Canberra Capitals send a statement to their WNBL rivals

Maddison Rocci has been a standout so far this season. Photo: Dion Georgopoulos
Maddison Rocci has been a standout so far this season. Photo: Dion Georgopoulos

Paul Goriss wanted the new-look Canberra Capitals to make a statement from the very first game and show the league this group can contend for a championship.

"I think 3-0 makes that statement".

Canberra continued their unbeaten start to the WNBL season with a stirring 79-75 win over the Adelaide Lightning at the National Convention Centre on Sunday.

The Capitals entered the clash determined to avoid a case of Groundhog Day - just like last year, they walked into game three with two wins under their belt.

We all know how last season panned out - 13 losses in a row marked one of the most forgettable on-court periods in club history, one Leilani Mitchell laughed to Goriss "they won't let you forget".

Now they have well and truly put those demons to bed following a Kelsey Griffin masterclass (21 points, eight rebounds, four assists).

Goriss wasted little time in injecting Mitchell into the contest for her Capitals debut with Canberra failing to show any signs of the rhythm they had found in their first two games.

Mitchell took some time to find her groove but she put in a stellar 28-minute shift that went above and beyond what she has managed at training on the comeback trail from a plantar fasciitis injury.

"A bit rusty, I must say, a bit rusty," Goriss said.

"But that’s obviously to be expected, Lei hasn’t played. It’s been slow getting her back in, she has only trained between 10 and 20 minutes in the last two weeks so there was always going to be a bit of rust.

"She was going to be a little bit slow to start. What is underrated was her leadership and poise and direction she helps with. She, alongside Kelly [Wilson] and Maddy [Rocci] really steered the ship.

Kia Nurse was a star for the home side. Photo: Dion Georgopoulos

Kia Nurse was a star for the home side. Photo: Dion Georgopoulos

"We’ve got great veterans but there is a belief in this group that whatever anyone can throw at us, we can handle some adversity and we showed that."

The Capitals shot at a lacklustre 28 per cent in the opening half to give Adelaide a four-point buffer at the main break. While the shooting soon improved, it seemed the scoreline would not against a Lightning outfit proving near unstoppable from the perimeter.

Every time Canberra got close, Adelaide pulled away.

Down in the last quarter and needing something special to turn things around, the Capitals finally had a chance to see if their team of champions could be a champion team in the face of adversity.

How did Griffin, Mitchell, Kia Nurse, Kelly Wilson and Lauren Scherf respond? By delivering one of the more stirring victories by a Capitals side in recent memory.

"We did a good job of answering the call today," Mitchell said.

"We have a pretty veteran group, and out on the court, and especially at half-time Gorrie challenged our post players to really get a presence inside because in the first half we didn’t have that.

"In the second half Kelsey was absolutely amazing, Loz came in and played great and they had no answer for them. That’s really what took us over the edge.

"We just wanted to continue to move the ball and make the defence shift a bit because we were getting a bit stagnant. We weren’t really making them play defence and we weren’t taking advantage of the mismatches so in the second half our defence turned it on."

CANBERRA CAPITALS 79 (Kelsey Griffin 21, Kia Nurse 14, Lauren Scherf 12) bt ADELAIDE LIGHTNING 75 (Sara Blicavs 18, Nia Coffey 16, Nicole Seekamp 7) at National Convention Centre.

This story Canberra Capitals send a statement to their WNBL rivals first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.