Sydney Uni Flames veteran Belinda Snell was named the WNBL Player of the Week for Round 8, scoring 28 points, with most of the damage being done from long-range, making a phenomenal seven three pointers from 12 attempts in a 12 point win against the Melbourne Boomers on Sunday at the State Basketball Centre in the final game of Cluster Round. Snell was joined in the WNBL Round 8 Team of the Week by Sydney Uni Flames team-mate Asia Taylor, Perth Lynx back-court duo Sami Whitcomb and Courtney Williams along with Bendigo Sprit forward Betnijah Laney. Proficient perimeter shooting was a theme for the members of the Round 8 TOTW with the five members combining to make 23 three pointers from 39 attempts at an incredible accuracy of 59%. The WNBL’s bigs dominated the Player of the Week Award in the first six Rounds with each week’s winner being at least 189 centimetres tall, being Melbourne Boomers centre Liz Cambage – 203 centimetres tall and 3 x POTW winner in 2017/18, Townsville front-court duo Cayla George – 193 cm & Suzy Batkovic -194cm and Adelaide forward/centre Abby Bishop – 189 cm. Guard/forward Snell at 180 centimetres tall is the second player in a row under six foot tall to win the Player of the Week Award following 173 cm tall Perth guard Courtney Williams winning the award in Round 7. All five of members of the Round 8 WNBL Team of the Week have experience playing in the WNBA.
Player of the Week – Belinda Snell, Sydney Uni Flames
In Round 7 Belinda Snell was suited up and took part in the pre-game warm-up for the road game against Perth, however due to some hamstring tightness a last-minute decision was made for Sydney captain Snell to take no part in the game. Snell showed no signs of injury concern during her incredible game against the Melbourne Boomers in Round 8, scoring 28 points, had five rebounds and four assists. Just before the half-way mark of the second term Snell made two three-pointers within a minute and she was superb from behind the arc throughout the game, making seven of her 12 three-pointers at an accuracy of 57%. Sydney were phenomenal with their three point shooting against Melbourne, making 17 of 28 three-pointers at an accuracy of 61%. After leading by a point at three-quarter time the Flames outscored Melbourne 25-14 in the final term to reach the ton and record a 101-89 victory against the Melbourne Boomers at the State Basketball Centre in the final game of Cluster Round on Sunday. Snell shot the ball at 53% from the field, making 10 of her 19 field goal attempts. Round 8 was the second time that Snell has been selected in the WNBL TOTW during 2017/18, having previously been selected in Round 1.
Snell has had a decorated career for the Australian Opals, winning three medals at Olympic Games as well as a gold medal at the 2006 World Championships. Snell’s big-game experience and outstanding outside shooting came to the fore in game 2 of the 2016/17 WNBL Grand Final on the road against Dandenong. With Sydney leading by just a point at half-time Snell scored 13 points in the third quarter including three three pointers to play a critical role in Sydney gaining the ascendancy. The Flames went on to win the 2017/18 Grand Final series two games to nil to secure the club’s second WNBL Championship with the club’s previous title having been in 2000/01, Snell is the only played to have been a part of both of Sydney’s Championship winning teams. Snell has played in three WNBL Championships overall, having also been a member of the Australian Institute of Sport’s historic title in 1998/99. In each her past 10 WNBL seasons dating back to the 2000/01 season with Sydney Snell has made at least 50 three-pointers and in each of her past seven seasons her accuracy has been at least 36%.
After Round 8 Sydney have the equal best record in the league with eight wins and four losses and have a very strong starting line-up as highlighted by having three players who have been selected in a WNBL All-Star five during their career – Snell, Katie-Rae Ebzery and Asia Taylor. Completing the starting line-up is Alex Wilson and 200 cm tall centre Jennifer Hamson. Snell ranks second at Sydney for scoring in 2017/18 behind Taylor who is averaging 21.3 points per game whilst Ebzery and Alex Wilson average 13 points and 12 points per game respectively, giving Sydney four players averaging at least a dozen points per game. In her 14th WNBL season 36 year-old Snell is averaging 14.6 points per game in 2017/18 which is just outside the league’s top 10 and is only 0.3 points per game under her WNBL career average of 14.9 points per game.
Sami Whitcomb, Perth Lynx
During Perth’s two Round 8 victories Whitcomb averaged 20.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, three steals and two assists, with Whitcomb making an all-round impact against Dandenong, put on a pure shooting display against Townsville and also stood out with her quick hands and reading of the play to make more than twice as many steals as the second ranked player for the game. In a Thursday night game at Dandenong Stadium Whitcomb was slightly below her usual scoring output with 14 points, had an equal game-high seven rebounds and three assists in Perth’s 12 point victory against the Jayco Rangers.
