Canberra Capitals coach Paul Goriss has called on WNBL referees to protect Marianna Tolo, claiming teams are using tactics to "bash" one of the competition's most prolific scorer.
The Capitals were playing across town in Adelaide as Anthony Mundine and Danny Green traded blows in a grudge match, but Goriss said it was his WNBL star in the middle of a boxing match on Friday night.
The Capitals kept their finals hopes alive by beating the Adelaide Lightning 74-66, with Tolo scoring 20 points and being fouled out of the game in the dying seconds.
Tolo is almost certain to win a spot in the WNBL all star team this season before she moves to Europe next season to reignite her international career.
Tolo has been Canberra's dominant player this year and will be crucial again when they back up against the Perth Lynx on Sunday, with the 27-year-old to go head to head with WNBA star Ruth Hamblin.
But Goriss wants WNBL officials to clamp down on the way teams are trying to stop Tolo, who averages 18.6 points per game and is in the top three in the league for blocks, rebounds and points scored.
"I think Tolo can get even better, she can have even more of an impact ... it gets turned into a boxing match rather than allowing her to play her game," Goriss said.
"It seems like everyone's plan for [defending against] Tolo is to bash her up so we'd like to see that change."
The Capitals are chasing a drought-breaking finals berth and need to keep winning if they want to break into the play-offs for the first time since 2011.
Their roster has taken a hit with just a handful of games remaining after 186 centimetre forward Stephanie Bairstow was released from her two-year contract last week.
It can be revealed Bairstow suffered a season-ending injury and she has left the club despite having a deal until the end of next season.
Bairstow played 14 of Canberra's 20 games this season and added depth to the bench, but the Capitals will go into their remaining games with one less player.
The Capitals have four games left in their season and are walking a finals tightrope with four players battling for the last two spots in the play-off.
Goriss said a season of grinding wins and losses has set his players up for the intense end to the regular season and a potential finals campaign.
"It was a dogfight for the whole game against Adelaide, but that's good preparation for the finals," Goriss said.
"Perth have more scoring firepower that we're going to have to deal with so there will be changes in plans there.
"We're going to have to win it at the defensive end of the floor. We definitely know we can mix it with them.
"We've only had a couple of blowouts this year, everything else has been close. I don't think we're the most talented team, but we work hard and make everything a battle."
AT A GLANCE
CANBERRA CAPITALS 74 (Marianna Tolo 20, Lauren Mansfield 18, Mikaela Ruef 11) bt ADELAIDE LIGHTNING 66 (Alex Ciabattoni 17, Laura Hodges 16, Colleen Planeta 10) at Adelaide Arena on Friday night.
Sunday: Perth Lynx v Canberra Capitals at Bendat Basketball Centre, 5pm.