Lauren Jackson made her much-anticipated return to the WNBL. (Photo: Southside Flyers/Twitter)

With a new look team, adding plenty of experience and leadership to the starting five, the Southside Flyers celebrated one of the greatest in Lauren Jackson returning to the league with an opening win.

After a tough grind over the Adelaide Lightning, it was a team collective effort, with Flyers fans also seeing new import Kayla Thornton for the first time in the WNBL.

One of the big questions in pre-season was how the Flyers would gel and find a good starting five line-up, needing to find consistency quickly to start on a winning note.

From tip off, the Flyers had many contributors, including Bec Cole and Thornton getting the home side to a good start, with the Lightning challenging late in the first quarter.

The Lightning had a plenty of positives of their own, including rising star Izzy Borlase who had a blistering first half, with 14 points.

Maddi Rocci had a huge influence on the match, scoring 19 points, going four from seven from the three and finding the open space with seven assists.

The return of Jackson gave the Flyers plenty of leadership throughout this match, driving to the basket and going to the free throw line and shooting perfectly.

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The Flyers shot the lights out from the three-point line in the second quarter, dominating proceedings 32-25. The Lightning struggled to keep up with the tempo of the Flyers’ quick ball movement and fast breaks.

Sara Blicavs was also on fire for the Flyers, with 12 points, whilst Thornton had 13.

The Flyers continued to have momentum of their own in the third quarter, despite going basket for basket in the early stages.

Carley Enrst made her presence known, coming off the bench with nine points. With the margin looking dangerous for the Lightning to get back into the match, the Lightning continued to fight in the last quarter.

The visitors were able to get key stops and hit crucial baskets and moments mattered, reducing a 17-point margin to just three.

Some big time shots and plays including Ernst hitting a three and Abby Bishop icing the game in the post sealed the victory, 99-91.

While the Adelaide Lightning will be disappointed, particularly in the third quarter, the ability to get back into the match will give the team confidence, with turnovers hurting down the stretch.

Borlase’s game gives plenty to be excited about alone, as she finished with 25 points, nine rebounds, three assists and two steals. Kierstan Bell and Lauren Mansfield were also both influential, finishing with 14 points each.

The Southside Flyers will look to continue their winning streak, when they host the first Michelle-Timms Cup in the opening game of Round 2 against the Melbourne Boomers on Wednesday night. The Adelaide Lightning face the Townsville Fire on Friday night in Townsville before travelling to Melbourne to face the Boomers on Sunday.

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