Written by Liam Ellison. Image via Michelle Couling Photography.
The Adelaide Lightning held the Deakin Melbourne Boomers to their second lowest score of the season to run out 76-60 winners in Game 1 of the second Semi-Final series.
The hosts got out to a fast start with Jenna O’Hea (four points, four assists) and Cayla George (eight points, 12 rebounds) helping Melbourne to a 15-8 lead half-way into the first period.
However, Adelaide’s defence soon kicked in and held the Boomers scoreless for the next 6:19, tightening the margin to just four at the first break with Nia Coffey exerting herself on the contest.
With Melbourne needing a lift, Kalani Purcell stepped up by scoring all seven of her points in the second quarter and she made a couple of important hustle plays while also hitting a timely three-pointer.
Neither side could be separated heading into half-time, tied at 35 apiece.
The Lightning made their intent known early in the second half, pressuring the Melbourne back-court into several turnovers and that persisted for the rest of the game as the Boomers tallied 22 errors, 6.5 more than their season average.
Most importantly, Adelaide were able to convert those stops into points and they went on a 9-0 run as Nicole Seekamp began to take over, pushing the Lightning out to a 52-43 advantage.
Playing in her first playoff game, Ezi Magbegor (14 points on 6-6 shooting) kept Melbourne in it with a trio of strong drives to the cup but the Boomers had no answers for Seekamp (18 points, four steals) who pushed the pace and caught the hosts napping with several half-court passes that found the Melbourne defence napping.
Nia Coffey was also dominating inside with 16 points and eight rebounds but after a collision with Boomers import Lindsay Allen in a rebounding contest, walked gingerly to the bench and did not return.
That may have given Melbourne a sniff heading into the final term as they looked to overcome an eight-point deficit but the Lightning put the game on ice by scoring the first four baskets of the quarter.
Lauren Nicholson, playing through a broken nose suffered last week, became the third Lightning player in double-figures with ten points while Kayla Alexander (seven points, 11 boards) and Penina Davidson (eight points) played important minutes.
Adelaide’s defence was relentless, holding the hosts to just 25 points in the second half as the Boomers were continually forced into difficult heaves at the end of the shot clock.
Their perimeter defence was also key to their success, holding Melbourne to just 2-17 shooting from beyond the arc while Allen managed only 12 points on 5-17 shooting.
“It’s uncharacteristic of this team to shoot that badly,” said Boomers coach Guy Molloy.
“I know that sort of a shooting night is an outlier for our team. In a sense, it’s kind of okay… because we won’t shoot that badly again.
“It’s up to us now to return serve.”
The series now heads to Adelaide for Game 2 on Thursday night at 7pm local time (7.30pm AEDT) live on FOX Sports Australia channel 506.
The Boomers need to win for a Game 3 back in Melbourne next Sunday night while Adelaide will be aiming to advance to their first Grand Final since 2008.