Capitals secure home court advantage for playoffs with narrow win over Lightning
The UC Capitals have secured a home court advantage for the playoffs after grinding out a narrow 2 point victory against a dogged Adelaide Lightning at Canberra’s National Convention Centre on Saturday evening.
In an exciting potential preview of the grand final playoffs series, the Capitals are now in second place, after having won their regular season series against their semi-final opponents the Melbourne Boomers.
The hosts did it the hard way though, with the Lightning – missing injured skipper Nicole Seekamp – pushing coach Paul Goriss’ side all the way to the final second, where a stray Lightning pass from a time-out restart went out-of-bounds to give the Capitals the game and a decisive advantage for their forthcoming series against the Boomers.
Kia Nurse starred for the Capitals, shooting 28 points and grabbing 9 boards, battling her way through a less than ideal FG percentage (35 per cent) to exert a huge influence over the game.
Her last basket, which pushed the lead out to 73-69 with 38 seconds remaining, was particularly controversial, with speculation on the live commentary the referees missed a travel she may have committed en route to getting the 2 points.
However, it was just another twist in a game filled with them: The Lightning jumped out of the blocks early to hold a 21-19 lead at quarter time, with Steph Talbot – who finished narrowly short of a triple-double for the whole game with 15 points, 11 rebounds and 9 assists – putting up 8 points for the quarter.
From there, the Lightning pushed their lead out further early in the second period, leading 31-21 less than 2-and-a-half minutes after play resumed.
However, in front of a home crowd, the defending champions responded, with Nurse putting up 14 points for the half, while Maddi Rocci (16 points) and Marianna Tolo (13 points) each had 8 to half-time, allowing the Capitals to take a slender lead 37-36 lead into the main break.
The lead began to ebb and flow, with the Lightning’s stand-in skipper Lauren Nicholson (16 points) becoming increasingly influential in a cat-and-mouse contest with Rocci to have 12 points at the final break.
In the end though, it was Rocci and the Capitals who had the last laugh: Nicholson fouled out with less than 2 minutes to go in the last quarter, the score 67-66 the hosts way, and the defending champions took advantage.
They pushed the lead out to 4 points (73-69) and held on for a narrow victory that could prove pivotal as they attempt to achieve back-to-back WNBL titles.
The UC Capitals will hold home court advantage when they play against the Melbourne Boomers after winning their regular-season series against the side to claim second spot.
Meanwhile, after finishing fourth, the Adelaide Lightning will prepare for the scariest challenge in the WNBL: A playoff series where the first placed Southside Flyers will hold home court advantage.
WNBL ROUND 16
UC CAPITALS (Nurse 28, Rocci 16, Tolo 13)
ADELAIDE LIGHTNING (Nicholson 16, Talbot 15, Westbeld 10)