Despite the heartbreaking loss on the death, the Perth Lynx entered the WNBL season on Sunday in some style led by a dynamic debut from Marina Mabrey leading just about all the way before being pipped by the Adelaide Lightning 88-86.
The Lynx have had to watch the first month of the WNBL season unfold without them while preparing themselves back in Perth, and in their first game in over 12 months, they came out firing against a Lightning team on a two-game winning run.
The Lynx came out at The Lights Community and Sports Centre on fire with Mabrey signalling her early intentions with some incredible three-point shooting as they raced to a 16-2 advantage.
Mabrey would go on to score 20 of her 30 points for her debut in the opening half before the Lynx then opened up the second half in similarly emphatic fashion. Either side of the half, the visitors went on a 14-0 run to lead by a game-high 15 points.
Adelaide worked back into the game, though, even after the Lynx were up six with just over four minutes left. The home team soon led by five but then two stunning three-point bombs from Mabrey set up a frantic finish.
In the end, the Lightning won on two Alanna Smith free-throws but there was plenty to like from Perth’s first outing of the WNBL season.
It was the most remarkable of debuts for Marina Mabrey who put up 30 points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals for the Lynx while making 7/13 from beyond the arc.
Captain Darcee Garbin added 15 points and three steals, Sami Whitcomb 13 points and seven assists, Lauren Scherf 10 points and 10 rebounds, Jackie Young nine points, five rebounds and five assists, Alex Sharp seven points and four boards, and Alex Ciabattoni two points.
The Lightning had some big performers too in their third consecutive win. Alanna Smith delivered 25 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists, and Steph Talbot 19 points, 10 boards and nine assists.
Having watched the first month of the WNBL season go on without them and more than 12 months since their last game, the Lynx had some energy to burn to start the game and came out on fire against the Lightning.
Marina Mabrey opened the scoring for the Lynx and she soon knocked down back-to-back three-pointers for the 10-2 lead early. They weren’t done either with Lauren Scherf hitting the next four points and another two to captain Darcee Garbin as the advantage became 16-2.
Even though Adelaide worked their way back into the contest, Perth closed the first quarter with triples to Sami Whitcomb, Alex Sharp and then Mabrey again to hold a 25-19 edge at quarter-time on the back of hitting 5/7 from three as a team with Mabrey making 3/4 for 11 points.
The Lynx lead was then back out to nine early in the second period with a Garbin three and mid-range jumper from Mabrey. The game was turning into a high quality affair at both ends, but the Lynx maintained their edge with Mabrey hitting a fourth three of the half on the way to 20 points.
Reigning NBL1 West MVP and Grand Final at the Willetton Tigers, Alex Sharp also connected from deep and then Jackie Young scored her first WNBL points with an off-balance buzzer beater to ensure the Lynx were still up 48-43 at the major break.
The second half then started for the Lynx similar to the first as they came out on fire to hit the opening 10 points starting with Garbin hitting from beyond the arc. Whitcomb also scored from deep and with a couple of buckets to Young and another to Scherf inside, suddenly it was a game-high 15-point edge.
Adelaide called for time and got the response they were after hitting the next 10 points to be back within five, but thanks to a three to Garbin on three quarter-time, the Lynx were still on top 69-64.
The stage was set for a big finish and it certainly delivered. After the Lightning took the lead for the first time in the game, the Lynx regained it thanks to Mabrey’s fifth three-point bomb of her WNBL debut.
Garbin put the Lynx up by six soon after with 4:30 left on the clock, but the win was far from secured yet. Adelaide came out of a timeout to score the next 11 points including three-pointers to Chelsea Brook, Steph Talbot and Alanna Smith.
That had the home team in front by five having been down six just two minutes earlier, but then Mabrey ensured the Lynx wouldn’t go down without landing a couple of more blows. She hit an off-balance three and drew the foul, converting the four-point play with 47.5 seconds remaining.
Next possession down and she hit from way downtown after Young secured the offensive rebound. That tied scores up with 15.4 seconds to go. The game appeared to be going to overtime, but Smith secured an o-board for Adelaide, was fouled and made two free-throws with 2.6 seconds to go.
The Lynx had one last chance but couldn’t get the ball to go to hand on the inbounds pass with Adelaide holding on for the two-point win.
The Lynx now head to their home base away from home in Ballarat ahead of playing the Southside Flyers at Dandenong Stadium on Thursday.
WNBL ROUND 5
PERTH LYNX 86 (Mabrey 30, Garbin 15, Whitcomb 13)
ADELAIDE LIGHTNING 88 (Smith 25, Talbot 19, Brook 14)