Russell’s ridiculous buzzer-beater forces game three

THE Southside Flyers have kept their season alive in the 2023/24 Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) Grand Final, after Mercedes Russell sank a game-winner at the buzzer to defeat the Perth Lynx in game two on Thursday night.

In a finals series that continues to deliver a plethora of twists and turns, the Flyers conquered one of the most intimidating road trips in the WNBL, to breathe some life into their title hopes after a disappointing result in the opening clash.

The win means the series remains alive, heading back to Melbourne for the decisive clash on Sunday afternoon.

Perth Lynx (95) def. by Southside Flyers (95)

It was a much improved effort from the Flyers after an underwhelming performance in game one, looking much more determined from the get-go. Southside lifted the physical nature of the game, looking to engage in contact wherever possible and taking the Lynx out of their comfort zone.

In a contrast to last game, the Flyers looked in control for much of Thursday’s match, with the Lynx unable to reach the dominant heights of the first clash. Perth’s inaccuracy from long range was proving to be costly and stagnating the team’s offence. Southside led by as much as 15 points in a complete turnaround.

Despite these shooting woes, the home side managed to erase that deficit in rapid fashion, with the shots finally starting to fall. As the home crowd began to get more involved, Perth’s momentum grew, and the Flyers were suddenly on the back foot.

After tying up scores in a remarkable turnaround, the Lynx had multiple opportunities to take the lead through Anneli Maley, Perth’s captain first missed at the free throw line, before being unable to sink a lay-up on the next offensive possession, which opened the door for Southside. In transition, the Flyers stormed up the court, before a loose ball found its way into the hands of Russell, who threw up a turnaround jumpshot over her defender, and got all net as time expired, giving her side a two-point win.

Not only did she deliver the winning blow, Russell was a strong performer over the course of the match, posting a massive double-double of 18 points and 17 rebounds in an excellent return after a quiet game one performance. Jasmine Dickey delivered a team-high 19 points, while Rebecca Cole had 18 points of her own.

For the Lynx, star point guard Aari McDonald was excellent in defeat, stuffing the stat sheet with 26 points (a game-high figure) and eight assists, almost sparking her side to a marvellous comeback win.

Game three will take place at Melbourne Sports Centre in Parkville on Sunday at 1:30pm AEDT.

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