Townsville’s depth Fires against Lynx

MAKING it two wins on the bounce against their closest rival in the WNBL 2023/24 season, the Townsville Fire once again proved too strong for Perth Lynx on Wednesday, running out 13-point winners despite the visitors getting the jump on them early in their Round 10 clash.

The pair faced off on New Year’s Eve which saw the Fire win by 23 points, and though this victory was a 13-point triumph, it was no less impressive thanks to an even team contribution. While the Lynx once again had to rely on Anneli Maley and Amy Atwell to do the bulk of the scoring, six Fire players notched up double-figure points including Mikaela Ruef and Zitina Aokuso who finished with double-doubles to their name.

Perth was still missing MVP candidate Aari McDonald who is recovering from a knee injury, but had the previous game to work out solutions to try and stop the ladder leaders and WNBL title favourites. That plan seemed to work early as Perth put up 30 points to 23 in the opening term to take a seven-point lead.

Unfortunately for the Lynx, the sheer depth of the Fire line-up started to impact the game, with brilliant shooting, combined with the bigs able to get into the paint and make it count, while capitalising on double chance points. Perth was pretty impressive, but could not contain the Fire who ran at a 50 per cent shooting efficiency, as well as a plus-11 rebound, plus-six steal and plus-four assist differential to the Lynx.

They won the match off a 57-41 middle two quarters which set up a nine-point advantage heading into the final quarter. Unfortunately for the Lynx, they just could not bridge that gap, and despite a competitive effort, Townsville outscored them in the term, 24-20 to post a 104-91 win.

Townsville’s ability to get in the paint and consistently score – thanks to its bevy of bigs – saw the Fire finish with 54 points in the paint compared to the Lynx’s 28, while putting up 20 second chance points to five. Leading the way was Ruef (21 points, six offensive rebounds) and Aokuso (18 points, four offensive rebounds) who proved too strong in a 15-8 offensive rebound count.

Ruef and Aokuso would finish with 10 rebounds all up making it a successful night of double-doubles for the pair, though Sami Whitcomb (18 points five rebounds) and Amanda Zahui B (11 points, four rebounds) also contributed well on that front. Courtney Woods (18 points, seven assists, five rebounds and two steals) was the all-round talent, while Steph Reid (12 points, four assists) also notched up double-figure points.

For the Lynx, Maley (23 points, eight rebounds and two assists) and Atwell (25 points, three rebounds and three assists) picked up more than half of Perth’s points, though the player to step up in 20 minutes off the bench was Miela Goodchild who drained a sizzling five of six from beyond the arc en route to 22 points and three rebounds.

The WNBL recommences with the third game of Round 10 tonight as Adelaide Lightning hosts Sydney Flames. Townsville Fire travels to Geelong to face Bendigo Spirit on Sunday, with the Lynx having returned home for a fixture against the Lightning on the same day.

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