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Loz back to bolster Lightning


ADELAIDE Lightning star Lauren Nicholson is excited at the club's new ownership, direction and its decision to retain coach Chris Lucas for a further three years, prompting her to sign a new WNBL contract.

Nicholson, 25 and 183cm, this year became the first Lightning player in the club's long and storied history to win the WNBL's Best Defensive Player award - offence has always been Adelaide's forte - and her decision to return is a huge boost for the 2018 grand finalists.

"My only hesitation in re-signing was doubts about the future of the club but (coach) Chris (Lucas) reassured me it was in the hands of some very capable people and that made me want to come back and play for them," she said.

In two years with Adelaide, Nicholson has played a key role in the club's re-emergence as a contender, leading the WNBL in 3-point accuracy this past season while also receiving her first Opals squad call up.

"When I got the phone call from Sandy Brondello, that was one of the best days of my life," Nicholson said.

"I had to keep pinching myself. An Opals squad ... I just wasn't expecting it.

"Over the two years, Chris has instilled a confidence in me I didn't have before, especially offensively.

"I knew I could play defence but he has helped me with the shooting aspect of my game and I am really pleased to be back."

The versatile guard/small forward has developed more than a cult following in Adelaide after a sensational season which saw her play a key role in Lightning returning to its first Grand Final Series since 2008.

Suffering a broken nose in the team's last match of the regular season in Perth, she further endeared herself to Lightning fans by courageously playing the semi final series against Melbourne Boomers regardless.

Adelaide swept the best-of-three semi 2-0 but lost Game 1 of the Grand Finals in Canberra.

It trailed by a point with 5.5 seconds left in Game 2 in Adelaide in front of more than 4,000 spectators at Titanium Security Arena when Nicholson and Nicole Seekamp manufactured a magnificent winning play.

Seekamp inbounded the ball to Nicholson, then sprinted down court while Nicholson speedily negotiated a steady stream of Capitals defenders before reaching the offensive keyway and spotting Seekamp now in front of the basket.

She passed it, Seekamp caught-and-shot it and Lightning had forced a Game 3.

WINNER, WINNER: Lauren Nicholson jumps for joy after her pass to Nic Seekamp wins Game 2.

"I was surprised Noodle (Seekamp) took the ball out of bounds," Nicholson said of the match-winning play.

"I took the pass, caught it and went, then I looked up and saw her (in the key) and passed it."

Seekamp did the rest.

"I was pretty devastated leaving Adelaide without winning the championship," Nicholson said, now playing for Kilsyth Cobras - coached by Adelaide Lightning's last championship-winning captain Sam Woosnam - in the NBL1 competition during the off-season.

"I feel a bit of loyalty to the club and next season we want to go one better, hopefully with a lot of the same players (returning)."

Recruited two years ago by Lucas from Sydney Uni, Nicholson's averages have gone from 5.1 points, 2.5 rebounds and .63 assists as a Flame to 7.9 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.9 assists in 2017-18.

Last season she joined the league's elite players as a premier defender, supplemented by career-high numbers of 13.3 points, 3.9 rebounds and  2.0 assists.

She came into the WNBL season after claiming the SEABL competition's Most Valuable Player award while at Launceston Tornadoes, averaging 25 points at 56 percent and 8.8 rebounds.

"Loz can defend a number of positions, her game is still growing and she wants to take it to the next level," Lucas said. "She is a really important piece for us to have in place."

Meanwhile, the club's Crowd Funding Campaigns have raised nearly $10,000 in their first day with a target of $500,000 overall.  To secure your “stake” in the team you can go to the following links: Donate a Brick - https://asf.org.au/donate/save-the-lightning---build-the-wall/ or to have your name on the Playing Singlet - https://asf.org.au/donate/adelaide-lightning/be-the-fabric-of-the-lightning---put-your-name-on-the-singlet/

Mar 20

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