Lightning fast game curbs Fire’s hopes
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.