WNBL Rd 15 wrap: Townsville, Southside to fight for top spot

Superstar American Tianna Hawkins' clutch hook shot on the fulltime buzzer against the Sydney Flames has secured top-ranked Townsville Fire's 10th straight WNBL win, all but sealing a home-court advantage for the first week of the finals.

After Sydney captain Keely Froling rejected Steph Reid then hit a jumpshot with 1.4 seconds remaining for the lead at the Townsville Entertainment Centre on Sunday, Fire coach Shannon Seebohm called a time-out and drew up the last play.

Courtney Woods' inbound pass found Hawkins and the 2019 WNBA champion duly turned around and converted over rival import Jocelyn Willoughby for the 73-72 victory before celebrating wildly.

The Flames, piloted by Froling (22 points, 12 rebounds), had Townsville's measure for large portions but the Fire, despite losing Lauren Nicholson to a foot injury in the opening minutes, continually had all the answers in the clutch.

This Saturday's blockbuster between Townsville (15-4) and Southside Flyers (15-5) in Melbourne will likely determine the regular season championship.

The Flyers locked in a top-two spot after maintaining their stranglehold over the Melbourne Boomers with a comprehensive 81-67 triumph at the State Basketball Centre.

The Michele Timms Cup, awarded to the season victor of the Melbourne derby, was a whitewash as Southside romped to a 3-0 series sweep - all by double-digit margins - over the reigning champions.

The Flyers led by as many as 24 points, their front-court trio of Kayla Thornton, Abby Bishop and Sara Blicavs proving far too strong in the paint and on the boards, even with legendary captain Lauren Jackson sidelined.

Wednesday's derby was Leilani Mitchell's first game in 427 days and her first for the Boomers - her sixth WNBL club - following the birth of her daughter Elle.

Melbourne responded with an unconvincing 103-95 win against the bottom-ranked Canberra Capitals at the National Convention Centre on Saturday.

MVP candidate Tiffany Mitchell (33 points, seven assists, 5-of-7 three-pointers) was magnificent but the Boomers were below their best for extended stretches.

They fell in a 54-44 halftime hole following a poor second term before answering with a match-turning 33-18 third stanza.

Meanwhile, Perth Lynx (11-8) entered the top four for the first time - and tipped Bendigo (11-9) out - after belting the wilting Bendigo Spirit 99-78 at the Bendat Basketball Centre.

Amy Atwell scored 22 points, including 6-of-10 triples for the Lynx, who have turned their campaign around from a dire 2-5 foundation.

It's been a different story for Bendigo, who started the season 7-0 but have lost their past five, by an average margin of 20.

The Spirit's finals charge is likely over - they need to beat Townsville on Wednesday while hoping Perth lose twice, to lowly Canberra and Adelaide.

On Friday, Sydney rode a 28-17 fourth quarter to a 101-91 victory over the Lightning at Quay Centre, Froling dominant with 30 points.