Finals hopes fading fast

Returning veteran Sam Richards during her comeback match on Saturday night. 175963 Picture: STEWART CHAMBERS

By Nick Creely

The Dandenong Rangers are only a slender chance of appearing in the 2017/18 WNBL finals, with last year’s grand finalists dropping both of its matches last week.
With a trip across the Nullabor to play Perth Lynx last Thursday night, the Rangers required a lot to go their way, and started in electric fashion by skipping out to a 24-11 quarter time lead.
A strong focus on defence, and holding the Lynx at bay with their shooting, kept the visitors in control of the second, with the Rangers still holding a 13-point advantage at the main break.
With a strong home crowd of over 1000 people, the Lynx clawed their way back in the third – mainly through the efforts of Courtney Williams (27 points, eight rebounds) – to slash 10 points off the deficit and hold a crucial momentum advantage ahead of a potentially season defining final term.
Both sides held their own during different stages of the final term, but class overshone in the end, with the Lynx pipping the Rangers late to win 78-73.
On Saturday night, in a must win clash against the Canberra Capitals at Dandenong Stadium – a side on a 13 game losing streak – it proved to be yet another painful thriller.
Early in the piece, Capitals and Opals star Rachel Jarry was seriously injured in a knock to head, with the game pausing while the stretcher was called on the court.
Once play recommenced, the Capitals were outstanding, with a hot shooting quarter seeing them surge to a 26-18 lead.
Despite the brilliance of captain Steph Blicavs (29 points, seven rebounds and four assists) in the second quarter where the Rangers bit back to draw the game level at half time, the Capitals did just enough to hold the home side at bay to hang on to a 78-81 victory.
The loss sees the Rangers almost three matches outside the top four and, with only five games left, are a long shot to appear in the finals.
But the Rangers went back to the past on Saturday night, with returning veteran Sam Richards playing her first WNBL game in five years, as the Rangers battle some injuries.
“It was good – I just wanted to help the team any bit I could, we’re a bit down on numbers at the moment,” she said on Rangers TV post-match.
“It was nice to be out there; the girls are a great bunch of girls.”
The Rangers will play Sydney Uni Flames on Thursday night at home, before an away clash with Townsville Fire on Saturday night.

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