The Canberra Capitals have ensured this year’s decider is a rematch of last season’s Grand Final by getting past the Sydney Uni Flames 61-56 in Sydney on Saturday.
The Caps overcame an early lead to the Flames to book their ticket to the decider.
Sydney Uni’s Deanna Smith top-scored with 20 points while Canberra point guard Nat Hurst topped the Caps scoring with 18 points, Lauren Jackson added a huge double-double with 14 points and 18 rebounds.
Whilst still an impressive stats sheet, it was Jackson’s lowest score this season, partly due to the defensive of her former Olympic teammate, Natalie Porter.
“Sydney were awesome tonight, credit to them, Nat Porter was amazing,” Jackson said.
"Natty was tough as guts and I’m glad we won.”
The Capitals managed to get the job done shotting at only 30 percent from the field.
“I shot like crap so I’m just really happy we pulled it out, now it’s time to get back to the drawing board.”
Canberra has a week to prepare for the Grand Final when they will tackle minor premiers Bulleen down in Melbourne.
“I think going into Bulleen, they’re obviously the best team in the league and we’ve got a lot to do to beat them. We’re going to work hard and train hard for another week and try and figure out a way to get them,” Jackson said.
“I think it’s going to be a battle definitely.”
Both teams clicked into gear but Sydney Uni had a few stutters offensively while Canberra’s attack was flowing easily.
After a poor showing last week Sydney Uni’s Smith started to hit her straps and finished with 11 points in the first quarter, including a two-pointer on the buzzer to put the Flames out to a 21-15 lead at the first break.
Jackson finally got on the scoreboard 30 seconds into the second term. She followed that with a layup to bring the Caps within two points, 19-21, forcing Flames coach Karen Dalton to call a timeout after Sydney Uni pushed the ball out of bounds on what should have been an easy scoring opportunity.
Flames forward Ellie Manou started to get involved but Carly Wilson stepped back to knock down a trey and put the Caps back in from 24-23.
Smith found her way to the basket for a 3-point play to steal the lead back for the home team. Canberra point guard Nat Hurst kept the Caps in it with a shot-clock beating 3-pointer but as she had done in the Flames v Canberra Round 15 game, Smith continued to find ways to score, adding seven points in the term.
Sydney Uni’s Nat Porter levelled the scores with 3:15 to play in the second term as Canberra coach Carrie Graf called a timeout. Following the short break the Flames seemed flustered at times but the teams continued to go basket for basket.
Another buzzer-beater closed out the second term, but this time it was Canberra who took momentum into the break as Jackson kissed it off the glass from an inbounds play with less than a second remaining. After being held scoreless in the opening term, Jackson finished with 10 points in the second quarter to lead Canberra to a 37-34 advantage at halftime.
Carrie Graf gave Canberra Captain Kellie Abrams the job of shutting down the Flames' key scorer Smith in the second half, and the defesnive specialist got it done, keeping Smith to just two points in the final two terms.
The third quarter turned into a physical affair as both teams started putting their bodies on the line. Abby Bishop racked up three fouls in the term but Canberra managed to keep their heads in the game and held a 48-42 lead at the final break.
A Mikaela Dombkins 3-pointer from deep brought the Flames within one, 47-48, but Canberra’s Hurst immediately answered back with her own trey. It looked like Canberra would run away with it as the Flames made some poor decisions but baskets to Smith and Dombkins gave the Flames hope, only three points down, 54-57, with a minute remaining.
Graf called a timeout to set up a play, the shot hit iron but Jacksons put back the basket for two points and a 59-54 lead. With 14.4 seconds on the clock, Sydney Uni coach Karen Dalton called her players to the bench to see if they could conjure something special in the dying seconds but the Flames were forced to foul and the Caps held out to claim their spot in the decider.
CANBERRA TRANSACT CAPITALS 61 (N Hurst 18, L Jackson 14, A Bishop 11) def
ACUVUE SYDNEY UNI FLAMES 56 (D Smith 20, M Dombkins 9, N Porter 9)
Grand Final: 1.00pm Saturday March 6
Bulleen Boomers v Canberra Capitals
The Cage, Melbourne LIVE on ABC1 and WNBL Radio
Grand Final Tickets
Tickets from Ticketmaster, Corporate Boxes call Bulleen on 0398506222.
Ticket Pricing from Ticketmaster:
Child (14 years and under) $10
Family (2 adults/2 children) $55
8 seat fully catered box $770 gst inc
7 seat fully catered box $690gst inc
6 seat fully catered box $580 gst inc
4 seat fully catered box $390 gst inc
Photo courtesy of Rob Sheeley