Spirit burnt as tantalising Townsville too tough

THERE is no doubt that the Townsville Fire are the runaway favourites to claim the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) title come season’s end, and flexed those credentials with another win over the Bendigo Spirit in Geelong on Sunday afternoon.

The reigning champions sit comfortably at the top of the table, having recaptured the ripping form that delivered them the title last season. Although there have been some losses sprinkled in there, Townsville has found its winning ways for much of the fixture. It also came into the game fresh off an impressive win over the Perth Lynx earlier in the round, continuing a return to form after a pair of losses in recent weeks.

The Spirit had delivered some impressive performances throughout their 2023/24 campaign, but were not consistent enough to be classed in the same categories of the contending sides. However, at its best, Bendigo was capable of outplaying anyone, and at a neutral venue, anything was possible.

Unfortunately for the Spirit, the Fire were able to rely on expert coaching and a talent list to cruise home to a 14-point win.

Bendigo Spirit (72) def. by Townsville Fire (86)

Although the Fire were the favoured side coming into the game, the Spirit were hot on their tails with an eye-catching performance in the first half. As expected, Townsville was firing offensively, using multiple avenues to scoring and pouring in 40 first-half points.

However, Bendigo was not far behind, making the most of any opportunity given by the defence and producing one of their most effective first-half performances of the season. At the main break, it was just a two-point game, and anyone’s match at this stage. The Spirit had done a solid job of staying in touch with the championship favourites, but had to keep it rolling into the final 20 minutes of play.

Some excellent defensive work from Steph Reid saw Townsville take the momentum in the third quarter, with the guard recording three steals and creating some transition offence. On the other hand, the Spirit struggled to replicate their offensive prowess from the first half and trailed by nine points at the final change.

Bendigo fought back to tighten the gap early in the fourth, pouncing on some wayward shooting from Townsville coming out of three-quarter time. However, when the game was on the line, the Fire broke out to a game-high 14-point lead to close out the game in strong fashion.

Reid was the star of the show for the Fire, doing excellent work on both ends of the floor and finishing the match with 23 points, three rebounds, three assists and three steals. She had solid help from Zitina Aokuso (15 points, nine rebounds), Cassandra Brown (17 points, 6/9 FG) and Mikaela Ruef (11 points, 12 rebounds) in a balanced team performance.

The Fire will look to keep their winning streak going when they take on the Melbourne Boomers on Wednesday night, while the Spirit will be eager to bounce back when they face off against the Adelaide Lightning tonight as well.

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