Light­ning fast game curbs Fire’s hopes

Townsville Bulletin - - SPORT - TRENT SLATTER trent. [email protected] news. com. au

THE Townsville Fire’s top­four am­bi­tions have suf­fered a ma­jor set­back fol­low­ing last night’s 85- 70 de­feat to the Ade­laide Light­ning without cap­tain Suzy Batkovic.

Batkovic had been re­ceiv­ing treat­ment all week for an on­go­ing neck is­sue, but she failed a pre- game fit­ness test which sent the Fire into bat­tle without their star cen­tre for the first time in 142 games.

Mi­caela Cocks was named as the stand- in cap­tain and she led by ex­am­ple with 17 points, but Ade­laide jumped out to an early lead and the Fire couldn’t find a way to reel them back in.

Lau­ren Ni­chol­son ( 23 points) was near un­stop­pable from long range with 5/ 8 three- point­ers as the Light­ning notched their fourth win in a row to also ce­ment fourth place on the lad­der.

It was a hot start from both teams at Townsville Sta­dium as they traded the ad­van­tage be­fore a 9- 0 scor­ing run saw the Light­ning pull away.

Ade­laide’s mo­men­tum was halted by an Ally Malott ( 14 points) triple, but Ni­chol­son quickly re­sponded in kind for the vis­i­tors as they led 16- 11 mid­way through the open­ing term.

The Fire’s de­fence strug­gled to slow Ade­laide down, but they re­grouped on of­fence in­clud­ing a big three from Cocks which kept them to within 24- 18 at the first break.

Ni­chol­son hit her third triple of the match to start the se­cond quar­ter as Ade­laide scored seven unan­swered points and the mar­gin soon blew out to 14.

The Fire have shown they can bounce back from poor starts this sea­son and a 10- 0 fin­ish to the quar­ter led by Zitina Aokuso ( 12 points, 9 re­bounds) made it a one pos­ses­sion game at 41- 38.

Townsville went shot for shot with the vis­i­tors early in the third quar­ter be­fore Ni­cole Seekamp ( 17 points) and Pen­ina David­son ( 14 points) took charge for Ade­laide to make it 66- 54 at the fi­nal break. The home side bat­tled hard in the fourth quar­ter as Cocks and Malott hit backto- back triples to slash the mar­gin to six points at 74- 68 with just over four min­utes left to play.

But Ade­laide snuffed out any chance of a come­back as Nia Cof­fey ( 9 points) came up with a big re­jec­tion on Malott be­fore they closed out the game with a 11- 2 run.

The Fire ( 5- 7) are now two wins adrift of Ade­laide ( 7- 6) in fourth place although they have al­ready claimed the series split af­ter win­ning their pre­vi­ous two clashes with the Light­ning.

FULL THROT­TLE: PIC­TURES: ALIX SWEENEY

Side­lined Fire cap­tain Suzy Batkovic ( ad­vice to young team­mate Zitina Aokuso. hands out

left)

Fire star Tess Mad­gen looks to pass.

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