Townsville triumph as Fire claim title
THE TOWNSVILLE Fire are the champions for the 2022/23 WNBL season, after defeating the Southside Flyers in two games in the Grand Final Series, which concluded on Wednesday night, with the former claiming an 82-69 win.
The Fire came into the match with a 1-0 lead in the series, with an opportunity to end it in the best of three format, which is what they did. After a dominant performance in game one, Townsville entered the game as overwhelming favourites, but faced a tough challenge from a Flyers side that was looking to keep their season alive.
After a tussle of a match, the Fire managed to walk away from State Basketball Centre with a hard-fought victory, securing their fourth championship. It came on the back of a 16-game winning streak as Townsville stormed to top spot in the standings after becoming the form team of the competition in the back half of the season. With a number of recipients at the WNBL awards (including Coach of the Year Shannon Seebohm), the Fire have finished the fixture as deserving title winners.
Topping off an outstanding debut season in the WNBL, Tianna Hawkins was named Grand Final MVP. The impactful forward was again a factor in the biggest game of the season, pouring in 18 points and four rebounds, including a timely basket in the fourth quarter. With the match still up for grabs, the import delivered a smooth drop-step inside and finished at the rim to put her side up by five points, capping another strong showing.
Also impressing in the big game were Steph Reid (20 points, two rebounds, four assists), who was flagged on the Got Next Podcast as having potential to break the game open, which is what she did. Mikaela Ruef was also terrific in the decider, delivering a double-double of 12 points and 13 rebounds, while also dishing out four assists.
From a Southside perspective, Rebecca Cole could not have done much more, despite the loss. Although the Flyers fell short of forcing a game three, Cole was terrific, pouring in a game-high 26 points on 11/16 shooting from the field. The home side held an advantage on the scoreboard deep in the match, and she played a huge part in that.
Although Southside managed to take the lead for the first time with four minutes to play in the third, the class of the Fire shone through in the fourth, completely outplaying the opposition and putting the finishing touches on an emphatic performance across the 2022/23 season.