Boomers fall heartbreakingly short against Flyers
Match report produced by the WNBL.
The Southside Flyers reminded the WNBL why they’re the team to beat after defeating the Melbourne Boomers in an overtime thriller by 2 points (75-73) at Victoria’s State Basketball Centre.
Led by 21 points from the experienced Leilani Mitchell, a double-double to Mercedes Russell, and double-digit figures from Rebecca Cole and Jenna O’Hea, the visiting side were forced to grit their teeth in win, which came after a top-of-the-table clash that could be a play-offs preview.
Not only that, the Flyers also had to contend with a mammoth 24 point, 12 rebound performance from Boomer Ezi Magbegor, whose Boomers threatened to claim a stunning upset late in the fourth.
However, if you’d flicked on the telly in the first, you wouldn’t have suspected such a close contest: While The Flyers looked solid early, the Boomers took over four minutes of match time to hit their first field goal of the game, stifled early by the Flyers’ stingy defence.
But once the home side settled, the buckets came thick and fast. At the end of the first term, the 20 points Guy Molloy’s team put up were good for a four-point lead over the Flyers, who would have been further behind if not for some sharp-shooting by their captain.
Jenna O’Hea made an early habit of dagger threes, hitting three of four from outside in the first quarter alone, and scoring 11 of the Flyers’ first 16 points.
The Boomers threw down the gauntlet after the first breakt though, and when co-captain Maddie Garrick made her first three-pointer midway through the second quarter, it began to open up a buffer between the crosstown rivals, Magbegor exerting influence to put up 13 points for the half.
However, for all of the Boomers’ momentum, the Flyers brought it back to 35-30 at the main break, and while the Boomers fought back to make the lead 53-47 at the end of third, it was obvious that for Cheryl Chambers’ all-conquering side, it seemed well within range.
The influence of the Flyers’ formidable starting five grew on the contest – At one stage, with four minutes to go in the third quarter, Mitchell and O’Hea combined for 27 of the Flyers’ 41 points.
The tension in the stadium grew though, and with seven minutes to go in the fourth the match was tied at 55-all, and by the time there was two minutes left, the two sides traded one-point advantages.
Russell – who finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds – started to force herself into the game for the Flyers, who continued to respond to every challenge thrown their way by the Boomers.
With 90 seconds to go, Magbegor had a near game-winning block on what would have been a go-ahead lay-up for Sara Blicavs, before Garrick raced to the other end and hit a devastating three-pointer.
It should’ve been a game winning moment, but the Flyers continued to come at the Boomers, eventually forcing the game into overtime: A Magbegor foul against Mitchell with five seconds to go sent the ice-cool Flyer to the line, and she didn’t miss either shot, drawing the game level.
With the Boomers backing up from Friday’s win against the Lightning and missing starting point guard Lindsay Allen, the in-game losses of Garrick (head clash) and a fouled out Sophie Cunningham took its toll on the hosts as the Flyers’ class shone through in overtime
Russell was especially influential, and it was she who found room underneath the basket to put the Flyers ahead in the closing moments. Mitchell stretched the lead further before the Boomers attempted another fightback, ultimately falling short.
The Boomers’ injured starting point-guard Lindsey Allen, emblazoned upon the big screen, could only watch on as Magbegor – of all people – held onto the ball as time expired.
Speaking after the game for the Flyers, Chambers said her side did well to get away with a win.
“I’m really proud that we dug in because we got ourselves in some huge holes,” she said
“We’re happy to get a win.”
Meanwhile, for the Boomers, Molloy was proud of the performance but couldn’t help but feel as if his side had let an opportunity slip.
“I’m proud of our team to come out of it facing the adversity that they did… It is bittersweet,” he said
“We missed some lay-ups, some free throws. All our starting guard combinations were out… Still, we had the game [in our hands and lost it].”
The Melbourne Boomers will not be afforded any time to lick their wounds and will instead travel to Canberra to tip off round 14 against the UC Capitals on Friday, January 17 at the National Convention Centre.
It is the first of a back-to-back for the Boomers, who then go to Brydens Stadium to the Sydney Uni Flames on Saturday afternoon.
MELBOURNE BOOMERS 73 (Magbegor 24, George 13, Garrick 8)
SOUTHSIDE FLYERS 75 (Mitchell 21, O’hea 19, Russell 18)