Having steered his team to two straight grand finals, Townsville boss Chris Lucas hopes to avoid 2013′s heartbreak loss in Bendigo.
Townsville Fire have reached the WNBL grand final after beating the Dandenong Rangers, but that’s where coach Chris Lucas hopes similarities with last season end.
In a repeat of last year’s game, the Fire downed the Rangers 74-71 on Sunday, and now they are hoping to make amends for disappointment in 2013.
The Fire were outgunned in last year’s grand final 71-57 in Bendigo and they’re keen to take the national crown to far north Queensland when they meet again on Sunday.
Steph Cumming, who left the Rangers to join the Fire, was crucial to the preliminary final win, top scoring (15 points) against her old side.
“It felt natural tonight,” she said.
“We knew it was going to be a tough game and it really was.”
Along with another new centre Suzy Batkovic (13 points, 16 rebounds), the Fire can boast an improved roster from their loss in 2013.
And after seeing his side hold out the Rangers, Townsville coach Chris Lucas was bullish about their chances.
“We’re not going down there to lose, I can tell you now,” Lucas said.
“I’d love to see history created for Townsville.”
But Bendigo Spirit coach Bernie Harrower, who ventured south to see his grand final opponent confirmed first hand, says the Fire don’t intimidate him.
“It was one of those games that really could have gone either way,” he said.
“Each team brings their own little problems for us and now we know it’s Townsville we’ll sit down and work it all through.”
Chief among those problems will be the towering 194cm Batkovic, who drained 27 points in her last meeting with the Spirit.
While he agreed Batkovic had an off-day, he wasn’t concerned about managing the two-time Most Valuable Player in the upcoming grand final.
“She might have hit 27 points but we won the day,” he said of the Australia Day meeting, which Bendigo won 78-57.
“There are different ways to go about it and Rangers were good at defending her today but we’ll have our own game plan.”
Cumming said Townsville’s week would likely be spent fine-tuning their season-long focus on defence, which had got them through to the final.
“We’ve been looking at defence, if we can hold them to a limited score, we don’t have any problems scoring ourselves and hopefully we can get the win.”
Harrower will lead his team through a hectic week ahead, with Bendigo set to go basketball crazy.
“Going back to back would certainly mean a lot to us… its enormous in Bendigo.”