Boomers’ talls step up late to ensure win against the Fire
The Deakin Melbourne Boomers rolled on towards the WNBL playoffs with a 79-68 victory against a gallant JCU Townsville Fire at Townsville Stadium.
The Boomers were led all night by their twin towers: Ezi Magbegor (21 points, 5 rebounds and 3 blocks) and former Fire championship winner Cayla George (19 points and 6 rebounds), who were particularly influential in the game’s key moments.
The performance of the talls was shorthand for the game itself: In a close encounter, the experienced Boomers’ composure when the game was on the line ultimately gave them the edge against a spirited display from the Fire.
The Boomers dominated inside the paint, scoring 48 points to just 20 for the hosts. That battle was too much for Darcee Gabin (13 points and 7 rebounds) and Bridget Carleton (16 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists), who battled hard against more fancied opponents and gave the home fans plenty to cheer for.
The twin towers of Ezi Magbegor and Cayla George began their dominance in the second quarter, scoring all but 2 points for the Boomers, using a potent inside-outside game. Magbegor went inside for 11 points and George knocked down a three and another long range shot to keep the Boomers close at half time (39-41).
The Fire were on fire in more than one way in the first half, knocking down 7/13 from three and shooting 52% overall: Import forward Carleton was particularly influential, hitting 3/3 from downtown on her way to 11 half time points.
The Boomers made an adjustment at half time to not allow her any open looks from beyond the arc and she subsequently only ended up with 16 for the game, but her side pressed on regardless, the Fire holding their biggest margin (50-43) towards the end of the third quarter.
However, it was George who led the Boomers’ response once again, scoring the next 6 points to take away any momentum that the Fire (who led 55-51 at 3QT) had going into the last period.
From there, the Opals duo of Magbegor and George once again stepped up and took over at both ends of the floor to lead the Boomers on a 27-8 run and deliver the visitors an important win as they look towards a potential top 2 regular season finish.
The Fire’s night was made more difficult by the loss of their leading scorer, Tess Madgen, after two minutes to illness. While she returned in the second quarter and spent some additional time on the court, she looked visibly affected throughout the game.
However, the Boomers weren’t without injuries on their own end either. Star point guard Lindsay Allen was absent once again – missing her fourth consecutive game with a minor knee injury – but Sophie Cunningham stepped up in her absence: She finished with 15 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists in a stellar all-round performance.
Speaking after the game, Fire coach Shannon Seebohm admitted that the final quarter was disappointing given the quality of his side’s previous three quarters.
“Their defence got after us a little and to be honest I think we lost a lot of confidence and then it snowballed,” Seebohm said.
“[For] three quarters of the game we stuck to what our game plan was but going into the last quarter we had few possessions where we had mental lapses and they took advantage of it.
“I think they showed their class; their 2 best players stepped up and took over the game.”
Meanwhile, Boomers’ coach Guy Molloy was pleased to come away with the win after an evening where his side was on the ropes early.
“They out-hustled, they out-muscled us and out-shot us early, but credit to our players for figuring it out and taking advantage of what we were doing when the tide turned,” Molloy said.
“Once we got into the mindset of getting stops and converting on the other end… that’s when we took the lead and didn’t turn back.”
The Melbourne Boomers will return home to the State Basketball Centre Saturday for their last remaining game in season 2019/20, taking on the Perth Lynx. An aforementioned position in the top 2 for the Boomers will be up for grabs, with the potential reward of a home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs looming large.
Meanwhile, the Townsville Fire will be chasing their final win of the season on Saturday night against the Bendigo Spirit at Townsville Stadium.
WNBL ROUND 15
MELBOURNE BOOMERS 79 (Cayla George 19, Ezi Magbegor 21, Sophie Cunningham 15)
TOWNSVILLE FIRE 68 (Bridget Carleton 16, Darcee Garbin 13, Micaela Cocks 12)