January 6, 2018 | WNBL news

Photo courtesy of Geoff Tripp Photography.

Brydens Sydney Uni Flames (14-7) v JCU Townsville Fire (14-7), Brydens Stadium, 3.00pm Saturday, January 6

Game 1 Story

Sydney Uni dominated the Fire just a week ago to move ahead of them on the ladder but the tables were completely turned around in Game 1 of the Semi-Final series with Townsville storming home to a 78-49 win. It was the Flames’ lowest score of the season, 16 less than their next worst effort and it was also 32 points below their season average.

The Flames also shot 43% from the field through the regular season but only managed 24% in Game 1 which is something that simply cannot happen on Saturday afternoon. In contrast, Townsville had their expected edge from the second unit with a 33-14 advantage in second chance points but they also dominated the visitors in the paint, 50-18. Darcee Garbin was a major reason for both those positives, recording 15 points on 6-9 shooting with six rebounds while Cayla George added 14 and eight.

Stopping Suzy

Suzy Batkovic was the difference-maker though with the five-time MVP at her best in Game 1, finishing with 19 points, 16 rebounds, three assists and two blocks. All that came in just 24 minutes and importantly, she did her damage early so she was able to rest for a lot of the second half. That will help her body which is battered and bruised (she received a nice knock to the cheekbone to add to her woes on Thursday night) but Batkovic will not lie down and Sydney Uni must find a way to contain her.

Asia Taylor has the size to compete while Jennifer Hamson can be an imposing presence under the rim with her length but only a combination of their efforts will be enough to keep Batkovic quiet. All but one of the Townsville’s centres baskets came in the paint but her passing was also impressive while her confidence was on show with some silky ball-handling and when Batkovic is feeling like that on court, nobody in the league can stop her.

Sydney’s Shooting
Owning some of the deadliest shooters in the competition, they were the key piece to Sydney Uni’s unbeaten run through last year’s playoffs but they were unable to maintain that form in Game 1. Alex Wilson hit 2-10 from the field, Belinda Snell managed 4-9, Sarah Graham shot 3-10 off the bench and Katie Ebzery, who is the only newcomer in 2017/18, knocked down 2-13.

The good news is that they still managed to out-score the Fire from beyond the arc by 12 points, thanks mainly to Snell who hit three three-pointers. If they can repeat that on Saturday afternoon while improving their mark from two-point range, the Flames will find themselves right back in the contest.

Key Stat

Defending Champions Sydney Uni are aiming for their second straight Grand Final appearance which is something they have not done since 2008. However, Townsville are going for a fifth Grand Final appearance over the past six seasons, the best record of any current club in the competition. If they do advance, they will be aiming to equal Adelaide of the mid 1990’s and the UC Capitals of the early and mid-2000’s with three Championships in four years.


In a very similar situation to Perth in the other Semi-Finals series, Sydney Uni are trailing heading back home for Game 2 while their offensive performance in Game 1 left a lot to be desired. However, the Lynx showed that home court advantage doesn’t guarantee success and the Flames will be acutely aware of how they need to improve offensively to square the ledger with Townsville. At the other end of the floor, they must find a way to keep Batkovic quiet as her leadership is key for the Fire to get off a good start and another healthy lead for Townsville early will enable their bench to maintain control against Sydney Uni’s lesser second unit.