WNBL Finals Game 3: Fire take back the trophy

In the battle of the superstar centres, it was ultimately Suzy Batkovic’s Townsville Fire that won out. Townsville won game 3 of the grand final series 70-57 on Sunday, securing their third championship in the last four WNBL seasons.

Game 3 of the series was once again a scrappy affair; both teams combined to shoot just 31.9% from the field, and for much of the night points were at a premium. But Townsville were able to get baskets when they needed them, and held onto a double-digit lead for the entire fourth quarter to take the title.

Neither team had shot well during the series, but Melbourne will rue a 4/34 performance from three-point range. The Boomers never scored more than 16 points in any quarter and while they were even with the home team on most statistical categories, they were never able to get their offence to flow and generate points.

Perhaps as expected, the Fire were led by Suzy Batkovic offensively. Melbourne led briefly in the first quarter before Batkovic asserted herself, scoring 9 points in the first term and pushing the home team’s lead out to six points (20-14) at the first break.

The game tightened up in the second quarter but the Fire’s captain continued to be the focal point, Batkovic scoring their first six points of the term. A basket from guard Laurin Mincy briefly gave Townsville a 12-point lead, but Melbourne held the home team to just two points in the last five minutes of the term. On offence Melbourne started to draw fouls; their last five points of the half came from the free throw line, and the Boomers closed to within 8 at the main break, 35-27.

Melbourne continued its momentum into the third quarter, Liz Cambage scoring in the paint and Brittany Smart nailing a three to reduce the deficit to three points. But Townsville also started to find its range, and the Fire’s guards started to contribute; Mia Murray hit a three-pointer, and Mikhaela Donnelly and Kelly Wilson were able to get to the free-throw line.

The Boomers continued to look to their forwards, with Louella Tomlinson, Kalani Purcell and Cambage dominating their scoring in the third period; three-point plays by Tomlinson and Cambage cut the gap to 5 with 2:15 remaining in the term. But Townsville scored the last 7 points of the quarter, a three-pointer by Batkovic proving to be a dagger as Townsville increased their lead to 12 points at the final change, 55-43.

That margin proved too much for the Boomers to reel in, and Melbourne would not get closer than 10 points for the remainder of the game. While the Boomers’ forwards continued to score inside, their outside scoring had deserted them; the visitors were 4/19 from deep in the second half, including missing all 9 three-point attempts in the final quarter.

For Townsville, Batkovic was named the series’ most valuable player, after averaging 23 points and 12 rebounds over the three games played. She finished with 28 points and 13 rebounds in the deciding game. Import Laurin Mincy added 11 points, and Kelly Wilson posted 9 points in her 350th career game.

Melbourne were led by Cambage with 18 points and 9 rebounds, with Brittany Smart posting 14 points and Maddie Garrick 9.