BASKETBALL: Gladstone Port City Power survived a three-point barrage from Townsville Flames' gun Mia Murray to progress through to the semi-finals after an epic 78-74 win.
With scores locked away at 71-71, Kayla Kiriau made a baseline triple before Tabatha Richardson-Smith (29 points) and Cassie Rochel (12 points, 14 rebounds) and captain Charmian Mellars, with 14 and eight, effectively iced the game despite one final flurry by the visitors.
The Power travels to Brisbane next Saturday from 5pm to face Brisbane Spartans for a spot in the grand final.
Spartans thrashed South West Metro Pirates 77-45 to strengthen their status as premiership favourites.
Power coach Ray Cooper was a relieved man after the match.
"It could have been a lot better obviously and we didn't shoot the ball very well," he said.
"Townsville did a very good job in taking us out and slowing us down a fair bit."
Cooper added Townsville did not allow Port City Power to play its trademark transition game, but despite a tense finish, he said he was confident a big play would come and the players would ride on home crowd support.
"It was just a matter of time before Tab or someone hits a big shot or someone makes a big defensive stop so we can get on a bit of a run knowing we'll have the crowd behind us," he said.
"Games like that sometimes you know players are going to step up and make some massive plays."
The massive play came in the form of a huge block from Rochel on Haylee Andrews and the Power player, most notably who stepped up to the play-off plate, was Alicia Carline.
She came off the bench with immediate impact with some big baskets and rebounds at both ends at key moments.
Carline scored 13 points and pulled down seven rebounds and was the partner with Rochel in a high-low post situation
Murray (32 points, eight triples) had threatened to spoil the party at Kev Broome Stadium when the Power was amid an 11-0 run late in the third term to lead 53-46.
The Flames led by four points minutes earlier before Richardson-Smith recaptured her regular season form to fire the hosts into their mojo.
The US import then timed an exquisite pass to fellow American Rochel, who made no mistake with a regulation basket.
Lisa Brennan toiled hard for the Flames with 17 points, but the biggest difference in the game was height, with the visitors missing gun forward Darcee Garbin. Townsville coach Michael St-Maurice noted size was the difference in the end.
"Look, it was a great battle and I have a lot of respect for Ray and his group," St-Maurice told reporters. "I guess when it mattered most, they made some shots and a four-point game in the end and it was just a great battle I suppose."
The Flames mentor said the team wanted to prove that it would not wilt as it did in the final quarter of the two teams' most recent encounter in Townsville.
Gladstone Port City Power 78 d Townsville Flames 74
Mackay Meteorettes 78 d Townsville Flames 74
Brisbane Spartans 77 d South West Metro Pirates 45
Logan Thunder v Brisbane Capitals (today 3pm)
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