Courageous Flames show plenty of fight against Flyers

January 18, 2023 | Sydney Flames news

The courageous Sydney Flames have fallen just short of a memorable win, losing 96-91 to the Southside Flyers at Quaycentre on Wednesday, January 18. 

In front of their biggest home crowd (2,089) at Quaycentre in WNBL23, the Flames produced their highest score this campaign – against a side featuring Australian basketball royalty Lauren Jackson, who finished with 30 points herself. 

Match summary 

The visitors shot out of the blocks, hitting their first three shots to lead 8-0 after 90 seconds. Despite Lauren Jackson nailing a couple of jump-shots, Jocelyn Willoughby kept the Flames close with two triples and an assist. Combine that with five quick points from Tiana Mangakahia and the Flames fought back to 22-18. The shots from downtown continued to fall for both sides, with Mangakahia and Vanessa Panousis landing ones for Sydney, as Southside (who shot 70 per cent from the field) led 33-27 after one term. 

The Flyers lead grew to 11 after starting the second on an 8-3 run, which included four from Opals legend Jackson. But 10 straight from the Flames, sparked by five from skipper Keely Froling, made it a one-point game. The high-scoring affair showed no signs of slowing down, with regular Rebecca Cole baskets being cancelled out by efforts by Hoops Capital’s Kiera Rowe. A late triple by Panousis made it 57-55 to the visitors (thanks to 25 from Jackson) at the main break, representing the club’s highest-scoring half of WNBL23. 

The fast-paced round 11 contest continued in the third, with Mangakahia’s aggressiveness sparking the Flames, before back-to-back Panousis and Hannah Sjerven connections put the hosts up 67-66. The Shelley Gorman-coached side then pushed out to a lead of four, with Froling landing a huge shot from beyond the arc. Late baskets from the charity stripe by Mangakahia kept the margin at four (80-76) at the final change. 

When Sjerven joined the three-point party, the lead was seven. Then with Mangakahia continuing to cook, the harbour city side kept their noses in front. But a 9-0 run from the visitors (in which Willoughby was fouled out), the Flyers regained the lead. The Flames weren’t done though, with Mangakahia and Sjerven landing huge clutch buckets. Unfortunately, they weren’t enough, as 10 straight free-throws at the death sealed the Flyers’ 96-91 victory. 

Where the match was decided 

The Flyers recorded their 11th win of the season thanks to wins in the statistical categories of field goal percentage (55-43), rebounds (37-34), steals (7-6), blocks (6-3), points in the paint (40-24), bench points (14-8) and fast break points (11-7). 

Key moment 

Down the stretch, the Flames struggled to score, as the visitors outscored Gorman’s side 14-6 through the final 6.47 of the game – with 11 of them coming from the charity stripe 

Player of the game 

In the absence of Shyla Heal, point guard Mangakahia, in her 50th career WNBL game, produced her best game of the campaign, tallying 26 points, eight assists, five rebounds and three steals. 

The Syracuse alum was well supported by Willoughby (18 points, five assists and three rebounds), Froling (16 points, nine boards and one block) and Sjerven (16 points, seven rebounds and three dimes). 

What’s next 

The Hoops Capital side, who are now 4-11 in WNBL23, have another quick turnaround and host the fifth-placed Perth Lynx on Saturday, January 21 at Quaycentre. 

The match tips off at 5.15pm AEDT, with tickets to the round 11 fixture are still available here.