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Canberra Capitals close in on WNBL title

Canberra Capitals have opened the WNBL grand final series with a thrilling 82-80 away victory over Southside Flyers.

The Capitals moved one step closer to claiming back-to-back titles after coming back late in the fourth quarter at Dandenong Stadium on Sunday to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three series.

French import guard Olivia Epoupa (14 points, nine rebounds, six assists, four steals) capped a fine all-round game by scoring the winning basket with 80 seconds to play, Canberra's defence holding out the Flyers in the closing stages.

The visitors closed a scrappy first quarter with a two-point advantage but 16 second-quarter points from All-WNBL second-team selection Bec Cole inspired the home side to a 47-43 halftime lead.

League MVP Kia Nurse threatened to take charge of the game in the third quarter but Southside rallied to lead by six heading into the final period before being pipped at the post by the defending champions.

"I think we missed a couple of easy shots but we didn't get rattled on that and I think that was really important for us," Nurse told Fox Sports after the win.

"Defensively, that's where we want to put all of our emphasis for the entire series and I think we did a decent job of that tonight."

The Capitals have the opportunity to win the title in game two at AIS Arena on Wednesday night, while the minor premiers hope to extend the series to a decisive third game next Sunday in Dandenong.

Nurse led the Capitals with 19 points, well-supported by Kelsey Griffin (18 points, 11 rebounds) and Marianna Tolo (15 points).

After leading the Flyers with 23 points, Cole was optimistic about her team's ability to bounce back in Canberra on Wednesday.

"They got too many easy shots inside the key due to miscommunication and those tiny things," Cole said after the loss.

"We are going to have to go back, look at the scout, revisit things and go get it done."

Leilani Mitchell added 15 while captain Jenna O'Hea returned from a six-week absence with a wrist injury to score 14 off the bench.