Townsville road warriors continue run

UNBEATEN on the road, reigning WNBL champions Townsville Fire made it back-to-back victories down in south west Australia, defeating Adelaide Lightning and Perth Lynx in Round 4. The Fire knocked off the Lightning by 23 points (74-51) on Thursday night, before downing Perth Lynx by 16 (92-76) on Saturday evening.

Townsville currently sits second on the ladder with a 4-1 record and just one win off the ladder-leading Melbourne Boomers. Now on a three-game winning streak, the Fire are yet to lose on the road, with an equal league-high 3-0 record when travelling.

Had it not been for a heartbreaking one-point loss to Southside Flyers at home, and the Fire would be heading into Round 5 uneaten ahead of a more spaced out week. Next up will be Adelaide Lightning at home, before three away games in six days, taking on UC Capitals, Southside Flyers and Sydney Flames to go from the nation’s capital to Victoria and then to New South Wales in what will be a great test for the team.

Townsville has had an even contribution from its top seven players, with Alice Kunek leading the scoring division with 16.6 points per game. She is draining plenty from beyond the arc, with an average of 3.2 made threes per game, to accompany a handy 3.8 rebounds, three of which have come on the defensive end.

Speaking of rebounds, few have been more consistent than Mikaela Ruef who is close to a double-double with 7.4 per game to almost match her 9.8 points per game. She has also stolen the ball almost twice per game to start the season.

Sami Whitcomb has enjoyed a perfectly balanced season, putting up numbers of 12.6 points, 6.0 rebounds, 6.0 assists and 3.2 steals. Able to get it done on both the defensive and offensive ends, expect her to be crucial in the Fire’s title hopes.

Zitina Aokuso (13.8 points, 5.4 rebounds) continues to get better and supports both Whitcomb and Steph Reid around the basket at both ends. Reid is currently averaging a handy 11.2 points, 4.4 rebounds and 4.8 assists, operating as the key playmaker on offence with Whitcomb.

Rounding out the other players who have had significant time on court are Courtney Woods (9.4 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game from 20.4 minutes on average) and Cassandra Brown (8.4 points, 3.0 rebounds from 18.4 minutes per game).

The evenness of the Fire squad has helped the Far North Queensland group remain a team to beat in the 2023/24 WNBL season, and are well placed to go back-to-back this year. If they can continue their run until just before Christmas, a December 23 date with Melbourne Boomers at home is billed as a blockbuster.

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