Sydney Uni Flames keep the Townsville McCafe Fire out of the top three defeating them 77-73 at New Projects Australia Stadium in Townsville on Friday night.
The Fire and Flames were heating up the arena as both teams fought desperately for a win, however Fire’s many mistakes gave Flames their extra points to bring them out on top.
Amy Lewis took on the point guard role for the Fire in place of injured Rachael Flanagan and spoke about what improvements to look for in their next game.
“This has become our little fortress and we tend to play really well at home. The two defeats have been against the top two teams in the league and without Aneka (Davis) and Rachael we did as much as we possibly can in the game,” said Lewis.
“We had a lot of great plays, we know what we need to work on when we go up against Bendigo, so we’ll work on that at training.”
“Something we really got to work on is our momentum, we will get up five or six points but then we’ll have a lapse and throw the ball away or have a few quick shots.”
“In this league you can’t give any team a sniff otherwise they’ll get back on top of you, so we got to build the momentum.”
“We’ve really learnt that if we want to be competitive through all these last games we got to give it our all, if there’s a loose ball we’ve got to throw ourselves on that.”
Townsville experienced a succession of mistakes throughout all quarters, except in the fourth quarter where the match began to turn the Fire’s way, however the Flames too quick and punished the host team.
With Tanya Smith back into the starting five after missing the last Townsville home game where they went down to Bulleen, her inclusion was intended to help fill the hole injured players Aneka Davis and Flanagan had left.
The Fire had a sluggish start to the match as they closed off the first quarter, 20-19.
Despite Townsville’s strong defence, Jayco Opal Batkovic-Brown was strong in attack and led Sydney Uni to a 13-8 lead early in the quarter.
It wasn’t until the last three minutes when Townsville’s Lewis and Rohanee Cox were nailing shots from the three-point line.
Another stand out, Jo Hill, increased her game intensity and moved effectively around the court which helped Townsville stay in the fight.
However, a crucial missed opportunity by Hill and Cox put Sydney Uni in the lead once more, 34-32. Hill intercepted a pass back, and took flight through centre court however her pass to Cox wasn’t convincing enough and she fumbled in the paint.
Sydney Uni took advantage of Townsville’s mistakes, and Batkovic-Brown converted a sensational 19 points in the first half; 11 points in the first quarter and 8 in the second.
Despite the game being even in regards to rebounds and possession, it was Townsville who disappointed themselves and even though they stole back the lead, they kept the game close by giving away eight free throws to end the first half with only a three-point 37-34 to Fire.
Sydney Uni took the lead in the fifth minute of the third quarter, 47-43, as Townsville struggled to sink the ball and grab those important rebounds.
Not long after the Flames reached a six-point lead, Batkovic-Brown went down with a serious knee injury to have Ellie Manou replace her on court.
Cox and Lewis saw the window of opportunity and they fought to close the gap and leveled the scores at 55 apiece.
The Fire faithfuls thought Townsville had just grasped the lead after Tanya Smith sunk a free throw in the last four seconds, however Flames guard Deanne Butler played on to sink a shot from just inside the half way line to have Sydney Uni take the lead, 58-56.
Both teams became physical towards the end of the game, which was visible in the paint on both ends of the court.
In two circumstances it looked as if Townsville were on the verge of making a break, however Lewis and Smith both gave away fouls.
Fire again struggled to grasp those rebounds once again in the fourth quarter and Sydney Uni struck back at their end and Natalie Porter iced the game from the free throw line, securing a four point lead which the Fire could not overcome in the dying seconds.
TOWNSVILLE MCCAFE FIRE 73 (Rohanee Cox 26, Amy Lewis 18, Jo Hill 14) bt
ACUVUE SYDNEY UNI FLAMES 77 (Suzy Baktovic-Brown 28, Deanna Smith 16, Natalie Porter 12)
By Theresa Allan for WNBL Media
Photo courtesy of Steve Duffie for www.wizpics.com.au