The Southern Design Sydney Uni Flames will be looking to halt a two-game losing streak as they embark on the tough Bulleen-Dandenong road double this weekend.
After two narrow losses at home in recent weeks, the Flames have relinquished top spot on the competition table and head south looking to right the ship and consolidate their position in the top five.
Standing in their way are two teams in good form in Bulleen and Dandenong and this road double looms as a pivotal weekend in the Flames season.
Friday’s clash with Bulleen will be the first challenge, with the young Boomers looking to cement their own position in the top five with a crucial home victory.
Boomers mentor Tom Maher has a young group in season 2011/2012 and his young charges have displayed a real willingness to play hard at both ends of the floor.
Led by WNBA star Liz Cambage and Opals point guard Sam Richards, the Boomers have depth, scoring punch and have shown with a series of come from behind wins that they are never out of any contest.
Cambage has returned from her stint in Tulsa with additional strings to her offensive bow and while Bulleen has depth across the board, limiting her impact remains crucial.
Front court running mate Rachel Jarry is one of the hardest workers in the competition and the potential clash with Flames star Amy Denson looms as one to watch.
Sydney Uni coach Karen Dalton said matching the energy of the Boomers will be one of the key factors as her Flames look to return to the winners’ circle.
“Bulleen are a quality group and perhaps the biggest thing we have noticed is they play hard for 40 minutes and find a way to stay in the contest,” she said.
“With Jarry, Cambage and Richards they have depth in most positions and Jo Leedham has been a very good player in the first third of the season, so it will be tough.”
“Some of the personnel may have changed, but they are still the reigning champions and we will have to play well at both ends of the floor on Friday night.”
While the focus is fixed on the Bulleen clash, Saturday’s encounter with Dandenong will be another significant challenge as the Rangers look to build on last week’s stirring win over Bendigo.
Playing without injured stars Jenna O’Hea and Krista Phillips for virtually the last three quarters, Dandenong was able to record a hard fought win to stay in touch with the play-off race.
Led superbly by skipper and point guard Kathleen Macleod, Dandenong showed plenty of grit in holding off the fast finishing Spirit and will have gained plenty of confidence from that win.
Macleod turned in a virtuoso performance, logging all 40 minutes on route to a 36 point haul that was one of the best individual games of the 2011/2012 season.
Her clash with inspirational Flames skipper Alicia Poto will be a highlight of this one, as will the potential match-up between Sydney Uni star Belinda Snell and her Opals team-mate Jenna O’Hea.
Up front, the versatile Flames front-line of Denson, Eva Afeaki and Lauren King will have their work cut out for them against Rangers import Phillips and rising young star Louella Tomlinson.