Grand Final game 1 was just like the regular-season meetings between the Boomers and Fire: it was scrappy, it was close, and Townsville won. But don’t count out the Boomers just yet.
The Townsville Fire have struck first in the WNBL Grand Final series, winning game 1 69-64 on their home floor against the Melbourne Boomers in front of a sold-out Townsville Stadium.
Much like the regular-season games between the two teams, the game was low-scoring and close throughout. But in a tight fourth quarter, Townsville were able to make some crucial shots late in the game to keep the visitors at bay.
Melbourne started strongly, Elizabeth Cambage and Brittany Smart combining to score the first six points of the match before Cayla George scored on consecutive possessions to put the Fire on the board. The two teams traded baskets throughout the first quarter, Townsville eventually taking the lead at the buzzer on a Mikhaela Donnelly layup, 21-20.
The game tightened up in the second quarter, with neither team able to wrangle an advantage; the two teams combined to shoot 9/40 from the field for the period. The battle between Cambage and Fire captain Suzy Batkovic took the spotlight, with Batkovic scoring 6 of the Fire’s 10 points in the term, and Cambage posting 8 of the Boomers’ 10. A late layup by Laurin Mincy briefly extended Townsville’s lead to 3, but two free throws to Cambage saw the visitors close the margin to 31-30 at the half.
The low scoring continued in the third quarter, as the Boomers again retook the lead behind baskets to Garrick and Jenna O’Hea. It took Townsville more than three and a half minutes to score their first points of the quarter- two free throws to Batkovic- but that sparked a 7-0 run for the home team. Crucially, their outside shots also started to drop; Sydney Wiese had 8 points for the quarter, while Darcee Garbin nailed a trey at the end of the quarter to push the Fire’s lead out to 8.
That lead was reduced to just 1 after 4 minutes of play in the fourth quarter, with Garrick hitting a three and early baskets from Bec Cole. A three-point play by Mincy steadied the ship for the Fire, and after a Kalani Purcell score cut the margin to 4, Kelly Wilson and Wiese took over to push the lead back out to 9.
Townsville would hold that lead for the rest of hte game, although Melbourne continued to fight; down 8 inside the final 20 seconds, a steal by O’Hea led to a Garrick trey, and Cambage stripped Batkovic to get a cheap layup to cut the final margin to 5.
Cambage finished with 26 points and 13 rebounds to lead all scorers, but no other Melbourne players scored more than 10 points; the next-highest scorer was captain Jenna O’Hea with 9 (and 10 rebounds). Maddie Garrick added 8 points.
Townsville were led by captain Suzy Batkovic with 16 points and 15 rebounds. Wiese finished with 14, including 4 three-pointers, while Cayla George had 13 points and 10 rebounds.
Game 2 of the series is on Thursday night at the State Basketball Centre in Knox.
Townsville Fire 69 (S Batkovic 16 S Wiese 14 C George 13) defeat Melbourne Boomers 64 (E Cambage 26 J O’Hea 9 M Garrick 8) at Townsville Stadium. Townsville leads best-of-3 series 1-0. Attendance: 2200.