BOTH Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) teams know that there is a maximum two games left in the season, and for the University of Canberra (UC) Capitals, there is no better time to strike than tonight. The reigning premiers came from behind in Game 1 to upset the Southside Flyers on the road and get up by just two points in an enthralling contest. It put the Capitals 1-0 up and turned the tables on the favouritism for the title, given both sides’ ability to create a fortress out of their home court. UC Capitals in particular have been unbelievably dominant at AIS Arena, winning all bar one game at the venue.
That one blemish is what the Flyers will hold onto in this match as indeed it was the Southside team that toppled the Capitals in the nation’s capital. On that night, Southside got up by five points, coming from three points down at the final break to win 70-65. Rebecca Cole shot a game-high 21 points, while Mercedes Russell finished with a double-double of 17 points and 10 rebounds. Former Capital, Leilani Mitchell (15 points, seven rebounds) was also prolific in the win, while Marianna Tolo (16 points, six rebounds) and Kia Nurse (13 points, five rebounds) were the prominent scorers in the losing side, while Olivia Epoupa (11 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and four steals was the best on the court for the Capitals.
Fast forward to last week, and the Capitals turned the tables on the minor premiers, claiming an 82-80 win at the State Basketball Centre, breaking a four-game winning streak by the league’s top side. Though it was not the first time it had happened, because the previous loss for the Flyers was again a defeat at the hands of UC, and again on Southside’s home court. That time it was much uglier with a 24-point win, but last week’s victory has more relevance, and there was not much between the sides by the final buzzer.
Cole again was the top scorer in the match, putting up 23 points as well as recording seven assists, two rebounds and two blocks, while last year’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) Kelsey Griffin was back to her best with a stunning 18 points, 12 rebounds and two assists. She combined well with the 2019/20 MVP Nurse, who sank 18 points herself and collected five rebounds and two assists. Tolo (15 points, four rebounds and four assists) and Epoupa (14 points, nine rebounds, six assists and four steals) were also busy around the court. Aside from Cole, the Flyers shared the points around with Mitchell (15 points, five rebounds, five assists and two steals) and Russell (13 points, nine rebounds) busy, as was Jenna O’Hea who returned to the court after an injury layoff to put up numbers of 14 points and six rebounds. Despite injuring her hand, up-and-coming young gun Maddison Rocci has said she will fight through the pain in Game 2 to try and win back-to-back titles.
The game tips off from 7.30pm at AIS Arena tonight with the UC Capitals strong favourites to sweep the series. The Flyers have had too good of a season to go down without a fight however, and this promises to be a ripping contest. Both these teams would be deserving favourites in the clash, but given UC’s record at home, it is hard to see them losing.