A close WNWBL campaign in 2018 will go down to the final round of the regular season with five teams still in contention after the Be Active Western Stars, Sydney Metro Blues and Sydney Uni Flames won their games in Round 6.
The Stars have confirmed top spot ahead of the playoffs after defeating their closest rivals on the ladder, Queensland Comets, in two contests.
On Saturday night, the Stars controlled proceedings with a 56-42 victory as Amber Merritt top-scored with 22 points and ten rebounds, Georgia Inglis came close to a triple-double with eight points, nine boards and 11 assists and Chihiro Kitada added 14 points and eight rebounds.
Queensland fought hard through Mari Amimoto (17 points, 12 rebounds, five steals) and Shelley Cronau (seven rebounds, seven assists) but struggled to put enough scoreboard pressure on the hosts.
They had no such issues the following day, leading by six points at half-time as Amimoto (26 points, six rebounds, seven assists) and Cobi Crispin set the pace.
The Stars were able to reel them in though and with five minutes remaining, they moved in front by nine points.
Queensland had one last gasp, going on a 16-6 run before Crispin (29 points, nine boards, five assists, four steals) put them in the lead with 20 seconds to go but Kitada (23 points, ten rebounds, six assists, four steals) replied quickly.
Merritt, finishing with a triple-double of 21 points, 11 rebounds and ten assists then clinched the 59-57 victory from the free-throw line as the Stars, who will not play next round, cemented first place.
The Comets have two games to come against the Flames but need to keep winning in order to hold off the Blues for second place after Sydney Metro stayed in touch courtesy of consecutive victories against the Kilsyth Cobras.
Georgia Munro-Cook dominated the paint for the Blues, averaging 27 points, 17.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks while also hitting the eventual game-winner in a 51-50 win on Sunday.
Kylie Gauci and Jess Cronje notched double-digits in a game each while Jess Pellow and Daisy Eaglesome played some important minutes off the bench.
Leanne Del Toso (15 points, nine assists per game) and Bree Mellberg (eight points, six rebounds) starred for Kilsyth and Teisha Shadwell almost led the comeback on Sunday with a double-double of 21 points and 11 rebounds but she will be ruing a missed free-throw late.
In the third series over the weekend, the Flames proved too good for the Red Dust Lady Heelers, succeeding by an average margin of 15.5 points.
They pulled away with a strong 14-4 final term to win by 12 in their first meeting, led by Annabelle Lindsay’s 22 points and 13 rebounds and Liesl Tesch who only had two points but combined that with seven rebounds and nine assists.
Hannah Dodd and Tracey Carruthers kept the scoreboard ticking over with 24 combined points and Dodd then exploded for 21 points in their second clash while Lindsay (20 points, ten assists, six steals) and Tesch (six points, eight boards, 12 assists) backed up with another strong game.
They were able to hold off the best efforts from Lady Heelers’ Shelley Chaplin (14 points, 6.5 rebounds, nine assists), Kathleen O’Kelly-Kennedy (11 points, 8.5 rebounds per game) and Clare Nott (11 points, two assists).
Despite the defeats, Red Dust still have a finals position heading into the last round but now that they do not own the head-to-head results against Sydney Uni, they will need to win at least one game to continue to hold off the fast-finishing Flames.