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Players left it all out on the court in the last round of the WNBL for 2023, every team wanting to end the year on a high. This meant there were some cracking games, a couple of upsets, and impressive individual performances. There is truly no limit to surprises in this league and as we enter the new year, we can expect a lot more ahead of the finals period.

The Sydney Flames have shown they are not to be underestimated, the Perth Lynx have proved they are more than just their point guard, Aari McDonald, and the Bendigo Spirit aren’t going away any time soon.

Game of the round – Perth Lynx vs. UC Capitals

The first game of the round set the tone for the rest. You couldn’t tell it was a game between the second team and the bottom team on the ladder. The UC Capitals came out firing and showed no fear at the Perth Lynx’s home court. It was the Caps who took the lead early and looked dominant in the first half. Alex Sharp was showing out against her old team, Jade Melbourne was dangerous, as she usually is, and Alex Fowler also stepped up.

They showed great poise, knowing when to get through their plays and went to attack in transition — they were proving they could do it all. When MVP contender Aari McDonald went down with a knee injury, it seemed to be the nail in coffin. It was a motivational moment for the Lynx, however, each player taking it upon themselves to get back in the game after being 17 points down.

Anneli Maley had yet another big double-double, Emily Potter utilised her height advantage and after a slow start, Amy Atwell could not miss from the three-point line — hitting 7/14 and having 36 points for the game. The Caps will be disappointed not to have put this one away and will also need to find a way to keep Melbourne out of foul trouble. Her on court presence in general is obviously desirable, but particularly her role as point guard.

Surprise of the round – Sydney Flames defeat Townsville Fire

The Sydney Flames made a statement this week, recording a huge overtime win against the reigning champions and top of the table Townsville Fire. It was the Fire’s second loss in a row, and despite having a stacked team, it was the Flames who rallied and got the win.

The team primarily revolves around the likes of Cayla George and Lauren Nicholson, but in this game the team relied on those with seemingly smaller roles to step up. In a perfect example of how stats don’t tell the whole story, it was Paige Bradley’s persistence that helped her team get over the line.

Hounded by one of the best defenders in the league, Steph Reid, Bradley played almost 38 minutes and only recorded two turnovers. She was also up to the task of containing Reid herself. Another quiet performer was Keira Rowe, whose defence was strong and whose hustle also made a difference.

George and Nicholson, of course performed to a high standard, but two other players that were big time was Emma Clarke and Didi Richards. As a team, they showed just what was possible with grit and belief — and to think what could happen when Tess Madgen returns!

Player of the round – Didi Richards

Didi Richards has plenty of experience but was yet to perform quite to the standard we might expect from her. That changed this round. With her mum in the stands, Richards put on a timely performance, showing great confidence and passion in her game. All it took was for her to make a couple of shots and then she really got going.

She gave her Flames team something to feel hyped about and took some of the pressure off the likes of George and Nicholson. A difficult player to guard due to her size and game style, the Flames will hope that Richards’ form continues.

RESULTS:

Perth Lynx defeated UC Capitals, 98-90

Sydney Flames defeated Townsville Fire, 77-74

Melbourne Boomers defeated by Bendigo Spirit, 78-81

Adelaide Lightning defeated by Southside Flyers, 62-87

Townsville Fire defeated Perth Lynx, 87-64

Source: https://www.espn.in/nbl/story/_/id/39221583/wnbl-round-9-review-sydney-flames-upset-townsville-fire-didi-richards-shines

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Mark Johnshon

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