Natalie Hurst was the toast of Canberra on Friday night after her goal with three seconds on the clock gave the Capitals a 74-72 win over the ACUVUE Sydney University Flames.
Hurst saved her best for the last play of the match. With the scores locked at 72-all, she unleashed a fade-away shot that found the net and left Flames supporters at ACUVUE Sports Hall at the Sydney University Sports and Aquatic Centre with mouths agape.
For the second week in a row the Flames had let an early advantage slide on their home turf. They have a third home match – against last-placed AIS at 7pm on Friday – before they go on the road again with a match against eighth-placed Dandenong in Devonport.
As the Flames are just a rung above Dandenong on the WNBL ladder (with two wins and three losses), the next two weeks will be vital to get their season back on track.
While Hurst’s heroics grabbed the points for Canberra, forward Marianna Tolo also made a major contribution with 23 points for the match along with 15 rebounds. Guard Jessica Bibby also contributed 15 for the winners, while Suzy Batkovic-Brown did everything asked to get the Flames home with a game-high 24 points, including a shot from the free-throw line to level the scores with six seconds on the clock.
The Flames skipped away to a 24-15 lead in the first quarter but came unstuck when Eva Afeaki left the court early in the second term after taking a fall. Canberra literally capitalised, out-scoring the Flames 21-5 to set up a 36-29 lead going into the main break.
In a tit-for-tat third term, the Flames fought back to level the score at 42-all before Bibby netted two crucial three-pointers to give the visitors a 64-54 advantage going into the final term.
The hosts worked hard to get back into the match, with Natalie Porter and Bibby trading three-pointers. A layup from Batkovic-Brown in the last minute put the Flames within a point in a nail-biting finish.
A Capitals turnover then led to a foul on Batkovic-Brown, sending her to the line with six seconds to go. She missed the first, made the second to level the scores and the rest is history where it Hurst most.
Canberra Capitals 74 (Marianna Tolo 23, Jessica Bibby 15, Natalie Hurst 12) d
ACUVUE Sydney Uni Flames 72 (Suzy Batkovic-Brown 24, Deanna Smith 18, Natalie Porter 9) at ACUVUE Sports Hall, Sydney University Sports and Aquatic