It's been a while, so it's probably time to give you the results for Weeks 1 - 10 for the AHBA 2012 season...
March 1st, 2012 - Air Asaca Arena, Rondelle, Ocella
Press Release: AHBA Commissioner Karen Raito & AHBA Deputy Commissioner Freya Faulkner
"It is with great pleasure that Freya and I can announce that the AHBA 2012 season has now officially begun. Tonight marks the first game, with the Rondelle Queens up against the Honnaro Flight here at Air Asaca, which Freya and I will be courtside for. Friday brings game two, with the 2011 AHBA Champions, the Rondelle Lions facing off against the Asuka Magic, also here at Air Asaca Arena."
"Saturday will see the Chibihasa Lightning take on the Jarran Jaguars at the Chiba Energy Center. Sunday will feature the Turrif Raiders taking on the Back to Back Northern Conference Champions, the Hikaru Heat at CCargo Arena. Karen and I are looking forward to tonight's game and to find out what the rest of the season season will bring."
AHBA 2012 Rosters:
AHBA Season Results
Weeks 1 - 6:
Weeks 7 - 10:
Standings After Week 10:
It seems that the 2012 Expansion Draft has not been kind to the up and coming Lightning, who shockingly are sitting 8th, with a record of 3 - 7 through the first 10 games. After last year's surge to 4th something seems not quite right in Chibihasa, something which O2 Suzuka Gibbons dismissed as "early season jitters". A nine point win against newcomers Jarran in Week 1, a large victory against the Honnaro Flight in Week 5 fuelled largely by Suzuka Gibbon's AHBA record 40 points and a gritty 11 point win against the two time Northern Conference Champions, the Hikaru Heat, in Week 9 have been Chibihasa's bright spots in what has been a largely disappointing first ten weeks for Chibihasa. Coach Kazu Marshall said that she wasn't concerned about her team's rough start, and that she knew what she needed to do to get her team back on their feet. This rough start has reminded some of Chibihasa's horrible 2010 season, but fans are hoping things will turn around fast. The lack of wins away from home (0 - 5 away, 3 - 3 at home) is also concerning, something the Lightning will need to change in the coming weeks.
No one expected much out of the two expansion teams in their first season, and the Jarran Jaguars have certainly met those low expectations, finishing the first 10 games with a record of 3 - 7, in 7th place, only ahead of the Chibihasa Lightining in Point Differential (-14 to -40). Like Chibihasa, Jarran has been struggling away from home, losing all 5 of their road games. Jarran's three wins came in Week 2; where they beat the 2011 AHBA Champion Rondelle Lions on a game winner from 2nd overall pick O5 Gracie Warren, Week 6; where they beat the Turrif Raiders in a team effort, and in Week 8; getting their revenge on the Lightning, beating them by a point less than the Lightning beat them. 2nd Overall Pick, Gracie Warren has shown that she not only belongs in the league, but that she will be a great leader and future All Star, after being thrust straight into the Jaguars' captaincy. The Jarran crowd seem to be loving the team despite their lack of success, which bodes well for the future of the team.
In sixth place, with a record of 5 - 5 (2 - 3 home, 3 - 2 away) the Honnaro Flight have had a much better start to their first season compared to that of their expansion cousins, the Jarran Jaguars. The team looks to be stronger overall compared to the Jaguars, especially in the starting lineup, which is well indicated by Honnaro's extra wins. Honnaro's wins came in; Week 3, against the Jaguars, beating them thanks to Honnaro's superior defence by 8, Week 4, beating the two-time Conference Champion Hikaru Heat by 7 in a gritty effort, Week 7, where they beat the Raiders by 3 in a close game, Week 9, taking down the Magic in a game that seemed close on the scoreboard, but not so much on the court and Week 10, where they beat the Jaguars again (making them 2 - 0 against their expansion cousins), this time by only 3. The Flight are on a two game win streak currently, which they hope to continue. 1st Overall Pick, Brooke Douglas, has also been thrust into captaincy early on and has shown that she too is a great leader. Her production however is slightly lower than her fellow rookie Gracie Warren, so look for Brooke to prove herself further throughout the season.
