LYNX GO DOWN FIGHTING AT HOME TO TOWNSVILLE
The Perth Lynx fought valiantly right to the end but ultimately the Townsville Fire advanced to the WNBL Grand Final on the back of a 14th consecutive victory by winning 91-84 at Bendat Basketball Centre on Sunday.
It was Game 2 of the semi-final series after the Fire won Game 1 at the Townsville Entertainment Centre 81-68 on Thursday night.
That meant the Lynx had to win on Sunday at Bendat Basketball Centre to force the decider but it wasn’t quite to be despite another fighting performance from the home team.
Possession game proved the difference
There wasn’t much between the two teams all afternoon at Bendat Basketball Centre and every time the Fire pulled away, the Lynx were able to respond and even grabbed the lead early in the fourth quarter.
However, Townsville had the answers and ended up prevailing by seven points to make it 14 wins in-a-row to advance to the Grand Final and end the brave season of the Lynx who won 11 of their last 14 regular season games to reach the finals.
It was a high-quality game from both teams with each shooting at 50 per cent from the field while the Lynx made 12/28 of their three-point attempts and the Fire 12/28.
Both teams also attempted 14 free-throws but the big difference was in the possession game. Townsville ended up taking 14 more field goals for the game than Perth on the back of 13 offensive rebounds to six, and forcing the Lynx into 20 turnovers.
As a result, the Fire scored 24 points from turnovers and had 14 second chance points which is where the game was decided.
Who the star performers were
Perth Lynx captain Sami Whitcomb completed her standout season with another fine performance made up of 26 points, seven assists and three rebounds.
Chloe Bibby was another to have a breakout season for the Lynx and she stepped up for another 18 points and seven rebounds including nailing 4/5 from three-point range.
Robbi Ryan did what she could to inspire her team with 13 points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals with Lauren Scherf adding 13 points, six rebounds and four assists.
Alex Sharp contributed seven points and three rebounds, Amy Atwell four points and three boards, and Mackenzie Clinch Hoycard three points and two assists.
Tianna Hawkins ended up top-scoring for Townsville with 23 points and eight rebounds with Shyla Heal contributing 15 points and four assists, Lauren Nicholson 15 points and seven assists, and Mikaela Ruef 14 points and eight rebounds.
How the game unfolded
The game got underway with Steph Reid and Sami Whitcomb trading three-point bombs and the teams continued to swap baskets including the Lynx pulling back level with Lauren Scherf landing one from long-range.
While the Fire did pull away to lead by five, Perth responded to be back in front heading towards quarter-time thanks to baskets to Chloe Bibby, Whitcomb and Alex Sharp.
However, Townsville again grabbed the momentum to head into quarter-time on a 10-4 run to lead 27-22.
The Fire scored the opening four points of the second quarter too to push that advantage out to nine but the Lynx hit back in the best way possible with three-pointers to Amy Atwell and Bibby.
The momentum shifts continued and the Fire were able to push themselves out to a 12-point lead again but the Lynx kept in touch and a three-pointer from Robbi Ryan and another strong take from her just before half-time helped limit Townsville’s lead to 53-43.
At the break, Whitcomb had 11 points for the Lynx and as a team they shot tremendously going 56 per cent from the field and hitting 5/13 from downtown. But Townsville were winning the possession game and took eight more field goals while going at 55 per cent themselves.
The second half got off to the worst start possible with three-pointers to Townsville from Reid to put her team back up 16. But Ryan Petrik resisted the urge for an early timeout and the Lynx did respond starting with a triple from Bibby.
Then when trailing by 13, the Lynx made their best run of the series to score the next 13 points with the Fire unable to respond up the other end. That included three-point bombs from Whitcomb and Ryan and attacking baskets from Ryan who took the ball to the rack using her strengths.
All of a sudden the Lynx had drawn level and had the momentum on their home floor, but Townsville was able to steady and go on a 7-3 run to close the quarter and lead 68-64 by three quarter-time.
Perth, this time, started the fourth quarter well with the opening five points with an inside bucket to Scherf and then make from beyond the arc by Ryan.
That brief lead would be the last time the Lynx were in front the rest of the way though. Big three-pointers for the Fire from Lauren Nicholson and Karlie Samuelson proved crucial, and then just to make the pain a little worse, Shyla Heal scored seven points down the stretch with Townsville winning 91-84.
What’s coming next
The season is over now for the Lynx and preparations will begin for the 2023/24 WNBL campaign immediately while acknowledging that this performance in #WNBL23 deserves to be celebrated to overcome what they did and to still make the finals.
Meanwhile, Townsville is the first team into the Grand Final and they will await the winner of Game 3 between the Southside Flyers and Melbourne Boomers on Wednesday night.
CYGNETT WNBL FINALS – SEMI-FINAL GAME 2
PERTH LYNX 84 (Whitcomb 26, Bibby 18, Ryan 13, Scherf 13)
TOWNSVILLE FIRE 91 (Hawkins 23, Heal 15, Nicholson 15)