The clash of the Women’s National Basketball League heavyweights lived up to its billing in Townsville on Saturday night when the Southern Design Sydney Uni Flames came from behind to defeat Townsville Fire 84-77 at the local RSL Stadium.
The two teams led the competition, undefeated after six games, before the match-up. But the Flames came away as outright WNBL leaders on the back of an explosive third term when they turned a six-point half-time deficit into a five-point lead going into the final term.
Indeed the Flames trailed by as many as 13 points in the second term, before turning the game on its head in the second half to post a seventh-straight victory.
Belinda Snell top-scored for the Flames with 23 points, while Alicia Poto, who along with Snell played all 40 minutes of the contest, contributed 17 points, eight rebounds and six assists. Amy Denson added a double-double of 15 points and 12 rebounds, while Katie-Rae Ebzery added 14 points, including some clutch free-throws to ice the game.
Townsville import Shanavia Dowdell again shone brightest for the Fire, finishing with 21 points on 63 per cent field goal shooting, along with 14 rebounds. Micaela Cocks also added 21 points for the Fire, while Jess Foley contributed 14 points, nine rebounds and five assists.
The first term saw the home-town Fire reverse a nervous start to take a 23-17 quarter-time lead. With Shanavia Dowdell contributing 15 first half points and nine first half rebounds, the Fire extended their lead to as many as 13 points in the second term, before eventually taking a 41-35 half-time lead.
Sydney Uni tied the scores at 49 apiece after six minutes of third term action before taking the lead for the first time in the match. The offensive firepower of Snell, Ebzery and Lauren King helped the visitors to a 62-58 lead at three-quarter time.
The Fire were not done with, and a Rachael Flanagan basket with 7:26 remaining in the game closed the Flames’ lead to just one point.
But Ebzery made two free-throws with 27 seconds remaining to give the Flames the five-point lead that iced the game and handed the Fire their first loss of the season, and their first loss at their new home stadium.
The Flames will host sixth-placed Logan Thunder at the Sydney University Sports and Fitness Centre on Friday night, with a 7pm tip-off.
Sydney Uni Flames 84 (Belinda Snell 23, Alicia Poto 17, Amy Denson 15) d Townsville Fire 77 (Shanavia Dowdell 21, Micaela Cocks 21, Jess Foley 14) at Townsville RSL Stadium.