If the world of basketball was not aware of Liz Cambage prior to the 2010 FIBA World Championship for women, it certainly was after the event in the Czech Republic in September.
The towering Bulleen Boomers centre announced her arrival on the international scene with a stellar performance at the World Championships and has returned to play a key role as Bulleen search for their first WNBL Championship in season 2010/2011.
The Southern Design Sydney Uni Flames welcome Cambage and the Boomers to the Southern Design Show Court this Saturday in what looms as a crucial game for two clubs desperate to stay in touch with the ladder leaders.
Sydney and Bulleen finished the 2009/2010 regular season in the top two positions on the table and engaged in some classic encounters last year. The Boomers claimed the early ascendency with a win on Sydney’s home court in October, with the Flames squaring the ledger with a memorable win at Bulleen one month later.
The consistent regular season form saw the team’s progress to the WNBL major semi-final at Knox, where Sydney struggled to overcome the balanced scoring and size of the Boomers in a disappointing loss.
History shows Bulleen went on to lose a heart stopping grand final to Canberra and return to the competition this year keen to go one better and claim what will be the proud club’s first WNBL championship.
For the Flames, the game provides an opportunity to record their first home win of the year after dropping an overtime thriller to the Capitals coming home from a run a of four road games to start the year.
The Sydney team had its chances in the Canberra loss and while Cambage and her Boomers outfit are set to be a challenge for the home team, there is an air of anticipation as the Flames look to bounce back and record a win against a real championship contender.
Amy Denson was a stand-out performer for the Flames last week and has started her debut WNBL season in consistent form. Shooting at over 60 per cent from the field, the Oregon-native brings scoring punch and intelligent interior play to the table every night.
Her combination with skipper Natalie Porter and Tanya Smith will be crucial as the Flames look to limit the effectiveness of Cambage and Elyse Penaluna in the all important battle of the paint.
Livewire guard Natalie Stafford was another to do well in the Canberra loss and she will be keen to repeat that performance in front of her Great Britain national team coach and Bulleen mentor Tom Maher.
Despite the challenge of playing last year’s minor premier, Flames coach Karen Dalton said she her group was looking forward to the challenge.
“It is certainly a challenge to play the two grand finalists from last season in the space of seven days, but the girls are looking forward to it and have been working hard at practice to prepare,” she said.
“The Boomers have size and depth and are coming off a big win last week, so we will have to play well, defend and look after the ball to get the win.
“Last week’s game was a high quality encounter and this will be more of the same, so the team is motivated to play and notch our first home win of the year.”
Tip-off for the big WNBL clash is at 7pm and tickets are available at the door. A limited number of season ticket memberships are available for the Flames home games and can be attained from reception at the Sydney Uni Sports and Aquatic Centre.