In the WNBL game of the week in the opening Sunday game at the State Basketball Centre Whitcomb played a critical role in Perth having a thrilling five point win against Townsville. After Perth and Townsville were locked together at 61 points apiece at three quarter-time Whitcomb with 10 points in the final quarter was critical in the Lynx gaining the ascendancy to outscore the Fire 23-18 in the final quarter and win 84-79. Whitcomb scored a game-high 27 points against Townsville, whilst also having six rebounds and a game-high five steals – three more than the second ranked player for the game. Whitcomb made nine of her 14 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 64% and made five of her eight three-pointers. Round 8 was the second time that Whitcomb has been selected in the WNBL TOTW during 2017/18, having previously been selected in Round 4.
In both of her first two WNBLs seasons Whitcomb was selected in the WNBL All-Star five, finishing third in the 2015/16 MVP Award and being runner-up in the league’s highest individual award in 2016/17 when she led the league in scoring with 24.2 points per game and broke the league record for most points in a season. The Perth Lynx aren’t as reliant on Whitcomb in 2017/18 as they were in previous seasons with Williams and Alice Kunek also ranking in the top eight of the WNBL for scoring. In 2017/18 Whitcomb ranks sixth in the WNBL for scoring with 16.4 points per game and also ranks in the top 10 of the league for assists.
Betnijah Laney, Bendigo Spirit
In a thrilling three point victory against the University of Canberra Capitals on Saturday Bendigo Spirit guard/forward Laney was rarely off the court, playing 39 minutes and one second, excelling in several facets of play to score a game-high 23 points, have a team-high six assists, an equal game-high two steals and four rebounds. Laney displayed outstanding accuracy from all over the court against the Capitals, making 10 of her 14 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 71%, making eight of her 11 two-point attempts and two of her three three-pointers. Despite having a double figure deficit in the second quarter Bendigo fought back to force the game down to the wire and with more composure in the final term had a thrilling win with Laney scoring seven points in the critical final quarter. Laney ranks 10th in the league for scoring this season with 14.8 points per game, just below her 15.2 points per game in her previous WNBL season with the Perth Lynx in 2015/16.
Asia Taylor, Sydney Uni Flames
In Sydney’s 101-89 victory against the Melbourne Boomers, forward Asia Taylor scored a game-high 29 points, had an equal-game high six rebounds, three assists and two steals in a brilliant all-round game. With her athleticism, height at 188 centimetres and all-round skill-set Taylor made an instant impression in her first WNBL season to be selected in the 2016/17 WNBL All-Star five, however in an ominous sign for the rest of the league Asia displayed another dimension to her game on Sunday. Taylor is not renowned for her outside shooting and in fact before Round 8 she had only made a total of two three-pointers for the entire WNBL season, however on the weekend Taylor was deadly from long-range making all three of her three-point attempts. Taylor was one of three Flames to make a significant impact against Melbourne from the perimeter in Round 8 along with the aforementioned POTW Snell and Alex Wilson who made six of 12 three-pointers. Taylor made nine of her 16 field goal attempts against Melbourne for an accuracy of 56% and also made eight free-throws from 11 attempts. Sydney Uni Flames players were fouled a total of 19 times with just over 60% (12) of these fouls being committed on Taylor. Taylor ranks second in the WNBL for scoring in the 2017/18 season, averaging 21.3 points per game, and also ranks seventh for rebounds with 8.6 per game. Round 8 was the fourth time that Asia Taylor has been selected in the WNBL TOTW during 2017/18, having previously been selected in Rounds 4, 5 and 7.
Courtney Williams, Perth Lynx
In Perth’s opening win of Round 8 on the road against Dandenong guard Williams scored a game-high 21 points, took an equal game-high seven rebounds and had a team-high five assists. In the 74-62 victory against the Jayco Rangers Williams made seven of her 16 field goal attempts, one of her two three-pointers and six of her seven free-throws.
Three Perth Lynx players rank in the top eight of the league in scoring after Round 8, being Williams (third), Whitcomb (sixth) and forward Kunek (eighth). This Perth trio combined for 67 of Perth’s 84 points in a five point win against Townsville at the State Basketball Centre with Williams scoring 22 points and shooting at 50% from the field, including making two of her three three-pointers. Round 8 was the third time that Williams has been selected in the WNBL TOTW during 2017/18, making it three selections in a row following Round 6 and Round 7, having been named the Player of the Week in Round 7. Williams is averaging 20.6 points per game to rank third in the WNBL for scoring behind Liz Cambage and Asia Taylor.
Article and photographs by Dean Andrews
Twitter – @DeanAndrews7777