CLASS ABOVE: Townsville Fire skipper Suzy Batkovic puts her team on the attack in Saturday’s win against Melbourne Boomers. Pictures: AAPSUZY Batkovic is one game from the fifth Women’s National Baketball League title of her career after Townsville’s 69-64 win against Melbourne Boomers in the grand final series opener.
FOCUSED: Suzy Batkovic takes a shot from the free-throw line.
The Fire now travel to Melbourne and will try to wrap up the series on Thursday and make the third and final game redundant.
Batkovic, the three-time Olympian from Newcastle,became the first Townsville player to surpass 3000 points as she finished her 150th game for the club with 16 points along with 15 rebounds.
“I’m really proud of my girls at the defensive end,” Batkovic said in aFox Sports interview.
BATTLE: Suzy Batkovic attracts the attention of Liz Cambage.
“There was a time that we couldn’t convert, but we did such a solid job on defence and that kept us in the game when things were tough.”
If Townsville win the grand final, Batkovic will match her former Opals teammate, Lauren Jackson, as a five-time title winner. Long-serving Canberra capitals skipper Nat Hurst holds the record with six titles.
Townsville coach Claudia Brassard credited her team’s defensive play and experience as the keys to the Fire’s game-one victory, which puts them in the box seat to notcha third championship in the space offour seasons.
“It’s nice to get that out of the way and while it wasn’t pretty, it’s still a win and we are one up,” Brassard said.
“Offensively, we probably got bogged down quite a bit but Melbourne were the best defensive team in the competition and they showed that here.”
The Fire matched Melbourne’s intensity on defence and while towering centre Liz Cambage (26 points, 13 rebounds, four blocks) proved too tough to stop, they restricted the visitors to 13 per cent shooting (3-of-23) from three-point range.
“Our threes didn’t drop, we just had a miserable percentage tonight,” Melbourne coach Guy Molloy admitted after the loss.
“We make two or three more of those shots and turn it into a mediocre percentage, the game could have been ours.
“We needed to knock down our shots and we just didn’t tonight.”
The big-game experience of Batkovic, along with guard Kelly Wilson and centre Cayla George, proved invaluable for the Fire as they held off a fourth-quarter charge from the visitors.
“They have all been there before, they know what finals are like and I think down the stretch we are going to rely on them,” Brassard said.
“We have a lot of experience and we can draw on a few of those players to come out and get it done for us, which is nice.”
Needing a win to keep their title hopes alive, Cambage expects her side to turn around their shooting woes in game two on Thursday night as they attempt to set up a deciding game three back in Townsville on Sunday.
“We’ve got a pretty young team, we’ve got a lot of girls playing in their first grand final,” Cambage said.
“Hopefully they got a lot of their nerves out tonight and they’ll be pumped to go and hit those shots on our home court.”