QBL Season 2018 has started well for 2017 Champions the Townsville Heat and USC Rip City, with both teams sitting atop the ladder with 7 wins and 1 loss apiece. Townsville’s only loss of the season was on opening night to the Meteors, in which they only went down by 6 points despite missing their import forward Justin Baker. Since the loss, the Heat have been rolling winning 6 straight by an average of 22 points. Rodney Anderson’s men are easily the best defensive team in the league, keeping their opponents to 74 points on average. Four players are currently averaging at least 16 points per game, with ex-Croc Jordair Jett leading the way with 18.4 a game. After returning from Marquette, Harrison Froling has been a welcomed addition to the squad putting up an impressive 17 and 11 a night. We are still yet to mention their three biggest pieces from the 2017 Championship winning squad in Wilcher, Baker and Crawford who are still as consistent as ever. Wilcher and Baker are both putting up 17 a night, whilst Peter Crawford just sits outside the top-10 in made three-pointers. At the halfway point of the season the Heat are definitely the team to beat. After starting the 2017 season 9-1, USC have again kick started 2018 with an impressive 7-1 record. Lance Hurdle leads the team averaging 18.8 points per game, closely followed by Isaih Tueta (15.6) and Eric McAlister (15.5). Tueta also averages 8.2 assists which puts him at second in the league in this category. It has been Rip City’s ferocious defense allows only 78.9 points per game has been the biggest factor in their amazing start. In Rip’s next 5 games they only play one team with a +.500 record, so we look for USC remain near the top of the table for at least the next month.
Similar to the teams above, the Mackay Meteors have suffered only the one loss, going down to Rockhampton by 5 points on the road in Round 4. After moving on their two 2017 all-star 5 players in Bruce and Walker, the Meteors have found more than handy replacements in NBL forward Todd Blanchfield, American Titus Robinson and Adelaide 36ers guard Nelson Larkins. Like Townsville, the Meteors have four players averaging at least 15 points per game; the three players above and veteran Chris Cedar. Blanchfield stuffs the stat sheet with 18 points, 11 rebounds and 5 assists per game, whilst Larkins has connected on more than half of his three-pointers to this point in the season. Under the on and off court guidance of Cam Tregardh, skies the limit for Mackay and we look for them to again make a deep run into the playoffs.
Rounding out the top 4 is another northern team, the Cairns Marlins. After a flawless opening round of the season where the Marlins went 0-3, Cairns have somewhat struggled going 2-3 over this span with the only wins being over the two winless teams. Captain Anthony Fisher is leading the team with 18.6 points to go along with 6.1 rebounds a night, but most impressive is that Fisher is currently the only QBL player featuring in the 50-40-90 club by shooting exactly 50% from the field, 41% from three and 96% from the line. New Marlin Christian Jurlina has settled in nicely putting up 17.4 points, closely followed by Kuany Kuany’s 16 and 8.6 boards a game. Despite being in the bottom half for points per game, the Marlins defense has been a big factor in their victories, keeping teams to only 80 points a game which is good enough to be tied for third best in the league.
After going 0-2 in the first round of the season the Logan Thunder have bounced back nicely to win 5 of their next 6 matches to hold the same 5-3 record as 4th placed Cairns. Mitch Young has again been the go-to guy for the Thunder putting in 21.6 points and a league-leading 13.1 rebounds a night on 53% shooting. Obi Kyei and Michael Cedar aren’t too far behind putting in 19.6 and 17.2 respectively. American Rayshawn Simmons has done a great job running the show with 8.1 assists a night. After a round 8 match-up with the reigning champion Heat, the Thunder play 6 games in a row against teams below them on the ladder. The next 5 weeks will set the team up nicely for the final month of the season and ultimately into the playoffs. Sitting in 6th position are Sunshine Coast Phoenix who are the last team with a +.500 record. After starting the season 4-0 the Phoenix are 1-4 in their last 5. The squad have struggled to find a replacement for Tom Fullarton’s 13 points a night in the first three games after the Bullets Development Player has decided to put his basketball dreams on hold for an opportunity to play AFL. Despite being the only team averaging over 100 points a night, Sunshine Coast are also only one of three teams giving up 100+. Roy Booker is putting up massive numbers on a nightly basis with averages of 30.4 points (2nd in league) and 8.75 assists (1st in league) over the first half of the season. Sunshine Coast local Jamaal Robateau is flourishing after his return from college scoring 18.7 a game, closely followed by veteran CJ Massingale’s 15.2. Both players a shooting a serviceable 46% from the field.
