Graham Croker
A pair of wins on the road in the penultimate round of the Women’s National Basketball League has resulted in Canberra Capitals leap-frogging the ACUVUE Sydney University Flames into second place on the competition ladder.
Canberra accounted for Perth Lynx 90-59 in Perth on Friday night and backed that up with a 99-72 win over Adelaide Lightning in Adelaide on Sunday.
The Flames, who have held down second place for most of the season behind Bulleen, only had one match in the round. They did the right thing by defeating Townsville Flames 77-73 in a nail-biter at New Projects Australia Stadium in Townsville on Friday night.
But it was not enough to hold onto second place on the ladder. While the Flames and Canberra each have 15 wins and five losses after 21 games, the Capitals hold a slight points advantage of 124.28 to the Flames’ 118.06.
All eyes will now be on the clashes between Canberra and competition front-runners Bulleen and the Flames and Perth Lynx in the final round. Bulleen have only suffered one loss this season – to the Flames. But the Capitals now have Lauren Jackson back in the ranks and she could be the X-factor in determining who grabs second berth going into the finals.
Should Townsville (4th) and Bendigo (5th) hold their places in the final round, they will meet in an elimination final on February 17. A regular semi-finals format will then take place with one v two in the major semi-final and three v four in the minor semi-final. The final will be played on February 27 and the grand final on March 6, with all matches from the semi-finals on being broadcast on ABC TV.
While the Flames were pleased with their efforts in Townsville, they will be watching the recovery progress on Suzy Batkovic-Brown, who was forced off with a knee injury in the third quarter.
The Flames held sway for most of the first quarter until a pair of three-pointers from Amy Lewis and Rohanee Cox saw the hosts trail 20-19 at the first break.
Although Batkovic-Brown added 11 second quarter points to her eight in the first term, the Flames relinquished the lead, trailing 37-34 at the main break.
They regained the lead early in the third term before losing Batkovic-Brown, who was replaced by Ellie Manoe.
In a see-sawing quarter, the Fire edged ahead again before Flames guard Deanne Butler landed a sink shot from just inside the half-way line to give University at 58-56 lead at the final break.
Both teams became physical towards the end of the game, but Townsville ruined their chances by giving away fouls and struggling to grasp rebounds.
Meanwhile, the Flames stuck to their task and celebrated when Natalie Porter iced the game from the free throw line to secure a four-point lead in the dying seconds. They then awaited news from the west – and it wasn’t good.
The Flames will meet Perth Lynx at the Sydney University Sport and Fitness Centre on Saturday night with a 7pm tip-off
ACUVUE Sydney University Flames 77 (Suzy Baktovic-Brown 28, Deanna Smith 16, Natalie Porter 12) d Townsville Fire 73 (Rohanee Cox 26, Amy Lewis 18, Jo Hill 14) at New Projects Australia Stadium in Townsville.