Flames edge Flyers in front of record WNBL crowd

February 4, 2023 | Sydney Flames news

The Sydney Flames pulled off their biggest win of the season on Saturday, defeating the Southside Flyers 68-67, in front of a WNBL record crowd (7,681) at the first-ever women’s game at John Cairn Arena. 

That mark breaks all-time WNBL record, eclipsing the long-standing mark of 7,500 from the 1995 grand final between the Adelaide Lightning and Melbourne Tigers, which the former won 50-43. 

Match summary 

Five early points by Tiana Mangakahia sparked the Flames to race out to a 9-6 lead early on but the Flyers, despite missing Lauren Jackson to an early leg injury, poked their noses in front (12-11) midway through the term. But Shelley Gorman’s side regained the lead when Keely Froling and Vanessa Panousis nailed back-to-back three-pointers. These, as well as courageous defence, saw the Hoops Capital side lead 19-16 after one. 

Scoring proved harder to come by in the second, with both teams only registering two points through the first two minutes and 40 seconds of the period. Five quick points by Flyers’ Maddi Rocci changed that and put the Flyers back in front. Despite playing without skipper Froling (three fouls), buckets by Mangakahia and Emma Clarke kept the harbour city side in the round 13 contest. Behind a 20-15 quarter, the Flyers carried a two-point advantage (36-34) at half-time. 


Froling made up for lost time in the third, providing a spark on both ends of the court with rebounds, hustle plays and timely scores – to help the Flames start on a 6-2 run. But an 8-0 run as the clock ticked down in the period (in which the Flames went scoreless for close to three minutes – in a period that saw Jocelyn Willoughby foul out), saw the Flyers hold a 50-47 three-quarter-time advantage. 

Behind inspired play by Syracuse alum Mangakahia, the Flames scored eight of the first 12 points of the term, to edge back in front. Panousis and Nyadiew Pouch then traded triples, with the latter sparking a 9-0 run for Cheryl Chambers’ side. Sydney Comets Panousis continued her shooting tirade, hitting five quick points to bring her side to within two (55-53). A drive by Mangakahia with 1.14 to play tied it up at 65-all, before a key stop by the Flames (when it was 67-all) gave them a chance to win the fixture at the death – which saw Mangakahia land one free-throw, to out her side up by one with 2.7 seconds on the clock. A massive defensive play by Kiera Rowe on Kayla Thornton as time expired, sealed the Flames’ fifth win on WNBl23 and Gorman’s first as head coach. 

Where the match was decided 

In the low-scoring affair, the key for the Flames was scoing 11 more points (19-8) off turnovers, while only losing the rebound count by two (40-38) against a much taller side in the Flyers. 

Key moment 

Down the stretch, clutch shots by guards Panousis and Mangakahia (who combined for the final 15 points of the Flames) mixed in with tough defence, proved to be the difference and sealed the courageous one-point win. 

Player of the game 

Australian Opals squad member Mangakahia was phenomenal in the victory, scoring a game-high 26 points, to go along with six assists, five rebounds and one steal. 

Others to shine in triumph were Panousis (15 points) and Clarke (11 points and eight boards). 

What’s next 

The Hoops Capital side, who are now 5-12 in WNBL23, now have a week off with the FIBA break. 

The Flames will then return home for a home match at Quaycentre against the Melbourne Boomers from 5pm Sunday, February 19. 

Tickets for that fixture are still available here.