Opals veteran Lauren Jackson (c) was the star of the show as the Flyers beat the Boomers. Image by Rob Prezioso/AAP PHOTOS
  • basketball

LJ powers Southside into WNBL grand-final series

AAP March 6, 2024

A vintage 38-point performance from Opals legend Lauren Jackson has powered Southside Flyers into the WNBL grand-final series following a 93-77 semi-final decider win over local rival Melbourne Boomers.

Melbourne scored the first five points but Jackson notched 10 points in each of the first three quarters and eight in the last, while adding a game-high 11 rebounds.

The Flyers, who lost last season’s grand-final series against Townsville, will now meet Perth in a season-deciding series starting in Melbourne on Sunday.

“There’s still a long way to go yet, we’ve still got to work on stuff and get better because Perth is a great team and they are playing some great basketball right now,” Jackson told ESPN.

Jackson will endeavour to win a sixth WNBL title and it will be the fourth time in the last five seasons Southside have contested the best-of-three grand final series.

Together with fellow big Mercedes Russell (17 points and nine rebounds), Jackson ruthlessly exploited the Flyers’ height advantage in game three at Melbourne Sports Centre.

Jackson was impossible to contain from short range and also made three of six long bombs, shooting 15 off 22 from the field in just under 33 minutes.

“She was unstoppable, not just scoring but on the offensive boards and she was tenacious,” Flyers coach Cheryl Chambers said of Jackson.

Southside shot 54 per cent from the field and outrebounded the Boomers 37-27.

Melbourne imports Jordin Canada and Nat Hillmon scored 18 and 17 points respectively, but were well contained in the first half.

League MVP Canada made just one of her first eight shots from the field and Hillmon scored 10 of her points in the final quarter.

Southside led by just two and six at quarter and half-time respectively, but they swelled their advantage to 16 at the last change and Melbourne couldn’t get the deficit below nine in the final period.