Plenty of action this week with three Tall Ferns still in contention for the WNBL title, fine performances from college players plus news of a Tall Fern excelling on court, in the pool and in the classroom.
Stella Beck led all scorers with 18 points (8/10FG) as St Mary’s Gaels won at Portland 75-65 on Friday.
The Gaels will rue a lost opportunity on Sunday after going down by a single point, 59-58, at West Coast Conference leaders Gonzaga. Beck was one of two St Mary’s players in double figures with 11 points but was guilty of committing 6 turnovers as the Gaels committed 22 in total compared with 8 by Gonzaga.
Despite the turnover count the Gaels looked to have sealed the win when Beck put her team ahead 58-57 inside the last minute but Gonzaga scored the go ahead basket in a game that had a staggering 19 lead changes.
Kalani Purcell had a game high 16 points to compliment 8 rebounds and 4 assists as BYU Cougars thumped Pepperdine 88-49 on Friday. BYU made it two from two over the weekend with a 72-61 victory against San Francisco on Sunday and are now 10-4 in West Coast Conference play. Purcell had 13 points and 7 assists as well as 8 rebounds in the second game. Purcell now has 678 rebounds in her career at BYU – she is now 10th all-time in rebounds in BYU history in just two seasons as a Cougar.
Seattle University Redhawks improved to 7-1 in Western Athletic Conference play with a resounding 82-53 win against Chicago State on Friday. Jacinta Beckley scored 15 points (7/10FG) for Seattle, the Paraparaumu College alumni is in good form for the Redhawks.
Tessa Boagni scored just 4 points but amassed 13 rebounds, including 7 off the offensive glass, as Cal State Northridge Matadors eased passed UC Santa Barbara 62-55 on Friday. The Matadors improved to 6-4 in the Big West Conference with a 70-67 overtime victory against UC Riverside 48 hours later. Again Boagni was in rebounding form with 9 boards – she also converted an important free throw in the additional period.
Penina Davidson had a team high 11 rebounds plus 4 points but couldn’t prevent Cal Berkeley Golden Bears slipping to a 64-59 home loss against Colorado on Sunday. The Bears are now 5-9 in Pac-12 Conference games.
Krystal Leger-Walker dished a game high 6 assists as Northern Colorado Bears went down 67-61 against Eastern Washington. Leger-Walker added 3 points and 5 rebounds in this the second loss of the season in Big Sky Conference play.
The WNBL play-off race is down to five teams with one round remaining next weekend.
It took overtime but Perth Lynx are certain of a play-offs spot after beating Melbourne Boomers 87-81 on Sunday and improving to 15-7. Toni Edmondson fouled out with 1:40 left in regulation after contributing 9 points, 3 rebounds and a steal to the Lynx cause.
Micaela Cocks also scored 9 points as Townsville Fire downed Dandenong Rangers for the second consecutive weekend although fellow Tall Fern Chev Paalvast didn’t take the floor. The victory means the Fire have a 2-1 winning split on Dandenong that may be enough, depending on the results of the final round of games next week, to carry them to third spot on the WNBL ladder.
However nothing is certain as fifth placed Canberra, who visit Townsville on Saturday, hold the series advantage over the defending champions.
Jess Bygate (Melbourne Boomers) and Jordan Hunter (Adelaide Lightning) will conclude their seasons next week with their teams filling the last two places on the ladder.
The WNBL ladder with just 1 round to play – teams play 24 regular season games and top 4 qualify for semi-finals;
Sydney University Flames 17-6
Perth Lynx 15-7
Townsville Fire 14-9
Dandenong Rangers 14-9
Canberra Capitals 12-10
Bendigo Spirit 11-11
Melbourne Boomers 5-18
Adelaide Lightning 2-20
It was third hosting first in the Italian League and despite a customary double-digit contribution from Jillian Harmon (16 points) it was third that prevailed but only just. Despite losing 60-58 at Venezia, ending a 14 game winning streak, Le Mura Lucca (15-2) still holds top spot on the ladder.
Many high school athletes excel in more than one sport, but very few can match the 2016 accomplishments of American based Junior Tall Fern McKenna Dale in the unusual pairing of swimming and basketball.
Her amazing feats during the 2016 calendar year have earned Dale the Hal Levy Female Athlete of the Year Award from the Connecticut Sports Writers’ Alliance.
“I am definitely surprised; I had no idea I would stand out that much with all the talented athletes in Connecticut,” Dale said in a recent interview.
The lanky 6-footer, who didn’t start playing basketball until fifth grade, began the year by leading E.O. Smith to its first Central Connecticut Conference girls basketball tournament title, averaging 24.3 points per game, including 30 in an 81-68 win over South Windsor in the championship game.
In November at Southern Connecticut State University, Dale successfully defended her 50 freestyle and 100 freestyle titles at the Class L meet, posting a 23.17 time in the 50 freestyle that eclipsed not only her own class record, but also the state mark of 23.20, held since 1997.
Four days later at Yale University, Dale topped herself, shattering her own state record in the 50 freestyle and adding the 100 freestyle crown with a personal best.
Rather than rest, the dual citizen of New Zealand (father Darren is a former NZ 400m athletics record holder) and the United States immediately got into international basketball mode, traveling to Fiji to play at the FIBA Oceania U-18 Championships where she averaged 10.4 points per game for the Junior Tall Ferns.
A true scholar-athlete, Dale has committed to play Division I basketball at Brown University of the prestigious Ivy League later this year.
“Sometimes it’s hard to keep a good balance between athletics and academics, but academics has always been a high priority and will continue to be, going to an Ivy League school,” she said.