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New champ for WNBL as Fire put out

THE WNBL will have a new champion in 2017 after Sydney Uni Flames last night put out the defending champion Fire in Townsville.

An attempted "threepeat" Fire season smouldering on the brink finally was sent into ashes by the Flames who established early they weren't taking the foot off the pedal after their resounding 42-point Game 1 win.

A roller-coaster season season for Townsville, which only confirmed its Final Four status in the last round when its dual championship-winning coach Chris Lucas masterminded a stunning MAC Adelaide Lightning win over the Capitals in Canberra, was in trouble when at home it, even then, couldn't beat the Caps in the last game.

Losing form entering playoffs isn't a good sign - just ask the NBL's Adelaide 36ers - and, in truth, Townsville was never in this best-of-three semi final against the regular season champion Sydney.

The Flames' depth was always too much, in the Game 1 rout Alex Wilson producing a career game, last night Tahlia Tupaea (below) with a career best 10 rebounds to go with a game-high 18 points.

Sydney seized the initiative early, then weathered Townsville's attempts to get back into the game and the series.

Fire stalwarts Suzy Batkovic and Mia Murray led from the front but couldn't push Townsville ahead as the Flames returned to the Grand Final for the first time since losing to Adelaide in 2008, winning 76-61.

OUT west, it was wild as Sami Whitcomb (pictured below) delivered a career-high 41 points to force a deciding third game in Dandenong tomorrow, Perth winning by 20.

Whitcomb's 41 points was not only her career best but also broke the individual high score for a semi final, set by Adelaide Lightning's Erin Phillips when she hit 40 in Sydney in February, 2005.

Whitcomb was 15-of-24 from the floor (63%) and hit 8-of-12 threes, while also leading her team in rebounding (nine) and assists (four).

Perth again drew no value from starting Nat Burton (0 points, two rebounds) but Whitcomb led the Lynx to a 30-22 buffer after one and 48-37 at halftime.

Dandenong was led back by Steph Cumming's 30-point high and was back in the game, down 61-63 with a period to play. But that period belonged to Perth which unleashed an emphatic 28-10 final quarter to seriously alter the dynamic of this series.

Was it Perth's final shot of resistance? Or has it seized the momentum away from the young Rangers? Tomorrow will tell with the deciding Game 3 from 3pm at Dandenong Stadium.


1 v 4 - Sydney Uni Flames v Townsville Fire

Game 1: SYDNEY UNI FLAMES 111 (Wilson 27, Taylor, Mitchell 19, Snell 10; Hamson 10 rebs; Snell 5 assts) d TOWNSVILLE FIRE 69 (Batkovic 18, Murray 17, Garbin 10; Batkovic 10 rebs; Batkovic 5 assts) at Brydens Stadium.

Game 2: SYDNEY UNI FLAMES 76 (Tupaea 18, Mitchell 16, Snell 13, Wilson 11, Taylor 10; Tupaea 10 rebs; Mitchell 7 assts) d TOWNSVILLE FIRE 61 (Murray 16, Batkovic 14, Garbin 13; Batkovic 17 rebs; Wilson 4 assts) at Townsville RSL Stadium.

Sydney Uni Flames win series 2-0

2 v 3 Dandenong Rangers v Perth Lynx

Game 1: DANDENONG RANGERS 73 (Cumming 25, Novosel 15, Blicavs 11; Blicavs 8 rebs; Clydesdale 5 assts) d PERTH LYNX 66 (Whitcomb 24, Hamblin 15, Lavey 11; Whitcomb 13 rebs; Edmondson, Lavey 3 assts) at Dandenong Stadium.

Game 2: PERTH LYNX 91 (Whitcomb 41, Hamblin 14, Lavey 10; Whitcomb 9 rebs; Whitcomb 4 assts) d DANDENONG RANGERS 71 (Cumming 30, Blicavs 14, Kennedy 10; Kennedy 9 rebs; Clydesdale 5 assts) at Jack Bendat Stadium.

Series tied 1-1, Game 3 decider tomorrow at Dandenong


ASIA          ...       TAYLOR

Mar 4

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