The Canberra Capitals have advanced to the Preliminary Final after downing the Townsville Fire in emphatic fashion on Sunday, 70-39, at the AIS Arena.
The Capitals were without livewire guard Jess Bibby who was a late withdrawal from the game after a death in her family.
Canberra Captain Kellie Abrams told The Canberra Times that family comes first in those situations and are unsure if Bibby will return for the Preliminary Final on Saturday.
After a sloppy opening from both teams the Capitals stood up in the second half to rout the Fire by 31 points.
Capital Abby Bishop top-scored with 20 points and added 15 rebounds for the double-double but it was Carly Wilson who was the standout on court for shutting down Jayco Opal and Townsville Captain Rohanee Cox.
Defence was the name of the game for both teams and the opening half was marked by turnovers and missed shots.
Townsville’s Jo Hill got the scoring underway but the Capitals went on a 12-0 run to open up an early lead. The Fire found their footing somewhat in the final minutes of the first quarter but the Caps had a 17-10 lead at the first break.
Townsville Coach Peter Buckle was frustrated at his team’s lack of offensive drive as they were kept to just nine points in the second quarter, but the Fire weren’t alone as the Caps scored only 12 with both teams shooting below 40 per cent.
Both teams hoped to make a good start to the second half but only Canberra found their range and the Capitals’ shots started to drop.
After being kept to just one point in the opening half, Lauren Jackson made her first basket of the game to open the scoring in the second half and then Bishop drained a three to give the Caps a 15-point lead.
With the Townsville bigs in foul trouble, Canberra’s tall trio of Jackson, Bishop and Tolo made a big impact in the third quarter while the Fire continued to struggle with their shooting.
Taking a 20-point lead into the final term the Caps were eager to go into the Preliminary Final in good form and started the quarter in great style, forcing Townsville into two shot clock violations.
With the result beyond doubt both coaches emptied their benches in the final minutes as the Capitals and Canberra crowd celebrated their win.
Next Saturday the Capitals will travel to Sydney to battle the Flames for a spot in the Grand Final.
CANBERRA TRANSACT CAPITALS 70 (A Bishop 20, L Jackson 16, M Tolo 9) bt
TOWNSVILLE MCCAFE FIRE 39 (R Flanagan 9, T Smith 8, J Hill 6, R Cox 6)
At AIS Arena, Canberra
WNBL FINALS SCHEDULE
Preliminary Final: 1.00pm Saturday February 27
Sydney Uni Flames v Canberra Capitals
Sydney Olympic Park Sports Centre LIVE on ABC1 and WNBL Radio
Grand Final: 1.00pm Saturday March 6
Bulleen Boomers v Winner Preliminary Final
The Cage, Melbourne LIVE on ABC1 and WNBL Radio
Photos courtesy of Eric Li for Canberra Pictorial