UC Capitals on the board for WNBL season

Darren Snowdon
·2-min read

Outstanding play from guard Maddi Rocci has inspired the injury-riddled UC Capitals to a 78-67 victory over the Townsville Fire.

Rocci scored 24 points and added seven assists and three steals at Mackay Multi-Sports Stadium on Sunday as the two-time defending champions dominated the second half to secure their first win of the season.

With Kelsey Griffin, Tahlia Tupaea and Britt Smart unavailable through injury, the Capitals faced the prospect of a 0-2 start with the Fire holding a five-point lead early in the second half.

But the Capitals outscored Townsville 22-10 in the third quarter to take control of the contest, Rocci and Abby Cubillo each hitting two three-pointers as they combined for 18 points in that period.

"We were super disappointed to start the season on a loss but to come out and play as hard as we did was so great," Rocci told Kayo Sports after guiding her team to victory.

"Our defensive pressure in that second half was what definitely won us that game."

The 22-year-old has continued to flourish following a breakout WNBL season that saw her named in the Opals squad earlier in the year, and is relishing her time with the Capitals.

"I never really look at how many points I score or how many rebounds and assists I get - I do what I do just to play for the team," she said.

The Capitals unearthed another young gun with 18-year-old Jade Melbourne adding 12 points and six rebounds while Keely Froling and Mikaela Ruef combined to pull down 22 rebounds.

After playing limited minutes off the bench in the season opener, Marianna Tolo entered the starting line-up and provided a timely boost, scoring the opening basket then sinking a hook shot for a 15-8 lead.

Townsville scored the next nine points to close the first quarter ahead by one then got the better of a low-scoring second term to lead 34-31 at halftime, Shyla Heal scoring 12 points from 5-of-5 shooting, including a three-pointer.

But behind a staunch defensive effort and a three-point barrage from Cubillo and Rocci, the Capitals stunned Townsville in the decisive third quarter.

The Fire provided some resistance in the final stanza but Tolo capped the victory with a three-point play in the final minutes, the veteran centre finishing the night with 13 points.

The Capitals will be back in action on Monday night against Bendigo Spirit while the Fire head home to Townsville for Tuesday's clash with Sydney Uni.