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Big wins for Spirit, Lightning

BENDIGO Spirit tonight produced the season's biggest upset by beating defending WNBL champion Canberra 94-90 while Adelaide prepared for Sunday's showdown with Southside by smashing the Fire in Townsville 87-61.

Lightning hit the ground running in Townsville with an 8-0 opening backed by a 7-0 follow-up after Darcee Garbin (21 points) finally opened the Fire's scoring.

Ahead 15-2, Lightning had the Fire reeling, Steph Talbot (12 points, seven rebounds, six assists, three steals, two blocks), Kathryn Westbeld (12 points at 50 percent), Nicole Seekamp (six points, seven rebounds, eight assists) and Lauren Nicholson (13 points in the first quarter) all delivering 3-point daggers in that opening period, the lead at 26-9 late and 33-16 at the break.

On top of that, Brianna Turner was en route to a 17-point game at 70 percent, with seven rebounds and two blocks.

Chelsea Brook struck 2-of-2 threes for good measure, Nat Hurst and Hannah Kaser also both dropping a bomb, Adelaide 11-of-19 from outside the arc, paced by Nicholson's 3-of-5.

The Fire played Adelaide even in the second but down 30-47 at halftime, were going to require a miracle. It never happened.

In fact it went from bad to miserable when Abby Bishop copped an unsportsmanlike foul for an unnecessarily hard foul against Turner to facilitate Lightning's lead blowing out to 53-32.

Hurst's triple for a 61-36 lead initiated a 10-0 run in which Westbeld also featured prominently as Adelaide took a 68-36 buffer into the last quarter.

Townsville mustered a paltry six points in the third, outscored by 15.

Mindful of its home game Sunday against incoming WNBL leader Southside, Adelaide coach Chris Lucas played his bench of Hurst, Sarah Elsworthy, Kaser, Laura Hodges and Brook for most of the final quarter, allowing Townsville to put some minute measure of competitiveness into the final score.

AN inspired game by Shyla Heal off the Spirit's bench tonight underpinned a stunning 94-90 upset by the ladder's last-placed team over Canberra in Bendigo.

Heal not only scored 24 points on 6-of-11 shooting, but had 4-of-7 threes and converted 8-of-11 free throws, on top of which she had a WNBL career-best eight rebounds.

Carley Ernst (19 points with three threes) and Abbey Wehrung (14 with three threes) kept the Caps in a torrid fight, turning their 25-24 lead after one into an 11-point buffer at halftime with a 26-16 second quarter.

Marianna Tolo was magnificent for Canberra with game highs in points (26 at 54 percent) and rebounds (17), Keely Froling with a 22-point, 11-rebound double.

Again on triple-double watch, Caps international guard Olivia Epoupa had eight points, eight rebounds and 11 assists, plus a tidy four steals.

Bendigo still led by 10 (85-75) on Kelly Wilson's free throws heading into the last three minutes before Kia Nurse (17 points) nailed a 3-pointer for the visitors.

Tolo pulled the deficit back to 80-85 and again to 82-87 before the Spirit really felt the pressure inside the last minute when the Opals centre got the score back to 86-89.

But Tessa Lavey and Heal then iced it from the stripe, Nurse with a consolation basket for the final scoreline.

BENDIGO SPIRIT 94 (Heal 24, Ernst 19, Wehrung 14, Lavey 10; Heal 8 rebs; Wilson 9 assts) d UNI of CANBERRA CAPITALS 90 (Tolo 26, Froling 22, Nurse 17; Tolo 17 rebs; Epoupa 11 assts) at The Spirit Leveller, Bendigo Stadium.
ADELAIDE LIGHTNING 87 (Turner 17, Nicholson 13, Brook, Westbeld, Talbot 12; Seekamp, Talbot, Turner 7 rebs; Seekamp 8 assts) d JCU TOWNSVILLE FIRE 61 (Garbin 21, Bishop 15; Garbin 7 rebs; Madgen 5 assts) at The Fire Station, Townsville Stadium.

Jan 3

Content, unless otherwise indicated, is © copyright Boti Nagy.