Graham Croker

A gutsy 82-76-win over Perth Lynx at the Sydney University Sports and Aquatic Centre on Saturday night has kept the Flames flickering in the 2008-09 Women’s National Basketball League competition.
Trailing until just before the main break, the ACUVUE Sydney University Flames stormed home in the back half of the contest, thanks to forwards Eva Afeaki and Rhonda Price, to continue their push for fifth place with four rounds to be played.
The Flames are in sixth spot and could improve on that when they meet fifth-placed Bendigo Spirit in Bendigo on Friday night. The road trip continues with a game against Bulleen Boomers at the Veneto Club, Melbourne, on Sunday afternoon.
After some close – and costly – losses in recent weeks, Flames coach Karen Dalton was pleased to get back on the winner’s list.
“It just feels good to get a win at home and see the hard work that the girls put in at training really pay off,” Dalton said.
“We managed to turn a six-point loss two weeks ago into a six-point win this week and it was on the back of our defence. We really forced them into many turnovers and that was the difference.
“We now have to focus on next week’s games. Next weekend will be tough, playing both Bendigo and Bulleen and if we want to make the finals we need to continue to post wins.”
Turnovers and missed lay-ups cost the Flames dearly in the first quarter on Saturday and they found themselves with a 10-point deficit at the first break.
The second quarter was a different story, with a rebounding revival from the Flames resulting in lay-ups in the transition from defence to offence.
They started to attack the ring, getting better shots at the basket and following up missed shots with strong offensive rebounding.
At the other end of the court, increased defensive pressure from the Flames forced the Lynx out of their offensive structures and into tougher shots and the Flames clawed their way back in to the game to trail 26-29 mid-way through the term.
A long bomb from the Flames’ forward, Lindsay Pluimer tied the game up at 29-29 soon after and a jump shot from her moments later gave the Flames a two-point lead.
Sydney University point guard, Alicia Poto sparked the Flames revival at both ends, grabbing three steals, scoring 14 points and dishing out three assists by half-time. Perth’s erratic offence did not help their cause and the Flames easily found holes in Perth’s zone defence to lead 41-39 at the main break.
The Flames continued their defensive intensity in the premiership quarter and established an eight-point lead before the top-scorer for the night Deanna Smith, helped the visitors claw back to a three-point deficit – 56-59 – going into the final quarter.
Smith kept Perth in the hunt in the final term before Afeaki, Price and young forward Sally Potocki took control. Afeaki executed a block of an attempted transition lay-up by Perth forward Melissa Moyle to help the Flames maintain a six point lead, 69-75, with just two minutes remaining.
With Price dominating the boards to give the Flames back-to-back possessions, the Lynx were forced into a fouling situation and the Flames sank free throws to keep the lead as the clock ticked down.
Smith kept the tension counting with a jump shot and three-pointer, but the Flames held on for a deserved win. Bring on Bendigo.

ACUVUE Sydney University Flames 82 (Sally Potocki 21, Alicia Poto 18, Eva Afeaki 14) d Perth Lynx 76 (Deanna Smith 29, Rebecca Mercer 14, Melissa Marsh 13).