March 8, 2023 | Melbourne Boomers news

The Deakin Melbourne Boomers headed into their sixth straight Finals series, and faced a red-hot Southside Flyers, which came in holding a significant psychological advantage having defeated the Boomers in all three of the regular season games.

Newly crowned Suzy Batkovic Medalist (league MVP) Cayla George and the Boomers secured third spot after the regular season, booking a date with the second-placed Flyers in a best-of-three semi-finals series. On the line was a chance to reach their second-straight grand final series after winning it all last season.

Tiffany Mitchell came out firing, scoring the first four of the game for the Boomers, and fellow-import Olivia Nelson-Ododa chipped in with a paint bucket of her own, however the Flyers answered on the offensive end and kept pace with scores remaining level for the majority of the first quarter. Southside started to create separation as their offense clicked into gear, and were up by seven with 2:30 left. Mitchell answered the call after a Chris Lucas timeout, but questionable calls saw Kristy Wallace pick up an early second foul and have to take a seat. Southside held on to the lead to go into the first break up 23-15.

The Flyers caused havoc on defence, leading to fast break points and an extended lead to start the second. Hot shooting from deep caused Coach Lucas to call an early timeout as he implored his team to settle, however the Flyers were unstoppable, pouring in more points to secure a comfortable 17 point lead. A Nelson-Ododa layup forced Southside to call their first timeout, halting any momentum the Boomers may have established. Mitchell kept the Boomers alive with her 15th point and the lead was cut to 10 after a Mia Murray basket with only a minute left in the quarter. Half time – Boomers 35, Flyer 47.

A change of ends did nothing to stop the Flyers, which picked up where they left off in the third. Cayla George scored her first points of the night, however Wallace continued to struggle, going 0-9 from the field. Aggressive work in the paint by Nelson-Ododa showed signs of hope, however turnovers and a lack of offensive execution saw the Boomers staring down a large lead as the third quarter proceeded. Leilani Mitchell introduced herself to the scoreboard with a deep two, and the other Mitchell drained a three as Tiffany cut the lead to eight. Tiffany Mitchell hit her 25th, however Bec Cole answered immediately with a three for the Flyers and came straight back on defence to take a hard charge, forcing Wallace to again take a seat on the bench. The Boomers kept their composure, but the margin was still 11 at the end of three – Boomers 53, Flyers 64.

Tiffany Mitchell scored back-to-back-to-back baskets to open the fourth, and the margin was down to four as the Boomers gained crucial momentum. Murray splashed a three of her own and forced a Southside timeout as the Boomers edged to within a single possession. Leilani Mitchell proved dangerous from deep again, but the Flyers refused to give up the lead as they forced stops and converted on the offensive end. Wallace’s fifth foul saw her night end early, and Leilani Mitchell left to shoulder the point guard duties with six minutes to go in the game. The Flyers hit another gear to gain separation and a 13-point lead, and Tiffany Mitchell saw the writing on the wall as she showed outstanding aggression to do all she could to bring her team within striking distance. It was not to be as the Flyers held on and walked away with a 1-0 series lead and the opportunity to book a spot in the Grand Final Series. Final score: Boomers 76, Flyer 84.

The Boomers only have 72 hours to regroup and refocus, with game two set to take place on Saturday night at the Boom Box (State Sports Centres Parkville). This is a must-win game for the Boomers if they want to force a deciding game three seven days from now. Tickets are available by clicking here.