By Lachy France,
With the minor premiership secured, Brydens Sydney Uni Flames welcome Adelaide Lightning to Brydens Stadium for the final game of the regular season. Whilst the result of this contest will have no effect on the final standings, the Flames will be wanting to secure a win to keep up the momentum that the side has built during a seven game winning streak.
The Flames battled back from sizeable deficits twice last week against Dandenong, managing to secure an 81-77 win after a 21-11 final quarter. This was just one in a list of close wins for the Flames, and when combined with the injury adversity that the team has battled through, it is little wonder that the team appears to be battle tested and ready to face whatever may come their way. That will stand them in good stead for their first tilt at the finals since 2014-15, but first comes a game against an Adelaide side desperate to finish their season on a high note.
It’s been a tough old season for the Lightning, who have managed to secure just two victories to this point. However, they have run plenty of teams close, including the Flames. The most recent matchup between the two teams saw the Flames rely on some last second Leilani Mitchell heroics to seal a 77-74 win in what on paper appeared to be a blowout waiting to happen. Led by Opals stalwart Laura Hodges and import Colleen Planeta, who both average double figures in points, the Lightning certainly have plenty of bite to their offence. This scoring prowess is complemented by former University of Iowa star Samantha Logic, who currently sits at 2nd in the league for assists with 5.5 per game, behind only Flames star Leilani Mitchell’s mark of 6.22 per game.
Although the Flames are a well-balanced side, with five players averaging double figures in scoring this season, Leilani Mitchell is undoubtedly one of the stars of the league and her performances throughout the campaign have been vital to the team’s success. The Opals point guard averages 15.9 points per game, whilst also sitting at second in the competition for steals and leading the league in assists. There is little doubt that Mitchell’s performance will be vital to a Flames win not only tonight, but also in the finals as the Flames look to secure a first WNBL title since the 2001 season.
With a desire to keep their winning momentum rolling on and a finals series to prepare for, expect the Flames to come out firing in this one and not take Adelaide, or the game, lightly at all despite the difference in ladder position between the two teams. No team wants to go into the finals on the back of a loss, no matter how well they may have performed in the previous 23 games, and the Flames are no exception.