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Lights (and Bishop) out as Boomers claim sweep

TOWNSVILLE tonight reinforced the adage of "addition by subtraction," axing Abby Bishop, then beating Canberra, while Melbourne Boomers completed a 3-0 WNBL season-sweep of the Lightning with a tight win in Adelaide.

Those twin results likely mean the Boomers will hold second behind Southside - and they could even grab a share of first with the pair meeting on Sunday - while the defending champion Capitals will be trying to avoid slipping to fourth.

Melbourne most probably tonight consigned Adelaide to that berth after controlling much of their contest at The Lighthouse before narrowly winning 74-69.

Lightning had their chances but a dreadful 0-of-10 first-half return from beyond the arc, compared to Melbourne's 6-of-11, pushed it onto the backfoot.

Maddie Garrick's 3-pointer to beat the first quarter buzzer tied it at 18-18 but the Boomers, with great defensive rotations and switching defensive strategies into zones as well, kept Lightning sufficiently off balance to shoot 7-of-17 in the second quarter, and turn over the ball five times.

Adelaide players repeatedly second-guessed themselves, passing up good open looks for hurried shots to beat the clock, while at the other end, Sophie Cunningham (18 points at 50 percent, 4-of-7 threes) had a night out.

Trailing 35-44 at halftime, Lightning opened with a corner 3-ball from Nicole Seekamp (11 points, six rebounds, 11 assists, three steals), igniting a 7-0 run to bring the deficit back to 42-44.

But despite a further four great defensive stops, they could not reward themselves offensively on a single one and, inevitably, Melbourne again found its range.

A 7-0 Boomers retaliation forced an Adelaide timeout and Melbourne was back in control, Ezi Magbegor (14 points, eight rebounds) and Cayla George (14 points, seven assists) prominent.

By the last break, Melbourne led 60-48, coincidentally the same scoreline as last week's game in Adelaide, except it was halftime and Lightning leading Southside.

Brianna Turner (23 points, 10 rebounds) led an amazing Lightning fightback in the last quarter, leading the way with 10 points, Kathryn Westbeld (18) and Lauren Nicholson (10) also stepping it up.

Inside the last four minutes, Westbeld's step-back 3-pointer brought Adelaide to 66-70 and the difference again was four when Westbeld's layup cancelled Kalani Purcell's.

Cunningham's driving baseline layup past a flat-footed Steph Talbot inside the final two minutes was big, the score at 74-68 and Adelaide taking timeout.

Adelaide turned over the ball on its next possession with a five-second inbounds violation and an attempted "touchdown" pass by Seekamp, which turned into her sixth turnover, left the difference too great with too little time.

Seekamp put the clamps on Boomers star Lindsay Allen (7 points, 2 assists in 30:42) but underwhelming performances from Talbot, Chelsea Brook and Nat Hurst were significant.

On the plus side, with all that, Melbourne only won by five.

DEAKIN MELBOURNE BOOMERS 74 (Cunningham 18, Magbegor, George 14; Garrick 9 rebs; George 7 assts) d ADELAIDE LIGHTNING 69 (Turner 23, Westbeld 18, Seekamp 11, Nicholson 10; Turner 10 rebs; Seekamp 11 assts) at The Lighthouse, Titanium Security Arena.

IN Townsville, where the Fire this week released 2015 league MVP Abby Bishop, it was a second straight humiliation for defending champion Canberra.

Playing with a freedom, joy and abandon not evident through much of the season, the Fire were ahead 49-36 at halftime before motoring home on a staggering 34-14 final period.

The 102-69 rout easily was Townsville's most outstanding performance of the season, and came with it shooting 56 percent from the floor and connecting on 16-of-26 threes, or 61 percent.

The Fire never trailed, won the boards 43-28, dished 28 assists to 16 - half of which were by Caps import Olivia Epoupa - and kept Canberra to 36 percent shooting.

Tess Madgen led the Townsville assault with her 26 points including 5-of-9 threes. Julie Vanloo  swished 4-of-4 triples in her 16-point, 10-assists double-double.

Bridget Carleton enjoyed a 13-point (3-of-4 threes), 11-rebound double, with five assists, and Kate Gaze had her best game since returning north with her 12 points at 71 percent including 2-of-2 threes.

Canberra had no answers, Kia Nurse's 17 points on 6-of-22 shooting, Keely Froling's 10-rebound, 15-point double coming on 5-of-18 shooting.

Marianna Tolo's 17 points came at 60 percent, Maddi Rocci had her moments but it was one to forget for a Capitals team desperately missing injured Kelsey Griffin.

JCU TOWNSVILLE FIRE 102 (Madgen 26, Vanloo 16, Garbin 14, Carleton 13, Gaze 12, Cocks 10; Carleton 11 rebs; Vanloo 10 assts) d UNI of CANBERRA CAPITALS 69 (Tolo, Nurse 17, Froling 15, Rocci 14; Froling 10 rebs; Epoupa 8 assts) at The Fire Station, Townsville Stadium.

Jan 10

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