By Lachy France,
Following an intense road trip that nonetheless saw the side come away with two victories, Brydens Sydney Uni Flames return home to face the Perth Lynx with the team edging closer to a finals berth with every win. The Lynx are also well placed for a postseason spot and a win would also do wonders for their chances.
The Flames were faced with a tough away double last weekend, facing a suddenly in-form Adelaide Lightning before making the trip to Bendigo. After being down to Adelaide in the first half, the Flames clawed their way back into the game and were eventually able to steal the win in the final seconds. An Alex Wilson lay-up in the dying seconds followed by a Leilani Mitchell steal and score on the final play gave the Flames a 77-74 win in a game they could absolutely not afford to drop. The Flames would jump out to an early lead against Bendigo in another crucial game, but the home side managed to fight their way into the contest. However, some clutch shooting down the stretch from the Flames saw them eke out a 71-68 win.
Facing the Lynx is never an easy prospect, especially with MVP favourite Sami Whitcomb knocking down threes for fun at times. The Lynx are armed with a bevy of accurate three point shooters, with Carley Mijovic and Tenaya Phillips also excelling in this department. Lynx import Bri Butler may be streaky at times, but can certainly make an impact from the perimeter if she gets into her rhythm. The Flames’ perimeter defence will certainly have to be in lockdown mode to slow down Perth’s outside shooters, and this is where the recent return of Tahlia Tupaea could have a big impact. Tupaea is one of the Flames’ best defenders, and the young point guard’s performance could go a long way to determining the outcome of this game.
Whilst the Flames have some excellent three point shooters of their own, including Belinda Snell, Alex Wilson, and Leilani Mitchell, the home side’s greatest advantage appears to come in the frontcourt. Carly Boag appears refreshed after not travelling with the team to Adelaide and Perth in the week between Christmas and New Year and has produced some outstanding play off the bench. This has allowed the Flames to maintain a high level of production even when imports Jennifer Hamson and Asia Taylor are off the court, and if the home side’s bigs can fire, there could be plenty of points inside for the Flames in this one.
These sides have been closely matched all year, and it looks certain to be another electric contest as we head into the last quarter of the regular season with no teams even remotely certain of securing a finals berth. The Flames are in a good spot, though, and a win over the Lynx tonight would certainly put the team in prime position to secure a spot in the postseason sooner rather than later.