Townsville Fire fought valiantly to bring down the Sydney Uni Flames 89-80 in a grudge match that went to the final minute at New Projects Australia Stadium in Townsville on Friday night.
Townsville McCafe point guard Rachael Flanagan topped the Fire scoring with 18 points while ACUVUE Sydney Uni Flames centre Suzy Batkovic-Brown led all scorers with 26 points.
knew Townsville would have to bring something special to the night after a slow start and the Flames made a strong comeback in the fourth quarter.
“We knew they were going to come back at us, we had a comfortable lead going into the fourth quarter and we backed off a little bit, so they made a really good run and Suzy [Batkovic-Brown] was the enforcer there,” Flanagan said.
“We didn’t play very well last weekend and so we knew we had to step it up and of course get a little bit of revenge.”
“It’s going to be physical the next game and we’re going to be ready for it.”
Townsville consistently turned the heat up when the Flames put the pressure on and were able to maintain their lead throughout the match.
Despite Sydney Uni’s impressive rebound percentage and shooting accuracy, it was not enough to find a lead.
Townsville took the first minutes of the game to build their confidence and set the scene after a series of misread passes and losing vital rebounds in their own key.
Flanagan’s consistent offensive and defensive game caused a roar of support throughout the 592 Townsville spectators after going for nine points in the first quarter to put the Fire in the lead, 22-17.
Sydney Uni lost Jamiee Kennedy in the first quarter, going down with a knee injury that ruled her out for the rest of the night.
Despite Sydney Uni’s strong efforts to hold up Fire’s offence, including shutting Flanagan out of the game early up the court, Townsville still managed to hold their progressively strong lead.
Mistakes made in the first quarter were soon diminished in the second with Fire forward Tanya Smith winning vital rebounds and Flanagan capitalising on turnovers to give the Fire a 17 point advantage, 51-34.
The Flames brought more heat in the third quarter as they turned up their physical game which despite their intentions caused a succession of fouls.
A technical foul called on Flames Coach Karen Dalton put another dint in Sydney Uni’s path to close the gap.
An exceptionally physical quarter found Fire under further pressure but, Townsville made Sydney Uni play their game and put themselves in an early winning position in the third quarter, 72-53.
Sydney Uni’s game was technically more efficient than Fire’s and Batkovic-Brown was utilised strongly to put the Flames back in the game.
Fire scored only two points in the crucial opening six minutes of the last quarter, and Sydney Uni’s intensity closed the lead to 10 points with five minutes left in the game.
Despite these efforts Townsville held their own and concluded the match 89-80 and awarded themselves 18 consecutive home game wins.
TOWNSVILLE MCCAFE FIRE 89 (Rachael Flanagan 18, Kirby Dalgleish 16, Aneka Davis 14, Amy Lewis 14, Tanya Smith 14) bt
SYDNEY UNI FLAMES 80 (Suzy Batkovic-Brown 26, Eva Afeaki 14, Mikaela Dombkins 14)
By Theresa Allan for WNBL Media
Photo courtesy of Steve Duffie for wizpics.com.au