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The Southern Design Sydney Uni Flames maintained second place on the Women’s National Basketball League ladder with a 76-70 win over Canberra Capitals at the AIS Arena in Canberra on Saturday night.

But as is the norm with the Flames, the win didn’t come without drama. Having led by as many as 15 points in the final term, the Flames then let the Capitals stage a late comeback to reduce the margin to 73-70 with 30 seconds on the clock before clutch free-throw shooting from Belinda Snell and Alicia Poto saw the visitors take the points.

In fact the Flames’ drama started days before the match with the news that versatile forward Eva Afeaki will miss the remainder of the season after injuring her knee in the clash with Bulleen the previous week.

Afeaki ruptured her patella tendon in the first five seconds of the game against the Boomers and is to have surgery this week, ruling her out of the rest of the 2011-12 season. She was assessed by Flames medical staff on return from Melbourne and the rupture of the patella tendon was confirmed after an MRI scan.

The 195-game WNBL veteran, Afeaki has been a mainstay of the Flames in the past eight seasons after graduating from the Australian Institute of Sport. The versatile forward has been starting at centre for the Flames this season alongside Amy Denson and they have played a key role in providing the perfect foil for the perimeter scoring of Belinda Snell and skipper Alicia Poto.

Flames forward Amy Denson led all scorers with 24 points on 52 per cent field goal accuracy against the Capitals, while Lauren King came off the bench to add 20 points on 64 per cent from the field.

Snell played all 40 minutes, finishing with 16 points, eight assists and four rebounds, while Poto pulled down 10 rebounds and dished out seven assists.

Centre Marianna Tolo led the way for the Capitals with 20 points, to go along with eight rebounds and four blocked shots, while Carly Wilson, who shadowed Snell for the entire match, finished with 16 points for the home side.

Afeaki’s absence may have had something to do with the Flames prevailing in only one quarter of the match, After the first term ended at 16 points apiece, the Flames lifted to win the second term 26-14, while the Capitals whittled away at the lead for the final two terms.

Flames coach Karen Dalton said the team would feel Afeaki’s absence as they look to return to the WNBL play-offs.

“Eva is an integral part of our team and was been one of the mainstays of the club since returning from the AIS in 2003,” Dalton said.

“Her ability to play both front-line positions and on the perimeter, as well as her ability to defend much taller opponents has been crucial in our 9-3 start and obviously she will be a big loss for the group.

“The girls are obviously disappointed and we all feel for Eva, but unfortunately injuries are part and parcel of elite sport and we will re-group and look forward. We have dealt with injuries in the past and the group is very determined to build on our solid start to the season.”

The Flames will wind down 2011 with a game against Townsville at Sydney University Sports & Aquatic Centre this Saturday, December 17, with a 7pm tip-off. They’ll start 2012 with a match against AIS at the AIS Arena, Canberra, on Saturday, January 17, starting at 7pm.

Adelaide remain at the competition helm, with 10 wins from 12 outings, with Sydney Uni Flames (9-3), Bulleen (7-3), Dandenong (8-4), Townsville (8-5) and Logan (6-5) making up the top six.

Scoreboard

Southern Design Sydney Uni Flames 76 (Amy Denson 24, Lauren King 20, Belinda Snell 16) d Canberra Capitals 70 (Marianna Tolo 20, Carly Wilson 16, Jess Bibby 12) at AIS Arena, Canberra.

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