Fire will meet Perth Lynx in the grand final series after a 91-71 win in their preliminary clash with the SEQ Stars.
The showdown was a must-win second chance for Townsville after Perth Lynx took an upset victory over the reigning champions in their semi final. Fire's title repeat now looks a little less shaky.
Against the Stars, Fire captain and triple-Olympian Suzy Batkovic scored a game-high 31 points in 30 minutes to match her 10 rebounds and three assists before fouling out. Fire vice-captain Mia Murray backed up her centre's points haul with 24 of her own, four sunk from beyond the arc while Cayla George scored 11 points and grabbed 16 rebounds.
Fire veteran Mia Murray said her side was always going to play harder with its season on the line.
“That was our game plan – to apply pressure for 40 minutes and there were a couple of lapses but for the most part we did a great job of that,” Murray said.
Stars coach Megan Thompson felt the pressure from Townsville.
“They were really physical and that was from the jump ball to the final buzzer,” Thompson said.
“They physically pushed us out of our game. It’s finals basketball, it’s going to be tough and at the end of the day they pushed us out of our game physically,' she said.
Despite this and the scoreline, the game was closer than it looked. Stars’ WNBA import Jordan Hooper bagged 20 points and eight rebounds, Rebecca Allen 16 points and Ify Ibekwe 12. Before she left the court suffering concussion, Stars captain Rachel Jarry, restricted Murray to just five points. A tweet later confirmed Jarry is OK and did not suffer suspected fractures. SEQ only lost the last three quarters by two points, the first quarter coming at a 31-14 cost.
Fire coach Chris Lucas said the win was all down to attitude after a tough loss last weekend.
“It was about attitude – attitude, approach and egos – all those things, the things that are important in a team environment,” Lucas said.
"Their mental approach was what it needed to be and what is expected in finals. So full credit to the team."
Townsville Fire will have the next six days in Perth to prepare for the first game in the grand final series.
Perth has not won a WNBL grand final since 1992 and last played in a grand final since 2000. But Townsville's title defence bid won't be easy. Lynx' semi final win gained them not only confidence but a home court advantage, (put pic here of Perth crowd) The team also boasts an aggressive, complete roster of full time players earning a Perth Wildcat equivalent minimum wage.
Grand final series details:
Game 1: Saturday, 12 March from 7pm (AWST time), Bendat Basketball Centre, Perth. Ticketing information here.
Game 2: Friday, 18 March from 7pm (AEST time-not daylight savings), Townsville RSL, Townsville. Ticketing information call 07 4727 9797)
Game 3 if required: Sunday, 20 March Bendat Basketball Centre - details to follow.
Look out for updates on SBS Zela including live stream information.