Flames fall in season-opener to Spirit

November 12, 2022 | Sydney Flames news

The Sydney Flames have opened the WNBL23 season with a road loss, going down 77-57 to the Bendigo Spirit at Red Energy Arena. 

Match summary 

It didn’t take long for Sydney’s two imports Jocelyn Willoughby and Hannah Sjerven to make their impact on the WNBL, scoring the Flames’ two baskets in Bendigo. This helped the visitors race out to a 10-6 lead before the Spirit rattled off the next five, to lead 11-10. Late scores by Keely Froling and Willoughby ensured Shane Heal’s side went into the first break up by one (16-15). 

In the second, the Spirit scored nine of the first 12 points, including numerous tough baskets inside the paint – to regain the lead 24-19. Despite coach Heal calling a time-out, the Spirit continued their domination, to the tune of a 12-0 run (to lead 30-19 with 5.33 to play) thanks to countless fast break attacks. This lead grew to 12 (39-27) at half-time, thanks to eight first-half points by Kelsey Griffin, and the hosts out-shooting the Flames 54 per cent to 29 through the first 20 minutes. 


A more determined Hoops Capital side came out in the third, quickly reducing the margin to eight but back-to-back triples by Anneli Maley saw that balloon out to 14 for the hosts. It didn’t get much better for the Flames as the quarter progressed, who despite Shyla Heal doing all she could with the ball, finished the term on the losing side of an 11-5 run – seeing Bendigo hold a 60-42 lead at the final change. 

The hosts’ momentum carried across into the final 10 minutes, who opened the period on an 11-3 run – power by Megan Mckay. The Flames never gave up though, who then scored 12 of the next 15 points, to show their never give up attitude – as the hosts won the round two fixture 77-57. 

Where the match was decided 

Bendigo won the round two fixture on the back of a superior field goal percentage (50-30), rebounds (53-30), assists (21-12), points in the paint (48-20), bench points (20-12) and fast break points (6-0). 

Key moment 

Thanks to their dominance inside and on the fast break, the second term was one-way traffic for the Spirit, who outscored the Flames 24-11, which proved to be pivotal in the round two fixture – as the Spirit never looked back and ran out winners by 20 points. 

Player of the game 

In a losing effort, Shyla Heal was a standout for the Flames, tallying 20 points (including three triples), four rebounds and one steal. The only other Sydney player in double figures was skipper Keely Froling (10). 

What’s next 

Shane Heal’s side will quickly turn their attentions to another road trip, this time to Perth and Adelaide. First up will be the 0-2 Lynx at the Bendat Basketball Centre from 9.30pm AEDT on Wednesday, November 16 followed by the Lightning (who are 0-2 on the season) three days later at Adelaide Arena from 7.30pm AEDT.