LYNX FOCUS ON BOUNCE BACK IN TOWNSVILLE
Perth Lynx have remained in Far North Queensland ahead of Wednesday’s rematch with the defending WNBL champion Townsville Fire with coach Ryan Petrik looking forward to seeing how his team’s adjustments come off.
Last time this season that the Lynx played the same opponent in consecutive matches saw Perth beat the Melbourne Boomers on the road by 17 points before four days later back at Bendat Basketball Centre it was the Boomers bouncing back to beat the Lynx.
Petrik is looking for a similar thing to happen this week with the Lynx attempting to rebound from the 23-point New Year’s Eve loss to Townsville which did see the final scoreline not quite indicate that it was still a single figure game early in the fourth quarter.
The rematch takes place at Townsville Entertainment Centre on Wednesday night in the first game of 2024 for the Lynx against the Fire from 5.30pm WA time.
It was always going to be a learning experience on Sunday for the Lynx playing without superstar point guard Aari McDonald who remains sidelined with a knee injury.
It was Miela Goodchild who shifted over into that point guard spot while Steph Gorman came into the starting line-up, and then Alex Ciabattoni played an extended role and finished with nine points and two assists in almost 28 minutes.
Chloe Forster also played 17 minutes for five points and a career-high four assists but it will continue to be a work in progress for Petrik and his team.
“Obviously we’re still trying refind our identity now and we have some personnel issues, but we just need to adjust how we’re going to play,” Petrik said.
“Clearly we’ve seen that Townsville are going to get up and after us so we’ve got some things to fix along with actually executing our stuff better.
“We don’t need to completely reinvent the wheel, but we know teams are going to go after us in the short-term over the next month or so. How we handle that pressure will tell.”
Preparing for rematch
It’s an interesting situation this week now for the Lynx staying in Townsville to end 2023, bring in 2024 and then prepare for Wednesday’s rematch with the Fire.
That meant a full practice session on Tuesday in preparation where Petrik and his team worked on some changes to implement from Sunday’s game.
It’s the second time this season that the Lynx have played the same opponent in back-to-back games. Last time they beat the Melbourne Boomers on their home floor, before then losing the return fixture.
Petrik is hoping that the same thing repeats now this time around and the Lynx make the necessary adjustments to get the win on Wednesday to maintain their hold on a top two position in the WNBL.
“I see it’s going to be bloody hot so if I don’t spend our whole time up here sweating it’s going to be good, but generally in this situation it’s the team that wins that keeps most of the stuff the same and the one that loses has nothing to lose and might as well change everything,” he said.
“We had it against Melbourne earlier in the year where we went to Melbourne and got the win, and then they came back to get us. We’ve got three days I guess of playing cat and mouse a little bit.”
Coming up against former captain
Sami Whitcomb might now be an opposition player for Petrik to be trying to limit the influence of, but there’s also nobody in the league he knows better given their remarkable history together both in winning championships at the Rockingham Flames and with the Lynx.
The former Perth captain and current Townsville star had 26 points on Sunday in the win for the Fire on 9/22 shooting from the floor and going 6/16 from three-point territory, but Petrik was more worried about letting the rest of the Townsville team shoot 25/46 for 61 points.
“She’s tough obviously and it’s hard because you have to pick your poison somewhere, and she got to 26 but we made her take 22 shots for that,” Petrik said.
“So we don’t mind the efficiency from a defensive side of things and they scored 87 on 68 shots as a team. That’s more a concern but her 26 on 22 shots we’ll live with although when she’s on she is world class for a reason and she did really torch us in the second half.”
Full faith from the captain
Lynx captain Anneli Maley had another strong performance on Sunday against the Fire with 18 points, 13 rebounds and two steals in 32 minutes on the back of shooting 8/16 from the field.
That continued her standout first season with Perth where she is averaging 14.4 points, 13.8 rebounds and 2.6 assists to be right on track to match what she did two seasons ago when she was named MVP.
However, ultimately all that matters to her is winning at the end of the day and she is confident in the Lynx’s ability to bounce back on Wednesday night with another crack at the reigning champs on their home floor.
“I have complete faith in our group that we’re capable of turning it around on Wednesday,” Maley said.
“Townsville are a really talented group and they are coached really well, and have a deep squad, but so do we. I think that we can do anything that we put our minds to and we lacked effort in the fourth quarter I thought, that’s what I felt.
“So I think that if we can just up our effort game and sometimes it’s not about trying harder, but I definitely think we have so much more to give in some areas.”