Flames just short in season opener

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In an absolute thriller of a game to start the WNBL season, Brydens Sydney Uni Flames have gone down 93-90 to a hot-shooting Perth Lynx side in a game that saw the teams go into every break within two points of each other.

Carley Mijovic was the star of the show, racking up 30 points for the Lynx, whilst new import Jennifer Hamson was the Flames’ best on the night, registering 19 points and 17 rebounds for a massive double-double.

Asia Taylor scored the first points of the season after creating some separation near the basket and finishing off a pass from Belinda Snell. Carley Mijovic followed up not long after with a three from the top of the arc, but Jennifer Hamson drew a foul on the offensive rebound from a missed Taylor shoot, and drained both.

Both sides set out their stall early, with the Lynx showing their three point shooting ability regularly from the outset, whilst the Flames chose to use the inside game, which forced the Lynx to bring Canadian import Ruth Hamblin into the game with less than 3 minutes played in the contest. The move immediately paid dividends, as the centre converted an and-one on her first offensive possession, kickstarting the Lynx and quickly leading to an 18-12 lead for the visitors before a Flames timeout midway through the opening term.

The Lynx continued to roll, and quickly added five more points to their tally before Carly Boag entered for her first minutes of the season for the Flames, and immediately tallied her first basket of the season from close to the rim. Alex Wilson then picked off a Lynx inbound pass to finish on the break despite pressure from Monica Wright.

It was a fairly foul-laden first quarter, with both teams in the bonus for the final two minutes, and the Flames were able to capitalise as a rebounding foul by Nat Burton led to two Asia Taylor free throws, before a Carly Boag corner three gave the Flames a 24-23 lead as the home side began to hit shots with more regularity. The teams would trade baskets for the final minute of the quarter and after 10 minutes it was as close as it was at the opening tip with the score sitting at 26-26 after a late Asia Taylor basket was waved off for a travel.

The Lynx were the first to break the deadlock in the second quarter, Sami Whitcomb drawing a shooting foul and hitting one of two. Jennifer Hamson put the Flames back in front quickly after, finishing a regulation lay-up close to the rim. A couple of looks from deep from the Flames did everything but go in on the next couple of possessions, before Monica Wright split a pair at the line for the Lynx to tie the game at 28-28.

Sami Whitcomb was able to do what the Flames couldn’t, rattling home a pair of threes from the corner for the Lynx as the visitors hit their groove once again as the second quarter settled down slightly after a frantic start. There are few that can match it with Whitcomb from beyond the arc, but Belinda Snell can and did with a three of her own as the lead switched back and forth through the middle of the second quarter before the Flames began to kick. A Belinda Snell behind the back pass to Carly Boag under the basket was the highlight of an 11-0 run that put the Flames up 41-34 before Carley Mijovic snapped the streak with a contested basket close to the rim.

The Lynx enjoyed the better of the last couple of minutes of the half, though, finishing on a 13-6 run of their own to see the half finish 47-47. Jennifer Hamson was the leading scorer for the Flames with 12 points, and added 10 rebounds for a first half double-double. Carley Mijovic and Sami Whitcomb reached double figures for the Lynx, with 16 and 12 points respectively.

As with the second quarter, the third quarter started with the Lynx breaking a deadlock after a foul, this time Nat Burton converting an and-one to bring up the Perth side’s half-century on the first possession of the second half. Hayley Moffatt quickly countered with a basket of her own, before the Flames capitalised on a charge drawn by Asia Taylor as Leilani Mitchell managed to convince a three pointer to drop to put the home side ahead 52-50. Taylor then dropped in a floater from midrange to extend the lead to four.

With the teams trading baskets, it was going to take something special for one team to get out to a decent-sized lead, and it looked as if Leilani Mitchell had done just that as the Opals star hit a runner before draining a three to put the Flames up 63-55 with 5 minutes left in the third term. But Tenaya Phillips immediately hit back for the Lynx, hitting a basket and drawing the foul, before hitting yet another basket to take her personal tally to 17 and trim the margin to 3.

Perhaps lacking a bit in experience with Belinda Snell stuck on the bench in foul trouble, turnovers on four consecutive possessions had the potential to hurt the Flames, and the Lynx were able to take some advantage, forcing the Flames to take a timeout with 2 minutes left in the term and the scoreline reading 68-67 in the home team’s favour. The Lynx would retake the lead through Carley Mijovic after the timeout, and take a 70-68 edge into the final term.

Asia Taylor opened the final quarter scoring, driving to the basket and finishing in contact, but Mijovic followed up with yet another pair of treys to put the Lynx six points up and take her personal tally to a massive 30 points. Whilst the Flames didn’t have anyone hitting numbers quite that high, a balanced scoresheet kept the home side in the hunt, trading baskets with the Lynx through various sources.

Early in the fourth quarter, the game was stopped for a couple of minutes as Flames fan favourite Hayley Moffatt went down with an apparent injury after a rebounding contest. Moffatt did not return to the game and Flames fans will no doubt be waiting to hear more on the veteran’s condition.

With Whitcomb and Mijovic hitting shots with aplomb, the Flames found themselves down 8 with 6 minutes to play as coach Cheryl Chambers took a timeout in an attempt to stem the flow. The Flames were first to score out of the timeout, as persistence paid off for Jennifer Hamson around the basket who recovered her own blocked shot to put the ball home from close range.

The Flames continued to hustle down the stretch, and forced a Lynx turnover with just under two minutes to play, which Jennifer Hamson capitalised on to cut the margin to 92-88 with 90 seconds remaining. Asia Taylor then picked off a pass and was fouled by Mijovic, and Hamson again capitalised on the ensuing play to make it a one possession game with a minute to play. But a turnover with just 20 seconds to play forced the Flames to foul to stop the clock. Whitcomb hit one of two, and coach Chambers called a timeout to set up a play to hopefully take the game to overtime. Asia Taylor had a tricky last second look from the top of the arc, but the shot fell short and the Lynx ran out 93-90 victors.

Despite the loss, the Flames can be enthused by a well-rounded scoring performance that saw all five members of the starting lineup finish in double figures. Jennifer Hamson was the star for the Flames with 19 points and 17 rebounds, whilst Leilani Mitchell tallied 15 points and 9 assists to finish just shy of a double-double. For the Lynx, it was Carley Mijovic, Tenaya Phillips, and Sami Whitcomb who did the major damage, scoring 76 of the visitors’ 93 points. Mijovic poured in 30 points and collected 9 rebounds, whilst Phillips and Whitcomb both scored in excess of 20 points.

The Flames’ next game will be at Brydens Stadium on Sunday October 16 at 5pm, against the University of Canberra Capitals get your tickets now: http://bit.ly/2dG8ARq.