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NBL, WNBL Round 1, Saturday

THE NBL already has enjoyed two cut-throat thrillers with a two-point and a one-point game and today, the WNBL returns to TV on FOX SPORTS when title favourites Townsville and Melbourne battle it out.

If you can't get to the game, then absolutely don't miss it on FOX.

That's before Sydney Kings host Adelaide 36ers in the first of an NBL double-header, backed up by Perth hosting Brisbane.

This is a "sit back and relax in front of the TV" day if ever there was one!


Townsville Fire at Melbourne Boomers


MELBOURNE opened its season with a comprehensive win over Dandenong on the road so will be rapt to entertain powerhouse Townsville in its home opener. These are my teams to finish #1 and #2 and the keyway battle between Boomers' big Liz Cambage and WNBL superstar Suzy Batkovic looms larger than life. The Boomers didn't miss power forward Louella Tomlinson against the Rangers too badly but her absence (broken finger) will be more evident against the Fire's "twin towers" of Batkovic and Cayla George. Jenna O'Hea and Mia Murray head-to-head also will be tough, great matchups right across the board in this one. Townsville went out of the playoffs meekly last season and will want to open 2017-18 with a statement. This win would certainly be that.


Adelaide 36ers at Sydney Kings, Brisbane Bullets at Perth Wildcats


IT truly is impossible to know how playing against Utah Jazz last week will impact on the Kings in their home opener. "It's a completely foreign situation to one I've ever faced," Adelaide coach Joey Wright said of tonight's season-opener for Sydney. Do the Kings come in on a letdown after playing an NBA opponent and all of its buildup, struggling to deal with jetlag and its after-effects? Or do they come in and find the 36ers a piece of cake after combating the height, length, depth and athleticism of the Jazz? The only comparable situation I can think of is when the 36ers represented the NBL at the McDonald's World Club Championship in Milan in 1999 and had to have a regular season bye to get away. When they came home from that, they looked unbeatable for a long time and won the regular season championship, before it came undone. So how will players such as Kevin Lisch, Brad Newley, Perry Ellis respond today? I'm betting super strongly and it's tough to tip against them. Last season, after losing to Illawarra on opening night, the 36ers beat Melbourne in Melbourne and they swept Sydney last year. History isn't on the Kings' side but if they can grab a share of the boards, it won't matter.


DEFENDING champion Perth at home against last season's bomb shelter resident Brisbane doesn't fill you with confidence the Bullets can score a tremendous road victory at the Jungle. (Then again, the WNBL opened with its last-placed team Adelaide beating the defending champion Sydney...) But Perth Arena? Frankly, it's a jungle in there, the Wildcats ready to embark on the club's great 2017-18 mission - to secure its historic threepeat. What a backcourt battle looms too, with Damian Martin and Bryce Cotton defending homecourt against Travis Trice, Stephen Holt and Adam Gibson. Derek Cooke Jr is Perth's latest superstar-in-waiting and this will be a tough atmosphere for Andrej Lemanis' crew to find solace in. Cannot see Brisbane winning this time.


NBL: CAIRNS TAIPANS 88 (Loughton 19, McCarron 14, Jawai 12; Jawai 5 rebs; Weigh, Gliddon, McCarron 4 assts) d ILLAWARRA HAWKS 87 (Clarke 23, Ogilvy 22, Conger 16, Norton 12; Ogilvy 11 rebs; Kay, Oglivy 4 assts) at The Orange Grove, Cairns Convention Centre.

CAIRNS made it a record 17 straight season-opening home wins when Alex Loughton, having an outstanding game generally, coolly converted a free throw at 0:00 to clinch a thriller. He deliberately botched the second shot to leave the Hawks no time for anything but despair after looking in control for much of another terrific opening round contest. This one had 32 lead changes and was tied 14 times, Nathan Jawai threatening to tear it apart before suffering an injury after laying in his 12th point in 14:38 of first-half action. Illawarra opened with an AJ Ogilvy dunk, Mitch Norton getting to the hoop, all before Rotnei Clarke hit the court to stick 7-of-9 threes. But the Taipans stepped up in the clutch, Jarrad Weeks sticking two late free throws after Mitch McCarron was hurt and Loughton completing a memorable game with the winning free throw. Though why Rhys Martin ever fouled him when overtime was the alternative must remain a mystery.

WINNER WINNER CHICKEN DINNER: Alex Loughton's winning free throw. Pic: Gordon Greaves

WNBL: ADELAIDE LIGHTNING 91 (Novosel 21, Seekamp 16, Nicholson 14, Hamblin 12, Panousis 11; Hamblin, Novosel 8 rebs; Novosel 9 assts) d SYDNEY UNI FLAMES 80 (Ebzery 20, Wilson 18, Snell 16, Hamson 12; Taylor 10 rebs; Ebzery 7 assts) at the Lighthouse, Titanium Security Arena.

EN route to a near triple-double with 21 points, 8 rebounds and 9 assists, Natalie Novosel opened this match between 2017's bomb shelter resident and the defending champ with a 3-pointer and Adelaide never looked back! Ruth Hamblin dominated the paint for 9 first-quarter points, then Nicole Seekamp took over with a 14-point period on 5-of-5 shooting with 3-of-3 threes as Lightning raced 33-19 clear after one. The lead bulged to 17 before Alex Wilson and Katie-Rae Ebzery led a Sydney revival which closed the champs to 43-45 ahead of halftime. Belinda Snell even had a three for the lead but it clunked and Adelaide never looked back. Never headed, it also had big games from Lauren Nicholson and Vanessa Panousis.

CANBERRA CAPITALS 93 (Wehrung 22, Hooper 18, Gaze 14, Magbegor 12, Bass 10; Magbegor, Hurst 8 rebs; Hurst 14 assts) d BENDIGO SPIRIT 80 (Griffin 22, Laney 19, Payne 13, Banham 10; Oliver 8 rebs; Banham 4 assts) at the Alphabet Soup, National Convention Centre.

WORLD Uni Games Gold Medallist Abbey Wehrung opened this with a 3-pointer for Canberra which spun a 9-0 run from 6-6 on to an opening period 22-12 lead and was never caught by Bendigo. The further it went, the worse it got for the Spirit as Canberra bumped its buffer to 21. The Caps hit 10-of-20 threes and shot 50 per cent from the floor, Wehrung with 22 including 4-of-5 triples. Ezi Magbegor made a 12-point, 8-rebound debut playing 20 minutes, the Capitals' bench scoring 42 points. In comparison, Bendigo got 12 points from its bench, instead heavily reliant on stars Kelsey Griffin (22) and Betnijah Laney (19) in a dispiriting start for the regional club.

NBL TOMORROW: Cairns Taipans at New Zealand Breakers

WNBL TOMORROW: Adelaide Lightning at Canberra Capitals, Sydney Uni Flames at Perth Lynx

Oct 7

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