This round's WNBL games were full of nail-biters and heart-stopping games. Heartbreaks happened while the winners celebrated their hard fought wins. Plenty of games were close to turning into upsets while a certain team from Sydney notched its first win of the season.
Although there weren't a ton of shifts on the rankings, it was still an exciting and memorable round for a lot of teams.
Note: Last week's rankings are in brackets.
1. Bendigo Spirit (1)
The Bendigo Spirit faced a tough test in Round 5 against the Adelaide Lightning. Even though Adelaide is not the best of the bunch, the team still put up a great fight and was ever so close to upsetting the top team in the league.
Luckily for the Spirit, they instilled a very balanced and fierce attack led by Kelsey Griffin who recorded a double-double of 30 points and 10 rebounds along with six steals. Anneli Maley nearly notched a double-double with 19 points and nine rebounds.
Alex Wilson nearly recorded a double-double as well with 16 points and eight rebounds. Finally, Alicia Frolling was critical on the offensive end recording 11 points and six rebounds. The team's defence was the main catalyst in ensuring their win. They recorded 12 steals and forced 19 turnovers.
Without the scoring frenzy from Griffin, Maley, Wilson, and Froling, and Griffin's six steals, Bendigo would not continue its streak at the top of the league.
2. Melbourne Boomers (2)
The Melbourne Boomers showed out against the Townsville Fire even though it wasn't pretty at all times. Starting with the bad, they had 29 turnovers and were blocked 14 times. It was honestly a miracle they were able to get the 84-78 win with their lacklustre offensive communication.
Melbourne produced a comeback like no other to secure the win, down by 12 when the third quarter started. In typical Boomers fashion, they worked together as a team to eventually tie the game up at 51 with a Cayla George three. They found themselves down three at the start of the fourth. Olivia Nelson-Ododa took over, scoring six of Melbourne's 19 points and drawing some crucial and-one calls.
George finished with a double-double of 15 points and 10 rebounds along with two steals and a block while Kristy Wallace finished with 17 points, seven rebounds, and seven assists. Tiffany Mitchell continued her case for league MVP with 23 points, five assists, and four steals and Nelson-Ododa was everywhere on the court recording 17 points on 77.8 per cent shooting along with five rebounds, two assists, two steals, and three blocks for Player of the Game honours.
3. Townsville Fire (3)
If only the Fire were able to keep up their momentum against the Boomers in their heartbreaking loss. Instead, the defence collapsed when it mattered most and allowed for the Boomers to execute the game of runs.
As mentioned in the above entry, Melbourne's offensive game erupted and Townsville wasn't able to respond. It's unfortunate when your team was playing so well and forcing 29 turnovers. Townsvile allowed Melbourne's shooters in Tiffany Mitchell and Cayla George to get hot and the fire was extinguished.
Despite the loss, five players hit double digits. Karlie Samuelson had 10 points, Stephanie Reid (13 points, seven assists, and three steals), Tianna Hawkins (12 points, seven rebounds, three assists, and two steals), all contributed well whereas Lauren Nicholson went off with 23 points. The star of the game for Townsville was Mikaela Ruef. She notched a double-double with 12 points and 13 rebounds along with two steals.
The Fire was able to bounce back from the loss with a victory against the Flyers, fighting tooth and nail and securing a 82-79 win.
Despite committing more turnovers than Southside (19-12) and dishing out less assists (16-24), Townsville relied on its rebounding and play from Nicholson and Samuelson to anchor the side to the win. The Fire outrebound the Flyers 41-32 and their 91.3 per cent efficiency from the charity stripe served a critical piece in ensuring they'd come out with the win.
4. Southside Flyers (5)
The Southside Flyers had a decent week that allowed them to climb up one spot in the rankings. First came the 83-74 win against the Perth Lynx followed by the 82-79 loss over the Townsville Fire. There were two defining differences in each of those games.
Against the Lynx, the Flyers were a complete team with three players notching double-doubles and five scoring in double-digits. Sara Blicavs scored 12 points and grabbed five rebounds while Maddi Rocci had 14 points, five rebounds, and eight assists.
Double-double machines, Abby Bishop (13 points, 11 rebounds, one steal, one block) and Kayla Thornton (11 points, 10 rebounds) produced a solid output for their side. However, it was Lauren Jackson who was the star of the show, looking pretty close to prime 'LJ', finishing with 25 points and 12 rebounds, completely taking advantage of Perth's defence.
I am a person who doesn't believe that because your best player is out for the game that means they can't surpass the team above them in the power rankings. In this case, that's the matchup against Townsville Fire.
