05.10.2008 – Graham Croker

When Acuvue Sydney University Flames coach Karen Dalton gathered her troops for a Sunday afternoon practice session, defensive structures were the order of the day.

Dalton said poor defence had cost her young team an important home-court win when Adelaide triumphed 74-72 in the Women’s National Basketball League season opener at Sydney University Sports and Aquatic Centre on Friday night.

It was the same score as the last time the two teams met – in the 2007-08 WNBL grand final.

“Defence was our weakness and we’ll be working on that this week,” Dalton said. “We were down by eight points for much of the match but they fought back to within two in the final two minutes and had a shot to win the game.

“All of our rookies had game time and performed well. But we’ll be a stronger team when we get our defence structured.”

Dalton said the Flames have a tough draw to start the season with six games in the first four weeks, including four away from home.

“Ideally, we would have liked to set ourselves up with a first-up win at home,” she said. “So we’ll now be trying to pick up a couple of wins on the road.”

Dalton said Sally Potocki, Alicia Poto and Eva Afeaki, who each contributed 17 points, were strong throughout, along with Erin Lorenzini, who landed a three-pointer in the dying stages to put the Flames within two points of a win.

And a win was on the cards when skipper Alicia Poto shot for a three-pointer in the dying seconds. But it rolled around the basket rim and agonisingly fell out.

The Flames’ new American recruits, Lindsey Pluimer and Rhonda Price had limited court time after just three days in the country.

A full house watched the Flames jump out to an early lead, with Poto and Afeaki providing the bulk of the scoring. But Adelaide soon hit their straps, controlling the tempo and the scoring circle. That allowed Jess Foley and Cayla Francis to grab 20 points each, with Tracy Gahan also chipping in with 12 points for the victors.

“Adelaide is a tough team to face in the first round, especially as they kept their plans for this season secret,” Dalton said. “I’m impressed that the girls fought to the end and we have the whole season to make the adjustments we need to make.

“We are a young outfit and as the season progresses and our imports settle, we will definitely be a force to reckon with.”

This weekend we play Canberra (Friday night) and the AIS (Saturday), which will be a televised game.

Adelaide 74: Cayla Francis 20, Jessica Foley 20, Tracy Gahan 12 d Sydney University 72: Sally Potocki 17, Alicia Poto 17, Eva Afeaki 17 at Sydney University Sports and Aquatic Centre.