By Lachy France
After a brutal stretch of four games in eight days which saw the side pick up two wins to remain right on the edge of the top 4, Brydens Sydney Uni Flames this week face off against the high-flying Dandenong Rangers on Saturday night at Brydens Stadium.
The Rangers are currently enjoying a 7 game winning streak which has seen them ascend to the top of the table, and last weekend dismantled the Perth Lynx 92-71 to move two games clear at the top.
The Flames have been suffering from injury problems all season, and the issue seems far from abating as Belinda Snell has now joined Hayley Moffatt and Tahlia Tupaea on the sidelines. Fortunately, Asia Taylor should be ready to make her return to the side after an aborted comeback attempt last week which saw the American take the court against the UC Capitals on Thursday before being forced to sit yet again in the 70-55 loss to Bendigo last Saturday night. While there is no doubt that a full-strength Flames side can hang with any team in the competition, the question remains how well the team can back up repeatedly with a short bench. However, with that said, Lauren Nicholson has stood up excellently in Snell’s absence, collecting 16 points in her first start down in Melbourne two weeks ago. Carly Boag can also regularly be expected to step up and play an important role when required, and has been vital in Taylor’s absence.
The Flames are known for sharing the scoring amongst their starters, but the Rangers are adept at doing the very same. Four of their players – Steph Cumming, Sara Blicavs, Natalie Novosel, and Ally Malott – all carry double figure scoring averages into the game, while Aimie Clydesdale averages 9.2 points per game. Blicavs and Cumming in particular have stood out for the ladder leaders. Cumming leads the team with 17.7 points per game while also tacking on 5.1 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game, meanwhile Blicavs is dominating at both ends. The Opals squad member is putting up 15.9 points per game and also collecting an impressive 7.3 rebounds per game. The forward is also shooting 45% from three point range, making her a dangerous player anywhere on the court and one that the Flames will have to ensure that they slow down if they are to come away with victory in this contest.
A win in this game combined with other results would see the Flames move into a finals position, but with the battle between the top six teams in particular being so tight, getting into a top 4 spot is only the start of a battle which will last for the entire second half of the season. However, the best time to start the charge is now and a Flames win will really put the heat on the teams directly above them, especially with Bendigo taking on the UC Capitals in Bendigo this weekend.
Brydens Sydney Uni Flames v Dandenong Rangers at 7:00pm on Saturday 17 December at Brydens Stadium.
Get down to Brydens Stadium in your best Christmas sweater and show your support at our last home game of the year!
With a special appearance from the one and only Santa Claus, this is not a game to be missed.