Again this series was won by the lower seed, leading a few people to question whether the away-home-home format- the lower seed plays first- is optimal given the huge advantage the lower seed gets from winning game 1. (The argument in favour is that no matter what, if the higher seed wins the series, they win it in front of their home fans.)
I think it was inevitable given the compressed schedule for the semi-final series- it saves money on travel for the teams, although it doesn’t help Fox, who had to fly Ben Waterworth from Townsville to Perth to do back-to-back games. It could be worse, I guess- you could have been the three referees who backed up from Townsville/Sydney to do Perth/Melbourne 24 hours later.
So why have these games so compressed, then? There’s almost a whole week between the end of the Townsville/Sydney series and game 1 of the grand finals, although that break is exaggerated a bit by the series finishing early. Surely, we could space things out a little bit more?
Anyway, to the series. Townsville won game 1 78-49 in a dominant display, holding Sydney Uni to just 20/82 shooting. None of the Flames could get it going on offence; the closest was Belinda Snell, who had 11 points and 9 rebounds on 4/9 to lead the team, but the boxscore only gets worse the more you look.
Flames imports Asia Taylor (5 points on 2/18) and Jennifer Hamson (4/13) had no luck in the paint, while Townvsille’s forwards ran riot. Suzy Batkovic had 19 points and 16 rebounds on the night, with Darcee Garbin (15) and Cayla George (14) also having their way in the key.
The game had actually started close- the margin was just 2 at quarter time- but Sydney Uni scored just 8 points on 3/17 shooting in the second quarter, and from there the game was out of their reach.
The Flames’ forwards bounced back in game two; Taylor and Hamson were the two top scorers (18 points, 11 rebounds for Taylor; 15 and 15 for Hamson) and they were able to restrict Batkovic (6/18) and Garbin (8 points). But their own shooting remained poor; they were just 5/19 from the three-point line for the game.
Even with the low scoring Sydney Uni were in front in the final minute and appared to be in control after a Mikhaela Donnelly turnover, but they coughed it right back up, Mia Murray forcing the error and dishing to Wiese for the layup. Even then they were still within a shot in the final seconds, but couldn’t convert on a Snell buzzer-beater.
Wiese and Batkovic finished with 14 points each to lead the Fire in game 2, with George adding 13 and 8 rebounds.
Townsville Fire 78 (Batkovic 19 Garbin 15 George 14) defeated Sydney Uni Flames 49 (Snell 11 Hamson 8 Graham 8) at Townsville Stadium.
Townsville Fire 68 (Batkovic 14 Wiese 14 George 13) defeated Sydney Uni Flames 65 (Taylor 18 Hamson 15 Wilson 8) at Brydens Stadium.
Townsville wins series 2-0.