Cayla George set the tone early and the Deakin Melbourne Boomers withstood some good patches from the Adelaide Lightning to score a crucial 76-55 win in Cairns to open the final round of the 2020 Chemist Warehouse WNBL season.
Both teams were coming off Sunday defeats and had plenty on the line to open the final round at Cairns Pop-Up Arena with the Boomers still trying to fight for a top two spot, while the Lightning couldn’t afford another loss to stay in the finals hunt.
The Boomers were rocked with the loss to the Jayco Southside Flyers and were then without Tess Madgen against the Lightning, but Cayla George ensured Melbourne got off to an impressive start.
In the first quarter alone she had 14 points, five rebounds and two assists including the last seven points and Melbourne’s lead grew to 20 before Adelaide showed signs of life before half-time.
The Lightning did get as close as 11, but no closer as the Boomers had too many weapons on the way to the 21-point win to improve to 8-3 with games against Bendigo and Townsville to finish.
George ended the game with 22 points, 11 rebounds and four assists with Melbourne ending up dominating the glass with 12 more boards on top of being stronger inside with 42 points in the paint to 16.
Round 4 “Team of the Week” member Ezi Magbegor had another 14 points, 10 rebounds and three emphatic blocks for Melbourne.
“I’m happy with that and our team played really well, especially defensively. That’s something we have to talk about with how we contained them to 55,” Magbegor said.
“We did a great job as a team and people stepped up tonight which was great to see especially Kalani defensively. She is just incredible getting deflections and bringing the energy off the bench.”
Kalani Purcell added 11 points, nine rebounds and four assists for the Boomers, Maddie Garrick nine points and three assists, Ashleigh Karaitiana nine points and four rebounds, and Stella Beck seven points and four assists.
The Lightning battled hard but ultimately shooting 27 per cent from the floor hurt especially going 10/42 from inside the arc.
Ally Wilson top-scored with 14 points while Steph Talbot had 11 points and six rebounds, Chelsea Brook seven points and three boards, and Taylor Ortlepp seven points and five rebounds.
The Lightning still have three games to go against Bendigo, Townsville and Sydney Uni with Brook taking positives from the loss to the Boomers.
“We dug ourselves a bit of a hole getting down in the first quarter as much as we did but it was promising from when we played them in the first round that when we knuckle down on defence we can bring it back,” Brook said.
“Unfortunately we couldn’t fully peg it back but it was promising compared to the first time we played them.”
Early triples for Melbourne to Karaitiana and Garrick got them going, but Adelaide had no answer for George who hit a pair of threes including one on the buzzer to complete a 9-0 run for her team.
The Boomers lead was then 19 early in the second and out to 20 when Beck hit from downtown. But Adelaide breathed some life with a Ortlepp three starting a 7-0 run they ended the half with.
A couple of triples late in the third quarter to Abi Wehrung and Brook kept the Lightning close enough too, but the Boomers put the game to bed with a 12-2 to go from 12 points up to 22 late in the contest on the way to winning by 21.
Chris Pike is a freelance contributor to WNBL.basketball
Deakin Melbourne Boomers – 76 (George 22, Magbegor 14, Purcell 11)
Adelaide Lightning – 55 (Wilson 14, Talbot 11, Ortlepp 7, Brook 7)