Sydney has continued its recent rich vein of form capping a successful double-header weekend with a thrilling one-point away win over emerging threat Bendigo, 70-69.
The Flames burst out of the blocks and led by eight at the initial break with Eva Afeaki, Suzy Batkovic-Brown, Mikaela Dombkins and former Bendigo-junior Deanna Smith all making an impression for the visitors.
Bendigo’s Chelsea Aubry saw all 10 minutes of the first term and was one of the few Spirit players to feature prominently in draining nine of her 17-points for the game.
Despite trailing 26-18 at the initial break – and by as much as 12 midway through the second term - a remarkable 16-point run saw the Spirit take a four-point advantage into the half.
“We got a little bit more physical and stopped being soft and put more defensive pressure on,” Harrower said of the swing.
“That turned into some good offence at the other end.
“Once we started to make some baskets in that second quarter then I think the defence got better with it.
“They really complemented each other.”
Karen Dalton was far from impressed with the manner in which her side relinquished control of the ascendancy.
“We played ‘D’ in the first quarter and we didn’t play a lick of ‘D’ in the second quarter,” the Flames’ mentor said post-game.
“We allowed them to score 41 points in the first half, but we addressed that at half-time and we’re really happy to come out with a win after a really hard game on Friday night.
“It’s been a tough month and we’re on the road again next week, but that’s our fifth win in a row, so I’m really happy about that.”
The game proved physical for both sides, Afeaki sidelined for a portion of the third term after suffering a knock to the head, while Bendigo’s Aubry shed some claret after opening up an eyebrow deep in the contest.
Kristi Harrower certainly attracted her share of the physicality, 10 fouls committed against the Spirit star as she sought to spark her team with a 23-point contribution.
Not surprisingly Sydney’s aerial ascendancy was a telling factor down the stretch with Afeaki and Batkovic-Brown hauling in a dozen rebounds apiece to give their side the edge on the glass by nine, 45 to 36, although Lauren King was dynamic on the boards for Bendigo with twelve of her own.
Bendigo led by four at three quarter-time, although little separated the sides deep into the contest. However, it was Sydney’s composure when at the charity stripe that proved decisive in the dying stages.
“Both teams were having the same problem, it was such a physical game that both teams were a bit fatigued and then some of the ratty things happened,” Harrower said in his post-mortem.
“We couldn’t execute down the stretch.”
The Flames presence down low also manifested in a 30-22 points-in-the-paint differential that played a part in the thrilling one-point win.
Next round will see Bendigo make the trip west to meet Perth ‘Go for 2 and 5’ Lynx on Saturday, while Sydney ventures to the nation’s capital to tackle Canberra on Sunday.
ACUVUE SYDNEY UNI FLAMES 70 (Deanna Smith 17, Suzy Batkovic-Brown 14, Mikaela Dombkins 14) bt
BENDIGO BANK SPIRIT 69 (Kristi Harrower 23, Chelsea Aubry 16, Jasmine Finnigan 14)
At Bendigo Stadium
By Wes Cusworth for WNBL Media
Photo courtesy of MD Proshots