By Lauren Rosenberg
After finishing the regular season 15-6, the Melbourne Boomers looked to take Game 1 of the WNBL semi-finals on Feb. 16 against the defending champions, Canberra Capitals, who also ended their season 15-6.
The teams matched up four times in the regular season with Canberra taking three of the four games, their only loss to the Boomers, a 107-72 blow out, in Melbourne.
Kelsey Griffin of the Capitals started the game off with a two point jumper, but Lindsay Allen of the Boomers tied it up, sinking a pair of free throws. She gave Melbourne the lead with a layup.
Keely Froling gave Canberra their first lead of the game since the opening tip with a driving layup and a converted and-one to gain a three point advantage with a score of 13-10.
Melbourne slowly inched their way back from their deficit when Sophie Cunningham made a layup to shrink the deficit to one with a score of 15-14.
Shortly after, Cunningham sank a three-pointer to tie up at 17 apiece.
Lindsay Allen gave Melbourne the lead once again on a jumper to make the score 22-21, but Maria Tolo responded with a jumper of her own to end the first period with Canberra leading 23-22.
WNBL MVP Kia Nurse was ice cold throughout the first period but started off the second period with two free throws to extend Canberra’s lead. Cayla George pulled up for a three to tie the game followed by a jumper by Maddie Garrick to give the Boomers the lead with a score of 27-25.
Melbourne started to catch fire, with Ezi Magbegor draining two free throws but Canberra followed with a layup from Epoupa and Marianna Tolo to tie it up at 29 all.
George drained a hook shot to give Melbourne the lead.
Both teams went on a turnover frenzy, but neither could capitalize until Cunningham drained two free throws.
George gave the Boomers the lead at the half with a layup with 16 seconds left and a score of 39-37.
For the first 1:05 of the third period, neither team could score until George drained a three to give the Boomers a 42-39 lead. Tolo responded with a hook shot to cut the deficit to one.
Melbourne was not looking to lighten up. Cunningham drained a two point jumper followed by a defensive stop with Maddie Garrick blocking Tolo’s shot on the other end.
Cunningham did what she’s done throughout college at the University of Missouri and sunk a turn-around jumper and converted the and-one opportunity to extend Melbourne’s lead to seven with a score of 51-44. Nurse followed a bit later with three of her own.
Gemma Potter came up with a steal on the following play, but George had a huge block with a Cunningham rebound. Allen couldn’t capitalize and missed a three.
After Tolo missed a hook shot, Penina Davidson grabbed the board and launched the ball to Stella Beck who missed the three, giving the Capitals a chance to end the drought but Froling couldn’t capitalize.
Nurse brought the momentum back for Canberra by draining two threes in a row to take the lead with a score of 53-51.
Potter and Cunningham traded two pointers but Maddison Rocci sunk a layup to give Canberra the edge at the end of the third period with a score of 57-55.
Garrick started out the third period, draining a three to give Melbourne a 58-57 lead but Epoupa drove for a layup to give Canberra the one point lead.
Canberra went on a small 6-0 run to extend the lead to five but Garrick ended the run by sinking a pull-up jumper.
Nurse continued her hot streak by draining a three followed by a Tolo hook shot to bring the lead to double-digits with a score of 77-64.
Allen cut the lead to 11 with a two-point jumper followed by Beck splitting her free throws.
Garrick sunk a three to cut the lead to nine but it was too little too late as Nurse drained the final shot, a three, as the Capitals defeated the Boomers.
Top performers for the Boomers
Lindsay Allen: 17 points, 3 rebounds, 5 assists
Maddie Garrick: 16 points, 5 rebounds, 3 steals, 1 block
Sophie Cunningham: 14 points, 3 rebounds
Cayla George: 12 points, 8 rebounds, 2 steals, 4 blocks
Top performers for the Capitals
Kia Nurse: 25 points, 4 rebounds
Olivia Epoupa: 19 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists
Keely Froling: 11 points, 6 rebounds, 2 blocks
Kelsey Griffin: 7 points, 12 rebounds
Canberra will travel to Melbourne to try and secure their ticket to the Grand Final on Feb. 23.
Edited by Emma Moloney | email@example.com