Townsville Fire defeat Southside Flyers to claim WNBL championship in Melbourne

Townsville Fire have stormed to the 2022-23 WNBL championship after coming from behind in the fourth quarter to defeat Melbourne’s Southside Flyers 82-69 and complete a 2-0 grand final series sweep.

The Fire closed Wednesday night’s game two match-up at Melbourne’s State Basketball Centre with a 25-13 fourth-quarter effort to secure their 16th consecutive victory and cap their barnstorming run to the title.

Steph Reid (20 points) and grand final MVP Tianna Hawkins (18 points) led Townsville’s late-game charge to secure the North Queensland franchise’s fourth national league championship.

“This team is the closest and the best group of people I’ve ever been with. I’ve just never played with a team that have genuinely got along so well,” Reid told ESPN moments after the Fire wrapped up the championship.

Karlie Samuelson (left) and Tianna Hawkins (right) were elated when the full-time hooter sounded.(Getty Images: Kelly Defina)

Back at the scene of their thrilling one-point victory over local rivals Melbourne Boomers in the deciding game of their semi-final series, Southside fell behind early but valiantly battled back to grab a five-point lead in the final quarter.

However, just as it seemed the series would go back to Townsville for a winner-takes-all game three, the Fire surged to the front with a 9-0 run and were never headed thereafter.

Captain Rebecca Cole’s 26-point haul was not enough to inspire the Flyers as their quest for a second championship in three seasons came to a disappointing end.

The Fire lost to the Flyers in the grand final of the 2020 season.(Getty Images: Kelly Defina)

Southside looked to the experience of forward Abby Bishop to provide an early boost in the do-or-die clash and the 34-year-old former league MVP delivered, scoring 10 points in the opening quarter.

But Shyla Heal made her presence felt by coming off the bench to hit a pair of long-range buckets and help the visitors edge ahead 24-18.

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