CAMBAGE SAVES BOOMERS IN GAME 2 CLASSIC
A stunning final quarter from Liz Cambage has saved the Deakin Melbourne Boomers and sent the 2017/18 Grand Final series into a Game 3 decider.
In front of 3,665 fans, Melbourne stormed home from a 14-point deficit to defeat the JCU Townsville Fire 58-57, only the second one-point margin in WNBL Grand Final history.
Leading by nine points at half-time, Townsville looked to have one hand on the Championship trophy as they were holding the Boomers to a low shooting percentage as per Game 1 while their bench was dominating the home team’s second unit.
Out of the main break, the Fire continued to hurt Melbourne in pick and roll situations and Suzy Batkovic quickly gave Townsville their first double-digit lead of the contest.
The newly crowned 2017/18 MVP scored ten points in the first four minutes of the third term, putting the Fire ahead 45-31 and seemingly in full control of the contest.
That advantage forced a time-out from coach Guy Molloy though and the pause in play seemed to settle the Boomers.
They got back into their running game with Bec Cole hitting a lay-up in transition which sparked a 9-0 run to end the third quarter.
Monique Conti then scored the first four points of the final term which drew scores level before a Brittany Smart three moved Melbourne in front for the first time since the opening term.
That took the run to 19-2 before Mikhaela Donnelly finally ended it with a tough and-one lay-up and when Sydney Wiese (five points, two steals) hit her first three-pointer of the night, the Fire looked to have arrested the momentum with a five-point lead.
However, all this was occurring with Cambage on the bench and when she returned with under four minutes to go, the centre went to work.
She scored the next six points in a row for Melbourne, only interrupted by two free-throws from Kelly Wilson (six points, five assists), which trimmed the margin to just a point with 48 seconds remaining.
Batkovic had a chance to respond but lost the ball on a drive and at the other end of the floor, Cambage (19 points, nine rebounds, two assists) flicked in another basket to put the Boomers in front and make it eight straight points for herself.
Townsville had one last opportunity and Batkovic (23 points, nine rebounds) had a good look at a bank shot from inside the paint but the ball agonisingly rolled around the rim before falling out, sending the Boomers fans and team into raptures.
Find the box score here.
Aside from Cambage’s late game heroics, the hustle of the likes of Smart (11 points, six rebounds) and Kalani Purcell (seven points, ten boards, two steals) kept Melbourne in touch all night while Cole (six points, three assists, two steals) knocked down a couple of key shots in the second half.
Melbourne will now carry momentum and belief into Game 3 on Sunday night but while the Fire will have to regroup quickly, they will be at home where they were successful last weekend.
2017/18 WNBL Grand Final Game 3
JCU Townsville Fire v Deakin Melbourne Boomers
Sunday, January 21 at 7:00pm AEDT (6:00pm local time)
LIVE on FOX SPORTS, channel 503 on FOXTEL