FIRE ONCE AGAIN OVERPOWER LYNX IN THE TROPICS
Despite the best efforts of Anneli Maley in her 100th WNBL game, Amy Atwell, Miela Goodchild and a Teige Morrell cameo, Perth Lynx weren’t quite able to stick with the Townsville Fire who prevailed 104-91 on Wednesday night.
It was the second game in four days between the two teams at Townsville Entertainment Centre firstly to close 2023 on Sunday and now to open 2024 on Wednesday, but it was a similar result with the victories for the league-leading Fire.
The Lynx arrived in Tropical North Queensland up against it already in the absence of MVP fancy Aari McDonald with a knee injury with the Fire managing to score the 87-64 victory on New Year’s Eve.
Perth came out on fire on Wednesday but Townsville overpowered them as the game went on to score the 13-point win to stay in top spot with the Lynx now sitting at an 8-5 record ahead of returning home.
Where the game was won
The Lynx opened the game strongly putting up 30 points in the first quarter but maintaining that against the league-leading defending champions was a challenge in the absence of point guard Aari McDonald and then with centre Emily Potter in foul trouble all evening.
After quarter-time the Fire managed to outscore the Lynx 81 points to 61 to score the 13-point victory to make it nine in-a-row against Perth to maintain Townsville’s hold on top spot.
The Fire ended up shooting 50 per cent from the field to the 44 from the Lynx while also taking 14 extra field goals. Both teams shot the three ball well with the Lynx going 10/24 and the fire 9/20.
Perth did get to the foul line a lot going 27/31 at the stripe to 19/23 from Townsville but the Fire had 15 offensive rebounds for 20 second chance points on top of 54 points in the paint to 28.
Who the standout performers were
Lynx captain Anneli Maley led admirably from the front in her 100th WNBL appearance with the former league MVP tremendous once more finishing the night with 23 points, eight rebounds and two assists while going 8/10 at the foul line.
Vice-captain Amy Atwell once again top-scored for Perth for the fourth time in the past five games. She put up another 25 points to go with three rebounds and three assists on going 12/13 at the free-throw line.
Miela Goodchild produced her best performance of the season scoring-wise for the Lynx too as she scored 22 points and three rebounds with 5/6 three-point shooting in 20 minutes off the bench.
Centre Emily Potter was limited to 18 minutes for the Lynx because of foul trouble but still had eight points and four rebounds with Teige Morrell making her Perth debut and proving to be a more than handy backup.
Having previously played at the Bendigo Spirit in the 2019/20 season, Morrell has been a dominant presence in the NBL1 since starting off being MVP twice of the Central competition and then being named to the All-First Team of the NBL1 West the past two years at the Joondalup Wolves.
She made the most of her chances on Wednesday night as a development player stepping up in the absence of Aari McDonald despite being decidedly different positional players. She finished with seven points and four rebounds in 12 and-a-half minutes.
Alex Ciabattoni got the start for the Lynx and played another 26 minutes for four points while Steph Gorman contributed two points, a rebound and an assist in her 29 minutes.
Mikaela Ruef top-scored for Townsville with 21 points to go with 10 rebounds while her frontcourt partner Zitina Aokuso had 18 points and 10 boards in her 100th WNBL appearance.
Former Lynx captain Sami Whitcomb added 19 points and five rebounds with Courtney Woods contributing 18 points, seven assists and five boards.
How the game unfolded
The Lynx made the perfect start attempting to avoid a ninth straight loss to Townsville with captain Anneli Maley opening proceedings with a three-pointer.
That set the stage for Perth to score the game’s first seven points and they maintained the lead thanks to a pair of three-pointers from Amy Atwell.
The Lynx remained on top the rest of the first quarter too with Teige Morrell hitting the floor in her Perth debut on the back of standout NBL1 West form the past two years to knock down a three-pointer.
That helped the Lynx to the 30-23 advantage by quarter-time and then Miela Goodchild opened the second period on fire with five quick points to keep the lead at seven for the visitors.
The Lynx lead was soon out to double-figures when Maley added four more quick points and then even with Townsville picking up some momentum, when Goodchild knocked down another three ball, Perth were still leading by six.
However, the Fire closed the half on a 12-4 run and that saw the home team go into the main break with the slender 54-52 advantage.
Townsville came out and scored the opening seven points of the second half too but the Lynx responded well starting with a bucket to Alex Ciabattoni, and then seven consecutive points to Emily Potter, Maley and Atwell.
Then just as the Fire were threatening to open up a double-figure lead, the Lynx got an and-one from Atwell and triple from Goodchild just before three quarter-time to cut the home team’s lead to 80-71 heading into the fourth.
While the Lynx kept fighting throughout the fourth quarter including Morrell scoring four points late after the fouling out of Potter, they could never quite get close enough to Townsville to strike with the Fire scoring the 13-point victory.
What’s next for the Lynx
Following the two games in Townsville against the Fire, the Lynx return home on Sunday afternoon to play host to the Adelaide Lightning in what is just one of three games remaining this WNBL season at Bendat Basketball Centre.
CYGNETT WNBL ROUND 10
PERTH LYNX 91 (Atwell 25, Maley 23, Goodchild 22)
TOWNSVILLE FIRE 104 (Ruef 21, Whitcomb 19, Aokuso 18, Woods 18)