January 10, 2024 | Perth Lynx news

Changing things on the go is the order of the day for Perth Lynx right now but coach Ryan Petrik likes the way his team is approaching it and it’s all about focusing on what’s next which is the UC Capitals on Thursday.

The Lynx are currently locked in a fight firstly for a playoff position in the WNBL and a top two spot with a 9-5 record following Sunday’s 84-68 win against the Adelaide Lightning at Bendat Basketball Centre.

That was on the back of two losses to close 2023 and open 2024 in Townsville against the league-leading Fire, but they were also the first two matches the Lynx had to figure out playing without MVP fancy Aari McDonald due to a knee injury.

It was adjustments on the go for Petrik with his coaching staff to try and get the team to change the way they play because everything has been built around having the ball in McDonald’s hands, and having her run things with her unique skill set.

The Lynx learned plenty about what would, and what wouldn’t, work in the two games in Townsville and then put together a strong performance back at home on Sunday to beat the Lightning to remain locked in a battle for that top two position.

Getting that winning belief

For Petrik, most importantly out of Sunday was for the Lynx players to see that they are able to win without McDonald in the line-up as they now turn their attention to another road clash with the Capitals on Thursday night.

“It was more important to get a win to give the girls some belief. We got through the Canberra game but it was a weird one in the end with Aari going down,” Petrik said.

“We then went to Townsville and lost two, and we could come back with our tail between our legs or stay focused on the next game. We’ve never looked too far forward and just want to get to 12 wins.

“We don’t care about anything else or any external noise, we’re in the race to get to 12 wins. We’re at nine now and we need to find three somewhere and won’t be getting Aari back for a little while yet.

“We’re focusing on the next one and that’s the game in Canberra on Thursday night, and that’s all we’re looking at. Then we’re in Sydney next but we’re only looking at the next opponent and we’ll deal with whatever comes after that once we get there.”

Encouraging signs in win

Petrik saw enough encouraging signs from the Wednesday game against Townsville that things could come together for the Lynx even without McDonald in the line-up for the short-term.

He then wanted to see that in action against Adelaide on Sunday and what he saw was pleasing on a number of fronts.

“I’m happy to get out of that with a win. It’s a tough schedule right now where we’re playing every four days and trying to manage minutes, and workloads and everything else while trying to get some wins along the way,” he said.

“I thought we played OK in Townsville considering our roster situation right now especially in the second game but walked away with two losses.

“So we could return back here with our heads down or we can try to go get a win, and we did that and continued on with what was largely a solid performance in Townsville. We jumped out of the gates here and were able to hold on in the end.”

Changing things on the go

Having to make changes of how to run the team without McDonald at the point from beating the Capitals on December 27 before playing in Townsville against the league-leading Fire four days later on New Year’s Eve was hardly ideal.

However, Petrik and his coaching staff had to come up with something quickly and get the players on board even without having much time on court at practice to implement it given the hectic current schedule.

He has been pleased with the way his team has adapted especially in that second game in Townsville and then in the win against Adelaide on Sunday.

“There’s some things that are taking a little bit longer than we thought. We had a 10-day break before we played Southside and we just changed two defensive coverages, and put in four new offences,” Petrik said.

“But then when Aari went down we played again in four days and it was almost like we had a pit stop before the Southside game and we were able to put new tyres on the car, put in the fuel in the and everything.

“Right now we have a blown tyre midway around the course and we’re trying to fix things while the car’s still driving. We literally get one training session to try to tweak things and then go out to play again.

“It’s going to look clunky for a little while yet because we don’t get a decent break for a while so it’s about how we can patch this car to keep it on the road. Eventually we’ll get Aari back and have the FIBA break so we’ll get a chance to overhaul it properly and start again.”

Making changes while staying fresh

Not only are the Lynx trying to change things up and have things in place to try to keep winning in the absence of McDonald, but it’s also having to be done while staying to keep the players fresh and without much practice time.

That’s making it a challenge for Petrik, but he’s always a deep thinking coach so is enjoying it at the same time.

“You’re robbing Peter to pay Paul and I have to take minutes out of the vitamin work, some minutes out of the scout and spend longer in film,” Petrik said.

“I’ve got to keep them off their feet to keep them fresh, but also the offence we built for Aari won’t work anywhere near as well without her obviously.

“So I’m trying to overhaul some things and I also have S&C coach in my ear telling me I only have X amounts of minutes today, but I ask him for five more.

“We want to make sure we’re as fresh as we can come game time and if it means we’re a little bit rusty or clunky then so be it, but I need their legs.”