The JCU Townsville Fire’s championship defence is alive and well after outgunning the SEQ Stars in today’s Wattle Valley WNBL Preliminary Final.
After stumbling against Perth last week, the reigning WNBL champions kept their hopes of back-to-back titles on track with a 91-71 victory over the Stars.
Skipper Suzy Batkovic, the hot favourite to claim a fourth MVP at season’s end, led the way with a game-high 31 points to go alongside 10 rebounds and three assists.
The triple Olympian was simply breathtaking in the first term as she led the Fire to a 31-14 lead, winding back the clock as she reaffirmed her reputation as the league’s best player.
Reigning Rachael Sporn Medallist Mia Murray played her most telling match for the Fire since claiming MVP honours during last year’s Grand Final, finishing 24 points and four rebounds, but it was her defensive efforts that were just as pivotal.
Guarding Stars captain Rachel Jarry, Murray nullified the Opals swingman, restricting her to just five points before she left the match in the final quarter with a suspected broken cheekbone.
Murray’s reputation as a big game player, however, was further enhanced, as she lit up the Stars from beyond the arc as she converted four of eight attempts.
Veteran Cherie Gallagher also played her best game of the season, coming off the bench to register two points, five rebounds and three steals while playing an important defensive assignment that proved critical.
“I’m immensely proud of the way they’ve responded, we had a rough night last week so full credit to the team for yesterday,” Fire coach Chris Lucas said.
“Their mental approach was what it needed to be and what is expected in finals and it’s all about attitude and approach.
“I thought Suzy really led from front, I’m just stoked with the way she played the game and credit to Mia as well she played exceptionally well.”
Opals forward Cayla George finished with 11 points and 16 rebounds to register another double-double, while WNBA import Joardan Hooper finished with a team-high 20 points for the Stars.
The Fire will depart to Perth for game one of the WNBL Grand Final series on Saturday night before returning for game two at Townsville RSL Stadium on Friday, March 18.
Tickets to game two go on sale to members from 10am on Monday, March 7 and then are opened up to the general public from 1pm on Wednesday, March 9.
Click here to see box scores from today’s WNBL Preliminary Final.