The JCU Townsville Fire’s indifferent home has continued in the New Year with a 10-point loss to SEQ.
While a victory over the Wattle Valley WNBL’s newest franchise would have provided the Fire with outright ownership of first place – and some much needed breathing room from a handful of chasers – they were unable to nullify the Stars and slumped to an 80-90 loss.
The results drops the Fire to third place – with a game on clear – but makes each and every game in the remaining five rounds of the competition critical.
Once again, the Fire made a slow start to the contest as they have all season, trailing by five midway through the opening term before finding spark.
Two early fouls on captain Suzy Batkovic did little to aid their ambitions, and with Canadian Olympian Tamara Tatham sitting on the sidelines for a successive round, the Fire were forced into a smaller rotation.
Stars import Jordan Hooper capitalised on the situation as she exploded for 19 points in the opening half as she made all but one of her eight attempts from the field.
The Fire’s saving grace was the hot hand of Mia Murray (14 points, five rebounds and four assists) as she buried four shots from beyond the arc to go into the main change trailing 42-43.
Batkovic’s (26 points and 10 rebounds) re-emergence in the second half sparked the Fire as they opened up a six-point lead late in the third term before a Stars run levelled the scores going into the final change.
A horror four minute stretch allowed the Stars to go on a 13-2 run which split open the game, and ultimately, ensure the visitors prevailed.
Batkovic was named the First Things First MVP, while Cayla George (16 points and 12 rebounds) and Micaela Cocks (15 points and six assists) were also important.
“I don’t think offensively we struggled at all,” Cocks said.
“We scored 80 points but just defensively we were just too inconsistent and we weren’t clicking.
“The effort was there it just wasn’t working and a breakdown in communication.”
The WNBL will go into a week’s recess while the Opals tour Rio as part of their Olympic preparations.
The Fire will return to the floor on Sunday, January 24 when they host the University of Canberra Capitals from 3pm.
Click here to see box scores for the Fire’s game against SEQ.