“It’s so exciting, the girls were really good, we all worked as a team and they are such a tough team,” Heal told Fox Sports.
“I can’t believe we are in the grand final on Sunday. We will go in as the underdogs and try to beat Southside.”
The Boomers efforts couldn’t be faulted and the likes of Tess Madgen, Cayla George (15 points, 10 rebounds) and Magbegor did all they could to get their side back into the contest in the final term but they couldn’t find the last few points needed for victory.
One thing all Australian fans can take from this game and this finals series is that both Heal and Magbegor figure to be foundation members of the Opals for a long time to come, both players will also be in camp with the team when coach Sandy Brondello brings her players together in January to look ahead to the Tokyo Olympics.
Before then, Heal and the Fire, who finished bottom last season, will take one more shot at the star-studded Southside team who will start as favourites but couldn’t stop Heal or Nicholson in the major semi-final as both scored over 30 points.
The Fire were controlling much of the first half on Friday but Melbourne continued to scrap and make every basket difficult so the Fire’s lead was only 33-29 at half-time.
Heal and Magbegor both lifted in the third term but it was Heal who burned hottest, twice driving to the basket for left-handed lay-ups and drawing the foul while she also found her outside shooting game.
Heal even channelled her father and Australian great Shane Heal, when she ripped the ball from the hands of Magbegor, after a defensive rebound, then made a cheeky reverse lay-up.
That flurry of Heal baskets saw the Fire’s lead grow to seven points but again the Boomers went to their bench, with Kiwi veterans Toni Farnsworth and Kalani Purcell coming into the game, but more baskets from Heal (12 points for the quarter) and Zitina Aokuso saw the Fire up 54-47 going into the fourth quarter.
Magbegor’s block on Heal with 90 seconds to play led to a lay-up from Maddie Garrick, which cut the lead to three points but both Magbegor and Garrick couldn’t convert their last-ditch, three-point shots, leaving the Fire to take the win.
The WNBL grand final will be between Southside Flyers and Townsville Fire at Townsville Stadium on Sunday at 3pm AEDT.
Roy Ward is a Sports writer for The Age.