Sparks return to winner’s circle

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After a strong start to the season, the Steggles Sydney Uni Sparks recently hit a rough patch, unable to produce a winning performance since their sweep of Canberra and BACOE, on the road, in Round 10. While coming close on a number of occasions within that period, the Sparks now find themselves back in the winner’s circle with an emphatic 75-47 win over the Albury Bandits.

The Sparks had a slow start to the game, giving up 21 points in the first quarter and trailing by 9 points at the first break. However, the young group didn’t panic and looked inspired as they took control early in the second quarter. Sydney Uni started playing to their own strengths, lifting their intensity on defence and pushing the fast break. From this point, the momentum of the game shifted considerably and the Sparks took a 33-27 lead into half time.

After the main break, the Sparks did not let up. They continued to apply defensive pressure, forcing the Bandits into turnovers and missed shots. They only allowed the Bandits 10 points in each of the final two quarters and ran away with the game, 28 point victors.

The two most telling statistics were in the rebound and assist categories. The Sparks out-rebounded the Bandits 56 to 33, allowing the home side to pile up 23 second chance points. The Sparks offensive execution was also much improved from previous weeks. They were meticulous in their ball movement in the last three quarters, which resulted in 24 assists for the game. This was a stark contrast to Albury’s 7 assists.

Assistant coach Belinda Snell was pleased with the ability of the team to fight their way back into the contest. “After a slow start, I was really pleased with the way we fought back into the game. They started making the extra pass and giving their teammates open looks. It was also great to see some of the young girls make solid contributions in the win,” Snell said.

One of the most exciting aspects of this young group is their bench production and versatility. The Sparks program was created to serve as a stepping stone from junior elite basketball in NSW to the top level of the sport in Australia. Each player on the Sparks roster appears to be buying in to the program, as different players are stepping up and producing outstanding performances each week.

This week, four players scored in double figures, with 9 of 11 the Sparks players chalking up points. Emily Matthews produced personal season bests, leading the team with 14 points and 9 rebounds. Natalia Beaumont also had a season high in scoring with 14 points and 7 rebounds. For the second week in a row Sherrie Calleia had a great game all round with 10 points, 6 rebounds and 7 assists. Lara McSpadden also added 10 points.

The Sparks have a tough challenge ahead of them in Round 15 as they take on the Sandringham Sabres. The Sabres have been bolstered by the mid-season acquirement of Nicole Romeo who is averaging 27 points over the last 4 games. Sydney Uni will also be without Lara McSpadden who will be in Italy at the U/19 World Championships.

The Sparks will have home court advantage in the match on Friday 14th July. Tip-off is at 7pm at Bryden’s Stadium.