The Canberra Capitals have won back-to-back defencejobs WNBL championships following their 73-59 win over the Sydney Uni Flames at the Penrith Sports Stadium today.
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An unanswered 15-point run from the Capitals in the fourth quarter laid the foundation for Canberra’s and coach Carrie Graf's fifth WNBL title.
163cm Canberra point guard Nat Hurst scored an equal game high 15 points while five other Canberra players – Abby Bishop, Kellie Abrams, Donna Loffhagen, Tracey Beatty and Tully Bevilaqua – contributed double figures.
For Sydney Uni, Nat Porter scored 15 points while retiring legend and former Opals captain Trish Fallon finished with 13 points.
202cm Canberra centre Tracey Beatty was named the Grand Final MVP courtesy of her 12 point, 12 rebound, 3 assist and 3 blocked shot double-double.
Graf, who was also was named Coach of the Year, attributed the win to her teams dedication and hard work.
"This goes out not only to this team but every player I have ever coached," she said.
"The players make me the coach I am."
While Sydney Uni coach Karen Dalton put the loss down to a misfiring offence.
"I think the better team won on the day," she said. "They shot the ball better than us and that's what it comes down to in these games.
"I don't think we responded very well offensively. Our offensive execution in the second half wasn't fantastic.
"I think we gave up to many offensive rebounds, missed alot of foul shots and we just didn't execute offensively and get the ball into the right people's hands enough."
The opening tussle for the ball immediately after the jump ball signaled both teams’ intentions which continued through the first quarter with eight fouls being called during the first three minutes.
Flames key forward Nat Porter opened the game scoring with a free throw.
Retiring legend and former Opals captain Trish Fallon proved why she is regarded as one the Australia’s greatest female basketballers, netting nine points in the quarter with her trademark composure.
Flames coach Karen Dalton had to inject Georgia Woodyard in earlier than normal after Eva Afeaki tallied two quick fouls in those opening minutes.
From there, both sides traded baskets, with Porter given the task of defending 202cm Canberra tall Tracey Beatty.
Tully Bevilaqua (pictured) subbed off with two minutes remaining and with scores level at 13-all, her replacement, energetic guard Nat Hurst immediately made an impact - driving to the basket, collecting the foul, scoring the two and finishing of the free throw for the three-point play.
But it was Fallon, in her 251st and final WNBL game that kept the Flames in touch with Canberra, who held a 20-19 quarter time lead.
Alicia Poto started the second quarter with four straight points, while the rest of Sydney Uni’s offensive threats warmed up and the Flames took 28-26 lead forcing Capitals coach Carrie Graf to call a time out.
The Flames maintained their attacking play with Eva Afeaki driving the lane for four second quarter points and allowing Sydney Uni to establish a 33-28 lead with four minutes remaining.
However, Canberra responded with a Nat Hurst a 3-point basket, a Kellie Abrams steal and basket that reduced the score to 35-34 before Hurst went to the free throw line and regained the lead by calmly netting both attempts.
A Michelle Musselwhite 3-pointer leveled the scores at 38-all, before both Kristen Veal and Kellie Abrams sunk one free throw each to leave the halftime score at 39-all.
By halftime, both Sydney Uni’s Nat Porter and Canberra’s Nat Hurst had scored 10 points each while Fallon had nine points and Bibby eight points.
Beatty opened the scoring in the second half, netting a jumper before Nat Porter was fouled and duly sank her two free throws to level the score at 41-all.
The best defensive team in the league got to task and shut down the best offensive team in the league. The Capitals restricted the Flames to just six points for the term.
Interestingly, it was the third quarter during the major semi-final two weeks ago that Sydney Uni kept the Capitals to just six points.
Tracey Beatty nailed a four-foot jumper before a Jess Bibby free throw pushed the Capitals out to 45-43 lead.
Some outstanding hustle and movement from 18-year old Abby Bishop illustrated the Caps desperation, jumping on the ball and forcing a jump ball but Sydney Uni received the ball as they had the possession arrow.
With three second remaining in the quarter, Tracey Beatty netted a jumper to give the Capitals a 50-45 three quarter time lead.
Nat Porter was leading all scorers with 13 points while Beatty had tallied 12 points and eight rebounds.
A Michelle Musselwhite free throw opened scoring in the final quarter before Sydney Uni turned to Ms. Clutch Trish Fallon.
34-year-old Fallon went on a six point scoring run to give the Flames a 52-50 lead with 7:01 remaining.
However, consecutive three point baskets from the inspirational Tully Bevilaqua and feisty Nat Hurst and another four points from captain Kellie Abrams gave the defending champions a healthy eight point, 60-52 lead with 4:17 remaining.
And the Caps didn’t stop there, scoring another five points through baskets to Abrams and Bevilaqua – for 15 straight points – to open up a championship winning 65-52 lead.
Musselwhite dropped two free throws to reduce the margin to 13 before Eva Afeaki registered her fifth personal foul and was out of the game.
Nat Porter dropped another two points to make the score 56-65 while another free throw from Musselwhite reduced the margin to 65-57.
An Alicia Poto foul sent Donna Loffhagen to the line, who re-established the 10-point margin.
A steal and assist from Tully Bevilaqua and two easy lay-ups from Donna Loffhagen pushed the score out to 72-57.
A final two free throws from Musselwhite moved the score to 59-72 before Nat Hurst sank a free throw of her own to give the Capitals a 73-59 victory.
The win gives Coach Carrie Graf her fifth WNBL championship and unfortunately for Fallon she retires one win short of retiring a championship winner.
Canberra 73 (Hurst 15, Beatty 12, Bevilaqua 12) def.
Sydney Uni 59 (Porter 15, Fallon 13, Musselwhite 11) at Penrith Sports Stadium.
Image courtesy of Lisa McGinnigle