Fire smash Flyers in WNBL grand final record-breaker
Indestructible Townsville Fire are one win away from their fourth WNBL championship after demolishing the Southside Flyers 94-63 in Game One of the best-of-three grand final series.
The 31-point winning margin at the Townsville Entertainment Centre on Saturday night was the biggest in WNBL grand final history.
The Fire set up their 15th consecutive victory with a commanding 28-14 first quarter and never relented thereafter.
Explosive back-up guard Shyla Heal had 23 points at 90 per cent in 20 minutes, while gun import Tianna Hawkins posted 20 before sitting out the entire fourth period.
Acting captain Bec Cole (20 points) played a virtual lone hand for the sluggish Flyers, whose gruelling, physical three-game semi-final series against Melbourne appeared to take its toll.
Cole and Sara Blicavs were the only two Southside players to score in the opening term which was dominated by the Fire, thanks chiefly to a lopsided 10-4 rebound count.
Premier Flyers import Kayla Thornton didn't hit the scoreboard until inside the last two minutes of the first half, at the end of which Townsville held sway 57-38.
Heal busted Southside's zone defence with 13 second-quarter points while Townsville continued to prosper getting downhill on the Flyers poor ball use, outscoring the visitors 15-4 off turnovers.
Fire captain Lauren Nicholson paced an 11-2 start to the third stanza to push the hosts ahead 68-40.
Cole spearheaded an 8-0 mini-revival before Courtney Woods' punch off the bench gave the momentum back to Townsville, who led 78-52 at three-quarter-time.
The Fire's bench belted Southside's 46-14 with Heal dominant and Woods continuing to drain buckets as the margin swelled out of control.
The Flyers will need to improve immeasurably when the series moves to Melbourne's State Basketball Centre for Game 2 on Wednesday.