The Canberra Capitals’ heartbreaking WNBL season hit the lowest point in the club’s history, but 200-game star Abby Bishop says no one can doubt the players’ efforts.
The cruel basketball gods refused to look kindly on the struggling seven-time champions, hitting the Capitals on and off the court as they slumped to a record-breaking 11th consecutive defeat.
It’s the longest losing streak since the Capitals joined the WNBL in 1984 and an unwanted slice of history for a group of players desperately trying to turn things around.
The night got off to a horror start with new recruit and US import DeNesha Stallworth ruled out of the game after immigration failed to clear her paperwork in time for tip-off against the Sydney Flames.
Making it even harder to swallow was that the Capitals had a chance to snatch a breakthrough win when they locked the scores at 72-all with three minutes left on Saturday night.
But their season of frustration continued in the dying minutes as bitter rivals the Flames held on to clinch an 82-76 win in an at-times explosive battle.
It leaves Canberra languishing at the bottom of the ladder and their campaign will get tougher when they go on a two-game road trip to Victoria next week.
The Capitals lost by an average of 21.6 points per game for the first nine games of the season. In their past two defeats they’ve lost by six and five points.
“It’s hard to swallow a game like that, we should have really won,” Bishop said after starring in her milestone match.
“We showed a lot of energy and at the end of the day you can’t doubt our effort. At the end of the day we’re 0-11 but at this time of the season we have to focus on the small things.
“Everyone’s emotions were right up there [when scores were level] but down the stretch we struggled.”
Former WNBA draftee Stallworth has been brought in to bolster Canberra’s big stocks, but Bishop was left to fight for herself in a battle that saw elbows fly, players clashing and tempers boiling.
Bishop finished with 26 points, three rebounds and one steal while guard Renee Montgomery almost bombed 26 points.
The Capitals also turned on the defensive pressure and forced almost twice as many turnovers as Sydney.
But the problems came when Canberra failed to finish off their good defensive work by missing relatively easy shots and opportunities.
Sydney held the lead for the entire match, but the visitors started to crumble as Canberra launched an inspired charge late in the match.
The Capitals were fed up with being bullied on home turf and a couple of Montgomery long-bomb three-pointers and a Carly Wilson steal gave Canberra a chance.
In the end Sydney held their nerve and had too much depth for Canberra to handle with an outstanding five players managing double-figure points.
Asked if Canberra can turn things around, coach Carrie Graf said: “We have to. We’re right there in games, our defensive pressure is better and we’re under-sized.
“We put ourselves in good situations but made critical errors at critical times and turnovers really hurt us.”
AT A GLANCE
WNBL round nine: SYDNEY FLAMES 82 (Katie-Rae Ebzrey 16, Tahlia Tupaea 15, Joslyn Tinkle 15) bt CANBERRA CAPITALS 76 (Abby Bishop 26, Renee Montgomery 26, Jess Bibby 11) at Tuggeranong Southern Cross Stadium.
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