will be a must-see affair.
5. Perth Lynx (6)
In terms of bouncing back after a tough start, it doesn't get much better than a 35-point win over a team that also made the finals last season. The Lynx secured a 97-62 win over the Capitals and the signs they were showing early seem to have come together in this game in terms of their offensive firepower.
Key scorers Sami Whitcomb and Chloe Bibby combined for 36 points and proved the theories right that Perth would be hard to stop when on song. The each played 27 minutes and added three assists each in the demolition of the Capitals. Whitcomb has shot 36 per cent from the three-point line this season and the international star put down two buckets from deep out of five attempts against Canberra.
The two key players firing was naturally a boon for the Lynx but an exciting and encouraging sign for the group was the breakout performance from Amy Atwell. Atwell scored 21 points in 26 minutes of play, a career high in her professional career and she did so with remarkable efficiency, hitting 10 of her 13 field goals.
Atwell also showed very impressive temperament, never looking nervous with the ball in her hands, moving well off the ball and committing no turnovers throughout her minutes on the floor. Alex Sharp contributed with a 12 point, 11 rebound double-double in what was an impressive and encouraging victory for the Lynx.
6. Adelaide Lightning (5)
The Lightning are the best team to have not seized a win in this young WNBL season. They're yet to strike just yet with narrow losses in their first three games of the season, with Round 2 continuing that - a five-point loss to the Fire and a four-point loss against the Boomers.
What has let the Lightning down so far this season is their inability to get defensive stops at crucial times in the games. When it gets down to the wire as it always has so far this season, the opposition seem to rally offensively to the extent that the Lightning can't quite get over the metaphoric hill to seal a much needed win.
They may take solace however in the fact that they're getting contributions across the board with five players averaging at least 10 points per game. They're lead by WNBA and Opals ace Steph Talbot who's averaging 18 points per game at an incredibly efficient 67 per cent shooting while also taking down five rebounds per game.
Talbot has drawn a lot of defensive attention and as such has been forced into more turnovers than the team would like, giving away the ball five times per game including six turnovers against the Fire. But the contributions down the line by her teammates are encouraging signs that she won't need to force it as much in following possessions as youngster Isobel Borlase put in 10 and 17 points in the Round 2 fixtures after her incredible 25-point opener.
Borlase is making an early case for Sixth Woman of the Year, averaging over 17 points per game off the bench and with Lightning newcomers Kierstan Bell and Marena Whittle settling in as the season progresses, Adelaide will be hoping to secure their first win against the Flames in Round 3.
7. Sydney Flames (N/A)
To say it was a rough start to the Flames' WNBL campaign is an understatement. Having the powerhouse Spirit as an opponent is tough but having them as your first is a nightmare. But this is how the game of basketball works and getting Bendigo out of the way first was probably best for Sydney.
The Flames didn't play horribly in their 57-77 loss to the Spirit. Shooting efficiency was their achilles heal. Import Jocelyn Willoughby had a nice showing with 11 points, five rebounds, two assists, and a steal. The issue with her was shooting which she converted at a 25 per cent clip. Keely Froling added in 10 points, five rebounds, two assists, a steal, and a block but shot it at a 33 per cent clip.
The star of the show was none other than Shyla Heal. Heal was by far their best and more efficient player on the offensive end. She ended the game with a team leading 20 points, four rebounds, and an assist on 53 per cent shooting.
The only reason why they aren't eighth on the list is metrics. As you'll see below, Canberra has had it extremely rough this season and Sydney just put on a better performance this round. Maybe this week will be where the Flames shine.
8. Canberra Capitals (7)
The reason the Capitals are at the bottom of our list is because they are -91 points after just three games in the season. Unlike the Lightning who's suffered close losses in their first few match-ups, the Capitals have not even come close in their early fixtures. They suffered a 62-97 loss to a previously struggling Lynx side and are having trouble finding consistent contributors to keep up with the offensive firepower the league has to offer.
Their imports continue to have the biggest impact on the floor with Cohen leading the team in minutes, points, rebounds and in the top three on her team in steals. This over-dependence on an overseas player has seen them rapidly fall to the bottom of the standings and they need their local players to step up in order to start getting some wins and move back up those standings.
Fellow import Rae Burrell is second on the team in terms of points and minutes so it's rare you've seen a moment when one of the imports has not been on the floor and making a significant contribution. However, there has been an impressive all-round presence by a player one may not have expected coming into the season.
Shanice Swain, the experienced New Zealand guard has been supplementing the imports' contributions in a variety of ways. Swain is second on the team in assists and blocks, leading the team in steals and scoring at the same rate as Burrell has been to start the season. While her turnover rate has been high, Swain's impact has certainly been a positive one because of the defensive energy she brings and overall effort every minute she's out there.
If Brittany Smart and Jade Melbourne can get going like we've seen them be capable of last season, then this could be a potent group of two-way talent. It's just been taking a moment to gel together so far this season.
Round 3 of the 2022/23 WNBL season begins on Wednesday, November 16 with the Townsville Fire against the Southside Flyers at the Townsville Entertainment Centre from 5.30pm AEST.
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