In fifth, with an identical record to the Flight, 5 - 5 (2 - 3 home, 3 - 2 away), is the Asuka Magic. The only difference between fifth and sixth is PD, with the Magic boasting a PD of -30 compared to Honnaro's -69. 2012 has been much kinder so far to the Magic, who look to finally be on track. Captain Nana Tomita is very happy with her team's play as of late, saying in a post-game interview: "The locker room feels the best it ever has, there's just so much positivity around. I think we are all excited at the prospect of making the playoffs despite how early in the year we are." The Magic's five wins came in; Week 2, where O2 Sienna Connolly hit an almost half court shot to win the game, devastating the Flight, Week 3, the Magic won in overtime on a huge defensive stop by their captain, Week 5 bought a fairly easy win by 9 points against the Jaguars in Jarran, Week 7 saw the Magic led by 5th Overall Pick, Melissa Hart (who has lead the bench for the Magic) and the bench in a 12 point win against the Lightning and Week 8, where a whole team effort saw the Magic embarrass the Defending Champion Lions by 20.
The two-time Northern Conference Champions, the Hikaru Heat, find themselves also at 5 - 5, but with a much better home record (4 - 1 home, 1 - 4 away) than the two teams before them. The Heat also boast a positive PD of +44, which is the second highest overall. The main concern for the Heat is the losses away from home, but every team above them is in a similar situation, and the Heat have proved before that they can win games on the road. Their lone road win came against their rivals, the Asuka Magic in Week 6, by a large margin. The rest of the wins came at home for the Heat, winning in; Week 2, where they pulled out a six point win over the Lighting, Week 5, which saw the Heat win by 15 against the Queens, Week 7, saw the Heat pull out another 15+ point (23 point) win this time against newcomers Jarran and Week 10, in which the Heat once again won by 15+points (19 points), this time taking the first game of the season series against their matchup in the finals last year, the Rondelle Lions. On the rookie side of things for the Heat, the 7th Overall Pick, Hisa Howarth, has been putting up solid rebounding numbers for their bench, making the Heat's bench one of the most potent defensively. Last season's RotY, Gracie Bird has also shown once again that she is more than capable of filling the O2 spot, scoring 15 points in 5 straight games.
The 2011 AHBA Champions, the Rondelle Lions, find themselves a win ahead of their matchup in last year's finals, the Hikaru Heat. Sitting at 6 - 4, with an even better home record (4 - 0 home, 2 - 4 away) than the Heat, it seems that the Lions are still on top in this matchup, despite losing to the Heat by 19 in Week 10. The Lions have started very similarly to how they played during last season, winning plenty of games at home. The Lions won at home in; Week 1, where they beat the Magic by a considerable margin, with Megan Murata getting 4 steals in just 14 minutes of play, Week 3, winning a game that turned out much closer on the scoreboard than how it looked on court against the Heat, Week 7 saw the Lions take the first game in the Rondelle Derby by 9 points, behind a double double (17 points, 12 rebounds) from O5 Harriet Higarashi and Week 9, pulling out a close win against the Jarran Jaguars. The Lions also won on the road in Week 4, winning by four against a lost looking Lightning squad and in Week 6 against newcomers the Honnaro Flight by 6 points. Rookie wise, 8th Overall Pick, Sophie Yoshizawa is starting for the Lions, averaging around 7 rebounds and 1 block a game.
Also sitting at 6 - 4 (5 - 0 home, 1 - 4 away) is the Lions hometown rivals, the Rondelle Queens. The Queens have started out strong this year, bolstered by the return of O5 Natasha Barber from her injury late last season. The combination of Barber and fellow O5 Emma Suga has provided for the Queens time and time again during the early part of the season, especially in the Queens' Week 1 destruction of the Flight, where Suga threw down a huge dunk on rookie Brooke Douglas off a pass from Barber. Team MVP D1 Yumemi Koyama has once again quietly shown her skills defensively racking up 5 steals in that same game. The Queens, much like the two teams below them (and the team above them) in the standings, have not won many games on the road, suggesting that road wins may end up being the only thing that separates the top 4. Aside from Week 1, wins came in; Week 2, where Koyama took over the game defensively, allowing her matchup a single point in the last quarter to pull out a 12 point win over the Raiders, Week 4, where Barber and Suga combined for 30 points and 21 rebounds to beat the Jaguars by 10, Week 6, hanging on in the last quarter by 4 against the Lightning, with a large amount of their starting defensive players on the bench after getting into foul trouble early, Week 8, where they recorded their lone road victory with a 6 point win over the newly formed Flight, and Week 10, a slow game which the O5 duo dominated from start to finish. One main concern for the Queens this season will be making sure Suga stays, which judging by the team's success of late, should not be too much of an issue. Rookie wise for the Queens, 6th overall pick, Mayuko Morley has shown to be a solid shooter, especially when playing next to Gaudenzia Dironi, who has been passing the ball extremely well off the bench. Morley currently sits 4th in 3 point shooting percentage, shooting 40% from 3.
