Southside storms to top spot in blockbuster clash

IN a fitting way to start the final round of the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) season for 2023/24, the Southside Flyers defeated the Townsville Fire by seven points at Townsville Entertainment Centre on Wednesday night.

In a top of the table clash, the Flyers moved one step closer to locking in first place at season’s end by beating their biggest rival for that spot. Given the strength of both teams throughout the fixture, Wednesday’s game could be a preview of the deciding series, and given the entertaining nature of the game, would give fans plenty to look forward to.

Despite being on the road, Southside took the advantage early in the match and never surrendered the lead for the remainder of the match, cruising home to a 77-70 victory, arguably its most important result of the season given both teams are contenders.

Although top spot is still up for grabs, Southside now just needs a win against the Adelaide Lightning later in the round to claim the minor championship.

Townsville Fire (70) def. by Southside Flyers (77)

The Flyers stormed out of the blocks in the opening term, jumping ahead with some fast-paced offence that caught the Fire on the back foot. Looking to move the ball into the paint as much as possible, Southside found easy looks under the rim, and led by seven points at the first change in an emphatic start to the contest.

The visitors continued that momentum into the second quarter, extending their lead and silencing the 2215 strong crowd at Townsville Entertainment Centre. Although the Fire were more efficient in their offensive sets in comparison to the first quarter, the Flyers were still able to extend their lead out to nine points at the main break.

Scoring dried up for both sides in the second half, with the home side unable to make any inroads to the deficit, despite being let into the game by some poor shooting from the Flyers in comparison to their impressive first half. The margin remained at nine points at the final change, leaving Townsville with plenty to do in the last 10 minutes.

The fourth quarter was another low-scoring affair, with just a combined 28 points registered for the term. Townsville won its first quarter of the game, but could not do enough to undo the damage of the opening quarter, and fell by seven points to lose a grip on top spot in the standings.

Leading the way for Southside was a dominant performance from Mercedes Russell, with the star import showing just how important she can be in the upcoming finals series. She posted a massive double-double of 24 points and 14 rebounds, making her presence felt in the paint and proving too much for the Townsville frontcourt to handle.

Also chiming in with some impressive performances were Lauren Jackson (17 points) and Maddison Rocci (11), as the team’s big guns stepped up in a big way.

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