Townsville hearts broken in WNBL decider
One of the most intense WNBL campaigns has fallen Southside's way, breaking the hearts of Townsville fans in the grand final.
Redemption was the theme from both sides of the court.
For the Fire, Sunday's clash was about proving to the naysayers they belonged at the top of the podium on the back of a wooden spoon campaign.
For the Flyers, it was the chance to cast aside their demons of yesteryear, when they succumbed at the final hurdle to the UC Capitals.
But in a pivotal third quarter, Southside made their move - flawlessly extending their margin to march on to a 99-82 victory.
In the early exchanges, it appeared the Fire had learned from their misgivings in the qualifying final, making amends for their slow start to come out of the blocks with a head of steam.
And they needed to - the class of this Southside outfit is never going to allow lapses go unpunished.
By quarter time the scores were locked; 22 a-apiece and every match up across the court an enthralling battle of attrition.
However there was a looming threat waiting in the wings.
While Leilani Mitchell found rampant form for the Flyers, superstar centre Liz Cambage was barely sighted.
Taken from the court after the opening three minutes, it was as though the minor premiers were picking their moment - luring Townsville into a false sense of security.
With a two-point lead at the major interval, Southside still had their go to waiting in the wings.
When the WNBA powerhouse returned at the start of the second half, her presence added a whole new dynamic to the neck and neck showdown.
The theatrics, the chest beating, the daunting x-factor - all of it was on display to finish with 14 points, five rebounds and three turnovers in a 15 minute stint.
But this stage was all Mitchell's.
The Opals star could barely put a foot wrong, in a captivating performance which featured 31 points and five assists.
Eventually the scoreboard pressure proved too much to overcome.
As valiant as the Fire were, the buffer seemed to force them into shots they otherwise would not have made, and the finals experience of the Flyers kept them composed in the heat of battle.
Lauren Nicholson, as she has done all year, did all she could to get her side home - ending up with 20 points, seven rebounds, four assists and a turnover.
However the third quarter made the difference, as Cambage's ability to attract defenders gave the dominant Mitchell even more time to execute.
After Cambage earned her fourth personal foul she was taken from the floor, but by that stage the damage had been done.
They smelt blood, they knew they had it won. On and off the ball they were emphatic, forcing Townsville into mistakes and proving they were always a class above the rest of the competition.
Originally published as Townsville hearts broken in WNBL decider