WNBL: Chris Lucas return inspired Adelaide, Rangers earn first win

Round 3 of the WNBL season saw Chris Lucas make an inspirational return to the helm of the Adelaide Lightning, while the Dandenong Rangers finally managed to return to the winners list for the first time in 2017/18.

Townsville and Sydney renewed their rivalry, with their contest going down to the wire to get the round underway. It almost looked like it was going to be a complete blow out, as the Flames blitzed Townsville out of the gate scoring 17 to their 5 in the first quarter. However the Fire were able to get themselves back in it, and a 20-14 third quarter Townsville’s way put the win in anyone’s court.

A phenomenal performance from Katie-Rae Ebzery (22 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists) and Asia Taylor (19 points, 10 rebounds) allowed Sydney to hang on by a thread and conclude the match as winners by 3 points. Suzy Batkovic continued her brilliant form with 22 points, 12 rebounds, 2 assists and 3 blocks, while Cayla George also put in a solid effort with 10 points and 15 rebounds however it wasn’t enough to combat the slow start by the Fire.

Perth were quick to make amends for their disappointing loss in Bendigo in round 2, and made sure history wouldn’t repeat itself at the Spirit ventured to the west. The Lynx put themselves in a good position with their first half, and hung on to claim a healthy 106-79 point win to open their account for the season.

There was an array of highlights from Perth, with Alice Kunek dominating with 23 points, Sami Whitcomb damaging with 17 points, 5 rebounds, 9 assists and 4 steals, and both Alex Ciabattoni (21 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists) and Kayla Standish (16 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists) banking some good numbers for the game. Ciabattoni and Kunek both couldn’t be stopped and kept firing away to stretch out the lead.

Kelsey Griffin continues to give her all to this Bendigo team and tried her best with 22 points and 10 rebounds, however the Spirit were smashed on the rebounds and gave Perth too many opportunities.

Adelaide Lightning had an extra spring in their step as they fronted up to take on Bendigo on Saturday night with head coach Chris Lucas returning to the helm after battling kidney cancer. It was a remarkable effort from the Lightning, who refused to give up against a fierce Bendigo outfit and were able to finish in overtime with a 4 point win.

Colleen Planeta was playing with a purpose and gave her side lifts when they needed it. Planeta capped off her night with 21 points, 9 rebounds and 4 steals. Nicole Seekamp was damaging, particularly early on and finished on 8 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 steals. Natalie Novosel (19 points, 6 assists) and Abby Bishop (16 points, 11 rebounds) were also exceptional for the Lightning.

It was again another incredible performance from Kelsey Griffin who finished on 17 points, 16 rebounds and 2 assists, and Gabe Richards (22 points, 8 rebounds) was also solid for Bendigo.

Liz Cambage has once again led her Melbourne Boomers to another win in their bank, and with some pivotal moments late in the game she helped send it into overtime where the Boomers came out on top 79-77.

A huge block on Kayla Standish followed by four points on the board was how Cambage helped save the day for Melbourne. Rebecca Cole and Maddie Garrick were also vital in late moments with some solid defense and clutch shots.

Cambage finished on a massive 23 points and 22 rebounds, helping her side to dominate the rebound count 51-36. Brittany Smart (16 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists) was dynamic and damaging for Melbourne, while Garrick (15 points, 5 rebounds) and Cole (6 points, 8 assists) also racked up some good numbers in captain Jenna O’Hea’s absence.

Sami Whitcomb was the standout for Perth all night and tried valiantly until the end, finishing her night on 18 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists and 6 steals. Courtney Williams also had a good game with 20 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists and 6 steals.

Dandenong finally got on the board and opened their account for this season with a huge win over one of this season's hot contenders - Townsville. The Rangers played a fast pace game with high intensity, and they came out on top 86-69 over the Fire. Carley Mijovic couldn't miss, and the tall forward finished on 28 points and 8 rebounds.

Batkovic was again Townsville's best, and tried hard with 21 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks but it wasn't enough to combat Dandenong's overall spread of performers. The Rangers smashed the rebound count 53-36 and gave themselves plenty of opportunities which was coupled with some slick shooting.

The Rangers then headed to Canberra to take on the Capitals to close out the round. The Capitals led the entire match of this high intensity game but the Rangers had the edge in the final moments and a buzzer beater from Spanish point guard Laia Palau gave the Rangers a 1 point win. The game had fans on the edge of their seats with 7 lead changes in the final 4 minutes.

Sara Blicavs was the Rangers best with 24 points, 13 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals under her belt. Kayla Pederson was also solid inside and gave the Rangers 19 points, 11 rebounds and 3 assists.

For Canberra, Abbey Wehrung was damaging from beyond the arc and totalled 19 points for the match, Mistie Bass and Nat Hurst were also good with 12 points. The game finished what was a successful weekend for the Dandenong Rangers, as they made their presence well and truly known for this season.