Heal and Nicholson sink Caps
Brilliant JCU Townsville Fire guards Shyla Heal and Lauren Nicholson proved an unstoppable double act, as they inspired their side to a 84-71 win over high-flying UC Capitals and moved a step closer to the Chemist Warehouse WNBL finals.
Between them Heal (27) and Nicholson (25) scored almost two-thirds of their team’s points in Sunday’s match at Townsville Stadium and dominated the scoring when the game was up for grabs in the first half.
They took over the game in Townsville’s decisive second quarter surge, scoring the Fire’s first 21 points of a term the Fire won 24-11 to lead by 17 at halftime.
That was the margin at three-quarter time, but Canberra’s bench players injected some more energy in the final quarter.
While the Caps won that quarter by four, Townsville’s winning margin gave them the season head-to-head split on Canberra who won their first encounter by 11.
Townsville (7-4) played with much more energy and intensity than in their shock loss to Perth on Friday.
Coming off her lowest score the season and fouling out against Perth on Friday, Heal was superb.
She made 12 of 13 free throws, shot over 50 per cent from the field and added eight rebounds, three assists and three steals.
“I definitely wasn’t happy about the fouls in the last game, so I needed to make up for it,” Heal said.’
“I’m happy we got the win and stuck together as a team.”
Nicholson piled on 13 points in the second quarter surge and also tallied five boards and three steals across the game.
Forward Nadeen Payne supplied 11 points and eight boards for Townsville.
Second-placed Canberra (8-3) couldn’t get their offence going, shooting at just 28 per cent from the field.
Guard Maddison Rocci added some spark in the third quarter scoring 11 points in that period.
She finished with 19, maintaining her record of scoring in double digits in every Caps game this season.
Forwards Kelsey Griffin (10 points, seven rebounds) and Mikaela Ruef (9 and 12) tried hard for the Caps, though the former’s influence was reduced due to foul problems.
“We got stuck offensively, we didn’t move the ball very well,” Caps centre Marianna Tolo said.
“By the end we got some shoots up and we did well but it was a little too late.”
Canberra play Perth Lynx on Thursday and Townsville face Adelaide Lightning on Friday.
Adrian Warren is a freelance contributor to WNBL.basketball
JCU Townsville 84 (S Heal 27, L Nicholson 25, N Payne 11)
UC Canberra Capitals 71 (M Rocci 19, K Griffin 10, M Ruef 9)