Canberra Capitals one win away from ending WNBL championship drought
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Canberra Capitals one win away from ending WNBL championship drought

It was hard to miss the signs of the glory days, but the seven championship banners had left a gap just in case there's a new one on the way.

The Canberra Capitals went halfway to filling that gap with an emphatic 88-67 demolition of the Adelaide Lightning at AIS Arena on Saturday night.

Capitals captain Kelsey Griffin produced an epic second quarter in their emphatic win.

Capitals captain Kelsey Griffin produced an epic second quarter in their emphatic win.Credit:Sitthixay Ditthavong

And if those banners weren't enough to have you thinking about old glory, then the 4120 screaming fans certainly did.

But it was as if those banners were hanging heavily on the Capitals' shoulders at the start.

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They struggled to get out of the blocks and quickly found themselves 11 points behind the visitors who had clearly come to play.

Capitals coach Paul Goriss put that start down to nerves, but what turned it around proved a point of contention.

After Marianna Tolo on the inside and Kia Nurse on the out kept the home team in it, an unusually quiet Kelsey Griffin exploded.

Kept scoreless in the first quarter, she went ballistic in the second to end up with 22 points and 12 rebounds - egded out by Nurse (23 points).

Griffin's ferocity was evident from the first whistle of the second term.

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It was as if her time on the bench in the first quarter was spent brooding.

Her and the Capitals were like rabid beasts in the second, turning a seven-point quarter-time deficit into a 10-point  half-time lead.

There was only ever going to be one winner after that.

Griffin rebounded everything and sunk baskets at will. The rest of the team fed of it and they found their three-point range.

Leilani Mitchell, Nurse and Kelly Wilson all started to hit them from outside the arc.

Not surprisingly, Goriss was full of praise for his captain.

Capitals guard Kia Nurse gets some air on her way to a game-high 23 points.

Capitals guard Kia Nurse gets some air on her way to a game-high 23 points.Credit: Elesa Kurtz

"You don't want to keep expecting that that's how Kelsey Griffin plays," he said.

"It's not a one-man band with us, but she definitely at times - I hate the term - but she puts us on her back.

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"She's a possession player, she'll go and get an offensive rebound, she'll get a defensive rebound, she'll get a score, she'll get a stop.

"There's that unrelenting persistence that Kelsey Griffin plays with that makes her so great, but we feed off that too.

"It just brings others into the game."

But Griffin saw stars in veteran Kelly Wilson, with her experience helping turn things around, as well Keely Froling, who came off the bench to play her role when Adelaide threatened to run away with it.

She also felt the crowd were the crucial sixth woman.

"The crowd honestly turned that first quarter around for us," Griffin said.

"I heard stories about what Canberra can be like playing in finals - I've never gotten to experience it, but now I know what all the hype is about."

Lauren Nicholson (21 points) and Coffey (15) played loan hands for Adelaide, with Lightning coach Chris Lucas left bemoaning his team's defence after the opening stanza.

Goriss felt the fact they'd shut down the rest of Adelaide showed how a good job they did.

But he knows it's only job half done.

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They go to Adelaide on Wednesday, where they're hoping for a crowd of 2000-plus, knowing a different Lightning awaits as the Capitals look to end a nine-year championship drought.

"They're going to be different in Adelaide. Obviously travelling away, we've got to make sure we don't give them the start that they had at home," Goriss said.

"It'll be a different game. It will be a tougher game. We'll go away and put some things in place to be better the next time we play them, as will they, but hopefully the result is the same.

"But it's the two best teams in the league so it will be another battle."

AT A GLANCE

CANBERRA CAPITALS 88 (Kia Nurse 23, Kelsey Griffin 22 points; Griffin 12 rebounds; Leilani Mitchell 8 assists) bt ADELAIDE LIGHTNING 67 (Lauren Nicholson 21, Nia Coffey 15 points; Coffey 11 rebounds; Nicole Seekamp 8 assists) at AIS Arena. Crowd: 4120.

David Polkinghorne covers the Canberra Raiders, local rugby league, Canberra Cavalry, racing and cycling, along with every other sport, for The Canberra Times.

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