Canberra spoil Heal's WNBL coaching return

Adrian WarrenAAP
Kelsey Griffin has led University of Canberra Capitals to a WNBL win over Sydney University Flames.
Camera IconKelsey Griffin has led University of Canberra Capitals to a WNBL win over Sydney University Flames. Credit: AAP

University of Canberra Capitals captain Kelsey Griffin showed her warrior spirit and together with an auspicious debut for Brittney Sykes, provided the offence to deny Shane Heal a successful return to the WNBL.

The Caps overturned a nine-point point half-time deficit to beat the Sydney University Flames 58-55 Flames at Qudos Bank Arena.

It was the second and last game of the opening round, after Southside Flyers started their title defence with a 94-83 victory over Bendigo Spirit at Dandenong Stadium on Saturday.

The Flyers showed they still had plenty in their offensive arsenal despite Opals' superstar centre Liz Cambage not returning.

Sara Blicavs (27 points and 11 rebounds), Rebecca Cole (24 points) and Abby Bishop, (20 posts and 11 boards) on her return to the WNBL, made sure their team prospered after they trailed 15-9 early.

On Sunday, former Boomers star Heal resumed his WNBL coaching career almost six years after he mentored South East Queensland Stars in their only season.

Heal's daughter Shyla was one of the Flames major off-season recruits, but she like most of the other players struggled offensively, with both teams making just 28 per cent of their first-half field goals.

It only got worse in the second half for the Flames, who finished on 26 per cent for the game, while Griffin and Sykes sparked the Caps offence.

Griffin scored their first seven points off the second half, but was forced off the court with just over a minute left, with blood streaming from her face after she was accidentally struck.

Jade Melbourne hit a three-pointer with just over six minutes left to give the Caps a lead they never relinquished.

LA Sparks guard Sykes, a 2021 WNBA all-defensive first team player, steadied the Caps down the stretch by scoring eight of her 16 points in the final quarter.

"The second half for us was awesome," Caps' guard Kelly Wilson told Kayo Sports.

"The first half, Sydney, credit to them, they did a great job taking us out of our offence," said Wilson, who tallied a game-high six assists as she extended her WNBL all-time games record to 396, after resuming her career.

The result meant the Caps' Alicia Froling enjoyed her first win in four professional matches against her sister Keely.

Import Stephanie Watts headed Sydney's scoring with 16, but only two of those points came after halftime.

On Saturday, Southside took control by outscoring the new look Bendigo side 25-15 in the second quarter.

"I'm really happy with the way we played," Flyers' coach Cheryl Chambers told Fox Sports.

"We knew it was going to be up and down all day because we haven't played too much, but we need to look after the ball a little bit better and we will be in good shape."

New recruit Anneli Maley tallied 15 points and 14 boards for Bendigo.

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