Jackie Young (L) and Marina Mabrey (R) made their debuts for the Perth Lynx in their opening season loss. (Photo: Perth Lynx)

Starting a month behind every other team in the WNBL, the Perth Lynx showed both massive positives and worrying negatives in a narrow first-up loss.

The Perth Lynx had to wait a month longer than every other team to open their WNBL campaign, but did what they show live up to the hype?

Despite a tough early travel fixture, including hubbing for January in country Victoria, the Lynx have been touted as championship favourites after a disappointing 2020.

The promise of an improved Darcee Garbin and Alex Sharp, the return of Sami Whitcomb after a career-best season in the WNBA, and the signing of Americans Jackie Young and Marina Mabrey is cause to keep an eye on this side.

One game is not a large sample size, but starting behind the rest of the competition, the Lynx need to build chemistry quickly.

Nothing necessitates this more than their immediate fixtures: they play two more matches by the end of next week.

So what just did the Perth Lynx show in their first outing in 2022?

The good

Marina Mabrey’s scoring prowess, and more impressively her three-point showing, were well on show early.

The former WNBA pick 19 demonstrated the power of the American college system, making her first three shots including two three pointers to put the Lynx up 2-12.

She was vital to the Lynx’s fast start, taking on every shot with full confidence she could sink them from anywhere. Mabrey certainly wasn’t one dimensional either, finishing the term with with two assists and a defensive board to go along with her 11 points.

The 25-year-old was a constant threat from the first buzzer to the last, including hitting two incredibly clutch shots from outside the paint, the latter a deep three with barely seconds to play to tie scores up.

30 points, hitting seven of her three point attempts at 53 per cent, five rebounds, four assists, and two steals was a brilliant first showing from one of the competition’s best shooters.

In further displays of individual brilliance, all three of Darcee Garbin, Lauren Scherf and Sami Whitcomb showed off fantastic two way play across the whole game.

Scoring 15 points at 54 per cent, Garbin had plenty of those little team-first moments, finishing with three steals. Whether it was holding firm under the rim against larger opponents, or sinking a three on the third quarter buzzer, she constantly gave the Lynx that little intangible lift in her first appearance as captain.

Playing her first game in Lynx colours since the 2017/18 season, Whitcomb forced turnovers aplenty, finishing with three steals and grabbing 10 boards, three on offence.

The Lynx’s guarding overall was one of the biggest positives from this match, with the starting five combining for 11 steals.

They managed to force 21 turnovers from the Lightning, and drew a number of offensive fouls, stopping any scores before they could even be attempted.

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The bad

Coach Ryan Petrik’s use of the Lynx’s bench players was puzzling to put it lightly, especially considering they are currently the least match fit side in the WNBL.

Only Alex Sharp and Alex Ciabattoni received considerable minutes off the bench at just over 11 each, with Sharp the more impactful of the two.

Sharp’s lack of game time is particularly disappointing, given her recent strong campaign at the FIBA Women’s Asia Cup, a part of the bronze medal winning side.

The starting five all played at least 32 minutes each, with Petrik often failing to adapt to what was going wrong, especially after coming out of the gates firing.

When on defence, the Lynx barely had any answers for the Lightning’s tall squad, namely Kylee Shook.

Standing at 6’5 and donning her trademark long sleeves, the 23-year-old American found her way to the baseline much too easily on multiple occasions, making six of her 10 two point attempts for 12 points.

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Why 6’2 Ashleigh Isenbarger and 6’3 Mackenzie Clinch Hoycard weren’t given more than four minutes on court as their teammates began to tire and allowed the power forward through time after time is something that will have to be addressed.

Opal Alanna Smith was similarly easily able to bully her way through, making eight of her 13 two point attempts.

Petrik will need to have more faith in his bench depth in the hard week of fixtures ahead, as players will likely tire even quicker than in this match.

The last major negative came in the final play of the game, with the Lynx two points behind with just two seconds on the clock.

Jackie Young was tasked with passing long across the three point line to Scherf, who expectedly couldn’t gain control of the ball as she ran onto it and spilled it out of play.

Mabrey, the clear best shooter on the team, was left isolated in the key as the pass flew, and had Young targeted her instead, she likely would have been able to nail the jump shot.

While Young’s shot could have been executed significantly better, the play was a strange one regardless.

Unlike her fellow American, Young struggled to get into the game in the first half, barely registering a stat up until half time.

She found her way into the game late, finishing with nine points, five rebounds and five assists, but overall was one of the less impactful Lynx players.

With fixtures against the Southside Flyers and Sydney Uni Flames quickly approaching, the Lynx will have to turn around their issues quickly before they can be more easily exploited.

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