Flames pair one step closer to U19 World Champs

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Southern Design Sydney Uni Flames WNBL rising stars Vanessa Panousis and Tahlia Tupaea are one step closer to representing Australia at the Under 19 World Championships in July this year after they were selected in the Australian Gems squad that will head to France next month for a two week tour.  

Following a successful showing in China last month – where both girls played against Brazil (three wins), USA (one) and China (one) three times each – Panousis (aged 18) and Tupaea (15) can sure up their spots in the 12 girl World Championships Gems squad if they can deliver some more sparkling performances in France early June.

Gems Head Coach Cheryl Chambers was full of praise for both of the Flames young point guards’ performances in China, saying “I was really pleased with both of them. They pretty much both play in the same position, so one of them was on the court most of the time, when the other wasn’t. They both made great contributions.”

Chambers explained that both girls brought different qualities to the table.

“Vanessa brought fantastic poise and the ability to score and she’s got the experience – she’s been to the Under 17 World Championships. She played quite a bit of a leadership role for us.

Tahlia, on the opposite scale, hasn’t been to a World Championship tournament, and it was her first tour wearing the green and gold. But I was really impressed with her poise and maturity.”

Both girls graduated from the Sydney Uni Flames Academy Program in 2012 – two years earlier the Flames launched the Program as part of the club’s ongoing commitment to developing elite young NSW female athletes. 

Panousis debuted for the Flames last season, where she played two games. In August 2012 Panousis inspired the Under 17 Australian women’s basketball team to finish the 2012 FIBA Under 17 Women’s World Championships in fifth place in Amsterdam.

Tupaea’s selection comes after playing nine games for the Flames last season, where she averaged seven minutes and 1.4 points per game. Back in October 2012 the baby faced Tupaea debuted against the West Coast Waves – she was just 15 years and 133 days old.

It has been a meteoric rise for the 174-centimetre guard. The year-10 student won selection on the Australian All Schools team, which toured Texas and Arizona in 2011, and last year she put in an MVP performance to steer club side Penrith Panthers to a Basketball NSW title.

The Gems will head to France on June 3, where they will play nine games against international competition. Once they return, a 12 girl squad will be announced to represent Australia at the 2013 FIBA Under 19 World Championships for Women in Lithuania from July 18-28.