Fire light up WNBL opening night with big win over Lynx
IT WAS the Shyla Heal and Lauren Nicholson show on Wednesday night as the JCU Fire pair led the Townsville side to a 73-48 win over the Perth Lynx in their WNBL opener in Mackay
The dynamic duo traded points and assists in the 25-point win – none more impressive than a third quarter, length of the court pass from Heal to find Nicholson in stride and lift the Fire to a then game-high 16-point advantage.
Nicholson finished with 16 points and Heal 15, while Nadeen Payne starred in the paint with 10 defensive rebounds and 12 total.
With Heal on the bench it was Stephanie Reid calling the shots and the Fire lost little on transition. Townsville’s smalls proved too potent for Perth at the point of attack.
Fire centre Megan McKay proved a dominant physical presence in the paint and Zitina Aokuso impressed in limited minutes off the bench returning from a long injury lay-off.
The north Queensland hub fan favourites raced out of the blocks to lead 25-10 at the first change.
Nes’eya Williams and Katie Ebzery put the scoring load on their back in the second stanza to bring the Lynx back within 10 at the change of ends.
But that was as close as Perth would get to the runaway Fire, who will have fired a warning shot to the rest of the WNBL in their handling of the Lynx.
Nicholson said the team’s attention would immediately turn to recovery and preparing for their next game against the Canberra Capitals in four days, though the new-look Fire was enjoying hub life so far.
“We have restrictions but it’s also laid back. It’s better than we thought it would be – it’s actually be pretty fun so far. We have a fun team,” she said.
Though she led all comers in scoring, Nicholson’s 7-16 from the field was admittedly not her “best shooting night”. But the Fire guard was happy to just be back on a competitive court once again.
“It was a great first hitout. I think we came out ready to go and that showed,” she said.
“Probably not my best shooting night ever but it was just nice to run around, make a few shots. It’s given me a bit of confidence going into the next one.”
The Heal-Reid change off the bench is one Nicholson believes Townsville can use to great effect this season.
“I think Shyla brings a bit more offensively, but then Steph can come in and really get up on defence (and) give Shy a bit of a rest. That’s something not a lot of teams have off the bench,” she said.