‘Disappointed but not defeated’: Cole urges Southside Flyers to lift as Townsville take grand final series lead

The Southside Flyers will have to put everything on the line in game two if they want to keep the WNBL grand final series alive after being soundly beaten by the Townsville Fire on Saturday night.

The Fire made it 15 wins in a row as they led from start to finish in game one of the series at the Townsville Entertainment Centre winning 94-63 and taking a 1-0 lead in the best of three series.

Southside hosts game two of the series at Victoria’s State Basketball Centre on Wednesday night and must win to force a game three in Townsville this coming Saturday.

Shyla Heal of the Fire heads towards the basket.Credit:Getty Images

The Fire come into the series on the back of their large winning streak while the Flyers have battled into the grand final despite having Lauren Jackson and captain Aimie Rocci out for the season.

Added to that they won game three of their semi-final series in a nail-biter over Melbourne Boomers last Wednesday giving them two days to prepare for game one.

All-WNBL first team centre Tianna Hawkins was dominant in the first three quarters notching 20 points and five rebounds before being rested in the final quarter while Shyla Heal made an impact off the bench with 23 points on nine of 10 shooting.

Flyers guard Rebecca Cole led her side with 20 points but the visitors had few other threats and will need to find much more scoring if they want to keep with the Fire in game two.

“We came here wanting to put on a good show but I think we didn’t want it as much as they did tonight,” Cole told broadcasters.

“I’m disappointed but I’m not defeated. It’s a series for a bloody reason.

“That was ugly on our end. We need to go back and change some things. I’m excited for Wednesday and I want to show them what we have got.”

Hawkins urged her teammates to close out the series on Wednesday night.

“We got one more to go – it’s a great feeling,” Hawkins told ESPN.

The Fire were on the front foot from the opening moments when Karlie Samuelson nailed a three-pointer with that lead growing to 28-14 at quarter time.

Cole and Blicavs were firing for the Flyers but Southside’s turnovers repeatedly allowed the Fire to attack and grow their advantage.

Hawkins was scoring from inside and out for the Fire while late-season signing Heal made an impact off the bench including back-to-back layups late in the second quarter as the Fire took a 57-48 lead into half-time.

Hawkins and Heal had 16 points a piece, Heal didn’t miss a shot for the half, while the Flyers were ruing their turnovers and lack of shots as they shot 56 per cent from the field as a team.

The Fire pushed their lead to 28 points in the third quarter as Hawkins continued to dominate but Flyers coach Cheryl Chambers called time out and switched her side to a 3-2 zone defence with athletic forward Nyadiew Puoch in the middle using her long arms to disrupt the home side.

That move saw the lead cut to 22 points and slowed down the Fire’s offence with Puoch coming up with two blocks in quick succession but the Fire recovered with Courtney Woods’ lay-up on the buzzer making it 78-52 going into the last quarter.

Fire coach Shannon Seebohm gave Hawkins her first rest of the WNBL finals series to start the last quarter and it mattered not as both sides emptied their benches with the likes of Georgia Pineau, Kate Gaze and Lana Hollingsworth playing in the final minutes.

The Fire and Flyers play game two of the WNBL grand final series at the State Basketball Centre on Wednesday at 6.30pm AEDT and, if needed, game three of the series will be in Townsville this coming Saturday night.

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