Cyclones cause a storm in Northside upset

ROCKHAMPTON Cyclones caused the upset of the season by defeating the previously unbeaten Northside Wizards in an NBL1 North Women’s classic on Friday night. Having to overcome the home crowd support and the heavy Northside favouritism, the Cyclones took a huge step towards playing finals this season with the nail-biting 83-82 win at Northside Indoor Sports Centre.

In one of the games of the season, the Cyclones came from behind at the main break to storm to victory with a 43-36 second half. The match became a shootout between the Wizards’ Courtney Woods (34 points including nine of 12 from two-point range) and the Cyclones’ Lauren Heard (32 points including 12 of 17 from the same range). Heard even had a couple of late free throws on the final buzzer that missed, but it mattered little to the end result.

Rockhampton flew out of the blocks in the opening term scoring 26-19, shooting at a hot 69.23 per cent, and adding 18 points in the paint. The Wizards had to tighten up defensively and lift their own shooting rate of just 50 per cent if they were to avoid their first loss of the NBL1 North Women’s season.

Northside found its groove in the second term, going on a run of 15 consecutive points and shooting from everywhere on the court at 57 per cent. By contrast, tightening up defensively meant Rockhampton only hit 46 per cent of its shots, and nothing from long-range. Leading by as much as eight points, the Wizards head into half-time with a six-point buffer.

Both teams were neck and neck in the third term with Northside holding the lead throughout, but the Cyclones edging back at times. It looked as though the Wizards would have the upper hand, and while neither side had enough space to drain a triple, they were both applying enough scoreboard pressure to worry the opposition. The Cyclones’ came in the paint, while the Wizards were able to nail jump shots from inside the arc, and by the final break, the Wizards held a lead of five points.

It set up a ripping final term with the visitors nailing the first couple of baskets thanks to Heard to cut the deficit to just one point two minutes in. A triple from Georgia Dale settled down the favourites, but it was only temporary as the Cyclones would pile on the next 11 points. A triple from Heard and a series of free throws, followed by an important layup to Lara McSpadden stretched the lead out to seven with 3:45 on the clock.

Just in time Woods came to the rescue with a crucial jump shot make, only for McSpadden again to respond with a layup. She was subbed out shortly after and the Wizards closed in. Six of the next eight points went the way of the ladder leaders to again claw within two points with a minute on the clock.

Heard made two free throws to make it a two possession game at 81-77, and while Woods also drained her two a couple of seconds later, it would be a Samantha Bowman jump shot with 12 seconds left in the match that would separate the sides. Now a four-point ball-game, the Wizards needed a hero.

That came in the form of AJ Johnson who hit the successful three-pointer with eight seconds remaining. A deliberate foul sent Heard to the line who though she missed both free throws, could still celebrate with the buzzer sounding as Johnson pulled in the defensive rebound. Rockhampton had knocked off the title favourites by a point at the Wizards home court, 83-82.

Heard (32 points, seven rebounds, four assists and two steals) led the way, having a fantastic battle with Woods (34 points, eight rebounds and five assists). McSpadden (17 points, nine rebounds) and Johnson (11 points, 13 rebounds and five steals) had an equally fascinating battle off the boards. Bowman (14 points, 12 rebounds) was huge as well, while Nadeen Payne chipped in for the Wizards wth 17 points, four rebounds and two steals.

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