Experienced Flyers too good for plucky Fire

AN improving Townsville Fire outfit lost no admirers in their performance against Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) title favourites Southside Flyers, as the latter got up in a an entertaining 12-point victory. Townsville actually led at quarter time before the experience of the Flyers – led by Liz Cambage – took control to score 58 points to 41 in the middle two terms to all but secure the victory. Townsville did outscore Southside in the final term, but ultimately fell short.

It was an even opening term with the Fire winning it by a point to take a lead in their “away” game at home. Many were waiting for the Flyers to click, and it came in the second term, as Southside piled on 32 points to 24 in a high-scoring quarter. They rolled that momentum into the third term, hitting 26-17 and looking good with a 78-62 lead at the final change. The Fire hit back as the Flyers managed the load for everyone to get on the court, but it was just a little too late, going down in the 101-89 loss.

Southside was the more accurate team and it showed in the final result, topping the field goal (54-44 per cent), two-point (60-52 per cent) and three-point (41-28 per cent) accuracy, as well as dominating the assist count. The Flyers tacked up 29 assists to 14 showing their slick offensive transition skills, while still picking up more rebounds (43-39). The Fire had two more steals (6-4), and also two less turnovers (8-10) in what was an incredibly impressive ball-handling display. Townsville were good off the second chance points with 17-10, through in the end, the efficiency of the Flyers was the difference.

Cambage led the way with 31 points at 68 per cent efficiency from the field. She notched up a huge double-double with 13 rebounds – all defensive – as well as four assists and six blocks, feasting on her less experienced or younger opponents. Jenna O’Hea stood tall with 18 points, six rebounds and five assists on the night, as her team shared the points around. Leilani Mitchell (15 points, eight assists), Sara Blicavs (12 points, six rebounds) and Rebecca Cole (11 points, three assists) all hit double-figure points.

For the Fire, Lauren Nicholson was impressive with 21 points and four rebounds, with her partner-in-crime Shyla Heal knocking down 12 points, five rebounds and four assists in an all-round performance. Kate Gaze stepped up for her best game of the season thus far with 11 points, three rebounds and two assists, while Steph Reid (13 points, three assists, two rebounds and two steals) and Zitina Aokuso (12 points, eight rebounds and two assists) both came off the bench to have crucial impacts.

The Flyers will now take on Perth Lynx on Saturday night, while Townsville Fire host Bendigo Spirit in the earlier game with both of tonight’s sides expected to win their respective encounters to close out Round 3. The Fire will get a second game the day after against the Spirit in an unusual fixture quirk, but this time as the visiting team.

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