Graham Croker
ACUVUE Sydney University Flames coach Karen Dalton has worked overtime on her team’s defensive structure since the opening round of the 2008-09 Women’s National Basketball League competition and it paid dividends on Saturday night.
Urged on by a good home crowd at the Sydney University Sports and Aquatic Centre, the Flames kept the Canberra Capitals in check to run out 90-75 winners.
It was sweet revenge for the last two times the teams have met – in the 2007-08 grand final when the Capitals ran out 84-74 victors, and in the second round of this season when they produced a similar result.
“We really stepped up and denied their forwards the chance to score close to the basket,” Dalton said.
“The loss down in Canberra last week was fresh in our memory and the players knew what they had to do to get the win.
“Our defence has let us down so far this season, but tonight we stepped up. We need to make sure this is the way we play defence for the rest of the season to show we are real contenders.”
Flames captain Alicia Poto led from the front, posting 26 points to go with six assists, while Sally Potocki turned in another busy performance to finish with 17 points and seven rebounds.
Former Flames Michelle Musselwhite continually tested the host’s defence to finish with 21 points, while the Flames kept Abby Bishop (15 points) and Mariana Tolo (10) in check.
The Capitals struck early through Musselwhite who bagged nine points in the first quarter, courtesy of two big three pointers and a three-point play.
But the Flames surged towards the end of the quarter, scoring 18 points in the last five minutes to finish up by eight points at the first break.
The Flames stretched the lead to 12 points at the main break and Potocki produced a great third quarter with a string of tough baskets to create a winning buffer. After being down by 25 points at one stage, the Capitals fought back to go into the final break 16 points in arrears.
The intensity of the Flames defence lifted in the final term, with import Lindsey Pluimer and Rachel Herrick turning in strong performances as the new-look side began to gel.
The Flames go on the road again for the next two rounds, with matches against the Fire in Townsville on Friday night and Logan Thunder in Brisbane on Saturday.
ACUVUE Sydney University Flames 90 (Alicia Poto 26, Lindsey Pluimer 22, Sally Potocki 17) d Canberra Capitals 75 (Michelle Musselwhite 21, Abby Bishop 15, Jess Bibby 10, Marianna Tolo 10) at Sydney University Sports and Aquatic Centre.