January 5, 2024 | Townsville Fire news

Zitina Aokuso celebrated her hundredth WNBL appearance by inspiring Townsville to back to back home wins overs Perth. The visitors were aiming to turn around their blow out loss on New Years Eve and held a double digit in the first half before the Fire’s centurion stole the show, slotting 10 points in the second quarter alone, a scoring run which started with a rare triple.

“Shannon’s given me a lot of confidence that if I am open, I can take those shots.”

The centre then dragged down 3 offensive boards in the space of a few seconds, refusing to be denied another basket, after missing 2 shots under the rim, she ensured it would be third time lucky. And Aokuso hustled hey way to more points. A bustling bucket, which drew a free throw she duly converted, gave the hosts all the momentum heading into the main break, and they never looked back recording a 104-91 triumph.

Z’s determination and passion ignited the orange army, but the spectators saved their most deafening decibels for when she was subbed out of her milestone game for the final time, having dropped 18 points and collected 10 rebounds.

“I was starting to get emotional at one point, it didn’t hit me until after the game when the crowd was going crazy it was nice and yeah I’m super grateful to have played them all here in Townsville.”

Townsville coach Shannon Seebohm was delighted everything went according to the script for the club’s current longest serving player.

“She’s had probably her best season to date, and you know that’s not just on the court in the games its also off the court with her professionalism. How she’s approaching practice and just the resilience and that sort of stuff that she’s starting to show, as well as the maturity, is really great to see and you know I’m really happy for her to have such a good game in her hundredth, and I’m sure she’s got a lot more good ones to come.”

Mikeala Ruef racked up her fifth a double double of the season. She pulled down 10 rebounds while the forward finished with a team high 21 points. Courtney Woods dished out a superb 7 assists to go along with 18 points while Sami Whitcomb hit 19 points including a deep buzzer beater which will surely contest for play of the round.

Steph Reid and import Amanda Zahui B also reached double figures with 12 and 11 points respectively.

Another strong performance from the ladder leaders left Perth coach Ryan Petrick perplexed with how to stop the reigning champions going all the way once more.

“We would have loved to have pinched one up here but the reality is Townsville in Townsville is tough. They’re the defending champions for a reason, they’ve got Opals everywhere, they’ve got 2 imports coming off the bench, they’ve got the future Opals coach, like they’re loaded.”

The Fire’s record now stands at 10 victories and 3 defeats. 2 wins ahead of the second placed Melbourne Boomers. Next up is Bendigo in Geelong, on Sunday.