Fire secure gutsy victory

November 17, 2018 | Townsville Fire news

The JCU Townsville Fire have breathed new life into their title defence with a gutsy 79-77 victory over Adelaide.

Trailing by 10 points at the main change, the Fire came roaring home in the second half as six-time Chemist Warehouse WNBL MVP Suzy Batkovic shrugged off injury to finish with a phenomenal 26 points, 14 rebounds, seven assists and three blocks.

Tess Madgen proved the game winner, however, as the World Cup silver medallist made her most important shot in a Fire singlet as she drained a dagger three with 10 seconds remaining to give the visitors the go-ahead bucket.

Nicole Seekamp had one final chance to send the match into overtime but her pull-up jumper from the elbow – complete with a Batkovic hand in her face – saw the Lightning co-captain air ball and the Fire walk away with a series win.

“It was a pleasing win,” Fire coach Claudia Brassard said.

“We didn’t know all week whether Suzy would be able to take the floor or not but she’s tough and she wanted to play.

“She was obviously great but we also got some great contributions across the group which is what we’re looking for.”

While the Fire made a positive start and led 8-4 early in the game, the Lightning was able to go on a 10-0 run to send the momentum their way.

Seemingly unable to miss from the field – the Lightning were shooting 76% from the field – the Fire did a good job to stay in striking distance as Zitina Aokuso (15 points and five rebounds) and Laurin Mincy (10 points and four assists) provided a much-needed sparkplug off the bench.

Trailing 18-26 at the first change, the Fire continued to chip away at the lead and reduced the margin to just four points with less than 90 seconds remaining in the half courtesy of an Aokuso floater.

But inexcusably, a poor finish to the half provided the Lightning with a double-digit lead – their biggest of the game – as they went into the main change leading 47-37.

A Madgen (13 points and six rebounds) triple – she went three from three beyond the arc – provided the first score of the second half before Aokuso went to work.

Back-to-back triples from Batkovic levelled the scores halfway through the third quarter.

Having trailed since early in the first term, Aokuso finally provided the Fire with their first lead of the game before the Lightning counter-punched to level the scores at three-quarter-time.

With the match going down to the Wire, Madgen was able to curl off an inbounds play as Batkovic kicked the ball to her at the top of the arc to stroke the game winner.

The Fire will now face the Boomers in a Grand Final replay on Sunday, with the game broadcast on Fox Sports and SBS from midday.

A viewing party will be held at Townsville RSL for Fire fans.

Click here to see box scores between the Fire and the Lightning.