The Southern Design Sydney Uni Flames will be looking to complete an unbeaten October as the host the Bendigo Spirit in a crucial WNBL clash at the Sydney Uni Sports and Aquatic Centre on Saturday.
The Flames have moved to 4-0, with home wins over the AIS and Logan and a valuable road double against Adelaide and Perth, and will be keen to round out the opening month of the season with a perfect record.
Bendigo will enter the game with some solid form, including a resounding win over West Coast Waves last start, so the scene is set for another intense battle between two teams that have established a healthy rivalry in recent years.
Led by brilliant point guard Kristi Harrower and Canadian international Chelsea Aubry, the Spirit has been somewhat of a hoodoo team for the Flames, who suffered two losses to the regional Victorian team last season.
Confidence should not be an issue for the Flames as they prepare for Saturday’s clash, fresh from a scintillating shooting performance against Logan at home last Friday night.
The Flames shot an amazing 74 per cent from the field in the first half on Saturday, including a perfect seven from seven from beyond the three point arc to explode out of a shooting slump in the first three games of the season.
Sydney Uni stars Alicia Poto and Belinda Snell combined for a perfect six out of six from outside the arc in the first half and with that hot perimeter game, the interior opened up to allow consistent Flames power forward Amy Denson to control the paint.
The patented Denson turnaround jumper was on song as she capitalised on the superb Flames ball movement and the fact the defence was stretched to cover the impressive perimeter shooting of the Sydney guards.
Despite entering the game with an unbeaten record, the Flames will know the Spirit arrive as one of the league’s best teams in terms of offensive execution and depth across the board.
Led by star playmaker Harrower, the Spirit have perimeter scoring from the likes of Kelly Wilson, Tess Madgen and former Flame Deanna Smith and an impressive “one-two punch” in front-line players Aubry and Gabe Richards.
Richards is perhaps the form centre of the competition and with her genuine size and basketball intelligence; will provide a significant challenge for the Flames front-line rotation of Denson, Eva Afeaki and Ellyce Ironmonger.
Flames coach Karen Dalton knows her team will have to be on-song at the defensive end of the floor if they are to maintain their unbeaten start to the season.
“Bendigo is a team that always executes well at the offensive end and plays well together, so this will be a challenge for our defence,” Dalton said.
“They have great guard play, scorers on the wing and a versatile front-line, so we will have to start with defence and rebounding.
Dalton said the most pleasing aspect of the Logan win was the ball movement and unselfish play of the group.
“We obviously shot the ball well, but that came from people being prepared to make the extra pass and that is an area we need to keep working on as the season continues,” she said.
The Flames depth has been impacted in recent weeks, with star recruit Lauren King out with a foot injury and versatile guard Natalie Stafford being ruled out last week after injuring herself in the win at Perth.
Tip-off for this crucial WNBL clash is 7pm with ticket available at the door. For more information, contact the Southern Design Sydney Uni Flames office on 93518100 or e-mail [email protected],edu.au.
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