TWO of Australian basketball’s all-time greats bowed out in style on Saturday night when Suzy Batkovic’s Townsville Fire beat Belinda Snell’s Sydney Uni Flames 90-82 in their WNBL season-ender in Townsville.
Arguably the most dominant player in WNBL history, six-time MVP Batkovic shrugged off a neck injury which had sidelined her since the beginning of December to put on one final show for more than 2000 adoring fans.
Snell wound back the clock to shoot five triples in the first quarter alone before finishing with a game-high 21 points.
Not to be outdone, Batkovic shook off a rusty start to top-score for the Fire with 14 points and three rebounds before checking out with a minute to play to a thunderous reception.
“What else is there to say about Suzy Batkovic?” Fire coach Claudia Brassard asked afterwards of the five-time championship winner, who played alongside Snell at the Athens, Beijing and London Olympics.
“She’s the MVP of MVPs.
“She’s been so dominant and consistent across two decades.
“She’s played a huge role in our success and it was great that she was able to get out on the floor and to soak in the atmosphere one final time.
“It was a special night.”
Players from both teams formed a guard of honour as Snell and Batkovic, both of whom are retiring at 38 after careers spanning more than two decades, left the court.
“It’s been one hell of a ride,” Batkovic said. “It was extra special to share the court with Snelly. We’ve achieved a lot together over the years and she’s been such a phenomenal player.
“Townsville and the Fire fans have been unbelievable to me – I always say they’re our sixth man – so I wanted to be able to say thank you one last time and I’m glad we were able to finish with a win.”
Meanwhile, Adelaide Lightning have vowed to enter the WNBL semi-finals without fear after snatching third spot with a dramatic comeback victory over Perth Lynx in the final game of the regular season.
The win was crucial as it ensured the Lightning avoided a semi-final series against dominant minor premiers University of Canberra Capitals - a task the fourth-placed Lynx now face instead.
Perth led by 21 points midway through the third quarter but Adelaide roared home to win 82-81 in overtime and book a best-of-three semi-final series clash with second-placed Melbourne Boomers.
Down by 17 points at halftime in Perth, the Lightning outscored the Lynx 42-25 in the second half to force the extra period.
"We played with so much heart, we didn't care how many points we were down," Adelaide forward Nia Coffey.
"We made our fixes at half-time and we stuck with them; I'm really proud of all of our team."
The Capitals enter the play-offs on a 10-match winning streak after they closed out a 101-97 double-overtime road win against the Bendigo Spirit.
Melbourne ended their regular season with an 89-78 victory at Dandenong Rangers.