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Southside Flyers defeat Melbourne Boomers in WNBL semi-final

Tiffany Mitchell scored 36 points in a losing effort for Melbourne Boomers against Southside Flyers.

Tiffany Mitchell scored 36 points in a losing effort for Melbourne Boomers against Southside Flyers. Photo: AAP

Southside Flyers have opened the WNBL post-season in impressive style after holding off a second-half comeback from cross-town rivals Melbourne Boomers to record an 84-76 victory in game one of their semi-final match-up.

After completing a 3-0 sweep over Melbourne during the regular season, the Flyers looked set to continue their dominance against the defending champions at the State Basketball Centre on Wednesday night after charging out to a 37-19 lead midway through the second quarter.

With league MVP Cayla George and All WNBL first team member Kristy Wallace nullified by Southside’s stifling defence, import Tiffany Mitchell produced a 36-point masterclass to keep Melbourne in the contest, including a thrilling seven-point burst to open the fourth quarter as the Boomers cut the margin to two points.

But the Flyers responded with a pivotal 11-0 run to secure the win and take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three series.

“There were a few hairy moments but this is finals basketball, every team is good,” Flyers guard Rebecca Cole said after holding off a stern challenge from their local rivals in the closing minutes.

“When (Melbourne) go on those runs, we just have to weather the storm and go back to our roots, and that is we need to play good defence.”

Southside’s defensive efforts forced Melbourne into committing 18 turnovers and restricted key duo George and Wallace to a combined total of 11 points on 4-of-22 shooting.

Sara Blicavs drilled three clutch long-range bombs in the fourth quarter on her way to a team-high 18 points while Cole chipped in with 17 points for the victors.

The Flyers grabbed the ascendency midway through the first quarter as their defensive work produced a series of Melbourne errors, allowing captain Abby Bishop and Kayla Thornton to combine for a run of eight unanswered points to set up a 25-15 advantage.

After falling behind by 18 in the second period, the Boomers managed to chip away at the deficit with Olivia Nelson-Odod joining Mitchell to help reduce the Flyers’ lead to 47-35 by half-time.

Displaying the form that saw her earn All WNBL Second Team honours, Mitchell scored the opening seven points of the final quarter and the Boomers soon trailed by just two points thanks to three-pointers from Mia Murray and Leilani Mitchell.

But Southside rediscovered their offensive flow and Melbourne lost momentum after Wallace fouled out with six minutes to play.

The Flyers will lock in a third grand final appearance in the last four seasons if they can defeat the Boomers in game two of the series at Melbourne Sports Stadium Parkville on Saturday.

-AAP

Topics: WNBL
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