A first-time WNBL champion will be crowned on Sunday when the Bendigo Bank Spirit hosts Townsville Fire in the grand final.
The Fire continued its giant-killing run in yesterday’s preliminary final, triumphing 78-64 over reigning premiers Dandenong.
Townsville’s accuracy from the field and three-point land (both 42 per cent) hurt the Rangers, with Micaela Cocks and Kayla Standish particularly deadly as they compiled 20 and 19 points respectively.
Only Stephanie Cumming (11 points) and Jenna O’Hea (10) managed double figures for Dandenong, which has exited the finals in straight sets after last week’s second semi-final loss to the Spirit.
Townsville will now try to become only the second team after Canberra to beat Bendigo at home this season.
The Spirit has an 11-1 record at Bendigo Stadium, including two victories over the Fire.
But Spirit coach Bernie Harrower does not believe home court advantage or Townsville’s tough road trips in the past three weeks will be a factor in the grand final.
After a defeat in Bendigo in the final round of the season, the Fire has now won two cutthroat finals in Adelaide and Dandenong.
“Because they’ve won on the road you can’t talk about home court advantage, you’ve just got to talk about how we go about dismantling what they do,” Harrower said.
They’re a very similar team to us, they’re defensively orientated, they shut teams down. The grand final could be a defensive, dour struggle.
“You’d like to think (travel will affect Townsville) but it’s a grand final so they’ll get themselves up for it.
“I think it will come down to who shoots the best on the day, today they certainly shot the ball better than what Dandenong did.”
The Fire was one of only three teams to defeat Bendigo in the regular season, in a low-scoring contest in Townsville.
The Fire got up 56-52, choking the Spirit’s offence which shot at just 31 per cent from the field and 53 per cent from the charity stripe.
“Even the last time we played them in Bendigo I think we beat them by nine and we struggled that day with our shooting percentages as well,” Harrower said.
“Let’s hope we can be good in that area come Sunday.”
The Spirit tried to keep its momentum rolling during the weekend off with a practice match on Saturday.
Kristi Harrower eased concerns about her Achilles by taking part, while Chantella Perera was one of the Spirit’s best after recovering from a brutal clash of heads with team-mate Gabe Richards last week.
“There was a couple that trained exceptionally well, Chantella was one of them,” Bernie Harrower said.
Richards suffered headaches from the head clash last Tuesday and hasn’t trained since, but the star centre has resumed jogging and is hopeful of training tomorrow.
Spirit chairman Jeremi Moule will confirm with Townsville officials today to work out seating allocation for the visitors, with more tickets expected to be available for the grand final after Dandenong’s exit.