The final month of the season will be extremely challenging with games against Mackay, Townsville and Cairns still to come, so the upcoming month will be extremely important if Sunshine Coast are to make the playoffs. Rounding out the current playoff positions are the Rockhampton Rockets and South West Metro Pirates who both boast an even 4-4 record. Despite two very competitive games, Rockhampton will be looking to forget their first trip south for the season in round 7. An overtime loss to the Phoenix was followed by a heartbreaking 3-point loss to USC the following night. The Rockets have now lost three in a row and will have no time to relax with the fourth-placed Marlins entering Hevgold Stadium in round 8. The Rockets have two players inside the top 10 in scoring with Malcom Bernard (third) 28.8 a game, closely followed by 2017 scoring champ Ray Willis’ (seventh) who puts up 22.13 points per contest. Team captain James Mitchell stuffs the stat sheet consistently with 16.1 points, 8.3 rebounds and 5.6 assists a game, whilst forward Jack Lopez is in the top 5 for three-pointers made. With wins over Mackay, Logan and Cairns, the Rockets have proven they have what it takes to knock off some of the competitions best.
Despite sitting at 4-4 an in the last playoff position, the Pirates have had an inconsistent start to season 2018. All of South West’s four victories have come against teams below them on the ladder, whilst 2 of their 4 four losses have been by 25 points or more at home. A defense which is tied for third best in the league is covering some big offensive flaws, as the Pirates are the leagues scoring team with only 77.1 points a night. Princeton Onwas (19.3), Jarred Bairstow (12.3) and Tyrell Harrison (11.9) all average double-digit points on at least 50% shooting, but no player has made over 6 three-pointers and the teams three-point struggles are largely contributing to the overall offensive struggles. With two games against Logan in the next three rounds, South West will have the opportunity to claim their first major scalp of the season and prove if they have what it takes to be 2018 contenders.
Sitting at 9th and 10th on the QBL ladder at 4-5 are two of the competition surprise packets, Toowoomba Mountaineers and Gladstone Port City Power. After finishing in a clear last in 2017 and only recording the one victory, the Mountaineers have made the necessary roster adjustments to be a more than competitive outfit in 2018. Damon Bozeman is currently the lead leader in points per game with a massive 34.8 points on 42% from downtown. Big Harold Ridgeway averages a double-double with 15.4 points and 10.6 boards a night, including being the league-leader for offensive boards. Josh Derkson, Maylok Malek and Ridgeway all sit inside the top 10 for the league in blocks, being major contributors on the other side of the ball. With some very winnable games over the upcoming month, including the next three at home, we may very well see Toowoomba in playoff contention in the not too distant future.
After starting the season 0-5, the Gladstone Port City Power have strung four wins together in a two-week span to also put themselves into playoff contention. After the narrow win against Southern Districts in round 6, the Power won all three games of their south triple header in round 7. Leading the way is Taylor Young with 23, 5 and 5 a game, with Casey Walker’s 18 and Cirkook Riak’s 17 not far behind. Despite finding form in the past two weeks Gladstone still hold the third worst defense in the league, a statistic that will need to change over the second half of the season. The Power have an extremely challenging month ahead with games against Townsville, Mackay, Rockhampton and Cairns (twice). After finishing the 2017 regular season on top of the ladder, the Brisbane Capitals have started the 2018 season in disappointing fashion winning only 3 of their first 7 games. With two of their three wins being by at least 28 points, the Capitals still hold a positive plus-minus for the season, although these numbers are heavily skewed by a 51-point thumping of North Gold Coast in round 2. Despite missing the opening two games of the season, Aaron Anderson is the team leader in points with 18 a game, whilst Zac Carter, Brandon Davis and Jacob Davis all average at least 15. The Gold Coast Rollers opened the season with a 3-1 record but have since dropped their last three by an average of 20 points a game to drop out of the top 8. The Rollers only put up 85.7 points a game, which is the third lowest in the league and are yet to score 100 points in any game this season. No Rollers player averages 15 points a game, with Jack McVeigh being the team high man with 14.9. TJ Diop has been solid since moving down from Mackay with 12.9 points a night on 56% shooting. After splitting their opening four games of season 2018, the Ipswich Force have dropped three straight, including two to Toowoomba by 2 and 3 points respectively. Kyle Harvey has been an offensive juggernaut with 27 points and 8 rebounds a night, with Garrett Hall also putting up 20 points a night. Similar to 2017, it has been the Force’s defense that has let them down, giving up at least 89 points in every game for the season. With Townsville and USC coming to town in the next fortnight it is difficult to see the Force being back in playoff contention anytime soon.
