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Graham Croker
ACUVUE Sydney University Flames opened the new year with an 86-79 win over Bendigo Spirit at the Sydney University Sports and Fitness Centre on Friday night, despite some defensive glitches.
While the win keeps the Flames second on the competition ladder behind Bulleen, coach Karen Dalton was far from impressed with some aspects of the Flames’ game.
“We can score at will but I’m really disappointed with our defence,” Dalton said.
While the scoreline suggests “comfortable”, it was anything but when the Spirit edged to within three points of the lead with a minute remaining. But the visitors missed two chances and fouled instead, sending Ellie Manou and Mikaela Dombkins to the line. They each responded with baskets to allow Dalton to breathe easier.
As Bendigo coach Bernie Harrower lamented: “We put ourselves in a position where we could win the game but couldn’t quite get over the line.”
Kristi Harrower kept the visitors in the game with baskets at crucial times. She finished the match as the top-scorer with 38. The Flames relied on big contributions from Suzy Batkovic-Brown (30), Deanna Smith (20) and Dombkins (19) to get over the line.
When the Flames opened the match with a 10-0 run courtesy of Batkovic-Brown and Eva Afeaki, a big scoreline beckoned. But the Spirit lived up to their name and ended the first quarter trailing 21-14.
Dombkins and Harrower dominated the scoreboard in the second quarter as the Flames edged out to a 41-32 half-time advantage.
Harrower and team-mate Chelsea Aubry found themselves in foul trouble in the third term as the Spirit tried to step up their physical game, but they still managed to reduce the deficit to 61-55 going into the final quarter.
The Flames repeated their first quarter effort with a blazing start to the final term. But having extended their lead to 13, foul problems allowed Harrower to edge the Spirit back to within three points. But the visitors couldn’t capitalise on valuable possession with one minute to go and the Flames held on to win.
The Flames will host seventh-placed Logan at Sydney University on Saturday night with a 7pm tip-off.
Scoreboard
ACUVUE Sydney University Flames 86 (Suzy Batkovic-Brown 30, Deanna Smith 20, Mikaela Dombkins 19) d Bendigo Bank Spirit 79 (Kristi Harrower 38, Lauren King 25, Chelsea Aubry 7) at Sydney University Sports and Fitness Centre.

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