The UC Capitals will face the Southside Flyers in the WNBL 2019/20 finals series after the hosts clawed past the Melbourne Boomers 77-64 in the game three decider at AIS Arena last night (26 February).
Paul Goriss’ team managed to see out the 13-point victory, but it didn’t come easy as the Boomers reduced the scoreline to as little as 4 points in the fourth quarter.
However, it wasn’t enough as the Caps secured their place in the finals and had a fair few standout performers to thank for the achievement.
Center Marianna Tolo was exceptional in the second half, dominating the paint by scoring 16 of her 20 points in the second period and also finishing with seven boards.
2018-19 MVP Kelsey Griffen finished the match with 19 points and nine rebounds, while current league MVP Kia Nurse finished the match with 18, scoring eight of those points in the opening quarter of the game.
Point Guard Olivia Epoupa finished with a near triple-double for the Caps with 11 points, eight rebounds and nine assists to cap off a fantastic showing by the Canberran side in front of a passionate home crowd.
Boomers’ Sophie Cunningham came into proceedings and copped a lot of stick from the Caps fans as she escaped a ban for an interaction with Caps player Keeley Froling in game two, but she enjoyed a solid evening by scoring a team high 14 points.
Turnovers proved costly for the Melburnians as they lost control of the ball 21 times.
— UC Capitals (@UCCapitals) February 26, 2020
The encounter started at a frantic pace, but it was the Capitals who blew the Boomers right out of the water by establishing an early 12-2 lead.
Paul Goriss’ team were fired up and so was the crowd as the home faithful let their feelings be known when Cunningham missed a couple of easy layups in the first quarter.
The reigning champions ended the opening 10 minutes with a 22-16 lead, with Nurse and Griffin combining for 16 of those points with eight each.
Despite losing Stella Beck for the rest of the game with an ankle injury, Melbourne slowly started to get themselves back into the contest after Antonia Farnworth hit two massive threes to get the travellers within nine to make it 37-28 at the half-time break.
Like the first quarter, the hosts came out aggressively to start the third and it seemed a fire had been lit under Marianna Tolo as the Australian international bullied the Boomers defence in the paint along with some nice mid-range jumpers to score 12 points in the quarter.
Though Tolo had such a great impact on the floor in the third, the scoreline difference stayed at nine heading into a tense fourth quarter.
Melbourne came out in the fourth and looked a side that wasn’t ready to pack their bags. They played some great defence and only trailed by four half-way through the last period.
Melbourne battled, but a key three-point make, which proved to only be Canberra’s second in the whole game, saw Epoupa hit a big trey from outside the arch to create separation and that sparked the Caps to build their lead back up over double digits.
Nurse knocked down three free throws at the end of the game to send the Capitals crowd wild once the full-time whistle blew and confirmed the 77-64 victory.
This now sees the Caps lock horns with the Southside Flyers in the WNBL finals, with game one of the series kicking off this Sunday (1 March) at Dandenong Stadium in Victoria.
Game two will be back at AIS Arena next Wednesday (4 March), before a possible game three at the Flyers’ home stadium on Sunday, 8 March.
For tickets and game information, visit UC Capitals.