Leading the league after the first 10 weeks is the Turrif Raiders. Sitting at 7 - 3 (4 - 1 home, 3 - 2 away), the Raiders have well and truly bounced back after the horror show that was 2011 for them. Some signs of the 2010 Championship winning team are starting to show again, but with a vastly improved offensive game under new Head Coach Isabel Browne. No one player on the Raiders seems to carry the load, with the whole team always contributing. This team first mindset has been a staple of the Raiders since their 2010 championship win, despite the team leaning slightly too hard on O2 Chloe Baxter last season. Turrif bought home wins in; Week 1, off a stellar bench performance to beat the Heat by 14, Week 3, which was much the same as their Week 1 win, but with the starters leading the way to pull out the win against the Lightning, Week 4, where they pulled out a narrow win (4 points) against the Magic in Asuka, Week 5, where they took a 3 point win in overtime on a big 3 by Chloe Barber, Week 8, where they beat the Northern Conference leaders, the Hikaru Heat by ten in Hikaru, Week 9, where they won by only 1, thanks to Summer Bennett's huge block on Anri Machida with 0.3 seconds left and Week 10 where they beat the struggling Lightning by 10 in Chibihasa. There is some slight unrest in Turrif however, as D1 Jodie Thornton has not been pleased about starting on the bench. Thornton was moved to the bench to allow 4th Overall Pick Sarah Miles to start. Miles has been quite solid defensively, showing why she deserves the starting spot over Thornton. After these first ten weeks, people are starting to wonder if they will see Turrif return to the finals once again...
"There has recently been many rumours around that Chibihasa O2 Suzuka Gibbons has been trying to recruit various players to join her in Chibihasa next season. One of these names is ex-teammate O3 Sanako Shinohara, who was a close friend of Gibbons' in their time in Hikaru. Gibbons has said that "we may not be able to get her (Shinohara) 'cause we might not be able to pay her enough." Shinohara, when asked about the idea of joining Gibbons said: "As much as I would enjoy playing alongside her again, I want to focus on now, and worry about that later." Hoopballfeed.com.ac, March 7, 2012
"We sat down with Showpony herself, and asked her a few questions on adjusting to life in Rondelle, the ABHA and why she came over, her number choice and that nickname.
AsacaHoops: First of all, thanks for coming and talking to us.
Gaudenzia Dironi: My pleasure.
AH: How has Rondelle been treating you so far? Has there been anything that has been hard to get used to?
GD: It's been really fun actually, people here are so kind, which has really helped me settle in. People don't understand me sometimes because of my accent. It happens all the time when I'm having dinner with the team, so they usually have to say what I want again. *laughs* People spell my name wrong all the time, which is also funny. *laughs*
AH: It really does seem that you get along with everyone out on the court, but is there anyone in particular you get along with well?
GD: Yuemi (Koyama, Queens captain) has been really helpful in getting everyone to make me feel welcome, but Bread (her nickname for Yurina Baker) has got to be my favourite teammate. We go almost everywhere together, and she's shown me some pretty cool places.
AH: You guys have been playing well lately and so have you for your first season over here. Is there any difference in the AHBA to how you played back home in Itesca?
GD: We have been playing great lately, which is good, and I'm just doing what I can to help. There is heaps more three's in the AHBA, which I'm not used to. We only took them as a last resort in Itesca.
AH: What made you come over here to play in the AHBA? Why did you choose the Queens?
GD: The fans love me! *laughs* But the idea of playing against the best in the world was the real reason. I chose the Queens because of the players on the team. I thought that I could be a real help to the team.
AH: Why number 10?
GD: I couldn't have number 1 because Emma (Suga) has it, so I added the 0 on the end.
AH: Last one, how do you feel about being called Showpony?
GD: I love it! *laughs* I like to celebrate and have fun, so I like it.
AH: Thanks for your time.
GD: No problems!" AsacaHoops, Issue 33, March 2012.
That's all for now, but expect Weeks 11-20 sometime soon, and maybe some ASHBA concepts as well...