The ACUVUE Sydney Uni Flames held on for a win at home over the Bendigo Bank Spirit despite a game high score of 38 from Bendigo’s Kristi Harrower.
The Flames stayed strong despite repeated comebacks by the Spirit to prevail 86-79 at ACUVUE Sports Hall.
The Flames ignited the match with a 10-0 run courtesy of Suzy Batkovic-Brown and Eva Afeaki. But the leadership of Kristi Harrower drove the Spirit’s score to within a two-point buffer. After some crucial buckets from Batkovic-Brown and Mikaela Dombkins, the Flames brought the lead back out to seven at the first break, 21-14.
Dombkins matched up against Harrower on defence and the rivalry continued on the scoreboard with both players top scoring in the second quarter. After a couple of outstanding three-pointers in the first few minutes, Harrower led the Spirit adding 10 points. The point guard’s agility and accuracy didn’t intimidate Dombkins who scored her first basket in the term and never looked back, finishing the quarter with 8. The Flames went into half-time with a comfortable nine-point lead, 41-32.
As they entered the second half, the Spirit tried to step up their physical game against the Flames big players but it only got them into foul trouble. Mid-way through the term Kristi Harrower was called for an unsportsmanlike foul while Bendigo big Chelsea Aubry found herself in foul trouble. It didn’t shake the Spirit who went on a last-minute scoring spree, outscoring the Flames 23-20. At the third break the Spirit trailed by only six points, 61-55.
The Flames stormed ahead in the final quarter extending their lead to 13, the biggest of the match. Despite efforts from Harrower, Aubry and King to reign in the lead the Flames held strong until Batkovic-Brown fouled out and received a technical foul at the same time. Aubry and Harrower converted the four free throw attempts to pull the Spirit within three points, and with one minute to go retained possession.
With the seconds dissolving the Spirit missed two chances and fouled instead, sending Ellie Manou to the line followed by Dombkins. Both players sunk the buckets and extinguished any remaining hope for the Spirit.
As Bendigo coach Bernie Harrower commented “We got ourselves in a position where we could win the game but couldn’t quite get over the line”.
Sydney coach Karen Dalton was happy with the win but unimpressed with the Flames’ performance. “We can score at will but I’m really disappointed with our defence,” she said after the game.
ACUVUE SYDNEY UNI FLAMES 86 (Suzy Batkovic-Brown 30, Deanna Smith 20, Mikaela Dombkins 19) bt
BENDIGO BANK SPIRIT 79 (Kristi Harrower 38, Lauren King 25, Chelsea Aubry 7)
By Rebecca Landon for Flames Media
Photos courtesy of Kimages