2017/18 SEASON IN REVIEW: BRYDENS SYDNEY UNI FLAMES
BRYDENS SYDNEY UNI FLAMES
Wins – 14
Losses – 7
Standing – Lost in Semi-Finals
2016/17 result – 18 wins, 6 losses, Champions
The best side early in the season, Sydney Uni started with a 7-2 record and then crushed Townsville in the final round to secure second place on the ladder. There were eight scores of 100+ in 2017/18 and the Flames had four of those, finishing with the second most damaging offence overall at 81.1 points per game while shooting a league-high 36% from beyond the arc. Belinda Snell (13.7 points per game) and Alex Wilson (12.7 points) were the main long-range threats, both finishing in the top-three in the league for three-point makes while Snell also added 5.9 rebounds (her best mark since 2004), a career-best 5.3 assists and a team-high total of 32 steals. Katie Ebzery (13.7 points, 5.1 assists, 1.6 steals) was a strong replacement for Leilani Mitchell and was one of five Sydney Uni players to average over 12 points per contest.
At the other end of the floor, the Flames owned the fourth best defence and accrued the most blocks, thanks in large part to Jennifer Hamson who led the competition with 2.6 rejections per contest. In addition, the centre recorded 9.5 rebounds (fourth in the league) and bumped her point production up to 12.8 as Sydney Uni looked to her more as an offensive weapon compared to last season which helped her earn three Team of the Week nominations and a Player of the Week award.
While Sydney Uni reached the playoffs for the third time in four seasons, they were unable to defend their Championship as they lost in the Semi-Finals to Townsville in straight sets. From a 7-2 start, they went 7-5 heading into the finals and then shot just 29% from the field in the post-season. Snell and Ebzery led the team for steals but overall, the Flames tallied the second lowest amount of interceptions in the league and that hurt their ability to punish teams in transition where a player like Asia Taylor truly flourishes.
Returning to the club for her second season, Asia Taylor was once again a force to be reckoned with as she claimed her second All-Star Five award while earning six Team of the Week nominations and a Player of the Week award. Her numbers were outstanding in 2016/17 but this season, she bumped up her points to 18.9 and rebounds to 7.7 per game while also reducing her turnovers. Throwing herself into every contest, Taylor was not afraid to mix it with the strongest forwards in the league and while a nasty eye injury forced her to miss two games, she pushed through that in the back half of the season to score a season-high 35 points against the Lightning. Taylor also recorded six double-doubles for the campaign and did all she could to force a Game 3 against Townsville in the Semi-Finals, finishing the season with 18 points, 11 boards and two steals.
Missing the majority of the past two seasons, Tahlia Tupaea will be desperate for a clean bill of health in 2018/19 as she is a key part of the Flames’ back court. Their target of an Australian Opal point guard has worked well in the past two years but it remains to be seen whether Sydney Uni can achieve such a feat again next year while their approach to the front court, after retaining the services of Hamson and Taylor for two years in a row, will also be intriguing. There has already been good news on the sidelines though with three-time Coach of the Year Cheryl Chambers signed on until 2020, putting to rest any rumours about a change at the top.
Three seasons into her WNBL career with the Flames, Carly Boag’s numbers have dropped slightly since averaging six points and six rebounds in her debut season but while she still comes off the bench, she did prove she can be a weapon. During Round 6 and 7, she notched two 18-point games against Bendigo and Perth, averaged 6.5 rebounds, 2.5 steals and shot 14-17 (82%) overall from the field. Later in the season, she hit double-figures again against the Spirit and then played some important minutes in Game 2 of the Semi-Finals against the Fire. With an increased role, Boag could be an X-factor for the Flames in 2018/19.