WNBL: Townsville dominate Stars, aiming to go back-to-back

Photo Credit: Michelle Couling Photography

The Townsville Fire have put aside any doubt about them winning the WNBL championship after dominating the South East Queensland Stars in the preliminary final, an emphatic 91-71 victory to progress to the grand final.

The Fire promised intensity, and they brought it. Leading the Stars 31-14 after the first quarter, the Fire’s dominance on the rebounds and scoring inside the paint was their strength. A barrage of three pointers from Natalie Novosel, Suzy Batkovic and Michaela Cocks lit the Fire up as they went on a roll. From there, the Fire never looked back as Kate Gaze, Mia Murray and Cayla George were also able to hit it from beyond the arc later in the game, proving the home side’s ability to score from both inside the paint and out.

Batkovic though, was simply phenomenal. Her 31 points and 10 rebounds exposed the Stars lack of size after she bounced back after a performance undermined by sickness last weekend. Murray also starred with 24 points and a strong defensive role.

However it was a team effort from the reigning champs from last year, with nine of their 11 available players getting on the scoreboard. The Fire also won the rebound count 46-35. They were quick, agile and physical, and if they take all of that into the grand final - they will be a force to be reckoned with.

Jordan Hooper’s excellent shooting was on display again for the Stars, finishing the game with 20 points, 12 of those from the 3-point-line. Ify Ibekwe tried hard, with her quick feet and ability to get to the rim putting the Fire in a bit of foul trouble in the second quarter.

Rebecca Allen also tried her best for the Stars, providing some much-needed clutch shooting, finishing the game with 16 points. However it wasn't enough, as the Fire took advantage of the Stars absent point guard, making it a tough night for step-in point guard Rachel Jarry.

Jarry took an accidental knee to the head half way through the last quarter, looking very unwell with suspected concussion and forcing her to sit out for the rest of the game.

The Stars season is over, but finding a way to go this deep into the finals with just eight players is a performance that is worthy of respect. With the liquidation their club faced just over a month ago and an interim coach stepping in, the team can certainly hold their heads high as they went far beyond what anyone could expect of them. Hopefully the club can make it to a second season next year, as they’ve promised and delivered nothing but great basketball this season.

The Townsville Fire will now face the Perth Lynx again for a best-of-three grand final series. The Fire will be wanting redemption after their loss to the Lynx in the qualifying final last week and the loss could be in their favour as it continues to spur them on. However the Lynx will be training hard over their week off and proved they are worthy championship contenders after their Qualifying final display last week.

The grand final will kick off in Perth next Saturday at 7pm local time.

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