By Lachy France
Following a tough road trip to Melbourne that saw the team split a pair of games against Dandenong and Melbourne, Brydens Sydney Uni Flames return to their home patch for the final game of a brutal stretch of four games in eight days, hungry for a win over Bendigo as the team looks to keep in touch with the top of the league.
The two sides have already played twice this season, with both games proving to be tightly fought contests, but the Flames have come out on top on both occasions. Down in Bendigo, the Sydney Uni side came up trumps 74-69, whilst it took overtime for the Flames to get over the top of the Spirit 93-86 in their last meeting, as Kelsey Griffin hit a tying three for Bendigo late in the piece before Lauren Nicholson lit up the extra 5 minutes to help the Flames over the line.
Jennifer Hamson recently returned from injury and appears to have not missed a beat since making her comeback following a two-week layoff. The American put up 11 points and 7 rebounds in the loss to Dandenong last weekend, but made Melbourne look positively pedestrian in a 19 point, 11 rebound effort that also saw the BYU product draw no less than 8 fouls as the Boomers were unable to cope with Hamson’s size. The battle inside has been a feature of the games between Sydney Uni and Bendigo so far this season, and another performance of this ilk from Hamson will go a long way to helping the Flames to a win.
Whilst the Flames are known for sharing the scoring, with all five of the team’s starters averaging in double figures, the team’s bench production has perhaps flown under the radar slightly. One player in particular who has stepped up recently is Lauren Nicholson. The Saint Mary’s stalwart returned to the Flames this season after four years in college, and after suffering an early setback courtesy of a fractured fibula, the Sutherland product has really found her feet at the WNBL level. This was evident in the team’s win over Melbourne last Sunday, as Nicholson found herself playing extended minutes and finishing with 11 points in 28 minutes of action. It was a vital contribution as the Flames got over the line 80-71 to avoid dropping a pair of games on their trip to Melbourne.
Although the Spirit are known for their frontcourt armada of Kelsey Griffin, Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe, and Gabe Richards, American guard Blake Dietrick is beginning to have a significant impact for the Spirit. Dietrick was instrumental off the bench in getting the Spirit to overtime last time they played in Sydney, and dropped another 14 points against Adelaide in Bendigo’s 69-51 win in their next outing. Although the Princeton product finished with just two points against Dandenong last week, the Flames defence will certainly have to keep an eye on Dietrick if they are to ensure a third consecutive win over the Spirit.
With that said, both these teams have scoring weapons all over the court, as evidenced by the high scoring in their last matchup. If either team can lock down the other for a stretch, or one has a poor few minutes of shooting, it could easily swing the game in a matter of moments. Consistent execution will be key for the Flames in this one as they look to establish position in the top 4.
Family Round (Free tickets for kids under 16!): Brydens Sydney Uni Flames vs. Bendigo Bank Spirit, Saturday 10th December at 7:00pm
Buy your tickets online HERE.