A career-high 27 points from 200th-gamer Alison Downie couldn’t lift Dandenong to an upset home victory over Lauren Jackson-led Canberra on Saturday.
The Rangers were gallant, but couldn’t stop the Lauren Jackson led Capitals from strengthening their claim on WNBL championship favouritism with a 79-65 win.
Jackson, playing her first game in Melbourne since returning to the league, scored 35 points and grabbed eight rebounds to lead the visitors to their fifth consecutive triumph.
A packed house greeted the Opals forward for the afternoon blockbuster, and while the local fans couldn’t cheer their Rangers home, they left satisfied with the performances of both the international superstar and their hometown hero.
Downie, who almost stole the show with an inspired performance at both ends of the court, later said she was proud of the way her side responded to two disappointing losses in Queensland last round.
“We competed well, especially after last week’s poor performances, because they (the Capitals) are such a good team,” she said.
“And I think it needs to be my 200th game every week if I play like that.
It took Jackson just seven seconds to open her own scoring account, but she and the Caps didn’t have it all their way in the first half.
The undersized Rangers were content to live and die by the three-pointer early, riding a hot shooting streak to take a 14-8 lead midway through the term on the back of four triples.
Ryan and Downie connected on two threes apiece in the first quarter as the locals tied the game away at 19-19 after one.
The Caps hit back in the second, using their swarming defence to start a series of fast-break opportunities.
Downie was still prominent, but the Caps - led by point guard Nat Hurst (19 points) and Jackson - enjoyed the increased tempo and took a 10-point lead into the main break.
They extended that margin by two points in a hard-fought third term as Jackson started to exert her influence in the paint, but the Rangers drew within seven when Downie hit her fifth triple of the afternoon four minutes into the last quarter.
The Caps were professional enough to steady and hold off the Dandenong challenge, shooting guard Jess Bibby icing the game with a long bomb with a minute to play.
Canberrra forward Abby Bishop (12) provided handy support for Jackson inside, while Dandenong guard Steph Cumming (12) was among just two Rangers to score double figures.
Canberra, now 12-5 and in third place, will host second-placed Sydney Uni at AIS Arena next Saturday night, while Dandenong (5-12) travels west to Perth and Adelaide next weekend.
CANBERRA TRANSACT CAPITALS 79 (L Jackson 33, N Hurst 12, A Bishop 11) bt
DANDENONG JAYCO RANGERS 65 (A Downie 27, S Cumming 12, C Ryan 8)
At Dandenong Basketball Stadium
By Paul Pickering for The Dandenong Star
Photos courtesy of Ian Knight Photography