Preview: SEMI-FINAL GAME 1
Semi-Final Game 1:
UC Capitals V Melbourne Boomers
Sunday, 16 February
Tickets: click here.
Game Day Program: click here.
Live stats: click here.
Watch live: Fox Sports or Kayo
The University of Canberra Capitals left it all on the court to bring the WNBL20 playoffs back to Canberra.
It’s been just over a year since we were here last – anxiously anticipating the club’s first semi-final appearance in eight years. However, as the team chases a back-to-back championship, the level of energy, emotion and fight within the team is no less.
The move back to the AIS Arena, where there the UC Capitals’ eight championship banners hang, where WNBL and Canberra sporting history has been made, comes with great nostalgia and excitement. It symbolises another milestone, a goal within reach and the journey to come.
The team reunited with Paul Goriss, Marianna Tolo, Kia Nurse and Olivia Epoupa earlier this week after qualifying for Tokyo with their respective national teams in tournaments across Europe. Melbourne’s Cayla George and Ezi Magbegor played alongside Tolo in the Opals squad.
The trip meant players had to overcome jet lag and fatigue just days out from tipping off the semi-final series. However, earning their ticket to Tokyo has given them all the reason and motivation to push forward.
This is particularly the case for Nurse, who returned to Australia with the news that she’s become first import to win the Suzy Batkovic Medal for the league’s Most Valuable Player. Having led the league for points, averaging 21.3 per game, all eyes will be on this superstar on Sunday with Lauren Jackson to present her the medal in a pre-game ceremony.
The MVP won’t be the only celebration on Sunday, though, as the semi-final opener will be Tolo’s 200th WNBL game. The UC Capitals has been the only other WNBL club she’s played for after leaving the AIS in 2008. As a 3x champion, 2x All-Star Five, the 2017 Defensive Player of The Year, an Australian Opal and co-captain of this team, Tolo has achieved a lot in her 200 games.
For those who stayed in Canberra, the recent FIBA break was an opportunity to fix a few things that will be critical come finals time. Goriss left the team in good hands with Assistant Coach Kristen Veal and Co-Captain Kelsey Griffin leading the charge.
Although this period has been somewhat of a mental break, it has by no means been a holiday. Those that stayed in Canberra endured their usual training schedule as well as some tough scrimmages against an array of teams to continue to challenge and push them.
Despite both Griffin and Keely Froling being reintroduced to the playing group before the season’s end, the two weeks between games has been an opportunity for the two to further build confidence post-injury for finals.
For the Melbourne Boomers, this time has been particularly important for their star import Lindsay Allen to rest the niggling knee injury that had her sidelined for four games. Allen rejoined the group in their final game of the regular season but played just 15 minutes. The extra recovery time would have been a blessing for the Boomers’ who rely on Allen’s touch.
Olivia Epoupa will go head-to-head with Allen, who has the highest average points and assists for the Boomers, and will be critical in limiting her offensive damage.
Tolo and Griffin will match up against the big combo of George and Magbegor while Nurse, Maddy Rocci and Keely Froling will have to overcome Sophie Cunningham, Maddie Garrick and Stella Beck.
The UC Caps’ record against the Boomers this season has been extremely close. Despite the Capitals suffering a 35-point loss to Melbourne in Round 3, they were able to win the series split with the two very tough, physical games that followed. In Round 5, the Caps won by three points and then in Round 14, it was just one point that separated the teams in an overtime thriller.
The series split proved to make all the difference when the Capitals and Boomers were all tied up with a matching win/loss record on the ladder.
The Boomers will be hungry to go further than their semi-final loss last year. Despite a strong 2018/19 regular season having finished second on the ladder, they went down to the Adelaide Lightning in two games. Expect them to put up a tough fight for their chance to go further this time around.
The UC Capitals will look to protect their home court as they have done so well this season, having only lost one of their 11 games with the support of Canberra. With the team leaning on a raucous crowd to help them to a win, let’s give the Caps the same energy that helped them to a championship last year.