2019 NWBL Round 1 Review

The Wollongong Rollerhawks have begun their quest for a three-peat in perfect fashion with an unbeaten record through the opening weekend of the 2019 season.

They claimed four comprehensive wins by an average margin of 32.3 points and only the Perth Wheelcats got within 20 points of them in their first game of the round.

Brett Stibners was the pace-setter with 28 points per game at 62% shooting and he had a double-double in three games while the fourth contest saw the Roller collect 28 points, eight rebounds and nine assists against West Adelaide Thunder.

He was complemented by Shawn Russell (17 points, 8.3 rebounds) and Luke Pople (13.8 points, 6.8 assists) while Brad Fisher notched double-figures in scoring off the bench in Wollongong’s last two games of the weekend.

Perth’s only blemish in Round 1 came against Wollongong as they responded to that Friday night loss with three straight wins.

Seeking redemption after they missed the playoffs last year, the Wheelcats were led by Shaun Norris whose best game came against the Sydney Metro Blue Hornets when he tallied 33 points, 13 rebounds, 17 assists and a steal.

Australian Glider Amber Merritt was also a handful at the offensive end and had 20 points on Sunday against the Queensland Spinning Bullets while Michael Auprince averaged 23 points and 10.3 boards.

The Hornets could not get past the Wheelchats but still managed three wins in Round 1 themselves.

CJ McCarthy-Grogan and USA import Jorge Salazar came off the bench in their opening two games and torched their opponents with a combined 45 and 47 points respectively before Salazar added another 22 points in their third contest and McCarthy-Grogan finished with an average of 28.3 points, 12.3 boards, 7.3 assists and five steals.

Anderson Parker (11 points per game) also impressed as Sydney showed they will be a tough team to contain offensively in 2019.

Rounding out the top four on the ladder are the Kilsyth Cobras who claimed two wins to sit just above the Thunder and Spinning Bullets who fought out the closest encounter of the weekend on Saturday night.

Trailing by nine points midway through the second term, West Adelaide finished the half on a 7-2 run and used that momentum to build a double-digit lead with only four minutes remaining.

Queensland did not give in though, inspired by seven straight points for their side down the stretch from Dylan Gawthorne while Matt McShane finished with five points, eight rebounds and eight assists.

The Thunder held on for a 45-40 victory though, paced by a triple-double from Phil Stephens (13 points, 17 rebounds, 11 assists) and a double-double from Jay Dohnt (ten points, 11 boards).

Red Dust Heelers were the only team unable to get on the winners list in Round 1 with turnovers proving to be an issue but they will take confidence from the performance of Thomas McHugh (15.5 points, nine rebounds) and Jake Kavanagh (7.8 points, 3.8 assists).