Brydens Sydney Uni Flames’ tough start to the season continued with a 78-62 loss to the Perth Lynx at Brydens Stadium. The home side were well in the game for large periods, taking the lead early in the third quarter, but a five minute scoring drought to end the game allowed the Perth side to pull away despite the Flames finishing with four players in double figures.
With Tahlia Tupaea still out of the lineup, Sarah Graham started alongside Alex Bunton, Brittany Smart, Alex Wilson, and the returning Belinda Snell, with Smart assuming point guard duties. A low-scoring opening game saw a Snell three prove to be the only field goal of the first two minutes as both teams committed their share of turnovers, stifling the offence at both ends. A running reverse layup from Brittany McPhee put Perth up 6-5, and when the Flames responded by turning the ball over for the fifth time in four minutes, coach Cheryl Chambers decided that she had seen enough and called a timeout.
The stoppage only resulted in the Lynx hitting the next two baskets, but a three from Wilson helped cut the margin to one before the former WNBL Rookie of the Year drove baseline to earn and convert an and-one opportunity which gave the home side a 13-11 lead. However, it would be the Lynx who finished the quarter more strongly, scoring the last six points of the term as the Flames went on a scoreless run of almost three minutes to trail 17-13 after a quarter, with 2 of 10 three-point shooting an issue that would have to be rectified.
Alex Bunton had been stymied by the Lynx defence, but finished through contact for an and-one opportunity to open the second quarter scoring, but couldn’t add the extra. Katie-Rae Ebzery responded by knocking down a pair of threes – something that in previous years would have been great to watch as a Flames fan, but not this season with Ebzery in Lynx red.
The Lynx lead reached nine points midway through the second, but a second three from Snell followed by a successful trip to the line from Smart kept the Flames in touch. Despite Bunton appearing to be on a minute restriction, the Flames played the Lynx tough throughout the first half even without their World Cup silver medallist commanding the paint. Shanae Greaves and Lara McSpadden did a solid job with Bunton out of the game, but Kayla Steindl showed she didn’t need to be close to the basket to score, knocking down a three. Bunton did return with three minutes remaining in the quarter and the Flames down seven, and a timeout gave the home side a chance to set themselves up for a run to end the first half.
Whilst the Flames didn’t completely eradicate the visitors’ lead, they were able to cut into it courtesy of a last-second fadeaway jumper from Smart, which put a cap on a fast-paced end to the first half that saw the visitors lead 38-33 as the teams headed to the locker room.
The second half commenced with former Flames pair Ebzery and Asia Taylor combining for a reverse lay-up for the Opals guard, but consecutive threes from Wilson and Graham launched an 11-0 run that delivered the home side the lead and forced a Lynx timeout early in the third.
11 became 13 out of the timeout, as it became the Lynx’s turn to suffer a scoring drought. Bunton and Snell quickly drew fouls on Steindl to see the Perth star head to the bench with four alongside her name, but a couple of Flames turnovers saw them unable to capitalise in the short term as the lead remained within five points as the quarter wound into its final minutes before the Lynx took the lead with just over two minutes to play as Antonia Farnworth finished a fast-break with a tough lay-up.
From there, the momentum swung the Lynx’s way for a couple of minutes as they jumped out to a two-possession lead. For all their great work to start the term, the Flames ended the quarter as they had started it, trailing by five at 58-53, with Ebzery showing out on her former home court to have 20 points with a quarter to play.
Perth capitalised on long rebounds when these teams faced off last season, and it came to pass that they were able to do the same again as shots cannoning off the back iron regularly landed in the hands of a Lynx player swooping in, but the Flames were able to limit the visitors’ second-chance points to just eight coming into the final quarter to keep themselves in contention. However, they couldn’t stop Asia Taylor’s Eurostep as the visitors came out with energy to spare, extending their lead to 8 before a Flames timeout after just two minutes of play.
Snell used all of her guile and strength for a close-range finish to close the margin by a pair, but the pairing of Ebzery and Taylor were almost telepathic at times, leading to an easy finish for the American star. Fortunately for the Flames, some quick fouls put them in the bonus with over five minutes to play and Sarah Graham immediately took advantage with a successful trip to the line. But try as they might, the Flames just couldn’t cut that lead to a single possession without allowing a response from the Lynx. Eventually, with the Flames enduring another scoring drought, a Lauren Mansfield corner three pushed the margin to a game-sealing 12 with just two minutes to play. With the home side failing to add a point for the final five minutes, a 12-0 run to finish the game culminated in a 78-62 Lynx victory which saw the Flames fall to 0-5.
Alex Wilson top-scored for the Flames with 16 points, with Belinda Snell adding 14. Alex Bunton and Brittany Smart each came close to a double-double, with Bunton tallying 11 points and 8 rebounds whilst Smart added 10 points and 9 rebounds. However, 22 points from Katie-Rae Ebzery and a 13 point, 11 rebound double-double saw the former Flames pair lead the Lynx to victory.
The Flames play away on Sunday but are back in action on Sunday 18th November at Qudos Bank Arena 2.45pm against Bendigo Spirit. Secure your seats HERE.