FIRE UP TOWNSVILLE, FIRE UP! (You know the tune that goes to) When the tickets for the WNBL grand final went on sale, it took them 40 minutes to sell out. Over 2200 fans at the Townsville RSL stadium have ensured that FIRE UP TOWNSVILLE, FIRE UP was ringing through my head as I tried to go to sleep last night.
On their third attempt at the title, the JCU Townsville Fire have become the first professional team (male or female) based in Townsville to win a national league premiership, denying Bendigo Spirit the three-peat with a 75-65 win. Here is an in depth look at how it unfolded quarter by quarter.
The start of the game was quiet frantic as you’d expect for the granny. Townsville were unsettled early but landed a couple of free throws which helped calm the nerves. The crowd were deafening from the get go. Bendigo’s Snell was unstoppable with two early three-pointers. She scored eight points in a row for Bendigo for them to have 10 unanswered points and sprint away to a lead of 12-4. Bendigo were overly aggressive at times giving away early fouls. Both teams were a lot more settled after the first five minutes.
At the first time out, the cameras went to the Bendigo huddle and if you didn’t know any better, you’d think that recently retired and pregnant Kristi Harrower was head coach. Bernie (the actual head coach) couldn’t get a word in as his daughter took full control of the game plays.
The Townsville defence got them back into the quarter and with three Bendigo players on two fouls each, substitutes were made frequently. Snell ended the quarter with 12 points.
Bendigo: 23 Townsville: 21
Another frantic start to the quarter and a couple of big hits with no ref calls made. Excellent..let the girls play! Townsville played some smart ball hanging back from one-on-one defence against Bendigo captain Richards to lure her into going for the three points, which she did and missed and Fire rebounded with a three-pointer of their own. Kayla Frances and Gabe Richards were in an epic battle of their own which was great to watch. Newley banked a pair of triples to build on a good start. Cumming banked an incredible three-pointer, high of the corner of the glass, and it was answered immediately by a Snell three-pointer which took her to 17 points.
Time out was called at 35-35 and the message got through for the Fire because they went back out and through Batkovic got the job done at both ends of the court expanding the lead to 41-35.
Townsville: 47 Bendigo: 39
Townsville hit early to take the biggest lead of the game out to 12 points. Bendigo sorted their defence out and shot back to back buckets to pull it back to a seven point lead. After a bit of scrappy play from both teams, Batkovic ended up at the free throw line and missed two from two.
In another good match up, there was a bit of argy bargy between Batkovic and Aubry which put Batkovic back on the free throw line again. This time scoring two from two. It seemed like Townsville dominated this quarter but it wasn’t really reflected on the scoreboard. Snell was kept quiet.
Townsville: 59 Spirit: 51
The Fire scored four unanswered goals to give them a very early sniff at victory. You could see Richards was trying to will Bendigo back into the game, but again she was too overzealous with an aggressive off the ball block on Wilson, which resulted in a foul.
Garrick also tried hard to spark a comeback for the Spirit, but had two very tired long range shots which didn’t even hit the backboard. Fire’s Newley – who’d been scoring throughout the game – landed a MASSIVE three pointer to take her to a season high (23 points) and the lead out to 14 points.
Bendigo didn’t get on the scoreboard until four minutes into the quarter. Newley was everywhere! Retiring captain Rachael McCully also had a cracker of a game. She ended up at the free throw line with not long to go and in what would have brought the house down…she missed two from two. The coach was looking to bring her off for the last minute so that she could enjoy the win, but she shook him off and elected to stay on the court.
In a romantic ending, McCully ended up with the ball when the final buzzer went.
Final Score – Townsville: 75 Bendigo: 65
Veteran Mia Newley – who spent many years on the bench for the Fire – was awarded MVP for the game with 23 points, seven rebounds and three assists. In her last hoorah, McCully contributed with nine assists and her stock standard tough defence.
Newley: “We’ve said all year when we win is when we get multiple people in double figures and a number of contributors, and everyone came in and played their role tonight, that was the best part.”
After McCully declared the girls were going to ‘paint the town red’ last night, I’m sure there are a few sore heads today.
And from me on a personal note, I’d just like to say good on you Townsville for developing such a community backing behind this basketball team. We don’t often see the level of community involvement for women’s teams that you have created and it’s a credit to the players, the support staff, the board and the people of Townsville to get the support that you have. Townsville would be a very awesome place to be at right now.
Watch the girls celebrate here.