March 17, 2023
Locked on Women’s Basketball: The WNBL Finals have arrived
WNBL writer Hayley Wildes joined Isabel Rodrigues to help preview the league finals between Townsville and Southside
Over in Australia, the JCU Townsville Fire and Jayco Southside Flyers are preparing for the WNBL Finals. The best-of-three Grand Final Series begins Saturday, March 18, at Townsville Entertainment Center. Game 2 will follow on Wednesday at the State Basketball Centre and Game 3, if necessary, will return to the TEC on Saturday, March 5.
WNBL writer Hayley Wildes joined host Isabel Rodrigues on this episode of the Locked On Women’s Basketball podcast to recap the semifinal round and help preview the Grand Final. In the semifinals, Townsville beat Perth pretty handily and Southside beat Melbourne in three close games, including a 1-point win in the rubber match.
Rodrigues started the conversation with the Fire, who carry a 14-game winning streak into the WNBL Grand Final Series.
“They’ve got depth across the board and they’ve got superstars coming off the bench,” Wildes said. “I think Tianna Hawkins has just been great this season for them and she’s probably been one of the best imports in the league this season. And I think that says a lot about her because there are so many great imports in the league. Everyone sort of followed her lead and then when you’ve got two guards like Lauren Nicholson, Steph Reid and then Shyla Heal coming off the bench. It’s such a tough cover when you’ve got so much guard depth coming at you all game.”
Hawkins is averaging a team-high 17.2 points per game while shooting 53.6 percent from the field across 23 WNBL games. Karlie Samuelson and Stephanie Reid join her in double figures with 14 and 13.9 per game, respectively.
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The two then turned their attention to the Flyers, who won a thrilling 73-72 game against the defending champion Melbourne Boomers. This is the third Grand Final appearance in four seasons for the Flyers.
“That was the most intense game I think I’ve ever been to, apart from that Opals semifinal at the World Cup in Sydney, but for a WNBL game I feel like this was just it was next-level,” Wildes said. “There were players making big plays throughout the whole that last quarter it was bucket-for-bucket in the third game and just changing. It was insane. And I still can’t believe that, that it was, in the end, everyone was sort of saying in that second game that Kayla Thornton might be the difference and her bucket right at the end ended up being the game-winner in Game 3. So it sort of speaks to what she did all season and in that game.”
Thornton is averaging a team-high 16.5 points through 22 games for the Flyers. She scored a layup off an assist from Maddy Rocci to seal the series.
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