Fire strike late in Adelaide

October 19, 2018 | Townsville Fire news

The JCU Townsville Fire have opened their account during the 2018/19 Chemist Warehouse WNBL season with a 75-65 victory over Adelaide on the road.

Having coughed up their home opener last week, the Fire were desperate to return to the winners’ circle, but 24 turnovers including 13 in the first half threatened to derail their hopes.

When the game was on the line, two-time championship winner Darcee Garbin (20 points and seven rebounds) stood tall as she ignited the Fire’s offence to be named the First Things First MVP.

Six-time WNBL MVP Suzy Batkovic posted a double-double with 19 points and 12 rebounds while in the process overtaking club legend Jenny Crouse (217) as the Fire’s all-time leading shot blocker, while Zitina Aokuso enjoyed a break out game with a career-high 14 points and seven rebounds.

“We knew we had a size advantage and it was important that we exploited that,” Fire coach Claudia Brassard said.

“They did a good job of doubling Suzy, but we knew that meant we had to have an advantage with our other bigs and Darcee and Zitina did a great job over going to work.

“They really stood up for us when it mattered most.”

During a frantic start to the game, the Fire’s defence showed marked improvement from round one as they limited the Lightning to just one basket from their first 19 attempts.

Their inability to hold on to the ball proved costly, however, as they failed to capitalise on the Lightning’s sluggish start.

Taking advantage of their size, Batkovic drew level with Crouse with her first block of the game and quickly had six points.

Aokuso’s injection in to the game proved timely as she went on her own 6-0 run before Ally Malott closed out the quarter with back-to-back buckets as the Fire entered the first break leading 19-12.

The Lightning challenged in the second term as Colleen Planeta (14 points) got off the chain to narrow the margin to one at the main change.

With the Fire struggling to control their turnovers, they turned to Garbin in the third quarter as she went on a tear scoring eight points in the first five minutes.

Despite the onslaught, the margin was still one at three-quarter-time and the Lightning seized the lead midway through the fourth.

But with the game on the line, Micaela Cocks (10 points and six rebounds) struck two daggers from beyond the arc in consecutive offences to burst the game wide open.

“They were clutch shots,” Brassard said.

“It was a one-point game at that point and Mic really split it open with those back-to-back triples.

“We now need to bank the win and turn our attention to Perth who will be desperate to win as well.”

The Lightning had no other option but to foul down the stretch and the Fire made them pay from the line.

The reigning WNBL champions will now depart to Perth tomorrow before facing the Lynx on Sunday from 3pm (QLD time).

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