Flames defeat Aisin Wings
By Lachy France
Despite missing Opals World Cup squad member Alex Bunton, Brydens Sydney Uni Flames rolled in their final preseason game against Japanese side Aisin AW Wings, winning 92-66. The Flames took an early lead and never looked back, gradually increasing their lead throughout before rolling in the final term.
A smart midrange jumper off a pick and roll saw the visitors tally the first points of the game, but the Flames quickly showed that their ball movement can be just as efficient, putting together a 7-0 run with baskets coming in a variety of manners in the early stages for the home side. Close-range scoring soon became the preferred method for the Flames though, as Shanae Greaves and Amanda Johnson came up with tough finishes near the basket to maintain the Flames’ slender advantage at 13-9 midway through the opening time.
Subbing in midway through the quarter, Vanessa Panousis and Lara McSpadden quickly combined to earn McSpadden an and-one, and soon the Flames were up 7, a margin that was then extended to double figures courtesy of a corner three from Brittany Smart. But a late rally from the Wings saw that margin cut as a fast-paced quarter ended with the Flames leading 25-20 after Smart’s attempted buzzer-beater rimmed out.
A Wings basket to open the second term was quickly countered by a deep Johnson three before Tahlia Tupaea used her strength and quickness to find her way to the rack for a lay-up. Another pair of threes from Johnson followed soon after and quickly the Flames’ lead was out to 38-24, forcing a Wings timeout. The visitors scored the first five points following the timeout, but the points were hardly free-flowing as the constant scoring of the first 12 minutes or so of the game slowed slightly as the second term developed.
McSpadden did her best to get the Flames’ offence back in rhythm with a delightful pass fake and drive to the basket that resulted in two free throws, which she promptly converted. However, the Japanese side’s speed continued to prove a handful for the Flames, even as the home side maintained their lead deep into the latter stages of the first half.
A late timeout from the Flames allowed them to regroup and extend the lead back out to ten points, but a buzzer-beating corner three from the Wings trimmed the margin at the last possible second to see the Flames’ lead sit at 48-41 as the teams headed to the locker rooms, with Amanda Johnson’s 15 points leading the way for the home side.
The Flames failed to add a basket for the first 90 seconds of the second half, but solid defence ensured that when Belinda Snell’s lay-up found the bottom of the net almost two minutes in, the margin stood at six points, with the Flames having given up only a solitary three-pointer in the same time span. Both teams found points hard to come by as turnovers crept in at both ends, until a scintillating behind-the-back pass from Belinda Snell found Shanae Greaves who was able to earn a trip to the free throw line after being fouled whilst going up, which was duly converted.
Johnson traded her three-point shooting of the first half for some closer-range finishing, but the points continued to come for the American, whose moves around the basket garnered her a bit of space to finish some tough looks. But the Wings refused to go away, never letting the margin get beyond 10 or 11 points as the third quarter wound down. Fortunately for the Flames, that inability to really break away didn’t result in the Wings cutting the margin right down as a tight ending to the third quarter resulted in the home side taking a 69-58 lead into the third quarter.
Snell found Panousis with a brilliant drive and kick to the former Virginia Tech star, who duly obliged with the shot from beyond the arc, and with the home side locking down on defence to prevent the Wings from adding a point for the first three minutes of the final term, the lead ballooned to 18 before the visitors called a much-needed timeout. Smart buried a three to push the lead beyond 20, before the Wings finally added their first point of the final term at the line. The three-point barrage continued as the game rolled on as a number of Flames players knocked down shots to see four players finish in double figures on the way to a 92-66 victory for the home side.
Amanda Johnson led the way for the Flames with 21 points, with Brittany Smart and Tahlia Tupaea adding 14 apiece and Shanae Greaves tallying an even 10 as the Flames rolled in their final hit-out before they take on the UC Capitals in the WNBL season opener on Friday, October 12 at Brydens Stadium.
Get your tickets to the season opener HERE.