The University of Canberra Capitals have come out on top in a nail-biter against the Townsville Fire, defeating the reigning champs 81 to 77 at Southern Cross Stadium.
The team looked like an entirely different side to the one that was thumped by Dandenong only a week ago.
However, in the first quarter it looked like it was going to be another disappointing night for the UC Capitals, by the half-way mark of the opening period they found themselves down by 13 points and simply couldn’t capitalise on their chances. However, a nice three-pointer from Kate Gaze steadied the ship and by quarter time UC Capitals only trailed by five points.
Gaze continued to wreak havoc on the Townsville defence in the second quarter, while Marianna Tolo’s work both offensively and defensively was incredible. The UC Capitals took the lead for the first time in the game with four minutes left in the second, only to relinquish it and went into the main break down 36 to 38.
The UC Capitals came out of half-time on absolute fire. Lauren Mansfield sparked a scoring surge with a deep three-pointer, and the side’s all-round defensive pressure suffocated Townsville’s offense. The team reached a nine point lead at one stage in third quarter, but some sloppy errors by the UC Capitals saw that lead diminished to three points by the end of the period.
The fourth quarter started tightly, with both sides taking turns of getting points on the board. However, an inspirational block from Marianna Tolo on Suzy Batkovic led to a crucial two points for the UC Capitals and from that moment the home team clicked into gear and managed to get out to a nine point lead. To the Fire’s credit, they never gave up hope. They also stepped their game up to another level and with less than two minutes to go on the clock, cut UC Capitals lead to one point. The tension from within Southern Cross Stadium was unbearable, but inevitably the UC Capitals were simply too strong.
Kate Gaze was outstanding for UC Capitals. Up against her former team, she certainly showed them what they were missing. She finished the night with 18 points (more than any other UC Capitals player), two rebounds, an assist and shot at 75% accuracy from beyond the arc, converting three out of four attempts.
She said that although getting the win over her old team felt “awesome”, the most important thing was for her side to continue winning.
“To come out the way we did against a quality team is huge for us and especially in this stretch of home games coming up before Christmas, it’s something we take into these next three games hoping to get all three,” she said.
Marianna Tolo was once again crucial for the UC Capitals, scoring 17 points, taking four rebounds and perhaps most impressive, blocking five shots.
Lauren Mansfield was the architect for so many of UC Capitals attack, her numbers for the night included 15 points, six assists and three rebounds.
A mention must also go to Mikaela Ruef, she picked up her second double-double of the season with 14 points and 17 rebounds.
Unsurprisingly, head coach Paul Goriss was ecstatic with his side’s performance.
“I couldn’t be more happy with the contribution of everyone on our team tonight. This goes to show what we spoke about today about where we wanted to fit in this league and where we saw ourselves. This was always going to be the barometer game for us and tonight we made a statement,” he said.
He also paid tribute to the fans and for their support of the side through thick and thin.
“I think they’re doing a great job of getting behind us, the crowds are huge coming into the game for us and that really helps lift us at times and they play a huge part in that”.
This entire round of the WNBL was affiliated with Vicinity Centres Aussie Hoops, which aims to provide young players with an enjoyable and safe basketball experience.
UC Capitals play at Southern Cross Stadium next Sunday 27 November at 2pm, when the team meet the second placed Perth Lynx.