March 15, 2023 | Melbourne Boomers news

The Deakin Melbourne Boomers headed to the State Basketball Centre, a venue they called home for so many years, as the away team in a do-or-die blockbuster against the Southside Flyers with a spot in the Grand Final Series on the line.

Kayla Thornton, runner up in the MVP race to Boomers’ Cayla George, suited up after missing Game Two for the Flyers, and got the home team underway with the first five points. Kristy Wallace picked up where she left off in the second game, hitting mid-range jumpers to give the Boomers an early lead, helped by George and Olivia Nelson-Ododa. George was particularly feisty early, getting to the line and then moving to the mid-range for a signature turn-around jump-shot. Sarah Blicavs reintroduced herself to the Boomers with some instant offence, and the Flyers regained the lead before Leilani Mitchell poured in a triple off the bench to peg the deficit back to one at the end of quarter one – Boomers 15, Flyer 16.

George got the Boomers off to the perfect start In the second, but Nyadiew Puoch received a generous and-one call to strike straight back for the Flyers and level the scores. Wallace scrapped for a tough basket, but the arm wrestle saw neither team able to create separation. Blicavs was unstoppable from deep to finally break the game open for the Flyers which enjoyed a six-point lead, forcing Boomers coach Chris Lucas to call a timeout. Former Boomer, Carly Ernst, hit a three out of the timeout, but George was able to hit right back with a triple of her own. Tiffany Mitchell, who had 36 in game-one of the series, struggled throughout the first half, going 1-for-10 from the field, and her teammates also found it tough going with a number of point-blank layups missed. A foul on Thornton on a three-point attempt gave the Flyers breathing room and a seven-point lead, however Taylor Ortlepp made an immediate impact after coming off the bench, with a tough drive and and-one to keep the Boomers in touch. At the half, it was Boomers 32, Flyers 38.

Tiffany Mitchell came out aggressive, going hard to the hoop for a tough two, then driving again and drawing a foul to set the tone for the Boomers in the third. Mia Murray came to life off some excellent ball movement to hit a trademark corner three, and suddenly the Boomers were within a point. Tiffany Mitchell again drew a foul going to the hoop, and the lead belonged to the visitors for the first time since early in the first. Mitchell was unstoppable, taking over the game with her ninth point for the quarter, forcing a Southside timeout. The Flyers hit back to retake the lead, however a Wallace steal led to a fast-break and kick out to George for a massive three, giving the Boomers a one-point advantage. Blicavs again hit from three to bring her tally to 14, and the game was a swinging pendulum in terms of score and momentum. The Flyers were able to keep their noses just in front, with a 56-51 lead after three.

The Boomers looked tentative in the fourth, however managed to keep attached through scrappy and solid defence. Tiffany Mitchell made a huge deep three to level the scores mid-way through the quarter, and then went inside to draw a foul and help the away team edge out to a two-point lead. A massive put-back two by Nelson-Ododa gave the Boomers the momentum, leading to a Southside timeout with 4:28 left in the game. Wallace’s fifth saw her foul out with just over three-minutes left. The Flyers were in the bonus, and the Boomers took advantage by drawing a foul courtesy of Tiffany Mitchell, who came straight back again with a spinning drive and two. Southside refused to say die, and hit back to make it a one-point Boomers lead. Maddy Rocci came up huge in the final 90 seconds for the Flyers, with two free-throws, a defensive stop, and a three to give Southside a two-point lead with only 52 seconds left in the season for the losing team. George came out of a Boomers timeout with a huge response, nailing a three to make it a one-point lead with 41 seconds on the clock. Thornton was up to the task for the Flyers, taking back the lead with a two as the Boomers called another timeout.

The Boomers were unable to take the win on the buzzer, and the Southside Flyers took the game, and the series, to now go on to face Townsville in the Grand Final, which commences with Game One this Saturday.

Tiffany Mitchell top-scored with 23, closely followed by Cayla George who had 22 and 13 rebounds.