JCU Townsville Fire import Amy Kame has willed her side to victory with a First Things First MVP performance against Bendigo.
With star point guard Kelly Wilson sidelined with a fractured ankle, the devastating injury opened the door for Kame to play a larger role with the Fire and the Colorado native did not disappoint as she posted 16 points, six rebounds and five assists in 27 minutes to lead the Fire to a 71-69 win.
Fellow American Natasha Cloud (12 points, three steals, two rebounds and two assists) was just as impressive – despite battling foul trouble – while skipper Suzy Batkovic top-scored with 18 points and eight rebounds.
“We battled a lot of adversity tonight,” assistant coach Mark Wrobel said.
“That was one of the most physical games I’ve seen in the WNBL. Both teams came for a battle and it ended up as a war.
“We defended the paint far better than we did a fortnight ago and now it is time to turn our attention to Melbourne.”
A sluggish start against the Spirit saw the Fire trailing by as much as nine points midway through the opening term before Batkovic resurrected their hopes.
The four-time WNBL MVP had 10 of the Fire’s 16 points at quarter-time as the visitors trailed by one after a late rally.
The two-time defending champs were able to open up a five-point lead in the second term as Mia Murray (10 points) came to life before a late Kerry Harrington triple gave the Spirit a 36-34 advantage going into the main change.
The Fire again threatened to pull away in the third quarter, but Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe (20 points and 10 rebounds) and Kelsey Griffin (15 points and seven rebounds) made them pay by slaying the Fire on the offensive glass.
A pair of free throws from Kame with less than four minutes to play appeared to ice the contest before back-to-back threes from Griffin reduced the margin to one with less than a minute to play.
Neither side could deliver the knockout blow down the stretch, but the Fire was able to record a victory before facing Melbourne tomorrow from 2pm in the second match of their Victorian road trip.
Click here to see a full box score from tonight’s game.