Chemist Warehouse Opal Maddison Rocci has produced a season-best performance to revitalise two-time defending premiers UC Capitals ahead of the 2020 Chemist Warehouse WNBL finals.
The Capitals appeared to have stumbled ahead of Thursday’s clash in Townsville with Perth Lynx after losing twice in their last three games.
It wasn’t ideal form as they looked to secure a top two spot, and a finals second chance, ahead of the WNBL playoffs which start on December 16.
However, Rocci stood tall with a season high 27 points to inspire a 96-69 triumph over a plucky Lynx that thrust the Capitals into second spot on the WNBL ladder with a 9-3 record and one regular season game left for them to play.
The top two is still up for grabs with both ladder leaders Jayco Southside Flyers (9-2 record) and third-placed Deakin Melbourne Boomers (8-3) with two regular season games to play for both sides.
Indeed, the top two make-up may yet be determined by the Capitals’ final regular season clash against the Flyers in Townsville on Sunday.
However, the signs are good for the Capitals that they can give the WNBL title another push after they overwhelmed a Lynx outfit with plenty to prove.
Perth (4-9 record) were out of finals contention but were finishing the season strongly, winning three of their last four games including the big scalps of JCU Townsville Fire and Adelaide Lightning.
And they had no shortage of motivation lining up in their final game of the season against the Capitals who had snuck home in their previous 2020 clash 73-70 last month only thanks to a last gasp three-pointer by Jade Melbourne.
But the Capitals overcame early resistance from Perth before flexing their muscles in what must be an ominous warning for rivals ahead of the WNBL finals.
Besides Rocci, who also had five rebounds and four assists – the Capitals were led by the inspirational fellow Opals Kelsey Griffin (15 points, nine rebounds) and Marianna Tolo who notched 12 points and six rebounds off the bench.
Rocci said the signs were good that they would back it up in their regular season finale against title favourites the Flyers on Sunday as they pushed for a top two finish.
“We knew coming into this game that Perth were a great side. We knew we had to come out with some intensity,” Rocci said.
“Our defensive pressure started things for us in that game. For us to get the job done defensively leading into the game against Southside is really what we wanted.”
The Capitals’ Keely Froling (11 points) and bench weapons Mikaela Ruef (11 points, seven rebounds) and Brittany Smart (nine points) also impressed.
For the Lynx, Katie-Rae Ebzery nabbed 24 points and fellow Opals star Darcee Garbin had 17 points and seven rebounds.
The match drew the curtain on a frustrating season for Perth who struggled to close out games in 2020.
Five of their nine losses were by seven points or less.
“We have gotten better as a group since our first game. We have come along in leaps and bounds,” Ebzery said.
“We are a young group with lots to learn but with a proper pre-season we will be a lot better prepared.”
Perth led early by six points before the Capitals hit back and were never threatened, leading 26-19 at quarter-time, 53-29 at the halftime and 75-52 at the final interval.
Laine Clark is a freelance contributor to WNBL.basketball
UC Capitals – 96 (Rocci 27, Griffin 15, Tolo 12)
Perth Lynx – 69 (Ebzery 24, Garbin 17, Sharp 8)