Sport

Canberra 80 Perth 77

WNBL: Canberra Capitals farewell Lauren Jackson in style with drought-breaking win

Ding dong, the gorilla-sized monkey the Capitals have carried for 21 games is dead.

Canberra's Abby Bishop, who was outstanding for the Capitals, takes on Perth's Sami Whitcomb.
Canberra's Abby Bishop, who was outstanding for the Capitals, takes on Perth's Sami Whitcomb. Photo: Jay Cronan

The Capitals threw it off their shoulders by shocking third-placed Perth Lynx to win 80-77 in a thriller at AIS Arena on Friday night.

In coach Carrie Graf's third-last game in charge, the Capitals 'bigs' Abby Bishop and Denesha Stallworth dominated inside to set up the win and snap a 21-game losing streak.

With Lauren Jackson farewelled before the game the Capitals — a $6 outsider in betting — made her swansong one to remember by holding off a late Lynx rally.

Down 76-64 with less than five minutes left, Sami Whitcomb (26 points, seven steals) was huge down the stretch to ignite an 11-0 Perth run to get the Lynx within one.

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Carley Mijovic (28 points, 7-12 three pointers) was brilliant offensively, but missed a jumper with four seconds left which would have levelled the game.

However, Mijovic was exploited defensively by Bishop (25 points, 15 rebounds) and Stallworth (21 points), who shot 17-25 from the field between them.

The relief for the Caps, who finally won a rebound count 36-31, was evident as their jubilant players celebrated the victory like it was a grand final.

It ensured Graf and WNBL games record holder Jess Bibby would not retire on a winless season.

"It's funny, it's the first game we've won but at the end of it we were so excited. It had a special feel and it was great to get that win against a great side who is in the hunt for a championship," Bishop said.

"Everyone came out to play and the crowd was awesome to send Loz [Jackson] off.

"We thought one of our advantages was going inside and obviously it worked."

Graf will walk away from the Capitals after 15 years and six titles after their last two games against South East Queensland (away) on Sunday, and Bendigo (home) on February 20.

She said it was just reward for her players, who came close to beating another top-four side Dandenong last week.

"We haven't had a lead in the last quarter all year and we had to dig deep," she said.

"They made a big run, Mijovic was unconscious and [Steph] Talbot's defence tonight was big, and Bishop's was an MVP performance.

"Defensively we were tough at times and they've got some players who make some world class shots. The duck's gone, we've got one in that column."

Given Perth's size, guard Bibby only received four minutes of court time, but Bishop said farewelling her and Graf in style had kept the side motivated.

"Obviously both of them have been part of the program through the good and the bad, to play to our potential was important for the club and send off Graffy and Bibby," Bishop said.

Capitals skipper Carly Wilson praised her side's composure after Perth jumped to a 12-4 lead early.

"We tend to have a lull so it was good it happened right from the start, so we could be consistent for the rest of the game," she said.

"The whole game I felt confident we were going to get the win.

"My biggest emotion is relief because I'm so glad we were able to get it for Graffy and Bibby, they're icons of the game and they really deserved it."

CANBERRA CAPITALS 80 (Abby Bishop 25 pts, 15 rebounds; DeNesha Stallworth 21 pts, 8 rebounds; Renee Montgomery 13 pts, 5 assists) bt PERTH LYNX 77 (Carley Mijovic 28 pts; Sam Whitcomb 26 pts, 8 rebounds; Betnijah Laney 13 pts, 6 assists, 7 rebounds) at AIS Arena on Friday. Crowd: 553.