The Southern Design Sydney Uni Flames face a short turnaround as they prepare for the 2011/2012 WNBL Elinination Final in Townsville on Wednesday night.
After sealing a play-off position with a hard-fought 12 point over West Coast on Friday, the Flames fly to Tropical North Queensland on Tuesday to prepare for a do or die game in front of what is sure to be a packed RSL Stadium.
Sydney Uni finished with a 13-9 record and will enter the game with 1-2 record against the Fire this year, with the one win being in Townsville on November 12.
The Fire claimed the two subsequent encounters and with an expected buoyant crowd at their new home court, Townsville will enter this game as slight favourites to advance to the minor semi-final in Dandenong on Sunday.
For the visiting Flames, Wednesday’s game signals a return to the post-season after narrowly missing the play-offs last year.
Flames mentor Karen Dalton said the team was excited to be returning to the finals, but was well aware of the challenge ahead.
“Like all teams, one of our goals was to make play-offs and we have achieved that, but that will mean little if we don’t play well in what will be a challenging environment,” she said.
“Townsville is a talented group and obviously has terrific home court support, so as you would expect, this will be a real challenge for our group.”
Despite entering one of the more difficult away venues looking to advance in the post-season, the Flames will have a level of confidence with a host of big game performers.
Belinda Snell and Alicia Poto have both played in the pressure cooker atmosphere of Olympic medal games and Natalie Stafford was a key player for Great Britain in EuroBasket in Poland just last year.
Add to that the experience and poise of Lauren King and Amy Denson and the Flames have plenty of players who understand what it takes to compete in these sort of knock-out encounters.
Dalton said her team had to defend well for the full 40 minutes if they were to come away with the win.
“The Fire have a lot of scoring options and are quite versatile in their attack, so we will need to work hard on defense and on the defensive glass,” she said.
Townsville won an over-time thriller against Canberra on Saturday to seal the home final, with former Duke University stand-out Jess Foley leading the charge.
Foley finished with a game-high 29 points and made some crucial baskets down the stretch and her ability to connect from deep and score in transition make her a dangerous proposition for the Flames defence.
Star Fire import Shanavia Dowdell has been one of the form players of the 2011/2012 WNBL season and is another player the Flames will need to restrict on Wednesday night.
Sydney Uni Flames fans can follow all the action on WNBL LiveStats, with tip-off for the huge elimination final being 8pm AEDST.