Rounding out the 2018 standings are the Southern Districts Spartans and North Gold Coast Seahawks who are both winless at the midway point of the season. Despite being 0-7 the Spartans have lost six games by under 10 points, including two games by a single basket. Adam Gibson has only played 2 games to this point of the season and has scored 19 points in each contest to go along with 5.5 assists a night. With Gibson in the lineup regularly in the second half of the season Southern Districts will no doubt be on the winners list multiple times. The North Gold Coast Seahawks have had a tough return to the QBL losing their opening 8 games of the season by an average of 23 points per game. Jerron Jamerson has been huge for the Seahawks putting in 26 points a night on 55% shooting. Cameron Goldfinch and Quinton Campbell are putting up 18 and 16 points respectively. Considering the nature of their losses it is not surprising that North Gold Coast give up a league-worst 109 points per game, although a statistic that will need to change dramatically if they are to be somewhat competitive in the back half of the season.
Ipswich Force are the only remaining team who are undefeated after Round 7 of the 2018 QBL season. Ipswich have been somewhat of a surprise package this year and have been led by the dominant Amanda Johnson who is putting up 24 points and 18 rebounds a game. Johnson has been awarded Player of the Week on two occasions (Round 2 & 3) and would be regarded as the Player of the first 7 Rounds. Gintare Mazionyte is averaging 18 points a game, whilst Rachel Mate has been integral with 13 points and 3 assists per game. Ipswich have a tough couple of rounds towards the end of the season, but their blistering start has put them in a great position for a home final come August. The Sunshine Coast Phoenix recruited Abby Bishop and Natalie Hurst in 2018 and both are ranked in the league’s top ten for points and assists. Amy Browne and Ashlee Wallis have both been good contributors for the Phoenix on both sides of the ball. The Phoenix had one hiccup against the Seahawks this season but are well placed to finish in the top four. The power of Bishop and Hurst has been tough to handle and if both are there in August – this Phoenix team will be hard to beat. The South West Metro Pirates flew out of the blocks to start the season and currently sit in third with a 7-1 record. The Pirates have been bolstered by the experience of Australian representative Nicole Seekamp who is averaging close to 20 points and 7 assists per game. Madelyn Willey, Steph Bairstow and Jade Kirisome are all scoring over 13 a game and the Pirates are ranked in the top three for points, assists, rebounds, steals and fewest turnovers committed. The Pirates play Ipswich twice in the next couple of months and will finish with a tough road trip to Mackay and Rockhampton to close out their season. Townsville suffered their first loss of the year in Round 7 against the Spartans at home. Darcee Garbin has been outstanding for the Flames averaging over 20 points and 9 rebounds a game. Veteran Micaela Cocks came to Townsville from Mackay in the offseason and her impact has been tremendous for the young Townsville outfit. Cocks is averaging 17 points, 8 rebounds and close to 5 assists a game and is ranked 5th in the league for three-point shooting. The Flames have already managed their difficult road triple-header for the season and have plenty of home games to finish their campaign. This youthful team is exciting to watch and are one of the favourites for the title in August. The Spartans won every game last year on their way to the QBL title, however they have become the hunted in 2018 and started the season with mixed results. After losing some key players in the offseason, the Spartans have had to rebuild with Aja Parham, Jessica McDowell-White and Rebecca Haynes playing an important role for the team. Both Parham and Haynes have led in points and rebounds, whilst Ashley Taia and Romy Baer have come in late and provided an immediate impact. Southern Districts will have to work on their shooting if they want to go for back-to-back championships.
The North Gold Coast Seahawks have surprised many in their first year of QBL and boast a positive record midway through the season with strong wins over USC, Phoenix, Cairns, Logan and Gladstone. The Seahawks have dominated the SBL in recent years and their promotion to the big league would have been a steep learning curve, however, they have performed extremely well to cement themselves in the top 8. Casey Samuels is leading the team in points and assists with 19 and 3.3 respectively, whilst Leeza Burdgess and Lauren Jansen are collecting 7 rebounds each a game. It will be interesting to see if the Seahawks can keep their form going leading into a tough run home. Rockhampton got off to a tough start before winning three in a row but have since lost two games in a row to sit 7th on the ladder. Shanavia Dowdell and Aaryn Ellenberg have dominated for the Cyclones with both players scoring over 23 a game. Dowdell is the leading shooter in the league with 67% from the field and has averaged 36 points and 16 rebounds in her past two games and claimed Player of the Week honours for her performances against Gladstone and Mackay. The Cyclones have developed well throughout the first month and are real dark horses come the pointy end of the season. It will be interesting to see if teams can shut down Dowdell and Ellenberg’s impact.
