Cayla George and teammates celebrating their victory over the Townsville Fire on New Years Eve. (Image: WNBL- Instagram)

In another blockbuster top-four clash, the Melbourne Boomers and Townsville Fire showed why they are top-four teams this season, showing plenty in a tale of two halves and a finals-type intensity game.

Going into the game, the Boomers were looking to maintain top spot, following their overtime win against the Adelaide Lighting, whilst the Fire had a break during Christmas, following their clinical performance on December 17 against the Perth Lynx.

Both teams lifted their physicality and pressure on the offensive and defensive end, with both sides having momentum swings of their own, setting the tone and running in transition offensively.

Whilst the Fire had the lead at quarter time, the Boomers were looking to lift their shooting percentage, only shooting at 32 per cent from the field.

Both teams had players that impacted off the bench in the first half, with Lara McSpadden solidifying herself in the post and making tough shots, whilst Courtney Woods gave plenty of energy on both ends of the court.

For the Boomers, Miela Goodchild came up with some clutch three-pointers to keep the score close, whilst Penina Davidson also made her presence known on the glass, pulling down several tough rebounds.

Whilst the Fire had the momentum, making it hard for the Boomers, the visitors stepped up in the later stages of the second quarter, taking a two-point lead at half-time.

The Fire had several contributors that were able to make plays, with Steph Reid, Lauren Nicholson, Mikaela Ruef, and Tianna Hawks providing the scoring punch. For the Boomers, Kristy Wallace, Olivia Nelson-Ododa, and Tiffany Mitchell also stepped up and had an influential first half.

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It was another frenetic half of basketball, the Fire had the momentum in the third quarter, with the likes of Nicholson finding ways to make big plays and Ruef dominating in the post.

The Boomers re-gained themselves in the later stages of the third quarter, with Wallace stepping up and finding her range offensively and Goodchild once again hitting a clutch shot at the three-quarter time buzzer.  

With the Boomers finding their mojo defensively and offensive flow in the later stages of the third quarter, the last quarter belonged to the Boomers. They maintained and controlled the tempo on their terms in the last quarter, lifting the defensive pressure, forcing the Fire into turnovers and converting clutch shots.

Tiffany Mitchell was influential, driving to the basket and using her speed. After a quiet first half in foul trouble, Cayla George found her range from the three-point line. Nelson-Ododa stepped up defensively as the Fire continued to drive to the basket, pulling down key rebounds.

Tiffany Mitchell (22 points, five assists, and four rebounds), Kristy Wallace (18 points, seven assists, three rebounds, and one steal), and Cayla George (16 points, eight rebounds, five assists, and one steal) were among the Boomers’ best.

The Melbourne Boomers will prepare for two top-four teams in round nine, facing the Southside Flyers in the second game, then prepare for a top-of-the-table clash with the Bendigo Spirit on Sunday.

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