Graham Croker
ACUVUE Sydney University Flames maintained second spot on the Women’s National Basketball League ladder with a win and a loss on the long pre-Christmas road trip to Queensland.
The Flames lost 89-80 to Townsville Fire at New Projects Stadium, Townsville, on Friday night, but finished 2009 on a high with a nail-biting 75-73 win over Logan Thunder at the Logan Metro Sports Centre on Sunday afternoon.
Bulleen lead the competition with 14 wins from 15 outings, with their only loss at the hands of the second-placed Flames (11 wins from 15 starts). Townsville (10 from 14) and Canberra (10 from 15) round out the top four going into the Christmas break.
The competition will resume on January 8 when the Flames host Bendigo Spirit at ACUVUE Sports Hall at the Sydney University Sports and Fitness Centre.
Point-guard Rachel Flanagan (18), Kirby Dalgleish (16) and Aneka Davis, Amy Lewis and Tanya Smith, each with 14, topped Townsville Fire’s scoring in their revenge win over the Flames in north Queensland.
Suzy Batkovic-Brown was the game-high scorer with 26 points for the Flames, while Eva Afeaki and Mikaela Dombkins each contributed 14.
After a slow start, Townsville led 22-17 at the end of the first quarter and never surrendered the advantage despite a strong fourth quarter from the Flames.
“We knew they were going to come back at us, we had a comfortable lead going into the fourth quarter and we backed off a little bit, so they made a really good run and Suzy [Batkovic-Brown] was the enforcer there,” Flanagan said.
“We didn’t play very well last weekend [when they lost to the Flames], so we knew we had to step it up and of course get a little bit of revenge. It’s going to be physical the next game and we’re going to be ready for it.”
Sydney University lost Jamiee Kennedy with a knee injury in the first quarter that ruled her out for the rest of the night.
Having had an eight-game winning streak halted, the Flames travelled south to Logan for a Sunday afternoon confrontation.
Batkovic-Brown again topped the scoring with 35 points as the visitors edged their way to a 75-73 result.
The hosts set the pace early taking a six-point lead into the first break, thanks to a sizzling 11-point opening term by skipper, Kristen Veal, who finished the match with 22 points.
But Batkovic-Brown led the Flames’ fight-back with 33 points in the last three quarters.
“Suzy Batkovic-Brown was the difference,” Thunder coach Jason Chainey said. “Thirty five points! She went to town on us. She had almost half their points in the end. But I’m very proud of our team – the Flames are second on the table.”
In a thrilling finish, the teams were locked at 71 points apiece with two minutes 40 seconds left in the final quarter. A three-pointer from Deanna Smith with 90 seconds left broke the deadlock and provided a big enough buffer for the Flames to hold off their opponents to the final siren.
Townsville Fire 89 (Rachael Flanagan 18, Kirby Dalgleish 16, Aneka Davis 14, Amy Lewis 14, Tanya Smith 14) d ACUVUE Sydney University Flames 80 (Suzy Batkovic-Brown 26, Eva Afeaki 14, Mikaela Dombkins 14) at New Projects Stadium, Townsville.
ACUVUE Sydney University Flames 75 (Suzy Batkovic-Brown 35, Deanne Smith 18, Mikaela Dombkins 13) d Logan Thunder 73 (Kirsten Veal 22, Sarah Graham 16, Biancia Abbott 12) at Logan Metro Indoor Sports Centre.