Despite having the top scorer in the league, USC sit in 8th spot with a 4-4 record. Leah Scott has been the shining light for the Rip scoring at an average of 26 points per game. Playing more minutes than any other player in the league, Scott is also averaging 10 rebounds and 3 assists. No other player on the roster is averaging 10 points a game, although Carlie Smith leads the side in rebounds and assists. The Rip need more contributors if they are to cement a position in the playoffs. Mackay have had a tricky start to the season with losses to Townsville, Cairns and twice to Rockhampton putting their season on a knife’s edge. Mackay suffered a big loss to the Flames in Townsville in Round 2 but recovered a week later against the Mountaineers to record their first score over 100 points. Mia Lloyd has been the top scorer for Mackay with 21 points to go along with her 9 rebounds, whilst Ruvanna Campbell is averaging 19 points and 16 rebounds. Campbell had a massive week in Round 4 with 22 points, 18 rebounds and 4 steals against Rockhampton and Gladstone earning her Player of the Week honours. Despite a tricky triple-header in Round 8, the Meteorettes have 6 of their last 7 rounds at home, which gives them a great advantage heading into the playoffs. The Capitals have struggled for consistency this season amplified by their below .500 record. Brisbane started 2-0 before losing three straight games including a tough double-header on the Sunshine Coast. Akilah Bethel has been a consistent star for the Caps and leads the team in points, rebounds and steals. Brisbane have struggled to put points on the board this season and are currently ranked 13th in the league after the halfway mark. With some tough matchups to follow, the Capitals will have their work cut out for them to secure a finals spot.
Cairns have enjoyed a run of home games after a gruelling triple-header in Round 1, however the Dolphins have struggled early in the season having already played five teams in the top 8. The Dolphins’ best performance was in Round 2 against Mackay with Myra Donkin and Robin Perkins starring on the night. Rachel Pryor has played well this season averaging 14 points and 11 rebounds, but the inclusion of N’Dea Bryant has been massive for Cairns. In her first two games, Bryant has had 26 points, 11 rebounds and 2 assists to lift the Dolphin’s offense. Bryant’s shooting has also been impressive, and she will be a key factor leading into the second half of the season. Logan are sitting outside the 8 on the back of some close losses. The Thunder have yet to string back-to-back wins in 2018 and will be hoping for a more consistent run towards the back end of the year. Zitina Aokusa has been a wonderful addition for Logan racking up 17 points, 11 rebounds, 2 steals and 2 blocks a game and has been the defensive linchpin for the Thunder. Mikhaela Donnelly has averaged 16 points a game including a game-high 31 against the Seahawks in Round 6 and is the leader in assists with 6. Cassie Carroll has also been strong with 13 points and 5 rebounds for the Thunder. The Gold Coast Rollers have been far more competitive this season and managed to win their first game in two years against Gladstone in Round 7. Close losses to Brisbane, South West Metro and the Phoenix is proof they are a developing team with plenty of promise. Once again scoring has been the issue for the Coast. Alicia Carline leads the team with just 13 points a game, closely followed by Kate Hewett and Carleigh Patrick who are also averaging double digits. Defensively the Rollers have been better and have yet to concede 100 points. The Rollers won’t make the playoffs in 2018 but they have impressed many with their play and should avoid the wooden spoon. Gladstone enjoyed a great run deep into the playoffs last season thanks to 2017 Player of the Year – Tabatha Richardson Smith. Unfortunately for the Power, Richardson Smith is no longer there, and the team’s depth has been thoroughly tested in the first seven weeks of the season. Gladstone’s only win came against the lowly Toowoomba Mountaineers at home in Round 3 and they were beaten by last year’s wooden spooners Gold Coast in Round 7 in a tough triple-header. The Power’s defence has struggled this season and the team is ranked lowest in total rebounds and blocks. Amanda Frost has been the biggest contributor on the offensive side of the ball with 21 points and 2 assists, whilst Milomilo Nanai and Ashleigh Kelman-Poto have been impressive in the paint with 15 and 12.8 points a game respectively. The Power have a tough run home including two games against Townsville and will find it extremely hard to make the playoffs. Toowoomba have played the most games of any team in 2018 and are still searching for their first win. It’s been another tough year for the Mountaineers with the team conceding on average almost 100 points per game. Despite their struggles, Toowoomba have had some good individual contributions with Donnaizha Fountain ranked in the top ten scorers and Emily Derksen averaging the third most blocks of any player this year. Malena Washington has played just a handful of games but is scoring 17 a game, whilst Fountain is scoring over 20 points and collecting 11 rebounds for the team. The Mountaineers will play Gold Coast in Rounds 10 and 15 and these games will decide the wooden spoon for 2018 but based on the form of both teams this year, it looks to be a long season for the girls from the west.