The JCU Townsville Fire have claimed their third straight cliff-hanger to surge back into title contentions after scoring a 74-72 victory over Melbourne.
Fresh off last night’s nail-biting win over Bendigo, the two-time reigning WNBL champions had less than 24 hours before confronting the Boomers and overcame injury, illness and adversity to snatch a two-point win.
Trailing by four points with just three minutes to play, Kayla Standish (16 points) knocked down a crucial three-point shot – her second of the term – before Suzy Batkovic grabbed a giant offensive rebound to hand the Fire a one-point lead.
When Chante Black levelled the scores with one of two free throws from the line, scores were level entering the final minute before Batkovic delivered again.
The four-time WNBL MVP willing her side to victory as she made the most important bucket of the game to hand the Fire the ascendancy.
As the clock wound down, both sides squandered opportunities to ice the contest as the Fire escaped to improve their record to 5-3, good enough for second in the league.
“(It was) a really big weekend for us, so to come away with two wins – both with two-point differentials – is huge,” head coach Claudia Brassard said.
“It’s nice for us to get confidence to come away with a close game as well, so it makes a big difference for us.”
After a sluggish start, the injection of Darcee Garbin (15 points) proved telling as she rattled off 11 points to cut the deficit to one going into the first change.
With Standish and Batkovic (18 points and eight rebounds) enduring foul trouble, Garbin, who has been battling a foot injury, stood up when it mattered most as she made her interior presence felt.
With Kelly Wilson missing through injury, Natasha Cloud (nine points and seven assists) was relishing the primary playmaking duties, while Amy Kame (nine points and six rebounds) continued her golden weekend with some much-needed offensive punch coming off the bench.
While the Fire led by one at half-time and three at the final change, the Boomers would not be deterred as they took the contest to the final play of the game.
“It’s a little nerve-wracking any time it goes down to the wire and it’s a close game,” Cloud said.
“I think we’ve been in this position – more so than any other team in the league (this season) – for us I think we’re calm and confident at the end of games and we knew we could take care of the ball.
“We were patient, we got through our offences and we got some stops that were key to getting us this win.”
The Fire will return to Townsville before facing the University of Canberra and the Sydney Uni Flames – again – on the road next weekend.
Click here to see full box scores from today’s game.