December 31, 2023 | Perth Lynx news

The final scoreline might not indicate it but Perth Lynx gave themselves a shot against the defending champion Townsville Fire in Far North Queensland on New Year’s Eve before things blew out late.

The end score of 87-64 suggests a commanding victory from the reigning champions in a rematch of last year’s semi-final battle, but early in the fourth quarter it was just a five-point ball game and the Lynx had done well to compete hard in the absence of MVP fancy Aari McDonald.

The point guard is out for several weeks with a knee injury suffered in Wednesday night’s home win against the UC Capitals, but the Fire did pull away late to win by 23 points to remain on top of the WNBL with the Lynx now sitting on an 8-4 record.

Where the game was won

The game was right up for grabs early in the fourth quarter and when Mackenzie Clinch Hoycard landed a three-pointer for the Lynx, the Fire lead was back to just five points.

However, Townsville dominated from there and outscored the Lynx 24 points to six the rest of the way which made the final scoreline indicated more of a gap between the teams than there was most of the evening to close 2023.

The presence of former Lynx captain Sami Whitcomb was significant for the Fire as well and her 38 minutes was crucial while Townsville ended up shooting 50 per cent from the floor, made 13/32 of three-pointers and had a monstrous 25 assists to just 11 turnovers.

The Lynx only managed to shoot 38 per cent from the floor and 29 per cent from behind the three-point line and that was on an uncharacteristically low 17 attempts. Perth also only got to the line eight times and did have 18 turnovers from which Townsville scored 22 points.

Who the standout performers were

It was always going to be a feeling out process for the Lynx to figure things out in the absence of Aari McDonald but captain Anneli Maley was terrific once again finishing with 18 points, 13 rebounds and two steals.

Vice-captain Amy Atwell shot 6/11 from the field and 2/3 from deep for 15 points, four rebounds and two steals but Townsville did well to limit her to just those 11 field goals.

Alex Ciabattoni played a significant role as point guard in the absence of McDonald and in her 101st WNBL appearance she was out there for almost 28 minutes and had nine points and two assists.

Ash Hannan also delivered seven points and five rebounds, Chloe Forster five points and four assists, Emily Potter four points and four rebounds, and Steph Gorman three points, two rebounds and two assists.

Former Lynx captain Sami Whitcomb top-scored for Townsville with 26 points to go with five assists with Courtney Woods adding 21 points and five assists.

How the game panned out

Emily Potter opened the game’s scoring for the Lynx but Townsville then scored the next nine points to take the 9-2 advantage.

Perth did hit back and five quick points from Amy Atwell before Chloe Forster knocked down a three-pointers, and then Ash Hannan and Alex Ciabattoni combined for the last four points of the opening term to cut the Fire lead to 24-23.

The Lynx then grabbed the lead to start the second quarter thanks to an and-one play from Hannan. Then in response to the Fire working back on top, the Lynx answered once more with Ciabattoni and Atwell combining for a 6-0 run.

By half-time scores were all tied at 38-38 with Ciabattoni scoring nine points for Perth and eight from Atwell while Forster had three points and four assists.

After Townsville opened up another six-point lead early in the second half, Perth responded once more and it was just a one-point ball game when Atwell hit another triple.

However, the Fire went on a 10-0 run from there started by three-pointers from Sami Whitcomb and Courtney Woods to go into three quarter-time leading 60-51.

It was back to a five-point ball game early in the fourth frame when Mackenzie Clinch Hoycard knocked one down from long-range for the Lynx, but that would be as close as they would get.

Townsville scored the next seven points and then turned that into a 24-6 streak the rest of the game to end up winning by 23.

What’s next for the Lynx

The Lynx remain in Far North Queensland to again play Townsville on Wednesday night before returning home to host the Adelaide Lightning at Bendat Basketball Centre next Sunday in one of just three home matches remaining this season.


PERTH LYNX 64 (Maley 18, Atwell 15, Ciabattoni 9)

TOWNSVILLE FIRE 87 (Whitcomb 26, Woods 21, Aokuso 11)