Canberra's Valeri Ogoke battled valiantly against the Boomers on Friday. Photo: John Preller
Michelle Cosier and Nicole Hunt tried valiantly to drag them to victory, but in the end it was a key player's absence which potentially cost the Canberra Capitals victory against Bulleen on Friday night.
Without their best player all season in centre Brigitte Ardossi, the Capitals were eventually ground down 72-69 at AIS Arena by a Boomers outfit desperate to keep their slim finals hopes alive.
Against perhaps the biggest side in the competition, Ardossi's withdrawal after copping a knock to the head last week was a huge boost to the Boomers.
To their credit the Capitals refused to use this as an excuse, but their arch rivals held their composure far better when the game was on the line.
Point guard Hunt (21 points, five assists, two steals, two turnovers) was influential throughout the match, but a couple of poor decisions with the game on the line cost Canberra dearly.
Despite shooting just 26 per cent from the field in the first term, Canberra trailed by only one after the first quarter.
But with Cosier (21 points, 4-7 three pointers, 11 rebounds) on fire from the perimeter, the Capitals built a 30-25 lead at the main break.
The match was far from pretty, with Bulleen racking up 22 turnovers to Canberra's 16.
But ultimately it was the Boomers' dominance on the boards which proved the decisive factor, out-rebounding the hosts 44-31.
Up against experienced ''bigs'' Alice Kunek (16 points, six rebounds) and Hollie Florance (10 rebounds), Sam Norwood and Valerie Ogoke battled strongly.
But Bulleen's class advantage inside eventually took its toll, outscoring Canberra in the paint 24-12.
Regular guard Carly Wilson also played big minutes in the post to help cover for Ardossi, which negated her offensive impact.
But she pulled off a superb containing job on Bulleen's Opals forward Rachel Jarry, who scored just 10 points, all in the second half, after finding early foul trouble.
"That's really disappointing to go down like that, it was always going to be tough with the players we had out, but it is what it is,'' Hunt said.
"The third quarter [which Bulleen won 25-19] was our downfall. They had 25 points - and a team still clinging to finals [hopes], you can't give them a chance to get back in the game.
"I think we covered her [Ardossi] fine. Sam [Norwood] came back in the starting line-up and Val's athleticism [helped].
"They're a big team and particularly on the perimeter.''
AT A GLANCE
BULLEEN BOOMERS 72 (Alice Kunek 16, Tess Madgen 13, Rachel Jarry 10) bt CANBERRA CAPITALS 69 (Nicole Hunt 21, Michelle Cosier 21, Jess Bibby 11) at AIS Arena on Friday night.
Other results: Adelaide 87 bt Dandenong 75; Bendigo 89 bt Sydney 71.