The Townsville Fire doused the Sydney Flames' final hopes with a nail-biting 85-78 win in the first WNBL elimination final at Townsville RSL Stadium.
The home side shot out to an early lead as the Flames struggled to find their feet.
American import Shanavia Dowdell (14) and captain Rachael Flanagan (17) led by example, sinking big baskets under pressure to take a eight point lead into the first break.
The visitors had an injury scare early in the second quarter with point guard Alicia Poto (11) forced off the court after a collision under the basket.
Poto returned to the floor late in the quarter but failed to stamp her authority on the game allowing the Fire to take a 53-47 lead into the main break.
The Flames started the second-half strongly to bring the scores back to level early in the third quarter.
Both sides struggled to take control of the game as points became hard to come by.
Fire guard Casey Lockwood (9) was handy from downtown, sinking a valuable basket from outside the arc to leave her side two points up at the end of the third quarter.
The point scoring tug of war continued in the final quarter with both sides failing to hit consecutive baskets.
Flanagan steadied the ship with a handy basket late in the quarter providing the boost needed for the home side to run away seven point winners at the end of the final quarter.
The Fire will now be preparing for a second-round playoff showdown with Dandenong on Sunday.
Jessica Foley was rock solid throughout the game, finishing with 24 points and nine rebounds for the home team.
She said the contest was one of the toughest of the year.
"It's really exciting to see all the girls firing again," she said.
"We went through a bit of a rough patch after Christmas because a few things weren't going our way but that all seems to be behind us now.
"We have really found our swagger again over the past few weeks so hopefully we can keep that up."
AAPTags: wnbl, basketball, sport First posted February 22, 2012 22:53:00