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Caps, Lightning lock away Final Four

THE WNBL's 2018-19 Grand Finalists, Canberra and Adelaide, today virtually sealed the 2019-20 Final Four with important road wins over finals wannabes Perth and Sydney respectively.

The Lynx and Flames were the only teams outside the top four capable of ousting Adelaide but Round 11 has been their finals undoing.

With wins over Canberra at home and Sydney on the road, the Lightning took their win-loss record to 8-6 in fourth place.

In losing to Adelaide, the Flames' record now is 6-9 and they also lost the season series to the Lightning.

Canberra bounced back today from its overtime loss in Adelaide by routing Perth to drop the Lynx to 5-9 and they also have lost their season-series to Lightning.

Barring the seriously unforeseen, the battle now will be for positional advantages inside the Final Four.

ROUND 11 opened in Adelaide and Melbourne where Lightning and the Boomers proved too strong for Canberra and Townsville respectively.

Those more full accounts are here.

CARLEY Ernst has enjoyed a positive personal December, despite the trials and tribulations of a Bendigo team searching for its identity.

When it came down to taking a match-winning shot, Ernst was up for the challenge, knocking down a jumpshot to split the Spirit away from Townsville 79-78.

The Fire had a chance to run a play out of Shannon Seebohm's timeout but Tess Madgen's shot to reclaim the win was astray and Bendigo had secured its third win of a torrid season.

Townsville led 78-75 on free throws by Darcee Garbin with 73 seconds to play.

Ernst hit a basket inside the final minute to trim the deficit to a point and when Townsville turned over the ball, Kelly Wilson found Ernst again and she nailed the winner.

Bendigo was missing Gabe Richards but Abbey Wehrung also stepped up with 18 points and rookie Demi Skinner added 16.

Ernst's game-high 24 points included 4-of-6 threes, Bridget Carleton leading the Fire with a 19-point, 12-rebound double, plus three assists and two blocks.

CANBERRA didn't do a lot wrong against Adelaide in regulation, before succumbing in overtime so the Capitals did not roll into Perth on too much of a downer.

Their 26-11 second quarter demolition of the Lynx told the story of their 76-59 victory.

Holding Perth to 11 points in the second period and 12 in the fourth spoke volumes about their defence but also to the home team's stunningly wayward shooting - 28 percent as a team.

Katie-Rae Ebzery with 25 points, was the Lynx's only double figure scorer while Canberra had Kia Nurse burying 23 with five triples.

The Caps also boasted three players with double-doubles, Marianna Tolo 21 points, 10 rebounds (4 blocks), Keely Froling 14 points, 11 rebounds, and livewire guard Olivia Epoupa with 10 points and a whopping 14 rebounds, not to mention seven assists.

For a team hoping to play finals, it was a disappointing performance again from Perth.

THE match of the round may well have been the Sydney Showdown where the Flames looked to catch Adelaide and make a run at the four.

Instead, and despite another round of erroneous fouls on Lightning import Brianna Turner, Lightning found the way to torch the Flames, Stephanie Talbot posting a near triple-double with 13 points, 9 rebounds and 9 assists, and Kathryn Westbeld leading the offence with 17 points on 7-of-8 shooting and 3-of-3 threes.

Nicole Seekamp and Lauren Nicholson also played their roles and Laura Hodges' 14 minutes were a surprise Godsend for Lightning with Turner targeted by the officials.

Hodges' six points were invaluable, Adelaide with a 42-40 halftime lead but with Turner on three fouls and Sydney's Alice Kunek lighting it up for 18 points.

Throwing in some zone and excellent defensive energy, Adelaide kept Kunek to eight in the second half, holding the Flames to a paltry 10 points in the third period.

It was the match-winning quarter for Adelaide, showing great hustle and hitting the offensive glass for debilitating second-shot opportunities.

Sandwiched between and fouled by two defenders, the officials instead gave Turner a foul for allegedly hooking, her fourth and with 2:54 left in the third.

But a wide open Talbot layup, and a Hodges inside bucket took Adelaide 59-48 clear.

Sydney snuck back to 52-59 in the last but Westbeld's 3-pointer pushed the lead out to 10 and it was 11 later on Seekamp's three.

Alex Wilson helped the Flames within six at 61-67 with a triple as Lightning suffered two shot-clock violations in quick succession. 

Westbeld with another three with 3:41 left, then Nicholson with a basket out of a timeout appeared to have settled it at 72-61.

But the jitters set in late as Sydney's extended pressure forced a couple of Talbot turnovers, Lightning's 78-66 lead trimmed to 72-78 with 66 seconds left.

A deep breath later, Adelaide had the game, and most likely the Final Four, wrapped up.

(Talbot 21, Nicholson 15, Brook 14, Turner 11; Talbot 16 rebs; Seekamp 9 assts) d UNI of CANBERRA CAPITALS 68 (Tolo 22, Nurse 16; Epoupa, Tolo 12 rebs; Nurse 5 assts) in overtime {61-61} at The Lighthouse, Titanium Security Arena.
DEAKIN MELBOURNE BOOMERS 77 (George 27, Beck 14, Allen 10; Purcell, Magbegor 9 rebs; Purcell 6 assts) d JCU TOWNSVILLE FIRE 61 (Bishop 19, Madgen 13, Vanloo 10; Garbin 7 rebs; Madgen 4 assts) at The Boomerang, State Basketball Centre.
BENDIGO SPIRIT 79 (Ernst 24, Wehrung 18, Skinner 16, Heal 12; Wilson, Wehrung, Ernst 6 rebs; Wilson 5 assts) d JCU TOWNSVILLE FIRE 78 (Carleton 19, Madgen 17, Garbin 13, Cocks 10; Carleton 12 rebs; Carleton, Bishop 3 assts) at The Spirit Leveller, Bendigo Stadium.
UNI of CANBERRA CAPITALS 76 (Nurse 23, Tolo 21, Froling 14, Epoupa 10; Epoupa 14 rebs; Epoupa 7 assts) d PERTH LYNX 59 (Ebzery 25; Whittle 13 rebs; Schwagmeyer-Belger 4 assts) at The Enclosure, Bendat Stadium.
ADELAIDE LIGHTNING 80 (Westbeld 17, Seekamp, Nicholson, Talbot 13; Talbot 9 rebs; Talbot 9 assts) d SYDNEY UNI FLAMES 72 (Kunek 26, Wilson, Kuster 14; Scherf 7 rebs; 4 with 4 assts) at The Law Courts, Bryden’s Stadium.

Dec 29

Content, unless otherwise indicated, is © copyright Boti Nagy.