Recovering from a slow start, the Coffee Club Queensland Firebirds turned up the heat with a trademark forceful outing to overcome the Mainland Tactix 70-55 in Brisbane on Friday.
Looking to become the first team to win back-to-back titles, the Firebirds had the luxury of playing their starting seven from last season before going on to secure their 14thconsecutive win, ensuring the Challenge Trophy also stayed in Queensland.
Taking time to find their feet, the defending champions showed their class with a dominant second half as they powered away to a defining win. Picking up from where they left off last season, the home team were rampant on attack with wing attack Caitlyn Nevins finding the circle edge on a regular basis and providing a steady supply to her shooters.
Firebirds shooters Gretel Tippett and Romelda Aiken were in sensational form as the Firebirds marched to an impressive 54-37 lead at three-quarter time, impressing with their sleight of hand, speed and finishing touches to leave the Tactix defenders struggling for answers.
The Tactix got the better of the opening exchanges with world-class shooting duo Mwai Kumwenda and Bailey Mes delivering a flying start on the back of their athleticism and accuracy.
With the game played a fast clip throughout, the Firebirds clawed their way back into contention with a late surge to the opening quarter. Former basketballer Tippett made her presence felt with a series of timely lay-ups to nudge the Firebirds to a 16-14 lead at the first break.
Bookended by captain Laura Geitz, in defence, and lofty shooter Aiken, the Firebirds made a decisive start to the second quarter to knock the wind out of the Tactix sails.
Like a well-oiled machine, the Firebirds proved expert at exerting pressure and creating extra turnover opportunities with Aiken and Tippett providing the accuracy and touches of magic under the hoop.
The Tactix found it increasingly difficult to contain the speed of ball movement from the home team’s attacking line as the Firebirds moved into a position of control when taking a 33-25 lead at the main break.
Firebirds shooting statistics:
Romelda Aiken 45/49 (92%)
Gretel Tippett 25/31 (81%)
Tactix shooting statistics:
Mwai Kumwenda 37/39 (95%)
Bailey Mes 18/28 (64%)
MVP: Romelda Aiken (Firebirds)
photo Cheltenham jockey club
photo Cheltenham Racecourse