The JCU Townsville Fire has moved a game clear on top of the Wattle Valley WNBL ladder with just two rounds to play.
With their destiny in their own hands, the Fire moved a step closer to hosting a home semi-final after posting an 85-73 victory over Bendigo and now must win just two of their remaining three games to be guaranteed top spot.
Having been beaten twice by the Spirit at Townsville RSL Stadium this season, the Fire were desperate to ensure that they were not swept and capitalised on the absence of star forward Kelsey Griffin who was missing with a hamstring injury.
The loss of Griffin meant the Spirit switched to a small ball game plan, with Belinda Snell starting at the four against Cayla George.
The triple Olympian began slowly – and was in consistent foul trouble – but she is ensured the Spirit stayed in the contest with a game-high 20 points.
Having played reduced minutes against Melbourne last night, skipper Suzy Batkovic was sharp in the first half en route to 15 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks during another First Things First MVP performance.
Batkovic was well supported by Nat Novosel (15 points) and Cayla George (12 points), while Mia Murray scored 10 points – all in the final quarter – as she iced the game with back-to-back threes.
Kate Gaze (nine points, three rebounds and three assists) and Darcee Garbin (eight points and three rebounds) continued their impressive form coming off the bench, igniting the Fire consistently throughout the game.
“We knew the importance of getting two wins over the weekend and cementing our spot,” Fire assistant coach Claudia Brassard said.
“While nothing is guaranteed yet, we know we need to be consistent at both ends of the floor.
“I thought we did a solid defensive job this weekend and our confidence is growing every week to be able to lock down teams at that end of the floor.
“On the offensive end, we did a better job of getting a good spread, which we have been working on.”
Click here to see a full box score from the Fire’s 12-point win.