The JCU Townsville Fire have risen to the top of the Wattle Valley WNBL ladder after posting a come-from-behind victory over the Perth Lynx.
With Dandenong taking care of Sydney Uni earlier in the evening, the Fire knew a win over the Lynx would return them to top spot for the first time in 2015/16, as well as providing a much needed advantage in head-to-head with two trips to Perth still to come.
The Fire began well with Mia Murray (seven points) and Tamara Tatham (19 points and six rebounds) continuing their good form, while Lynx import Sami Whitcomb (28 points) reaffirmed why she has the WNBL talking.
While the Fire held the narrowest of margins entering the first change, the Lynx put their foot down in the second quarter as they went into half-time leading 42-34.
Needing to adjust on defence, the Fire made a run in the third term, and thanks to a Tatham three-point shot, momentarily hit the lead before the Lynx pulled the trigger to push the margin to double digits.
The Fire continued to grind, however, as First Things First MVP Cayla George (21 points and 17 rebounds) played her most telling match of the season.
The World Championship bronze medallist, who leads the league in rebounding and has hauled in at least 15 per game over the past three games, found her range from outside the arc as the Townsville crowd roared to life.
New Zealand Olympian Micaela Cocks (14 points) found her best form down the stretch as she continually got to the rim, while skipper Suzy Batkovic (16 points and five rebounds) and Nat Novosel (15 points and six assists) kept the scoreboard ticking over.
A 19-4 run in the final term handed the Fire a much-needed 91-81 win.
“We just played a very, very good team but we stayed with our plan and defensively in the last quarter where we held them to 15 that’s where the game was on,” Fire coach Chris Lucas said.
“In the end we had five people in double figures and I thought Cayla’s game was outstanding from her but I thought everybody contributed on the floor.
“The momentum was there for us in the last and our group showed a lot of character.”
The Fire will look to consolidate their position at the top of the table with a tantalising grand final replay against Bendigo at Townsville RSL Stadium on Friday night.
Click here to see box scores from the Fire’s 10-point win.