WNBL ‘Reach Out’ Round opens with Lynx thriller over Flyers

WNBL Reach Out Round
WNBL Reach Out Round. Photo: WNBL

After postponing all games in Round 6 due to Covid protocols, the WNBL was back on Wednesday night with the Southside Flyers playing Perth in Ballarat. In the first game of the ‘regional festival of basketball’, Ballarat – which is a proud basketball town – hosted the two powerhouse clubs in their new stadium. 

Round 7 is Reach Out Round, with the league aiming to raise mental health awareness and encourage people to Reach Out in times of need. The round is sponsored byLifeline, Beyond Blue, Headspace Ballarat, Kids Helpline and Reach Out Australia and the WNBL are using the round to promote continuing the conversation that it’s ok to not be ok and to check in regularly with loved ones.

In what appears to be an even WNBL competition, these two teams came into this game as two of the title favourites. Both have had interesting lead ups, with Southside having not played a game for 3 weeks and Perth having 10 days off after starting their season late.

Southside had a challenging week dealing with covid protocols and unfortunately their skipper, O’hea missed the game. The Flyers did however welcome back Sara Blicavs, after she missed the last 2 games through injury. 

After raining 3’s in their first game, Perth made an obvious tactical change early in this game looking to score more in the paint. Lauren Scherf had 10 points in the first quarter scoring off some nice pick and roll action and getting some easy finishes in the paint.

Marina Mabrey – who lit it up last week from beyond the arc – took her smaller opponents into the paint and showed us that she has more to her offensive arsenal than just an outside shot. Several times she backed her opponent down in the low block and executed a turn around fade away jumper. This worked well for Mabrey and forced Flyers head coach, Cherly Chambers to make a switch and put the taller Kristy Wallace on her. 

Both teams clearly put more emphasis on their scoring ability and look to outscore the opposition rather than focusing on defen\ce. There’s no doubt the break enabled Coach Chambers a chance to look at game tape and assess that they needed to apply more pressure defensively.

The Flyers guards did a great job for a majority of the game pressuring the Lynx star shooters. In the first half this turned into some fast break opportunities for the Flyers off some deflections and steals. 

Although it was a close game, Southside appeared to have the upper hand for most of the night and if it wasn’t for the confidence of the Lynx captain, Darcy Garbin to capitalise on an offensive board and hit an open 3 deep into the 4th quarter, the Flyers would have come away with the victory.  

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The Perth centre, Lauren Scherf (finished the game with 23 points and 10 boards) had a big impact on the result of the game and although she missed at least 4 wide open layups in the second half it was her dominance in the paint early that showed the league that Perth have multiple ways of scoring.

It may have been Coach Petrik’s plan to stretch the lack of size that the Flyers have or maybe he’s showing his side that they need to be adaptable and look at all scoring options not just from beyond the arc; either way it was great coaching. 

In just 2 games, Scherf is proving to arguably be Perth’s most important player. This may sound like a strange statement given the talent of Mabrey and Whitcomb, but if Scherf can have an inside prescence night in, night out, then she is going to help their shooters get open, because teams will have to start putting more of an emphasis on stopping her. 

The Perth’s other import, Jackie Young has so far struggled getting the looks she wants on offence, scoring only 6 points for the game. She is a reluctant outside shooter and appears to prefer to attack the lanes. There is a saying in basketball and it is ‘there is only one ball’.

The Lynx have 3 players in Whitcomb, Young and Mabrey who all need the ball in their hands to have the greatest impact. This is Coach Petrik’s most significant challenge and although it’s great to have the depth, there isn’t enough possessions each game to be shared around for the 3 star players.

It would be a positive move for Young to handle the ball more, as on display in the 4th and OT, when she attacked her defender and took it to the basket several times. She has a quick first step and if given room is hard to stop. With Mabrey and Whitcomb on the wings, this would create more open shots for the shooters.

It would also be interesting to see Young in more 2 sided action with centre Lauren Scherf, as Scherf does have the ability to shoot the 3, so she could pop on the screening action rather than rolling and this would enable Young to attack the basket. If Scherf’s defender stays with Scherf, then Young is going to be open and if Scherf defender shows, then Scherf may find herself open from beyond the arc. It’s a combination i’m sure the coach will start to look at in future games. 

For the Flyers, Blicavs (21 points) was pivotal in her return and proved why she is so important to the flyers team. Rocci is getting better and better each game and although she did not have huge numbers her influence was evident. In her break out game for the season, Kristy Wallace had an impact off the bench both defensively and offensively (scoring 16 points).

In such a deep roster, it was always hard to see how Wallace would get her chance to impact the game like we know she can. Her array of skills was on show with her ability to attack the basket and shoot from beyond the arc, which will no doubt give Coach Chambers confidence to play Wallace more minutes. 

The game ended up going to OT, where both teams were extremely fatigued. In what was a scrappy OT period, where neither team scored until the last 2 mins; a second chance opportunity created by Whitcomb enabled Perth to score and keep the lead until the end winning 83-79. 

Perth now head to Canberra to play the Capitals on Friday night, in what will be Kelly Wilson’s 400th game. Southside have a couple of days to rest before the Melbourne Derby against the Boomers on Saturday afternoon. 

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