By Lachy France
A final quarter charge has seen Brydens Sydney Uni Flames take out a 90-78 win over the visiting Perth Lynx. The sides went into the final quarter tied at 66-66, but the home side opened the final term on a 10-2 run to blow the game open. Asia Taylor starred for the Flames with 32 points and 9 rebounds, whilst Leilani Mitchell contributed 17 points and 11 assists to register a double-double. Carley Mijovic top scored with 22 points for the Lynx, who had five players in double figures.
Early turnovers each way saw the teams take a minute to get into their scoring rhythm, but before long Ruth Hamblin and Asia Taylor traded baskets from close range. The pair combined for the first eight points of the game before play had to be stopped for an unusual reason – Taylor suffering from an apparent issue with a contact lens. But a quick substitution saw Carly Boag enter the game and play restarted with the scoreline at 4-4 after 3 minutes.
The interior game continued to be the main source of points until Carley Mijovic knocked down the game’s first three pointer to give the Lynx a 9-6 lead, and then followed up with a second to double the margin. But a friendly roll for Alex Wilson quickly trimmed that margin back to 3. Despite the good shooting, the game saw four turnovers in the first five minutes of play as both teams pushed passes a little too aggressively at times.
The Lynx were the first to score out of the timeout, with Bri Butler driving to the hoop and finishing from close range. Asia Taylor then did exactly the same, but drew the foul in the process. Taylor completed the three-point play to keep the Flames within 2 at 14-12. A Sami Whitcomb shot from well beyond the arc kept the scoreboard ticking over for the Lynx, but the scoreline remained close throughout the first quarter. The Flames eventually grabbed the lead with a little over a minute remaining in the term, and an Asia Taylor basket in the dying stages of the quarter ensured they held a 23-21 lead after ten minutes of play, with Taylor scoring 11 for the Flames.
The teams traded the lead during the opening stages of the second quarter, before three pointers from Toni Edmondson and Sami Whitcomb opened up a five point advantage for the Lynx. Once again the Flames answered with one of their own, this time from Tahlia Tupaea as the clock ticked past three minutes played in the quarter with the score at 30-28. Jennifer Hamson then cleaned up around the basket to tie the game at 30-30 as neither team gave an inch throughout the first half.
A pair of Asia Taylor free throws gave the Flames the lead, but MVP favourite Sami Whitcomb quickly tied things back up. Hamson was unable to restore the home side’s advantage from the line, but Taylor’s no look pass to Wilson a minute later led to a three pointer which did just the trick.
The Flames extended the margin to seven, but some sloppy offence by the home side allowed the Lynx to tie the game at 40-40 with just under 90 seconds to play in the half as Carley Mijovic capitalised on the Flames’ errors. Asia Taylor restored the Flames’ lead, but a Tessa Lavey three in the final minute would see the Lynx take a 43-42 lead into halftime. Asia Taylor led the scoring for the Flames with 17, whilst Carley Mijovic was best for the Lynx with 12.
The Flames’ defence opened the second half brilliantly, with two Lynx turnovers in the opening stages leading to points for the home side. The visitors quickly countered through Whitcomb and Mijovic, and once again the lead had changed hands as the Flames suddenly found themselves unable to finish from close range.
Whilst the Flames did eventually find some scoring through Hamson and Taylor, the Lynx continued to keep the Flames at bay for much of the third quarter. The teams traded baskets, including a quick eight points by Perth’s Bri Butler, with the margin hovering around the 5 point mark as the third quarter progressed.
As the Flames cut down the lead slightly through free throws to Belinda Snell and Shanae Greaves, the Perth bigs found themselves in a bit of foul trouble. Ruth Hamblin and Nat Burton both found themselves on four fouls heading into the final minute of the third term, and Leilani Mitchell took full advantage of their absence to drive to the hoop and easily avoid the attempted blocks of the shorter players in the paint to pull the Flames within a single point. Sami Whitcomb then managed a steal and lay-up on the break, but Mitchell tied things up at 66-66 with a three pointer that proved to be the final basket of the quarter.
Asia Taylor opened the final quarter scoring to edge the Flames in front before Tahlia Tupaea drained a three pointer to push the home side five points clear with eight minutes to play. Whilst the Lynx were able to get to the basket through Hamblin, Mitchell then delivered a three of her own as the Flames’ shots started to fall with improved regularity. Eventually Lynx coach Andy Stewart was forced to call a timeout with the Flames leading 78-68 with 6:30 to play.
The teams traded baskets out of the timeout, but the Flames took a 7 point lead into the final 5 minutes after an outstanding 14-5 start to the quarter. Stops were hard to come by for both teams, and the margin remained 7 going into the final 3 minutes.
Flames coach Cheryl Chambers called a timeout, but the Lynx were first to score with a Carley Mijovic three trimming the margin to four. Enter Tahlia Tupaea, who drove strongly and finished through traffic to extend the lead to 84-78 with 80 seconds to play after Mijovic air balled a three in a desperate attempt to beat the shot clock.
Somehow the Flames kept Perth from scoring after throwing the resulting inbounds pass to Toni Edmondson, as one of the Lynx players in the rebound contest stepped on the baseline whilst tipping the ball to give the Flames possession with 1:05 remaining. Asia Taylor brought up her 29th point of the game with a hard drive and finish, and then made it 30 by completing the and-one which put the Flames up 87-78
Nat Burton earned a trip to the line on Perth’s next possession but couldn’t convert on either shot. The Lynx retained possession but Mijovic was unable to finish from close range. The Flames then sealed the win as more free throws from Taylor and Wilson extended the final score to 90-78, with the final margin perhaps not resembling the closeness and intensity of the contest.
The Flames will travel to Canberra for an Australia Day clash before travelling to Townsville in their final road double of the seasons. A pair of wins would seal a finals berth for the Flames and also keep pressure on ladder leaders Dandenong as the regular season goes right down to the wire.
Sydney Uni Flames 90 (Taylor 32p, 9r; Mitchell 17p, 11a; Tupaea 10p, 8r)
Perth Lynx 78 (Mijovic 22p, 7r; Hamblin 14p, 9r; Whitcomb 10p, 6a, 6s)