MATCH REPORT: Fire douse Lightning comeback in fourth
After trailing by as many as 22 points in their opening encounter, the Adelaide Lightning launched a comeback that just fell short in the final stanza…
Trailing by 22 points in the third quarter the Adelaide Lightning produced a comeback in the fourth to nearly snuff out the Townsville Fire. But ran into an ex-teammate in Lauren Nicholson at the precipice 59-70 in their opener to the WNBL 21/22 season at the Lights Community and Sports Centre this weekend.
THE WRAP Q BY Q
Lauren Nicholson opened the game with a triple to launch an 0-7 start with head coach Chris Lucas burning timeout. Captain Steph Talbot struck a couple from the free throw line before Alanna Smith hit her first field goal in the WNBL. Kylee Shook then drained one to start a 6-0 run of her teams own, however the Fire found their way to the free throw line in the first with 8 of 10. Talbot finished a tough reverse lay-up, Abbey Wehrung brought big hustle to the floor epitomised by a one-on-one scrap for the ball with Zitina Aokuso which she won, Smith hit a turnaround tough fade away to close the quarter 13-16.
Shook opened the quarter with a big triple for the Lightning with Talbot then reading Nicholson, blocking her and running coast to coast for the lay-in. Three fouls on Smith meant rotations changed as she sat with Shook spending more time at the five spot and Nicholson made the Lightning pay with another triple which triggered another timeout. A 2-10 run was started with Mia Murray draining another three before import recruit Kiana Williams made her first bucket for the club with a step-back jumper to close it to 27-32 at the main break.
Aokuso started with an offensive board put back, Monique Billings added to her tally, then Nicholson drained another deuce for a 0-6 run before Talbot bullocked her way to the bucket for a two. A Billings triple forced timeout on a 2-9 run, Smith picking up her fourth foul then picked up her fifth foul in an unfortunate turn of events ending her night. The Fire turned up the defence as they held Lightning to a 3-17 run in 7 wearing minutes. Michaela Cocks back from giving birth to a child hit one with one on the shotclock, Talbot wrestling her way to the hoop to try and inspire her team back into the contest and it took Ella “to bring the rain” Batish to drain the buzzer beating triple to get them back within reach; with one to go it was 38-53.
The Lightning came out sparking in the fourth with Williams draining her first triple then Talbot laying it in punishing some light switches on defence to get her side a 7-2 run and back in the contest. It didn’t stop there as the home side in their new house poured in an incredible 16-4 run on the back of their two imports and Captain as she drained another triple to get the “House of Lightning” rocking. Marena Whittle pulled in an enormous offensive rebound putback had them breathing down the Fire’s neck at 56-57 with 3:55 to go. Nicholson notched her 20th and 22nd point to steady the away side in leader like fashion before a back and forth ensured as both teams pumped up the pressure. Mia Murray dropped a dagger from the corner to make it real difficult with Williams then missing the returning triple. Aokuso made her layup in return and even a late Talbot triple could not prevent the Lightning falling in their first home game 59-70.
THE MOMENTS LIGHTNING STRUCK
- In the second five minutes of the third quarter the Lightning began their comeback evening it out 8-8 before their fourth quarter run.
- The fourth quarter run of 16-4 was setup by plus 8 on points from turnovers, plus 7 on second chance points and plus 4 on fast break points; that included a 12-0 run.
THE PLAYERS VIEW
Taylor Ortlepp said the players were naturally disappointed with the result but took something away from the fightback, “I think the energy picked up, that energy was lacking at the start, it’s exciting to see what will happen going forward.”
Ortlepp highlighted Sam Simons debut who saw a few more minutes maybe than anticipated in an exciting start to her WNBL career, “She played with a lot of composure and showed like she had played in this league before.”
WHEN THE NEXT STRIKE COMES
Next up the Lightning are due to have the Canberra Capitals but regardless of which opponent is next for the blue, red and yellow; The fourth quarter comeback will be the catalyst and motivation needed to make sure they close the next one out.
ADELAIDE LIGHTNING 59 (Talbot 19, Shook 9, Smith 8, Williams 7) DEFEATED BY TOWNSVILLE FIRE 70 (Nicholson 24, Billings 15, Aokuso 13, Murray 9) at the Lights Community and Sports Centre