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Caps with one hand on WNBL trophy


DOMINATING the second quarter, star Opals Marianna Tolo and Kelsey Griffin inside and playmaker Leilani Mitchell outside, turned Adelaide's game-plan on its ear to set up an 88-67 Game 1 win for Canberra in the WNBL's best-of-three Championship Series.

Tolo was a huge presence inside as the Capitals exploited Lightning's rotations to produce a match-winning 30-13 second quarter and place one hand firmly on what would be Canberra's record eighth championship.

The only player still at the club from its last title success in 2010, Tolo finished with 14 points on 7-of-8 shooting, seven rebounds, four assists, a steal and two blocks.

It was a Tour De Force, Griffin with a 22-point, 12-rebound double-double and Mitchell with 11 points and eight assists.

Kia Nurse joined the party to finish it with a game-high 23 points, including 5-of-10 threes and Kelly Wilson had six assists with her 12 points.

The match started in stark contrast to how it finished, Kayla Alexander (seven points on 3-of-4 shots, seven rebounds) first into the scorebook, fellow Lightning import Nia Coffey (15 points, 11 rebounds) next with a 3-pointer.

When Steph Blicavs sank a three, Adelaide was out 8-0 and Canberra desperately needing Wilson's drive and jumpshot to get started.

But Lightning didn't stop, Colleen Planeta icing a triple for 11-2, then Nicole Seekamp scrapping on the floor for a loose ball eventually secured by an equally desperate Lauren Nicholson.

On any "desperation scale", Adelaide was kilometres ahead, Blicavs' drive making it 13-2.

Seekamp posted up Mitchell for a three-point play and a 16-4 buffer which finally forced a Paul Goriss timeout.

A jumpshot by Nurse and Tolo starting to assert her presence, then Seekamp collecting her second foul at 4:40, changed the game's complexion. Tolo dragged it back to 15-19 before Penina Davidson showed some tenacious floor hustle, Coffey's transition jumpshot making Lightning's lead 23-15.

Mitchell's three ensured Adelaide only led 25-18 after one, which converted to 27-20 on Nicholson's gutsy drive.

When Nurse trimmed the deficit back to 24-27, it was Chris Lucas calling timeout. Tolo drew defenders and passed to a naked Griffin for 26-28 before Nicholson (21 points at 53 percent), stuck a 3-pointer, then followed it up with a drive for 33-26.

An open Griffin made it 32-33 but again Adelaide had the answer when Planeta scored.

Mitchell tied it at 35-35, Nicholson yet again had the answer from beyond the arc for 38-35.

But from there, it was all Canberra to the final bell.

Keeley Froling made it 37-38 at 3:41, Tolo scored for the lead, then backed it up for 41-38.

Davidson and Planeta missed good looks but Canberra did not, threes by Nurse and Mitchell key in a 13-0 run to halftime that had the 4200 crowd at full roar and Canberra ahead 48-38.

When Coffey finally scored at 9:05 in the third quarter, Adelaide had gone five minutes without a basket while Canberra's run had extended to 16-0.

Alexander inside got the deficit back to eight at 43-51 but Tolo was having none of it, returning the lead to double figures.

Griffin, then Wilson with an open drive had the margin to 57-44, before Wilson threw an "alley-oop" to Griffin for 59-44 and another Adelaide timeout.

But Lightning had lost their composure and threes by Nurse only made it worse at 69-52.

Only a magical Aimie Clydesdale halfway heave which was all net to close the third quarter gave Adelaide any joy, down 56-69 and although not out of it, not really in it either.

Nicholson was the star for Adelaide. She scored off an O-board, then her 3-pointer had Lightning with a pulse at 61-71 and 8:01 left.

But almost out on her feet, she missed a layup which would have cut it to eight and Canberra did not look back.

A pair of Wilson triples saw attention jump ahead to Game 2 on Wednesday in Adelaide, Lightning's 32 percent shooting compared to Canberra's 47, plus a 50-41 boards beating and 15 turnovers, giving Lucas plenty to work on. 

GRAND FINAL Best-Of-3

GAME 1: UNIVERSITY of CANBERRA CAPITALS 88 (Nurse 23, Griffin 22, Tolo 14, Wilson 12, Mitchell 11; Griffin 12 rebs; Mitchell 8 assts) d MAC ADELAIDE LIGHTNING 67 (Nicholson 21, Coffey 15; Coffey 11 rebs; Seekamp 8 assts) at Study Hall, AIS Arena.

GAME 2: Wednesday, Titanium Security Arena, 6.30pm tip-off local time.

GAME 3  (If Required): Saturday, February 15, 5pm local time, AIS Arena.

Feb 9

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