Sharpshooting Samuelson steers Fire back on track

THE Townsville Fire are back on the winners’ list in the WNBL on the weekend, breaking their losing streak with a thrilling three-point win over the Southside Flyers, thanks to a season-best performance from import Karlie Samuelson.

After a red-hot start to the season, the Fire was almost out as Townsville found itself in the midst of a two-game losing streak of late, losing an unbeaten record and falling away from the ladder-leading Bendigo Spirit.

However, the Fire made amends with a nail-biting triumph over the Flyers, who have proven no easybeats in season 2022/23, with the match going right down to the final play in the last quarter.

One of the biggest reasons Townsville was able to deliver the win on Saturday was the offensive output of US import Samuelson, who produced her best outing in a Fire uniform to fire from behind the arc and top the scoring column in a star-studded match.

Southside Flyers (79) def. by Townsville Fire (82)

Karlie Samuelson – 26 points, 9/12 FG, 6/9 3PT

Samuelson shot extremely efficiently from the field given the volume of attempts she put up, and her performance in Round 5 adds another threat to an already dangerous Townsville lineup.

Samuelson and the Fire got off to the perfect start, with the guard draining the first score of the match and her first triple of the contest. Her second bucket came just a few minutes later, with the defence collapsing around the likes Tianna Hawkins and Lauren Nicholson, allowing Samuelson to roam free around the perimeter and fire another three.

The Fire looked to Hawkins for some offence, but she was tightly guarded and the Fire fell behind on the scoreboard as a result. The remainder of the term belonged to Nicholson, who went on a tear to close out the term as Townsville reduced the deficit to just one point.

Samuelson continued to launch from downtown, draining her third trifecta less than two minutes into the second term off a clever Lara McSpadden pass (repaying the favour after the former found the latter a minute earlier with a nice dime), although she turned the ball over next possession by shuffling her feet with the ball. The remainder of the second quarter saw Samuelson well defended, and the Fire led by three at the main change.

In line with the first and second quarters, Samuelson started the third term in style with yet another smooth jumpshot, although this one came from two-point territory, showcasing her ability to score at multiple levels. She quickly got back to being the match’s premier perimeter threat with another three-pointer the next possession, making the most of her quick-fire shooting motion.

Although she missed her next two shots from the field, they were her last two failed attempts, as she closed out the game in style with another two triples, not afraid to pull up on the fast break in the face of the defender.

It was a justified decision given the hot streak she was on at the time, as she closed out the match with 12 points in the final term. She also played a crucial role in defending the Flyers when they tried to tie the game up in the dying seconds of the match, but Townsville’s defence was too good and the shot was wayward.

Samuelson proved that the Fire are more dangerous than many initially thought, and if she can continue to be a 15-20 point per game player, then it adds more dynamism to an already strong offence.

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