Basketball is a team effort and you have to find a way to win without your best players, which is what Southside was able to produce against Townsville without Jackson in the team. The silver lining also lay in more opportunities for other teammates to shine.
Carley Ernst earned some more playing time which ended in her scoring 11 points. Sara Blicavs nearly recorded a double-double with 10 points and eight rebounds, Maddi Rocci went on a scoring frenzy with eight points, and lastly, Kayla Thornton recorded a team-high 21 points on 50 per cent shooting from the field and 60 per cent from three-point range, along with four rebounds, three assists, and four steals.
Unfortunately for Southside, it couldn't overcome Townsville's fight but it was a great overall team effort.
5. Adelaide Lightning (4)
The Lightning is a talented team that can't seem to get over the hump of closing out tight games against great teams. This round was another example where they couldn't defeat the Spirit in a 75-84 loss. It's clear that the Lightning embody a plethora of talent that has the ability to make waves in the league. But Round 6 is on it's way and they're running out of time to prove they can beat top teams.
Despite the loss, they played an very consistent game. Kierstan Bell was everywhere on the court as she recorded 15 points, four rebounds, two assists, two steals, and a block. Isabel Borlase recorded 15 points and Steph Talbot continued her consistency with 12 points and eight rebounds. Lastly, Jacinta Monroe played a great game and recorded 16 points, seven rebounds, and a block while leading the team in shooting with a 66.7 per cent clip.
Once the Lightning are able to get their defensive scheme in tact, they'll make the splash that is much needed.
6. Perth Lynx (6)
The Lynx were so close to upsetting the Flyers but couldn't quite get there. They heavily struggled in the rebounding department getting out-rebound 40-52 and struggled to keep up with the high-powered opposition offence.
That doesn't necessarily mean that they played terribly. They only lost by nine points which if you believe in moral victories, is one. The Lynx had four people hit double digits in scoring which shows they still had that going for them. Robbi Ryan recorded 14 points and five assists, Amy Atwell had 13 points and six rebounds, and Chloe Bibby had 13 points. But Lauren Scherf was the star. She notched a double-double with 20 points, 12 rebounds, five assists, and two blocks.
Perth continues to stay stagnant in the rankings but something is seemingly brewing in the west that could see the team climb up the rankings very soon.
7. Sydney Flames (7)
In the battle of the two worst teams in the league, the Flames found themselves on top of the Capitals in a 92-80 win. This game finally put them in the win column after some hard fought losses in the past. Sydney put on a scoring frenzy and just flat out dominated a depleted Canberra team even if the win was only by 12 points.
This win was an overall team effort. As a unit, the Flames shot 55.2 per cent from the field and 52.4 per cent from beyond-the-arc. Five players scored double digits in this offensive flurry.
Jocelyn Willoughby dominated with 19 points, five rebounds, an assist, and a block on 57.1 per cent shooting, while Emma Clarke barely hit the double-digit mark with 10 points. Shyla Heal recorded 21 points, six rebounds, and six assists on 46.7 per cent shooting from the floor and 50 per cent from threebut Tiana Mangakahia was the most efficient scorer, recording 14 points on 71.4 per cent shooting from the field and 66.7 per cent from three.
Lastly, the absolute star of the show was Keely Froling. She flat out overwhelmed Canberra's defence and was unstoppable. She recorded 22 points on 61.5 per cent shooting and 16 rebounds for a double-double. Those rebounding numbers are eye-popping and a positive sign for a struggling Sydney squad.
8. Canberra Capitals (8)
The Capitals can't seem to find their way to a win this season. Absolutely nothing can go right for this team regardless of the untapped effort they've displayed all season. They're just not producing enough on both ends in general to be able to get out of their winless hump.
In their Round 5 loss against Sydney, Canberra didn't play a horrendous game. Despite the 12-point loss, the Capitals produced more assists than the Flames, dishing out 22 compared to 18. They also had the edge in steals 8-3. Jade Melbourne notched a double-double with 12 points and 10 assists. Brittany Smart had 12 points, Emilee Whittle-Harmon had 13 points and five assists, Nicole Munger recorded 12 points, and Shanice Swain had 15 points.
They clearly had a balanced attack of players scoring in double digits but they couldn't get anything done to stop the Flames from coming out with the win.
Round 6 of the 2022/23 WNBL season begins on Wednesday, December 14 with the Bendigo Spirit against the Sydney Flames at Red Energy Arena from 5.30pm AEDT.
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