By ROBERT DILLON
SUZY Batkovic came within a centimetre of her fifth WNBL grand final victory as Townsville Fire suffered a shattering 58-57 loss to Melbourne Boomers in Melbourne on Thursday night.
After the Fire’s 69-64 victory at home last Saturday night, the best-of-three-series now returns for a decider in Townsville on Sunday.
Townsville appeared home and hosed when they led by 10 points in the third quarter, but Liz Cambage inspired a remarkable fightback from the home team.
Cambage (19 points) put Melbourne in the lead with nine seconds left on the clock. Batkovic had a chance to snatch a last-ditch victory but her desperate shot rimmed out.
The 37-year-old Novocastrian – who this week received an unprecedented sixth Most Valuable Player award – nonetheless finished with a game-high 23 points.
Batkovic has won four WNBL grand finals: two with Townsville and one each with the AIS and Sydney Panthers.
Only Canberra Capitals’ Nat Hurst (six) has won more Australian titles than three-time Olympian Batkovic.
* Melbourne United have come unstuck in Auckland again, having their seven-match NBL winning streak shut down by a 92-77 loss to the New Zealand Breakers.
The hosts pulled clear in the closing minutes of Thursday night's roller-coaster affair, having squandered a 20-point halftime lead to trail briefly midway through the final quarter.
It leaves both teams on the same 13-7 season record alongside co-leaders Perth.