Boomers end Capitals WNBL title defence
Revenge was sweet for Deakin Melbourne Boomers after they ended the UC Capitals’ title defence and advanced to Friday’s 2020 Chemist Warehouse WNBL preliminary final.
Still smarting after the Capitals broke their hearts by ending yet another Boomers title tilt last season, Melbourne turned the tables with a spirited 78-68 victory in Wednesday’s knockout semi-final in Townsville.
After sabotaging the Capitals’ quest for three straight championships, the Boomers will now play the loser of the major semi-final clash between minor premiers Jayco Southside Flyers and JCU Townsville Fire.
The Boomers had plenty to prove on Wednesday after their frustrating recent finals form.
Indeed, the Boomers have only claimed one championship – back in 2011 – despite being the WNBL’s oldest club.
Their finals fortunes were arguably summed up in the past three campaigns.
After losing the grand final series to the Fire in 2017-18, the Boomers had been knocked out in the semi-final round the last two seasons including their heartbreaking 2-1 result in February to the Capitals.
But the Boomers can now dare to dream of ending their championship drought after knocking out the Capitals, the most successful WNBL franchise with nine titles.
The Boomers’ 2020 WNBA championship winner Ezi Magbegor (20 points, 11 rebounds, four blocks) was inspirational on Wednesday along with fellow Opal Tess Madgen (13 points, nine rebounds, six assists) and co-captain Maddie Garrick (15 points).
Melbourne showed why they were the best defensive team in the league, finishing with 13 blocks to just one and ensuring the Capitals never led during the game.
“They are two-time champions for a reason, such a physical and hard team to break down,” Boomers coach Guy Molloy said.
“I know we will have some sore bodies tonight.”
Bench weapon Brittany Smart (15 points), Opals squad member Maddy Rocci (14 points, seven assists) and co-captain Kelsey Griffin (12 points, 11 rebounds) impressed for the Capitals but it wasn’t enough to keep alive their quest to become the first team to win three straight titles since Adelaide Lightning in 1996.
Yet emotional Capitals coach Paul Goriss was proud of his side who again threatened despite juggling players returning from injury including Griffin (shoulder).
Despite the Capitals’ hardships, the season unearthed rising star Jade Melbourne and proved a breakout 2020 for livewire guard Rocci.
“We’ve had to handle a lot but… that’s a character trait for our group, they never give up,” Goriss said.
“We didn’t have the same group, so it was always going to be difficult. For us it wasn’t about a three-peat… it was about winning a championship with a different group.
“The hub season without imports was about the opportunity Australian girls were going to get and I am super proud of how they stood up and delivered.”
The Boomers set the tone by shooting at 70 percent from the field to lead 32-20 at the opening break, their biggest first quarter haul of the season.
The lead blew out to 16 early in the second before the Capitals went on a 12-0 run and reduced the deficit to 41-35 by halftime.
The Capitals got to within three in the third term, but the Boomers hit back through bench weapon Izzy Wright (13 points) and led 63-52 by the final interval before surviving some anxious moments in the final minute.
Laine Clark is a freelance contributor to WNBL.basketball
Deakin Melbourne Boomers – 78 (Magbegor 20, Garrick 15, Madgen 13, Wright 13)
UC Capitals – 68 (Smart 15, Rocci 14, Griffin 12)