November 30, 2023 | Perth Lynx news

The last two games against quality opposition have left Perth Lynx coach Ryan Petrik with mixed feelings and he is looking for his youthful group to rapidly learn coming into the next two WNBL games against the Melbourne Boomers.

Petrik always knew there would be ups and downs with his new and young group this WNBL season especially with Mackenzie Clinch Hoycard and Amy Atwell the only fully rostered players returning from a season ago.

Then you have Steph Gorman and Chloe Forster who are rookies while Aari McDonald and Emily Potter are playing in the WNBL for the first time, Alex Ciabattoni is returning after becoming a mother, and Anneli Maley, Miela Goodchild and Ash Hannan are new arrivals.

So that’s a distinctly new and youthful group, but if you take out the second halves of the last two games against the Southside Flyers and Townsville Fire, and it’s fair to say the performances have exceeded early expectations for the Lynx.

There were the three home wins to get things rolling against the Sydney Flames, Adelaide Lightning and Bendigo Spirit, and then the Lynx put together a tremendous first half performance to be leading the Southside Flyers in Melbourne by as much as 21 points.

However, they couldn’t quite keep it going after half-time and ended up pipped at the death by the Flyers before the Lynx again put together a strong first half at home to the defending champion Townsville on Saturday night.

Perth led by as much as 11 points shortly before half-time, but things got tougher from there especially with just the 10 points and seven turnovers as a team in the third quarter.

Nothing that’s happening isn’t within what Petrik thought he might be dealing with this season and with such a new and young group, he hopes they can learn quickly moving forward.

“We need reps together and we need experience. We’ve got that youthful joy of when things are going we play downhill really well, but when things get tight we’re very, very young,” Petrik said.

“It is what it is and we’ll show them another boatload of film with some things we did like, and some things we didn’t and try to clean up the best we can.”

The next two games for the Lynx are up against the undefeated Melbourne Boomers starting this Sunday in Melbourne and then back at Bendat Basketball Centre next Thursday night.

Petrik is looking forward to getting back on the road this week with his group to take on the Boomers on their home floor to try and hand them a first defeat of the season.

“We get out of Perth so that has some positives and we’ll get a different crew, and we like our chances against anyone, anywhere if we’re able to play the game on our terms,” he said.

“We have to get out of this building right now so that’s not the worst thing for us and try to go and get away from it all, show them some film, get some reps and some experience. We have to find a way to fill them with some experience as quickly as we can.”

Looking back on Saturday night’s game and Petrik will break it up in two halves upon review because he liked a lot of what they did in the first half, but then will want his team to learn the lessons out of what went wrong in the second.

“They were very good and they’re the defending champs for a reason, but we did like how the ball moved in the first half,” Petrik said.

“Then their defence ramped up in the third quarter and we went completely away from it and went into a lot of iso type stuff. That’s not how you’re going to beat the defending champs.

“In the first half we had 49 and that’s on track to win most games so I wouldn’t have changed the first half for anything. Atwell had it going so you keep going back to her and I’m not changing the first half at all.

“But in the second half we have to find our playbook, we just don’t do that right now when things get tough. A big part in that is credit to Townsville for taking us out of some stuff, so part of it’s our fault and part of it is credit to the opposition.”

With Townsville going on a 28-7 run either side of half-time from the moment the Lynx were leading by 11 to turn that into their own 10-point lead, it says it all that Petrik had to use two timeouts in a little over four minutes of the second half.

In the heat of the moment it was frustrating, but now upon reflection with reviewing and moving forward, there will be plenty of teaching points out of that.

“It’s hard to try to single out one thing. We burnt two timeouts in the first four minutes of the third quarter and that’s because the house was on fire everywhere,” Petrik said.

“The offence wasn’t working and therefore the D-trans is in trouble and the halfcourt stuff wasn’t working. Even how we asked them to guard a pick-and-roll, that’s something that even changed and they were scoring layups at the rim because of some of our coverages that should never just happen.

“It felt like the whole world was on fire in that third quarter and the crew got involved from there, and it is what it is.”

What the last two games have clearly illustrated is that when the Lynx are able to play the way they want to, and when they stick to the plans, that they can be on top of the best teams in the competition.

At the same time, if the top teams take them out of what they want to do, things can not work as well and Petrik will be looking to lessen those moments moving forward.

“It’s a league where a team starts going on a run it’s hard to stop and we saw it with Southside as well, and Townsville saw it with them too,” he said.

“Once a team gets going and they’re a veteran, seasoned team and the defending champs whereas we’re in game five with a lot of kids.

“We’re taking some time to learn who we are and what our identity is obviously, and when the game’s played on our teams we can be really good. But when it’s played on the opposition’s terms, we’re not very good.”

There were challenges last week for the Lynx too with Steph Gorman, Alex Ciabattoni and Ash Hannan all missing the road game with the Flyers with Gorman then still out at home against the Fire on Saturday night.

However, Petrik isn’t looking for excuses and is realistic about what he’s learned about his team over the opening five matches.

“It’s tough but every team goes through it so that’s not an excuse,” Petrik said.

“We’re realistic, this four-game patch was going to be a really hard one for us with Southside away into Townsville and then Melbourne twice so that’s a tough four-game run.

“Hence we knew we had to start the way we did so to get off to 3-0 was great, and now we just have to try to pick up wins here and there against top four teams. We learn a lot from this, though, against the defending champs where we loved the first half and the second half, not so much.”