The JCU Townsville Fire waved goodbye to 2016 in emphatic style tonight with an 88-75 victory over Melbourne.
Having successfully defended their WNBL title in March, the two-time reigning champions will start 2017 riding a four-game winning streak and with the steadfast belief that they can become just the third team in history to secure a three-peat.
In front of a strong New Year’s Eve crowd, the Fire came out blazing but were sloppy down the stretch in the opening term as their double-digit lead was cut to two at the first-change.
Having missed all but yesterday’s training session due to a personal matter, Fire captain Suzy Batkovic sent a scare through Townsville Stadium when she was forced from the court through injury.
The four-time league MVP returned, however, to post a team-high 18 points, 15 rebounds and four assists to be named the First Things First MVP.
In the second quarter, the Fire broke the shackles as Mia Murray (15 points and five rebounds) and Kayla Standish (eight points and six rebounds) went to work.
With the Boomers front court experiencing foul troubles – just like two rounds ago – they were able to open up a 56-44 lead at half-time.
“It was a tough match,” Batkovic said.
“For a number of reasons, but it’s been a bit of a disruptive preparation with Christmas and a few other things going on so it was good to get the win.
“We’ve strung four together now so we need to keep going with it.”
In the second half, the Fire continued to build momentum as Micaela Cocks hit three of six shots from beyond the arc to finish with 17 points during her best game in a Fire singlet this season.
Amy Kame also came to life in the second half as she finished with 13 points – seven from the line – and provided great energy at both ends.
For the Boomers, Maddie Garrick top-scored with 19 points, while Britt Smart (16), Olivia Thompson (14) and Alice Kunek (13) all finished in double figures.
The Fire return to Townsville Stadium next Friday when they host the UC Capitals.
Click here to see full box scores from tonight’s game.