Flames edge Spirit to secure first win of WNBL24
The Sydney Flames have secured their first win of WNBL24, defeating the Bendigo Spirit 68-62 on Friday night at the Mildura Sporting Precinct.
One of the standouts in the win was milestone player Emma Clarke (11 points and five rebounds), who chalked up her 50th WNBL game on Friday.
Scoring proved hard to come by in the early going from both sides, with Didi Richards’ and-one effort breaking through for the Flames. A Kelly Wilson score put the Spirit upon 5-4 soon after before the Flames rattled off six straight, thanks to scores from Lauren Nicholson, Paige Bradley and Richards. That spurt was short-lived as the Hoops Capital side went cold, seeing both teams go into the first change equal at 12-all.
Emma Clarke, in her 50th WNBL game, opened the second term’s scoring with a corner three, followed by another two by the Perth product and her teammate Richards – helping the visitors a six-point lead, which became eight following four straight free-throws by Nicholson. A Vanessa Panousis shot from downtown extended Guy Molloy side’s lead to 13 with just over one minute remaining in the term. Late shots from the charity stripe by Cayla George made it 35-20 at half-time – capping off a 23-8 quarter.
Nicholson extended her side’s advantage to 17 early in the third but a 10-2 run by the hosts got them back to within seven points midway through the third. Bendigo’s momentum continued to gain steam, as they made it 43-39 following an Abigail Wehrung deep two. Key scores by George and Ahlise Hurst stemmed the flow but a couple of late scores by the Spirit late in the period closed Sydney’s lead to 48-43.
Back-to-back buckets by Richards kept the Flames’ scoreboard ticking over but Mahryn Kraker cancelled them out so much that Bendigo made it a one-point game (54-53). Five quick ones from Clarke moved Sydney up by six, which was followed by big baskets by Panousis, George and Nicholson. A late free-throw by Clarke iced a 68-62 victory for the Flames.
Where the match was decided
The Hoops Capital side secured their maiden win of the season thanks to statistical wins in field goal percentage (43-33), free-throw (86-57), block (4-1) and bench points (15-13).
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A 23-8 run in the second term, sparked by the play on both ends of former New York Liberty player Richards proved pivotal for the Flames, who went on to secure their first win on WNBL24.
Player of the game
In just her second WNBL game, Richards claimed player of the game thanks to a 12-point, 12-rebound double-double, accompanied by two assists, two steals and one block.
Other standouts were Nicholson (who had a game-high 16 points), George (12 points, nine rebounds, three dimes, two steals and one block) and Panousis (10 points).
Molloy’s side, who are now 1-1, now return home to Sydney to play the first of four Hoops Capital double-headers at Qudos Bank Arena – battling the Melbourne Boomers from 1.15pm AEDT before the Kings play the Bullets at 3.45pm.
Tickets for the big day of harbour city hoops are still available here.