The Southern Design Sydney Uni Flames understand the challenge ahead of them as they prepare for the WNBL’s “Sunshine Swing” this weekend.
The Flames face Townsville in the tropical far north on Friday night, then face a resurgent Logan outfit in Brisbane on Sunday in what looms as one of the most significant road doubles of the year.
With both the Fire and the Thunder desperate for a play-off berth and entering this weekend in solid post-Christmas form, the Sydney Uni outfit is realistic about the significant hurdles in front of them.
Making this double even more crucial is the fact that the Flames have a 1-1 record with both Townsville and Logan and victory will provide the crucial series split.
The tight nature of the play-off race makes the “conference” series victory so important and adds to what will already be two fiercely contested games of WNBL basketball.
As with any road double, the focus for the Flames will be squarely on the first game against Townsville and a repeat of the November 12 win in North Queensland.
The Flames came back from a double digit half-time deficit in that one on the back of some inspired play by Belinda Snell and Alicia Poto and that will provide the visitors some confidence entering Friday’s clash.
But the Fire squared the series with an important win in Sydney on December 17, setting up a battle for the series win in the race for the 2011/2012 play-offs.
Fire import Shanavia Dowdell was dominant in that game, connecting on 10/12 shooting and continually challenging the Flames defence with her versatility and athleticism.
Recently re-signed with the Fire, Dowdell has been ultra-consistent in her first season in the league and looms as the key player for the Flames defence to contain if they are take the points.
Sunday’s match-up with Logan is another intriguing battle in the play-off race, with the Thunder looking to storm back into the post season after a somewhat inconsistent start to the year.
Logan has been impressive in recent weeks with their depth and scoring punch, with versatile guard Renae Camino leading the charge at the offensive end of the floor.
Camino is enjoying a terrific season in the up-tempo Thunder offence and her ability to score in the open court and connect from beyond the arc makes her a tough match-up.
Inside, Cayla Francis continues to show she is one of the premier centres in Australian basketball and her clash with Flames pivot Ellyce Ironmonger will be one to watch.
Sydney Uni Flames coach Karen Dalton said her team had been working hard on the practice floor in preparation for the tough northern swing.
“The players approach to their preparation has been excellent all year and we have had some very good sessions as we get set to head to Townsville,” she said.
“We know how tough the Fire are at home. They have an excellent record, there, get fantastic crowds and like us, are in the race for the finals, so we expect a tough battle.”
The Flames travel to Townsville on Thursday for the game, and then take the flight to Brisbane on Saturday to commence preparations for Sunday’s clash with Logan.