February 29, 2024 | Perth Lynx news

A remarkable start to the third quarter where the Perth Lynx outscored the Townsville Fire 21 points to three was the catalyst to the eventual thrilling 88-87 Game 1 semi-final victory in Townsville on Thursday night.

The Lynx turned a seven-point half-time deficit at Townsville Entertainment Centre to open the semi-final series into a double-figure lead during the third quarter before it was Aari McDonald sealing the deal with the last score of the game for the one-point win.

It gives Perth the one-nil series lead and a first win over Townsville in 10 attempts and first since March 18, 2022, but it now puts them one win away from a Grand Final appearance with Game 2 back in Perth on Sunday.

Where the game was won

The Lynx did well to stay in touch throughout the first half despite not shooting at a great clip. To limit the Townsville lead to just 51-44 by the main break despite shooting 40 per cent from the field to 54 per cent was something to give the Lynx some heart.

Then what the Lynx delivered in the third quarter showed just why this team was put together because of how dynamic they can be when things begin to click.

It was a remarkable onslaught to start the second half with the Lynx outscoring the Fire 27 points to nine to turn that seven-point half-time deficit into an 11-point lead.

Along the way, Perth outscored Townsville 21 points to three including a dazzling 18-1 run that included three balls from Amy Atwell, Steph Gorman and Aari McDonald.

The Lynx then overcame going 1/7 at the foul line down the stretch but still did enough including the game winning bucket from McDonald to seal the one-point victory.

Who the standout performers were

Aari McDonald was named to the All-Second WNBL Team but showed once again why she might very well have been the MVP this season had it not been the knee injury that kept her out for eight games.

She was again brilliant with 26 points, nine assists and two steals with 4/7 three-point shooting.

Amy Atwell was also in that All-Second Team and showed why with 24 points, five rebounds, two assists and two steals with 4/7 three-point shooting also.

Emily Potter ended up with 14 points and 10 rebounds while Anneli Maley contributed eight points, nine rebounds and four assists, Miela Goodchild seven points, Steph Gorman six points and two rebounds, and Mackenzie Clinch Hoycard three points and four boards.

Former Lynx captain Sami Whitcomb produced 24 points, seven rebounds, three assists, three steals and two blocks for Townsville, but Perth also forced her into six turnovers.

Courtney Woods added 15 points and four assists, Alice Kunek 15 points, and Zitina Aokuso 13 points, 10 rebounds and four assists.

How the game panned out

Sami Whitcomb lifted Townsville to the 7-2 start against her former team, but Aari McDonald also started well to keep Perth close and then Amy Atwell knocked down a triple to make it a one-point game with both teams scoring 21 points in the opening four minutes.

After the Fire went back up by five points, the Lynx scored the next eight consecutive points topped off with a triple from Mackenzie Clinch Hoycard, but Townsville hit back and by quarter-time were on top 27-25.

The Lynx hit the front to start the second quarter thanks to a three-pointer from Atwell. She added a three-point play shortly after but then the Fire scored the next nine points to take an eight-point lead.

Townsville were still leading 51-44 by the half-time break with the major difference being the Fire going 20/37 from the field opposed to the 15/37 from the Lynx.

It was then a remarkable start to the third quarter from the Lynx and it all got underway with a three ball courtesy of Atwell. She nailed another soon after and then when Emily Potter scored too, the Lynx had eclipsed that seven-point deficit to grab the lead inside two and-a-half minutes.

Perth was just warming up too and after one free-throw from Zitina Aokuso for Townsville, the Lynx scored the next 11 points which began with an and-one from Miela Goodchild after a tough shot made under the basket.

Steph Gorman and McDonald then completed the 11-0 run to make it 18-1 overall and 21-3 to start the second half.

Two more triples to McDonald and Gorman pushed the lead out to 11 and the Lynx were still on top 71-65 by three quarter-time despite a late long bomb from Whitcomb.

Atwell, Anneli Maley and Potter helped the Lynx back out to a double-figure lead to start the fourth quarter, but the Fire were always going to hit back as the defending champs and having finished this season in top spot.

Townsville capitalised on an Atwell turnover for a Courtney Woods basket with seven minutes to go to spark a 7-0 run to make it a one-point ball game, and shortly after Whitcomb put her new team in front with four minutes to play.

The Lynx had a chance to take control again but went just 1/7 at the foul line on three consecutive possessions. But when Goodchild scored, the visitors were up two with three minutes on the clock.

In the end, Whitcomb and McDonald traded huge buckets in a fascinating guard match up down the stretch but McDonald’s drive and make with 55 seconds to go was the last score of the game to put the Lynx up one which would prove the final winning margin.

What comes next

The Lynx are now one win away from reaching a second Grand Final appearance in the past three seasons with Game 2 to take place on Sunday at Bendat Basketball Centre with tip-off set for 12.30pm.

However, nobody at the Lynx are under any illusions of the job still ahead despite having the series lead heading into the game.

But the chance is there to win into a Grand Final in front of the home fans and should it not happen, Game 3 will be back in Townsville next Thursday night.


PERTH LYNX 88 (McDonald 26, Atwell 24, Potter 14)

TOWNSVILLE FIRE 87 (Whitcomb 24, Woods 15, Kunek 15)