By Lachy France,
After somehow escaping Melbourne with a win over the Boomers last weekend, Brydens Sydney Uni Flames return to more familiar surrounds knowing that a win over the Dandenong Rangers will secure top spot in the WNBL standings and home court advantage throughout the finals. However, with the Rangers sitting right on the Flames’ heels, both teams will be desperate for the win that could put them over the top.
The Flames were all but carried by Asia Taylor’s 28 point, 15 rebound effort in a 72-67 win over Melbourne last weekend as the team’s usually reliable shooting deserted them for the most part. Whilst Taylor finished with a solid 9-15 from the field, the rest of the team connected at just 29% throughout the game. That kind of shooting just won’t cut it against Dandenong, and the Flames will have to ensure that they hit shots at a much better clip this Saturday if they are to come away with victory.
Fortunately, the Flames have the kind of firepower that can see the team put the ball in the basket with impressive regularity. Alex Wilson, Leilani Mitchell, and Belinda Snell have combined for 130 three pointers this season at 36%, whilst Sarah Graham is shooting 54% from beyond the arc. Furthermore, Asia Taylor is one of the best finishers around the rim in the entire league, and has recently also taken to shooting more jump-shots from just outside the key, adding a dimension to her game and forcing defences to make a decision rather than camp in the lane.
Whilst the Rangers are an extremely well-balanced side, there is no doubting that Steph Cumming is one of the stars of the league. The shooting guard currently sits in the top 10 in the league for both points and assists per game, one of just three players to do so, alongside the Flames’ Leilani Mitchell and MVP favourite Sami Whitcomb of the Perth Lynx. That ability to both score with regularity and also find teammates in good position makes Cumming a nightmare for oppositions. Flames’ fan favourite Hayley Moffatt famously shut Cumming down in a must-win game against Townsville in 2014-15, and if another Flames player can do the same in this one, it will go a long way to helping the home side to a win.
Whilst the Flames may have been able to scrap their way to a win against the 7th placed Boomers, a far more polished performance will be required against a Rangers team that poses the biggest threat to the Flames’ hold on top spot. However, the Flames have put in several performances of that ilk this season, and if they can put the dismal shooting performance of last weekend’s game behind them, the opportunity is there for them to secure the #1 seed for the finals series.